Lithuanian director wins the Silver Wolf

  • 2005-12-07
  • By Milda Seputyte
VILNIUS - Lithuanian director Arunas Matelis has a new title to add to his name: Silver Wolf winner of the International Amsterdam Documentary Film Festival. Quite a mouthful indeed, but when Matelis was awarded this honor on Dec. 4, he was far from tongue-tied.

"The Amsterdam Film Festival is one of the most significant, greatest and most influential ones in the world," Matelis was quoted as saying. "No wonder it is called the Cannes of documentaries. It was a big achievement that my film took part in the competition. I was glad, because I saw that works by such masters as this year's European Film Academy winners did not qualify for the competition. A win in such a festival is the best assessment of work."

The Lithuanian director won the Silver Wolf prize for his latest film, "Before Flying Back to the Earth," a story about the strength of hope and happiness in a children's oncology hospital.

The feature was first premiered in Leipzig on Oct. 6, at the International Competition of Documen-tary Film, where it also joined the circle of prize winners. On top of winning Leipzig's main prize, The Golden Dove, the film has been nominated for the prestigious European Film Academy's award of Best European Documentary 2005.

The International Jury for Documentary Film unanimously awarded a Golden Dove to the film "for its sensitivity, beauty and compassion."

"Dealing with an extremely difficult subject - this extraordinary film embraces life in the face of death, with dignity, integrity and respect," the jury glowingly stated. "An extremely moving film without being sentimental, and a testament to the power of documentary storytelling."

The film is based on the director's personal experience and follows the story of his daughter, Emilija, who was diagnosed with leukemia. The girl and her family spend eight months in the oncology department of Vilnius Pediatric Hospital.

"During that period, I had the opportunity to observe a phenomenon, which inspired me to make this film. I saw that in spite of all the anxiety and pain, the patients often seem to be happier that those on the other side of the hospital walls. Why? How could that be? My return to the hospital with the camera is an attempt to find the answer," said Matelis.

The director seamlessly combines silent film sequences with the hospital children's own videos, as well as photos and excerpts from his diary. All of this material works together to create a view from "life inside of the hospital." The bright film documents a sequence of days when the patients 's hoping and waiting 's prepare for their fateful flight "back home to us, to the earth."

The documentary

is set to open in Lithuania

on Dec. 8

in Coca Cola Plaza Cinema.