Laila Pakalnina: Homes

”I call my method of work “Fishing in the river of time”. As life is extremely talented, we just put camera, set composition and wait. And life happens. So film happens…”

From an interview with Laila Pakalnina in connection with the big retrospective of her films in Centre Pompidou in 2019. I have followed her film life for years, am a big admirer and the admiration grew after the masterclass at Baltic Sea Docs 2021, where she announced a new film to come up, “Homes” – MY film she said, 2 hours, black & white, no music, and the cameraman talks!

She gave me a link to the flm and I wrote this to her in mid October: “Laila, you made my morning wonderful. With a cup of coffee I watched “Homes” first thing at the computer. I now walk out in the so-called reality full of the warmth and joy that you and Gints and the Latvian families gave me.”

I wanted to see the film again at IDFA on a big screen but I got caught by another show, so here I am with a small review based on another computer watch. Sorry! But the second screening made me even more enthusiastic:

Walkie talkie communication. Go a bit to the right, too much, stand closer to each other, yes, that´s fine, now freeze for one minute as if we are taking a photo. Put the walkie talkie down out of the frame. The cameraman gives instructions.

Some times the people are closer, some times more far away, most of the time it is a family, many times it is grandparents and their grandchildren.

My favourite shot is the one with granny in the garden surrounded by two girls (twins?) being asked to stand next to the sitting old lady, it´s pure poetry. Actually there are many shots like that, so well composed, the whole film can be seen as a lecture in photography – and in how to gently make people take part in a film. Narrated by Gints Berzins.

There are comments from the people outside the windows, their windows, where we the audience has been given one minute as well to study what is in the room, where the cameraman and his camera are. In the kitchen or in the sitting room or in the sleeping room or in the kid’s room. An ash tray on the table, a pair of glasses, a painting to the left or right, a chair, some plants, a mirror, a nice chair or two, wealthy gardens, not so wealthy gardens, and a few streets. And dogs – there are so many dogs in that film, some definitely do not like the situation and run a round barking, some disappear, too boring when the adult(s) just stand still! 

No more superlatives. Laila Pakalnina is an auteur, she always surprises, also this time with an original approach, again, as with “Spoon” (review

choosing her composition together with Gints Berzins, the talking cameraman in this audiovisual gift to all of us, who love Cinema.

And what a big hug to Latvia and people in this country.

And here is the link to the masterclass with Pakalnina at Baltic Sea Docs 2021:

Latvia, 2021, 120 mins.

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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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