Riga, the city where came to life so many great documentaries during Soviet times and around the fall of the empire. I was invited to teach at the Discovery Campus session that was held at the coast, 40 minutes from Riga, and did the night before a small one hour retro session where also participants from another MEDIA training programme, Esodoc, took part.
I showed, among others, a clip from Juris Podnieks masterpiece from 1991, “Homeland”, and the 1978, 30 year young film that Podnieks photographed for his master Herz Frank. Very few of (their youth excuses them) the participants knew anything about this important part of world documentary history and as always all of them were enthusiastic about “Ten Minutes Older”. The title of Frank’s film. Podnieks died in 1992, but his studio continues in his spirit under the competent leadership of his editor, Antra Cilinska, now both director and producer.
But Herz Frank is still around and I saw his new film,”Perpetual Rehearsal”, where he warm-hearted and intelligently invites the viewer into the magic world of theatre. 10 years of video diaries has been put together by Frank from his meeting with the charismatic theatre director Yevgenij Arye from the Gesher Theatre in Tel Aviv.
If Latvia still lacks directors to fully reach the quality level that had the tradition of Podnieks, Frank and Ivars Seleckis, there is much reason to praise the activities of many people around the well functioning National Film Centre and its MEDIA Desk, Lelda Ozola, the person behind the Baltic Sea Forum that now takes place every year in September in Riga.
The current most internationally active documentary name in Latvia is Uldis Cekulis. With his company, Vides Film Studio, he presented this year a handful of films of fine quality. Personally I expect most from the film about Klucis, “Deconstruction of an Artist”, that has been written about earlier on this blog, see below. But Cekulis has also a wonderful follow-up to “Dream Land” in his catalogue, one more film in the tradtition of the company – man and nature – made by Maris Maskalans and Laila Pakalnina. “Three Men and a Fish Pond”. The first paints with the camera, the latter puts in humour and sense of situation. A happy working marriage.