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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Film Awards Find Only One Worthy Candidate

The screen didn't work very well, the sound was bad and there were plenty of empty seats. A night at a Soviet cinema 10 years ago? No, Russia's equivalent of the Golden Globes at the Russian Army Theater this week.

The Russian cinema elite gathered Wednesday for the 1998 Zolotoi Oven, or Golden Ram awards, chosen by the country's top film critics.

"Strana Glukhikh," or "The Land of the Deaf," Valery Todorovsky's story of a turbulent friendship between two young women drawn into the deaf underworld, cleaned up at the ceremony. The movie won four awards, including Best Film, Best Actress, Best Music and Best Supporting Actor.

Few were surprised by the results. "The Land of the Deaf" was one of the few successes last year in a cinema industry struggling to produce even a fraction of the number films it did in its Soviet heyday.

"It was not the best year [for Russian cinema]," said Alexander Troshin, editor of Kinovedcheskiye Zapiski, or Cinema Notes, and one of the judges for the awards. He added that "Strana Glukhikh" racked up awards because there was no real alternative.

"Everyone knew the results beforehand," Troshin said.

Five of the 10 Russian awards, including Best Film, only had three candidates nominated.

Foreign critics have been slightly more generous in their praise of "Strana Glukhikh," which has been picking up awards since its release last year.

Dina Korzun, who plays the deaf girl, won the battle against her co-star Chulpan Khamatova for Best Actress.

"Winning prizes for me is no big deal. I've got prizes from Russia, from Switzerland," said Korzun after the ceremony. "It's more important for me when people have a warm feeling ... and come up to me in the metro and recognize me."

Alexei Balbanov's strange tale of sadomasochism in 19th-century St. Petersburg, "Pro Urodov i Lyudei," or "Of Freaks and Men," won three awards including Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Actor. Sergei Makovetsky took the latter prize for his role as Johann, a poker-faced photographer with a penchant for tying people up.

In the other awards, Marina Maryeeva won best screenplay for "Totalitarny Roman," or "Totalitarian Romance," while Pyotr Lutsik's "Okraina," or "The Suburbs," won Best Directorial Debut.

The "Big Lebowski" won Best Film in the foreign section and Johnny Depp took Best Actor. No one turned up from Hollywood, which was unfortunate, since the organizers had a hard time filling the enormous hall of the Army Theater.

The ceremony was also marred by the regular breakdown of the two screens showing the nominees. They either flickered up and down like a 1950s television or showed the bemused presenters instead.

Toward the end, the audience looked frustrated as one of the nominees for Best Film was heard but not seen. Over it all, the exasperated presenter could be heard saying "I don't understand."

Before the ceremony, the theater saw the opening of the Liki Lyubvi, or Faces of Love, festival which will run until Jan. 20. The impressive line-up includes Roberto Benigni's acclaimed "Life is Beautiful," John Madden's "Mrs. Brown" (reviewed in MT OUT), a series of British shorts and "Snug as a Bug in a Rug," a Polish film starring Ira Lyachina, who was dubbed the Russian Audrey Hepburn by the Polish version of Elle magazine.

See MT OUT for complete festival listings.