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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Latvia / Finland

Dace Pūce’s The Pit in post-production

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- The director’s debut feature is a Latvian-Finnish co-production starring Russian newcomer Damirs Onackis in the lead role

Dace Pūce’s The Pit in post-production
On the set of The Pit (© Janis Deinats)

Riga-born filmmaker Dace Pūce is now working on her debut feature, entitled The Pit. Before commencing work on this project, the Latvian helmer directed a few shorts, such as Annia (2017), Burnt by the Moon (2016) and Tango (2016).

The film, inspired by a series of true stories published by Latvian writer Jana Egle in her first book, Gaismā (in English, In the Light), was penned by the director herself, Monta Gāgane and Pēteris Rozītis. The story revolves around a boy called Markuss (played by Russian newcomer Damirs Onackis), who must adapt to a new life with his granny in the countryside. After Emīlija – a neighbour’s daughter – makes some contemptuous remarks about Markuss’s father, he decides to teach her a cruel lesson. This has severe consequences that resonate throughout the village. Forced to work, the boy begins to harbour hatred towards the others in the village. The only person the boy can relate to is an old sailor living in the nearby woods. They inspire one another and keep each other’s secrets. It is only through an accidental turn of events that Emīlija’s mother’s intended sanctions against Markuss and the boy’s reputation in the eyes of the inhabitants of the village radically change.

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Alongside Onackis, the main cast members are Agata Buzek (Smaida), Indra Burkovska (the sailor), Dace Eversa (Solveiga), Egons Dombrovskis (Roberts), Inese Kučinska (Sandra) and Aigars Vilims (Alberts). Casting sessions took place in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland. The producers have confirmed that they invited over 600 boys to castings to try out for the leading role of Markuss, and Polish actress Agata Buzek had to learn Latvian for the shoot.

Italy’s TVCO, the outfit in charge of its international sales, signed the agreement before previewing the rough cut. Speaking about the project, TVCO head of sales Simonetta Polese said: “We read the treatment, and we felt The Pit was a poignant story, a modern-day dark fable with lots of potential. This was one of the reasons why we decided to be on the producers’ side as international distributors from the start.” Meanwhile, the technical crew includes DoP Gatis Grinbergs, production designer Laura Dišlere and editor Jussi Rautaniemi.

The Pit is being produced by Kristele Pudane and Elina Zazerska for Marana Production (Latvia) and Klaus Heydemann for Inland Film Company (Finland). The project was also backed by the National Film Centre of Latvia and was the recipient of the Work in Progress Grand Prix at the 2019 Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. The film is slated for release in 2021.

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