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Gints Grūbe • Producer

"The Latvian film industry has experienced significant growth"

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- Latvian producer Gints Grūbe set up his own production company, Mistrus Media, in 2000, and has been selected as one of the 2017 Producers on the Move

Gints Grūbe • Producer

Gints Grūbe has diverse work experience in the media field. Since founding Mistrus Media, he has been involved in producing films including Escaping Riga and the anthology film Over the Roads, Over the River. His latest film to be released was Viesturs Kairišs’ black-and-white war drama The Chronicles of Melanie [+see also:
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, Latvia’s most successful film in 2016, which premiered internationally at the Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn.

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He is currently working on Dāvis Sīmanis' historical drama, The Boy with the Dog; the feature documentary To be Continued, by Ivars Seleckis; and, with Jaak Kilmi, the cold war spy documentary, People from Nowhere. Grūbe has been selected as one of the 2017 Producers on the Move, and we interviewed him.

Cineuropa: How would you describe your profile as a producer? What are you mainly looking for, and what kind of projects do you find appealing enough to take on?
Gints Grūbe: Mistrus Media focused initially on producing documentaries. However, the studio has expanded its scope of activity over the last 7‒8 years, with its film production work now spanning a wide range of genres and formats. Lately, the studio has been concentrating mostly on fiction films, making historical dramas set in 20th-century Europe and developing new, modern drama and comedy projects.

During the next five years, I plan to consolidate my film studio’s work in the area of fiction films and documentaries. I want to expand the focus of Baltic and Eastern European filmmaking, working on projects that would see the storylines of this region’s films break through the boundaries of the entrenched stereotypical narratives of post-Soviet space.

Could you briefly describe what filmmaking is like these days in Latvia? What is the overall situation?
The Latvian film industry has experienced significant growth in the area of fiction films over the last five years; a number of very strong productions have earned recognition at Class A European film festivals. This is directly linked to increased funding. Six new fiction films are being produced for Latvia’s Centenary in 2018, and they are attracting the attention of potential co-producers and foreign distributors. The minority co-production support programme has made it possible to co-produce with the Baltic countries and also with Germany, Great Britain and Canada. Latvian film companies regularly provide foreign studios with professional services, this has worked greatly in our favour.

How did it feel to produce such an artistically demanding project as The Chronicles of Melanie?
As a producer, I found The Chronicles of Melanie to be a project that I personally was strongly motivated to take part in. The story of the 1941 deportations of the Baltic people to Siberia is closely linked to my family. It just had to be told. I am happy that the film became the most-watched Latvian film of the last few years, and that the international premiere in Tallinn attracted lots of attention internationally. Interestingly, these stories are mostly translated into cinematic language by a generation that did not experience first-hand the historical events that inspired them. In a way, they encourage us to search for answers about the generations of our parents and grandparents, as well as current political and social processes. We were greatly helped by the collaboration of our co-producers Klaus Heidemann (Inland Films, Finland) and Julietta Sichel (8Heads Productions, Czech Republic).

What do you think about “Baltic Films” as an umbrella term for the three Baltic states? Should the Baltic countries try to forge their own identities, or would they benefit from being perceived as a single whole by the film industry?
“Baltic filmmaking” can work very powerfully as a brand, considering that over the past few years the three Baltic states — Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — have developed a strong culture of collaboration. Separately, each can be compared to a medium-sized European city; therefore, I think the joint potential is sufficiently large, provided that we are dealing with a deliberate policy regarding film services, international co-productions and the support of public television networks. Scandinavian Films is a platform that the Baltic countries are emulating today to an extent — we just haven’t got as far as that yet.

We have some excellent docs and powerful art house films, but these films get lost somehow, and their promotion could be a lot more vigorous. One significant platform for the Baltic industry is the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. There are close connections between producers from the three Baltic countries. The public television stations and national film centres in the Baltic countries must, and before too long, create a shared film foundation (similar to the one operating in the Nordic countries) that could serve as an additional funding source for good-quality Baltic films in the not-too-distant future.

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