02-16-2016 Vilnius Lithuania

Look at the photo, taken by Giedre Beinoriute just after the award ceremony. It is the Independence Day of Lithuania and the ceremony is about to start. On the red carpet former President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus welcomes Vytautas Landsbergis and his wife. If anyone Landsbergis symbolises the independence of Lithuania. He was the one, who as Head of the Seimas, the Lithuanian Parliament, on March 11 1990 declared Lithuania independent of the Soviet Union, the first Soviet republic to do so. The Soviet reaction to this is well known, economic blockade and later on attacks on the tv tower – 14 Lithuanians were killed on the night of January 13th… In February 1991 Iceland became the first country to recognise the independence of Lithuania.

Back to the photo taken two days ago. We managed to join the crowd on the square and to feel the solemn atmosphere when the National Hymn of Lithuania was song. One hour earlier, as her introduction to the award ceremony, the President Dalia Grybauskaite said that she would not make a speech but stressed the importance of protecting the country and its values in times ”where we are threatened”. The reference to Russia was obvious. Grybauskaite is known for being direct and outspoken like some days before in Munich, where she commented on the Russian aggression in Ukraine.

There were flags all over in the streets of Vilnius on this Day of

Independence, smiling parents with kids on their shoulders. We had coffee with Alge and Arunas Matelis, returned to the hotel to change from tie and jacket to warm sweater and went with Audrius Stonys to observe the most important – according to Stonys – ceremony at the House of Signatories in Pilies Street, where the Act of Lithuania’s Independence was signed on the16th of February 1918. Again Vytautas Landsbergis was at the centre to speak to the people in the street from the balcony of the house and again – after cannons were fired from the balcony above Landsbergis – people started so sing and quite an emotional moment was created. I was saying to my wife that this could never happen in our country… Landsbergis, a true hero, an intellectual, expert in Ciurlionis, the national painter and composer, a respected piano player, a writer, a man who had deserved the Nobel Peace Prize that was given to Gorbachev in 1990.

With Stonys we walked the streets of Vilnius. We had a warm soup and talked about local filmmakers. He mentioned that Oksana Buraja, who was a student of his and who has made interesting films like ”Confession”, ”Diary”, ”Lisa, Go Home”, was now a nun at the Orthodox Church. ”Do you want to see her”, of course we did and with Stonys as translator and questioner as well, we had two unforgettable hours of conversation with Sister Joanna (aka Oksana Buraja) in the monastery, where she had her own small editing room doing information programmes for the church. She was reflective on what she had done as a filmmaker, she felt that the relationship of her to the main character Lisa in that film was false with her – the director – always thinking about the film, where she maybe should have helped the girl away from her poor family situation. Charismatic Sister Joanna showed us the church and the concert hall, where she makes children programmes. She laughingly said that she still has an idea to make a feature film and had problems to get it out of her head. We asked her if the day of a nun was boring… she said yes, but her duty was to communicate with the external world and she found that rewarding.

The day started at the Presidential Palace and ended at Restaurant René (named after Magritte). It is a day that will stay in my mind forever. One thing is the recognition from Lithuanian filmmakers, another is to be in Vilnius on this special day, to feel the warm atmosphere – and to be with you Audrius and Aida Stonys, Arunas and Alge Matelis, Giedre Beinoriute and Mindaugas Survila from the morning with the president and in the evening for ”moules et frites”. And for your humour – as Arunas Matelis said: ”There were only two foreigners at the palace to receive orders… one from NATO and from Cinema”.    

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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