Sarlote Liduma • Organiser of FF Riga
by Birgit Heidsiek
22/08/2012 - Earlier this year, the Riga International Film Festival ‘Arsenals’ was forced to close its doors. With a 25 year history – including the distinction of being the first independent film in the former Soviet Union – the festival finally came to an end due to a lack of funding and rumoured turmoil behind the scenes.
A new festival entitled FF Riga will take place on September 10-12, as a homage to the late and lamented event. With no budget, FF Riga will rely on the support of numerous organisations and film festivals (among them Warsaw Film Festival and the Finnish Film Foundation) to take financial responsibility for screening films that originated in their country.
The organiser of FF Riga, Sarlote Liduma, elaborates on her plans for the festival.
Cineuropa: Do you see the festival as being a regular event or is it just a one-off to highlight the plight of ‘Arsenals’?
Sarlote Liduma: I have learned to take one step at a time but, of course, there are hopes and dreams and I will definitely try my best to look for funding [for the future]. I would love to see a high-quality film festival taking place in Riga again. But I also realize that the economic situation in the country and all over the world isn't the best for trying to create something new that requires a lot of money. When Riga IFF ‘Arsenals’ was closed, there was a petition put out for support. It was handed to Latvia’s minister of culture. The silence in response showed that our cultural priorities are not in favour of film festivals. A festival that had a well-established reputation and was the oldest independent film festival in the former Soviet Union died very quietly, without societal concerns or discussions at the top cultural level.
The French film director Eugene Green helped me tremendously. The petition was signed by very prominent people in the film industry, but there was no response from the Ministry of Culture.
The initiative of this year's event actually came from Stefan Laudyn, the director of the Warsaw Film Festival, who was very concerned about the situation that a festival that used to be a cultural trademark of Latvia has ended. And, to be honest, I was very positively shocked by many responses from other festivals. The help, the time, the resources that other people have invested in this year’s event are tremendous. Behind each film there are many people that have invested their energy in order to help. That's why we also decided to name this event FF Riga (Festivals For Riga, Films For Riga). But my concern again is that the situation has brought more of a response internationally than nationally.
How do you see FF Riga from an artistic standpoint this year?
‘Arsenals’ had two kind of competitions – the Baltic Film Competition, which had a jury, and the International Competition, in which the Grand Prix of $10,000 was determined by luck [participating and attending filmmakers were all given a drink of local liquor Black Balsam – the one who found the ‘Golden Button’ at the bottom of the drink won the prize]. The philosophy was that if the film had already made its way into International Competition, there was no human jury that could judge it objectively.
I would definitely attempt to maintain the quality of ‘Arsenals’, since I believe that people need to see art-house, festival-type films in order to watch something different from Hollywood product. Also, I would most definitely keep the idea of not allowing a jury judge the International Competition films.
This year’s official FF Riga programme is:
Whore’s Glory [trailer] (Austria, 2011)
July (Bulgaria, 2012)
Flower Buds (Czech Republic, 2011)
Mushrooming (Estonia, 2012)
The Good Son [trailer] (Finland, 2011)
Gulf Stream Under the Iceberg (Latvia, 2012)
Rose (Poland, 2011)
The Phantom Father (Romania, 2011)
Winter, Go Away (Russia, 2012)