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The Arbiter competes in Karlovy Vary East of the West competition

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- Confrontational Estonian film sole Baltic offering in competition at 2013 festival

The Arbiter competes in Karlovy Vary East of the West competition

While shot chiefly in the UK, with an English-speaking cast, Kadri Kõusaar’s The Arbiter [+see also:
film review
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will be flying the flag for Estonia and The Baltics in the East of the West Competition at this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

A dark and complex thriller, the Estonian-Swedish co-production tells the story of John, a seemingly meek academic whose life is turned upside down when his fiancée decides to have an abortion and leave him. John proceeds to go on a road trip with his daughter Ronja (whom he fathered via donating his sperm) and opens up a dark part of his life: he’s decided that he is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong and that everyone who fails his ideals for morality will pay a price.

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Full to the brim with ideas of morality, responsibility and choice the film is a confrontational but compelling film that was released in its native Estonia in March. Given that films from the Baltics have traditionally gone on to do well after premiering at Karlovy Vary (last year Mushrooming, premiering in the East of the West competition, became the most successful Estonian film of the year while Lithuanian film Vanishing Waves, another East of the West competitor, became one of the most successful international hits for the country in its entire history), there are high hopes for The Arbiter.

“Being selected for the 48th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is an absolute honour for us,” said the film’s producer Aet Laigu, speaking exclusively to Cineuropa. “Especially as this is the first ever English language film to come out of the Baltic region. We hope that the festival will draw attention to such a positive trend of international co-operation that also allows Eastern European talent to be recognized on the world cinema scene.”

Laigu also hopes that it changes the perception of Baltic cinema and the topics it explores:

“Throughout film history, westerners have depicted the east through their own cinematic prism,” she said. “The Arbiter, which was shot chiefly in the UK and with a British cast, examines some important topics in modern western society with a particular Eastern European feel. So why not try to start a new wave in Eastern European cinema?”

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