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BERLINALE 2023 EFM

The Latvian film industry sets sail for the European Film Market

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- A raft of new projects in the pipeline, two titles screening in the sidebars and the Series Market panel are some of the highlights of Latvia’s participation in the event

The Latvian film industry sets sail for the European Film Market
The documentary Eastern Front by Vitaly Mansky and Yevhen Titarenko, which will screen in Encounters

This year’s European Film Market (16-22 February) is set to shine a spotlight on the Latvian film industry. Latvia will join Estonia and Lithuania in the Baltic Countries in Focus initiative, supported by the National Film Centre of Latvia, the Lithuanian Film Centre and the Estonian Film Institute. A number of Latvian producers and directors will be in attendance, presenting and selling their new projects.

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Ego Media’s Guntis Trekteris will be bringing several new projects to the market, including Liene Linde’s debut dramedy, Black Velvet (now in post-production and co-produced with Lithuania), Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo’s Lioness (set to enter production this year and co-produced with Estonia), Dāvis Sīmanis’ documentary Death of Death (co-produced with Czech outfit Kuli Film) as well as Viesturs Kairišs’ new coming-of-age flick Ulya.

Inese Boka-Grūbe and Gints Grūbe, of Mistrus Media, are currently working on Dāvis Sīmanis’ Maria's Silence [+see also:
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 (co-produced with France’s Lilith Films and Lithuania’s Broom Films), Viesturs Kairišs’s documentary Emptiness (co-produced with Germany, Italy and Romania), the TV series Boarding House in a Manor and veteran helmer Ivars Seleckis’ documentary Coming of Age.

Matīss Kaža, of Trickster Pictures, will bring several titles to the EFM, including Annecy winner Gints ZilbalodisFlow [+see also:
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(now finalising post-production, and co-produced with France and Belgium), Chinese director Hu Jiaying’s debut, 1 Girl Infinite, his own new drama Sweet Dystopia, and Warsaw winner Linda Olte’s sophomore feature, The Child. Meanwhile, Olte’s debut, Sisters [+see also:
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, will be screened at the market.

The priority for producer Alise Ģelze, of White Picture, will be finalising financing on Juris KursietisBlue Blood, planned as a co-production with Polish and German talents, and set to enter production in the autumn. She is also working on two debuts – namely, Armands ZačsYouth Eternal and Anna Ansone’s Summer Blues, as well as on two projects in post as a minority co-producer – Rainer Sarnet’s The Invisible Fight [+see also:
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and Ineke Houtman’s The Book of Everything. Ģelze is also a member of this year’s Generation KPlus international jury.

In the Visitors Programme, Latvia will be represented by three emerging producers. Paula Jansone will present a series of children’s animated musical shorts titled Wardrobe of Wonder, the documentaries Art Equals Agony and The Red Barn, along with Elza Gauja’s fiction feature The Last Supper, described as “a subtle story with humorous undertones”.

Inga Praņevska will be presenting her next two features as a producer. Escape Net takes place in mid-20th-century Latvia and revolves around basketball player and coach Uljana Semjonova, and her battles on and off the court, whilst Brothers’ War promises to be “an uncompromising story of two brothers who find themselves fighting for opposite armies in World War II”.

Alise Rogule and Alise Zariņa will be presenting their second joint project, a feel-good comedy about thirty-somethings titled Impressions.

Meanwhile, the Documentary Rough Cut presentations, moderated by Zane Balčus, will showcase two non-fiction projects. The first is Stanislavs Tokalovs Everything Will Be Alright, produced by Guntis Trekteris. In it, three women from the director’s family represent a cross-section of the large Russian minority living in Latvia. The grandmother came to Latvia in 1955, and at the age of 93, she is fighting for her life and awaiting the 9 May celebrations, where she will be one of the only surviving veterans and a star at the event; the mother is a lecturer at a Russian-speaking university that is about to be closed down; and the sister is starting her adult life by discovering love and trying to break away from her family. The film seeks to understand whether they will ever be fully accepted by Latvian society or whether they really want to be.

The second project, helmed by Yuliia Hontaruk, is titled Company of Steel and is being produced by the director herself with Katarina Krnacova, of Silverart, and Uldis Cekulis, of VFS Films. The documentary begins in 2014, when three young Ukrainian men with no military experience set out to serve their country in the Russo-Ukrainian War. After two years on the frontline, they slowly try to adapt to civilian life. But when Russia invades Ukraine in February 2022, they are forced to deal once again with the trauma they have been trying to overcome. They not only face the challenge of protecting their homeland, but also that of safely returning to the lives they worked so hard to build.

During the Series Market, a panel moderated by Alise Ģelze will offer EFM industry attendees an overview of the current drama-series production landscape, and the technical support and co-financing opportunities available for film and series production in Latvia. The talk will see the participation of Dita Rietuma (head of the National Film Centre of Latvia), Jānis Kalējs (representative of the Film Service Producers Association of Latvia), Inese Boka-Grūbe, Elīna Losa (project manager, of Tasse Film), Stanislavs Tokalovs and Andrejs Ēķis (producer-director, of Cinevilla Films).

This year, Latvia will take part in the Berlinale with two productions – namely, Vitaly Mansky and Yevhen Titarenko’s timely documentary Eastern Front [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Vitaly Mansky, Yevhen Titar…
film profile
]
(to be screened in the Encounters section, and co-produced with the Czech Republic and Ukraine), and Enzo d’Alò’s latest animated flick A Greyhound of a Girl [+see also:
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]
(showcased in the Generation Kplus strand), on which Rija Films served as minority co-producer; the movie was co-produced with Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland, the UK, Estonia and Germany.

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