• Datum 16-01-2014
  • Auteur
  • Deel dit artikel

Illustratie Typex

Filmmaking in Latvia has had its ups and downs. The fruitfulness of the branch has always depended on the authority in place. We cannot brag about our films significantly changing world cinema, but we can definitely lead you through all cinematic periods, trends and substantial searches using only films made in our fatherland — especially as Riga Motion Picture Studio was the center of Soviet filmmaking during the regime.
The best we’ve taken from this heritage are the documentary and short animation traditions, the most succesful international brands since independence was regained in 1991. Since these are also the hardest genres for theatrical release, it did not take long for national filmmaking to vanish from the taxpayers’ consciousness as ‘cinema’. Since then, filmmaking in Latvia has been a private initiative requiring a very strong survival instinct; a fight which includes recapturing the domestic screen.
For many decades Latvians have made films rooted deeply in their national identity. After some years of independent artistic experimentation, it turned out that’s exactly what the nation wants (what a surprise — not the pretentious auteur!). Despite the fact there are still only a handful of directors making domestic patriotic blockbusters, such films as Defenders of Riga (Aigars Grauba, 2007), Dream Team 1935 (Grauba, 2012) and Rudolf’s Inheritance (Janis Streics, 2010) have proven this interest with recording-breakign audience numbers.
The documentary field in the last years has been succesfully supplemented with internationally understandable and catchy portrayals like Family Instinct (Andris Gauja, 2010), How Are You Doing, Rudolf Ming? (Roberts Rubins, 2010) and Documentarian (Inese Klava & Ivars Zviedris, 2010).
Despite the miserable state budget some noticable fiction films have been made, such as Mother, I Love You (Janis Nords, 2013), which won the Berlinale Genaration Kpluss Grand Prix and was the Latvian Oscar entry in 2013, and People Out There (Aik Karapetian, 2012). But the biggest surprise for everyone has been Kolka Cool (Juris Poskus, 2011), which tells a seemingly pointless story about pointless people spending their pointless days very pointlessly. This rather enjoyable black-and-white realistic pointlessness became a turning point, passing into a sort of a folklore amongst Latvians and finally making the government notice that cinema is a part of culture. They hope to fix the problem, gradually adding a million to their film budget in coming years. The ‘national procurement’ programme will help to produce films devoted to Latvia’s 100th anniversary. Emphasizing national identity seems to be a strong direction for Latvian filmmaking in the next few years.
Meanwhile, the industry survives on co-productions and film service export. Riga and Latvia film funds were created to attract foreign producers to this small, cheap, four season country. So far the annual budget has been used mostly by Russians and Asians, but the most famous coproduction has probably been In the Fog (Sergei Loznitsa) which premiered in Cannes where it was awarded with the FIPRESCI prize and also screened in Rotterdam in 2013.

Amanda Boka is a film producer and event manager based in Latvia