Sex and Politics at Moscow Film Fest

Times Staff Writer

One movie poster showed a bare-chested woman embraced by a man. Another depicted a crucified figure advertising the Hungarian film “Jesus Christ’s Horoscope.” A few feet away were 6-foot-high placards trumpeting films from both sides of the Berlin Wall.

Sex, religion, politics. It all boiled down to glasnost in Moscow on Friday at the opening of the 16th International Film Festival.

“In the past the themes which were featured in our film festivals were dictated by ideological concerns. But we are crashing through those barriers now,” the deputy chairman of the festival’s organizing committee, Yuri T. Khodzhayev, said.

“The process of restructuring currently sweeping through our society is being reflected in this film festival as well.”


Since the last international festival in Moscow in 1987 there has been a revolution in the Soviet film industry. Topics previously taboo, ranging from prostitution to political corruption, are now depicted on the screen in the Soviet Union.

This month, foreign films that deal with controversial subjects are being permitted a showing in Moscow, albeit to a limited audience.

Twenty films from 17 countries are entered in the festival’s competition, including two American-made films, “Accidental Tourist,” and “Ironweed.”

Other films include “Grand Cinema,” produced in Iran and directed by Hasan Khedayat; “Snowball Reaction,” directed by Vera Chytilova of Czechoslovakia; and “A 15-Year-Old Girl,” directed by Jacques Duillon from France. East and West Germany are also represented.


Although the festival opened Friday with a screening of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Dictator,” the first films in the competition will not be shown until today.

Four awards will be handed out before the festival ends July 18. A jury made up of directors, producers and critics from nine countries will name the two best films, the best actress and the best actor.

“For the first time the jury will not be governed by ideological considerations,” Moscow Radio said Friday in a report on the festival.

Because it is freed from previous non-artistic concerns, the festival will feature better films this year than before, Khodzhayev said.


“For the first time in the history of our festival, we turned down some films for the competition,” Khodzhayev said. “In the past, we were passive. We took whatever film each country wanted to offer, as long as it was approved by the censors. So the artistic quality was not always so high. This time we were offered about 40 films, and we rejected half of them.”

There was some tough negotiations over the American films that will be shown during the festival, he said.

“The American producers wanted us to pay money to show the films, but that is not how our festival works. This is a cultural event, not a commercial one,” he said. “They finally agreed.” Commercial trade may result from the festival, however. Soviet theaters may negotiate to purchase rights to a film.