In 2007, Russian-born Toronto resident Valeri Kogan and his friend Alena Joukova decided to add a Russian film festival to Toronto’s multicultural scene. The result was the annual Toronto Russian Film Festival (TRFF) formed in 2009, which has returned this year with a full list of works ranging from shorts to features, and even animation.
“I know that Canadian people are familiar with Russian classics, so when I was picking the movies I centred it around this idea,” said Joukova. “Ivanov” and “Boris Godunov” are among some of the more prominent films coming to the festival this year.
“Also I was thinking that for a Canadian viewer a historical drama would be interesting, about the Russian Revolution,” said Joukova. One of such films is the highly acclaimed ‘Once Upon A Time There Was a Woman.’ The star of the film, Darya Ekamasova, received the best actress award presented by the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics in Russia.
To make the festival accessible to all, the films are subtitled, and translators are also available to translate any remarks by directors or artists during the festival.
Forging a Dream
Kogan immigrated to Canada in 1990, first to Quebec and six years later he settled in Toronto with his family. A paediatrician and a medicine professor by profession, he has always had a passion for films.
“I had plenty of friends from theatre and from the movies,” Kogan recalled his life back in Moscow where he grew up and received his education.
Interests in the film industry persuaded Kogan to take an amateur filmography class in downtown Toronto curated by Norman Jewison, a well known Canadian producer, actor, and founder of the Canadian Film Centre based in Toronto.
In 2007, Kogan helped bring Russian movies to Toronto film festivals at the same time he helped to bring different Canadian movies to screen at the Moscow International Film Festival.
While working on organizing a festival that ultimately didn’t succeed, he met Joukova, an established author, producer, and screen writer. Besides their love for films, the two also shared another thing in common: they both had many contacts at the Moscow International Film Festival.The two eventually formed TRFF in 2009. Kogan says the festival is the first of its kind building a bridge between Canada and Russia through a film festival.
More information about the festival can be found on its website.
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