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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Latvia / Lithuania

Davis Simanis’s period drama Maria’s Silence to premiere at the Berlinale

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- The Latvian-Lithuanian picture, playing in the Forum section, is based on the true story of Latvian silent-movie star and theatre actress Marija Leiko

Davis Simanis’s period drama Maria’s Silence to premiere at the Berlinale
Maria’s Silence by Davis Simanis (© Lauris Aizupietis)

The latest endeavour by Davis Simanis (Exiled [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, The Mover [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, The Year Before the War [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Dāvis Sīmanis
film profile
]
), titled Maria's Silence [+see also:
film review
interview: Dāvis Sīmanis
film profile
]
, is set to premiere in the Forum strand of the upcoming Berlinale (15-25 February). The picture is a period drama based on the true story of German silent-movie star and theatre actress Marija Leiko, who late in her career has to decide between fame and love for her grandchild, between her ideals and the lies of Stalin’s totalitarian regime.

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Leiko is tricked into travelling to Stalin’s Russia in search of her daughter, only to discover that her offspring has died giving birth to a little girl. With a motherless baby on her hands and being offered a new career in Soviet theatre, Marija decides to stay in Red Terror-torn Russia.

The creative team includes DoP Andrejs Rudzāts, costume designer Kristīne Jurjāne, make-up artist Beate Ryabovska, composers Paulius Kilbauskas and Justas Štaras, and editor Ieva Veiverīte. The script was penned by the helmer himself together with Magali Negroni and Tabita Rudzāte. The main cast members are Olga Šepicka, Artūrs Skrastiņš, Įrts Ķesteris, Inese Kučinska and Vilis Daudziņš.

“Marija Leiko’s life is perfect ground to reveal the scale of the cruelty of a demonic political regime, and to tell a biographical story of a strong personality and outstanding actress. She had experienced the most progressive and creative period of the 20th century, playing in Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s films or on stage at Bertolt Brecht’s German political theatre. She had socialist dreams of an ideal society where everyone’s rights would be honoured and the majority of people would not be condemned to a miserable existence – although Leiko’s attempts to take a stance against the brutality of the totalitarianism of the interwar period led to her death. Yet, she has left us with a powerful historical lesson and a narratively rich closing chapter of her life,” Simanis told Cineuropa.

“The fact that Maria’s Silence will have its world premiere at the Berlinale makes us think about the twists and turns of history, and how they have affected the life story of the prototype of the film’s protagonist, actress Marija Leiko. In the 1930s, she fled Nazi Germany and ended up in Stalin’s Russia. Today, as Russia is trying to minimise the significance of Stalin’s crimes, it’s also important to talk about the artists’ collaboration with a criminal power. It becomes evident that the concealed pages of 20th-century history can reveal much about the contemporary world of power, making us think about the relationship between intellectuals and power, and its possible consequences. The life story of Marija Leiko is one of the ‘blind spots’ in European history,” commented producer Gints Grūbe.

“I’m delighted that the Latvian feature Maria’s Silence has been selected for such an important and prestigious gathering as the Berlinale. The story of Latvian-born actress Leiko, who rose to fame in Germany and was murdered in Moscow, is not only a reminder of Stalin’s reign of terror, in which the actors of the Latvian theatre Skatuve were also exterminated, but also an ambitious recreation of the era. The story of the film shows the irrationality of totalitarian regimes’ repression and their total disregard for the individual – in essence, their collective insanity. It’s also a very concrete historical tribute to a strong woman who translates the tragic events of the 20th century through her individual fate. Needless to say, the collective insanity and the stench of totalitarianism aren’t just things of the past, but are also disturbing realities of our times,” added Dita Rietuma, head of the National Film Centre of Latvia.

Maria’s Silence is being co-produced by Gints Grūbe and Inese Boka-Grūbe for Latvia’s Mistrus Media, and by Juste Michailinaite and Kestutis Drazdauskas for Lithuania’s Broom Film. The movie received backing from the National Film Centre of Latvia, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia, the Lithuanian Film Centre, the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA), missionLatvia, Latvian Television and the European Union’s Creative Europe – MEDIA Development Fund. The project was developed through the ScripTeast and EAVE programmes.

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