The Latvian national premiere of the 15 Young by Young documentary series – 15 short films of 15 minutes from the former Soviet republics – young filmmakers making films about young people and their lives in today’s independent countries 20 years after the fall of the empire – took place with a galla screening in Riga saturday, followed by a screening in Sigulda, a town one hour from the capital, very well known for its winter sport but also the town that hosted a seminar two years ago where the shaping of the series started with directors and tutors present. I was invited back to Sigulda to watch the films and enjoy the company of the directors. And it was indeed joyful to sit in the cosy cinema in the culture centre of Sigulda, to see the directors being lined up with flowers from the mayor, having an ice cream, a banana and a glass of red wine in the break of the around 3 hour long screening, that was well attended by locals. It reminded me very much of ten years of film festival in Bornholm, Denmark, great unpretentious atmosphere, warm-hearted.
The premiere(s), organised by the producer Ilona Bicevska and her team, also included an outside internet broadcast of a debate (in Russian, the language all directors spoke) that took place in a park in Riga and that you can find online. “Is it Easy to be Young”, the moderator said with a fine reference to the classic documentary of Juris Podnieks. The answers were different depending on the country, the director lives in. Goes without saying that a young person in a Baltic country have better conditions than someone from Belarus or from Moldova or Kirgisztan or… if you talk in materialistic terms.
The series has already been broadcast on arte, hopefully many other channels (and festivals) will also take this unique insight to countries that we need to know more about as they are only present in the media when revolutions or catastrophies happen. Unique the series is also because it presents many different ways of making a short film, from pure observation to fictionalisation, and put together there is freshness and talent to experience. The link below invites you to know much more. With clips to enjoy. Do so! 15 countries. 15 directors. 15 stories. (Photo from the Russian short in the series)