Baltic Tour: Latvia

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. /Photo: Herz Frank.

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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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