Baltic Film Festival Debuts in New York

Lietuvos kultūros institutas

The first ever New York Baltic Film Festival comes with 18 film screenings over a four-day period at Scandinavia House from October 18 through October 21. The festival will feature 7 U.S. premiere screenings and 9 NYC premieres.

New York audiences will have an opportunity to watch the notable classic films that have rarely been seen outside of Europe, the latest features, documentaries and animation films from some of the best established and upcoming filmmakers from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

“It’s always a special feeling to present Lithuanian films abroad. It’s an honor for us to bring some of the best in Northern European cinema to New York – one of the most important cultural capitals in the world,” said the Director of Lithuanian Film Centre Rolandas Kvietkauskas, who flew in to New York City for the opening of the festival. “We worked really hard together with our partners so I hope that the audiences will be curious to see the films that were made at the time when the Baltic States were not yet even apart of the global cultural exchange. It should be an enriching experience for New Yorkers,” he said.

This festival is the first try for the three Baltic States to carve out a space in an already oversaturated New York film market. “We had to find the best date for the festival so that it wouldn’t conflict with other New York film festivals or events,” said Cultural Attaché of Lithuania in the U.S. Gražina Michnevičiūtė.

The idea for the New York Baltic Film Festival was born two years ago to Honorary Consul for Latvia in New York Daris Delins, who then invited Lithuanians and Estonians to join this initiative. “I started to think of interesting ways to promote Latvia to New Yorkers during our centenary year. Maybe we can show some films, since film is an international language. But then I thought – why just Latvian films, why not films from all three Baltic countries in one festival because we are all celebrating our centenaries in 2018!” he said.

After a tedious planning process and many conversations, the festival finally came together. Donald Dewey, the programming director of the festival, said it wasn’t easy putting together the schedule.

“It shouldn’t be much of a task to choose your 18 favorite films; to choose your 18 favorite anythings. But when the candidates come from three countries, represent four genres, and span half a century of radically different internal film making conditions, the inevitable conclusion is that a lot of other people’s 18 favorite films are going to be left out. That’s the habitual curse in selecting, as is the converse that if you’re pleasing all the people all the time, you’re doing something very, very wrong. So let’s start off saying that the New York Baltic Film Festival is doing something very, very right,” he said.

“The opening night of the festival will be special because of the screenings of classic films made in the 70s and 80s,” Gražina Michnevičiūtė said. “One of the most awaited screenings is documentary Wonderful Losers: A Different World, Lithuania’s official entry to the 91st Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. The Q&A with its director Arūnas Matelis and film critic Lukas Brašiškis will follow. I think documentary When We Talk About KGB by Maximilien Dejoie and Virginija Vareikytė should be particularly interesting to the audience – the historic time during Soviet occupation is still widely misunderstood in the West. The audience will get to talk to Vareikytė after the screening,” Michnevičiūtė said.

The classics will screen during the opening night on October 18: The Devil‘s Bride by Arūnas Žebriūnas – the first Lithuanian musical (1974), Latvian documentary The White Bells by Ivars Kraulītis (1961) and the witty 511 Best Photographs from Mars by Estonian Andres Soot (1968).

The second day of the festival will show The Dissidents – an action comedy by Jaak Kilmi (Estonia, 2017) and ironic documentary Rodeo (Estonia, 2018) by Raimo Jõerand and Kiur Aarma. On the last day, a science documentary Baltic Tribes (Latvia, 2018) by Lauris Ābele and Raitis will screen, and the last movie of the festival will be Together For Ever (Lithuania, 2016) by Lina Lužytė.

You can find the entire program of the festival: here.

New York Baltic Film Festival is organized by Honorary Consul for Latvia in New York, Consulate General of the Republic of Lithuania and Estonia in collaboration with the national film centres of the Baltic countries, Lithuanian Culture Institute, Cultural Attaché of Lithuania in the U.S., and other partners of the festival. The screenings will take place at Scandinavia House – one of the main partners of the festival.