Vareikyte & Dejoie: I’ll Stand by You

Their full names being Virginija Vareikyte and Maximilien Dejoie, a Lithuanian and an Italian, who is also the cinematographer, which makes me start by praising the camerawork for a film that is so much subject-related:

It tells the story of two women, a psychologist and a police officer, who tried to tackle the extended problem of suicides in their hometown in Lithuania and succeeded, by creating the most successful suicide prevention program that their country has ever seen… to quote the directors.

It could have been an informative prosaic film giving the facts about the mentioned program through a voice-over and interviews; instead the directors chose to make a creative documentary that also gives the necessary background to understand that the film’s main location is Kupiškis, a small village or town in the North East of Lithuania, where the suicide rate is high.

I started praising the camerawork, as you all the time sense that there is thought about the composition of the image and about how to film the meetings of Gintaré and Valija with the clients. In full discretion. Which of course could not work if the directors were not able to bring the best out of the two wonderful wonderful lively and caring women. There is charisma on the screen! And ability to convey their calling to the many volunteers, who are connected to the program. One of them is Biruté, who herself lost a son, who took his own life. She is in the film as the one who towards the end comes to see Jonas, an old man who is followed by the directors. Always positive Gintaré talks to him in uniform and without uniform, we hear phone calls to him, he has clear plans for how he will hang himself… but there is a happy ending for him when the three women come to visit and we the audience see him.

Also bravo to the editing done by Virginija Vareikyte and Italian Francesca Scalisi. There is a fantastic key scene in the film, where you see the two ladies hugging each other in a pavillion with rain pouring down outside. I think it is after they have been noticed of a client who took his/her life. ”Are we normal”, one of them says, to what you can only answer, No, you are so extraordinary… cut to the two on their way to Jonas with images from the countryside of Lithuania, beautiful nature with the more or less dilapidated wooden houses, with serious reflections from Gintaré, shifting to a bursting into laughter the next moment. The focus on the two ladies is the right choice for the film, you get close to them and not ”only” their mission. Lovely!

Lithuania, Italy. Switzerland, 73 min. 2021

 

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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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