This afternoon an important mail reached me – attached with the photo you see above. It came from Latvian producer Uldis Cekulis and film director Kristine Briede, who took the photo. It went like this :
« Dear Tue and Audrius (Stonys), Great news from Riga!
The missing director’s cut of « 235.000.000 » is found in very good condition under the bed at one of Uldis Brauns daughters flat!
Kristine took this legendary picture of Uldis Brauns widow Dainuvite, Latvian Film archive director Dace in the middle and archive techno man. (Unnamed, sorry, as the dog is, ed.).
We have been searching it for years, even last year in Riga at Uldis flat, but last week finally the mystery was resolved.
Will let you know about restoration and digitalisation – it will be done soon, as everyone is bloody enthusiastic, it will be done, we all will get that file! »
Yes, it had been looked for, the cut of Uldis Brauns film, his cut of the film which was
commissioned by Kreml to celebrate the 50 years of the revolution in 1967.
Thanks to Kristine Briede and Uldis Cekulis I had the luck to visit Uldis Brauns in 2014. We watched the film on his television set, in his bedroom, he was not happy with what he saw, it is censored, he said. Later we got the story as he (and others) remembered it :
… we communicated with translation help of Kristine Briede, who has been visiting Brauns many times and has his confidence. We talked about ”235.000.000”, and I got the story about the film (working title USSR 1966) that was first rejected on a project basis, when Brauns and his colleagues turned up in Moscow with a very precise budget, but on the way out from the meeting, they were called back and had an ”ok, go ahead”. Which they did to make the film that was shown in Leipzig. With consequences. Brauns was called to Moscow and was told that he should cut from the moment, where the GDR high representatives left the cinema (!), no further explanation, plus some other moments including a scene from the official welcoming of de Gaulle to Moscow. Brauns was not in Leipzig, he did not know that the film would be shown there! The film exists in three versions, 70 minutes, 110 minutes and 140 minutes…
And it was on the floor… of a daughter’s flat!
For me ”235.000.000” is one of the masterpieces in world documentary history, a feature duration documentary with no words, an homage to Life and to the joyful co-existence of people from the many republics of USSR. But the Kremlin people could not see that, they only saw that their leaders were not praised enough…The reason for putting aside the film can only be found in the advanced poetic storytelling and the focus on ordinary people and their lives in grief and happiness…
(this is from a blog text I wrote after the meeting with Uldis Brauns).
Now we – and Uldis Brauns from his heaven – can look forward to enjoy the director’s cut. As can dcumentary lovers all over. It comes at the right time, where Kristine Briede and Audrius Stonys together with producers Uldis Cekulis, Arunas Matelis and Riho Västrik have made „Bridges of Time“ that travels the world with a focus on the poetic tradition in Baltic documentary cinema. In this film there are amazing clips from „235.000.000“. Now the whole film, in its right version, will be available.