Prizes will be awarded in several categories. Winners get a “Golden Minbar” -- named after the pulpit in a mosque. Runners-up receive a “Silver Minbar” and third place finishers a “Bronze Minbar.” There is also a “President’s Prize” and a “Prize from the Russian and Tatarstan Culture Ministries.”
On the first day of the festival, director Vladimir Khotinenko received a Golden Minbar statue for his contributions to religious tolerance and teaching respect for religious convictions.
Some of the movies are feature films, some documentaries, and others animated. But Zaudi Mamirgov, the festival’s director, explained there are guidelines all the movies must meet to be included in the competition.
"The selection committee used the following criteria in selecting entries [for the competition]: they should contain no violence [and] no mysticism; the films should not incite hostility among people; they should stand for human values and help bring peoples closer together," Mamirgov said.
Mamirgov said the purpose of the festival is to break the negative image of Muslims in the world today.
Mamirgov earlier told RFE/RL that in the world today, negative stereotypes of Muslims are rampant. He said it seems that every Chechen has an AK-47, every Afghan is an uneducated drug trafficker, and all Azeris sell fruit at markets. Mamirgov said the festival is about learning about Islam and noted that not all films entered were the product of Muslim directors.
"Another selection criterion was that the films should talk about the history of Islam, about Islamic culture, about the great people of Islam," Mamirgov said. "However, films were accepted not only from Muslims but from people of any faith as long as the criteria I've mentioned were met."
Besides Mamirgov, the jury includes Syrian actress Muna Vasif, Egyptian film director Asma Al-Bikri, Jamil Farajev, a film director from Azerbaijan, and Elza Dilmukhametova from the Kazakhfilm studio.
Famous Azerbaijani screenwriter Rustam Ibragimbekov is the head of the 10-member jury. Among Ibragimbekov’s works are some of the most famous Soviet-Russian movies, such as “The White Sun of the Desert” and, more recently, “The Barber of Siberia.” He said films would be judged for “artistic values” rather than subject matter.
"First and foremost, we will judge the artistic values of the pictures, and only after that all other qualities," Ibragimbekov said. "It's very difficult to detach artistic qualities from content, but all other considerations -- in terms of what the picture advocates, what values it stands for -- are secondary. The most important thing for us is that the picture should meet high
Reis Ismagilov, a director from Bashkortostan, said non-Muslims also have warmly accepted the idea of the festival.
"Once people understand the idea, they enjoy it," Ismagilov said. "Russians, people of other religions go to the movies with great pleasure, they really enjoy it.”
The film festival is part of celebrations marking the 1,000-year anniversary of the founding of Kazan. At the end of the weeklong film festival, eight “Golden Minbar” statues will be awarded for the best film, director, filmmaking, scenario, actor, actress, animation, and viewers’ choice.
(RFE/RL’s Bruce Pannier and the Tatar-Bashkir service contributed to this report.)
"Muslim Film Festival In Tatarstan Aims To Break Stereotypes"