VGIK was founded in 1919 by the film director Vladimir Gardin as the State School of Cinematography. In 1930, it became the State Institute of Cinematography. In 1986, the institute was named after the film director, screenwriter and actor Sergei Gerasimov. Since 2008, VGIK has been a university. It is considered one of the most prestigious film schools in the former Soviet states.
In 1961, VGIK and the Ministry of Culture of the USSR inaugurated a student film festival aimed to demonstrate and evaluate creative accomplishments of Soviet students. Interestingly, the winner of the inaugural festival was Andrei Konchalovsky who would later become one of the best known Russian film directors. His short film The Boy and the Dove won the top prize of the VGIK festival. A year later, the same film became the winner (in debutants’ competition) of the Children and Youth Film Festival in Venice, Italy.
For many renowned Russian film directors such as Sergei Solovyov, Vadim Abdrashitov, Otar Iosseliani, Elem Klimov, Andrey Tarkovsky, Nikita Mikhalkov, Vasiliy Shukshin, Artavazd Peleshian, Alexey German-jr., Alexander Kott, Anna Melikyan, Pyotr Buslov and Alexey Mizgirev participation in the VGIK festival was the first step towards national and international recognition.
Since 1998, the VGIK International Festival has been held annually every fall. Its main events are held in VGIK’s lecture halls as well as in cinemas, art galleries and other venues across Moscow. The program of the festival includes discussions of works presented by VGIK students, screenings, presentations, exhibitions, panels, masterclasses, seminars, Q&A sessions, and many other events.
The festival is divided into two stages. The first stage is dedicated to the inner VGIK competition and the second stage features the international film and theater competition. The international competition is open to film and theater students from dozens of countries such as the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Italy, China, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Spain, and others.
The winners of the competition are selected by three juries – the international jury, the theater jury, and the student jury. The international jury and the theater jury are composed of seasoned industry professionals. They include actors, directors, screenwriters, cinematographers, film and theater critics, etc. The student jury is composed of media, film, theater and television students.