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A new focus on industry events at the Riga IFF


- The most recent edition of the Latvian gathering, which has just come to a close, featured project pitching sessions, among a plethora of other events

A new focus on industry events at the Riga IFF
A promotional image of Liberation Day by Uģis Olte

The Riga International Film Festival hosted a higher number of industry events this year. Under the Riga IFF Forum moniker, three project pitching sessions were conducted. Two of them, for feature films and documentary pitches, consisted only of Latvian projects, mainly owing to the upcoming 100th anniversary of Latvia and the elevated production budget for this occasion.

The package of ten documentary films proved overall to be a strong batch of cinematic ideas focusing on a wide array of subjects ranging from historical biopics (Finding Tise, about Sergei Eisenstein’s DoP, Eduard Tisse, by Dzintra Geka) to exciting new portraits (Life Naked. Pavlensky, about the scandalous Russian artist, by Darya Khrenova) and contemporary social themes (the prison rap programme featured in Higher than Morphine by Dāvis Kaņepe).

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The only doc pitched that has already been finished, Liberation Day by Uģis Olte, tells the story of a Laibach concert in North Korea, and has already been chosen to premiere at the IDFA in a couple of weeks’ time.

The features package seemed somewhat tame in comparison, but some projects seemed to break away from the trend of having too much form and not enough capacity to involve a viewer in a story – a predicament that mostly affected the period pieces. Among the more courageous efforts were the genre-film projects, as well as Aik Karapetian’s third feature film in the making, the afterlife parable Firstborn, and a Latvian-Polish-Belgian social-realist crime drama about the Belgian meat industry and modern-day slavery, Oleg by Juris Kursietis

After that, the European Children’s Film – Presentation of Projects in Progress proved once again that Latvians have mastered the art of making emotional children’s movies. This time, Latvian projects such as the coming-of-age story Paradise ’89 by Madara Dišlere were accompanied by several films from the Nordic countries and the UK, leaving an impression of positivity and belief in these children’s films in the making. It was implied that the pitching forum would largely concentrate on children’s films in the future. 

During the two days of pitches, Michael Gubbins, head of Film Agency for Wales, an expert in on-demand services and digital change, offered an insightful two-hour talk about the marketing of European movies in the digital age, where new and innovative approaches to film promotion were proposed to counteract the obsolete notions about arthouse, commercial or nichecinema.

The Riga IFF Critics’ Meeting brought together young Latvian critics for workshops, public lectures and panel discussions with well-known industry professionals Olaf Müller and Vladan Petkovic. In addition, the European Script Meeting provided a platform for filmmakers, producers and studios to look for and meet professional screenwriters in order to discuss future projects. The whole package was topped off by the Baltic Film Talent Club – a range of workshops and lectures for Baltic film students and aspiring filmmakers, plus a sightseeing tour for the guests in order to promote Riga and its surroundings as a viable shooting location. 

It seems that the Riga IFF is still looking for ways to group all of the various industry activities properly under one umbrella, but its evident willingness to branch out and put some hard work into development will hopefully bring the MEDIA support that the festival is seeking, and which is largely dependent on their ability to prove that the gathering can work well with industry events. 

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