Lithuanian and Latvian movie from Hong Kong

  • 2010-10-13
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

UNITED BY MASSAGE: Andrius Mamontovas and Monie Tung in the movie Amaya.

VILNIUS - A new Baltic movie has reached cinemas in the Baltics, with great commercial success. The English language dominates in the film, though other languages are spoken in it as well. The very European-style comedy-drama in Eastern surroundings, titled Amaya (it is a Japanese female name meaning “Night Rain”), was directed by Maris Martinsons. Officially, the movie is a co-production of Latvia and Hong Kong. Latvia submitted Amaya (which for international audiences will be presented under the title Hong Kong Confidential) for the Oscars, U.S. Academy Awards in the Foreign Language Film category.

The movie tells a story about a man whose life-style many normal human beings would like to enjoy, in case there would not be obstacles in terms of financial issues and personal obligations to other people. The main hero is named Paul, a man of unspecified Eastern European origin, who broke up with his girlfriend and travels around the world. After visiting the U.S., Chile, Japan, India, and Thailand, he moves to Hong Kong where he decides to learn the secrets of Chinese-style foot massage and makes the acquaintance of a Japanese woman, Amaya, who is married to a Chinese man and lives in Hong Kong. Paul meets the cute Chinese girl Jasmine (played by actress Monie Tung) in a massage parlor.

Paul is played by Andrius Mamontovas, 43, who is a Lithuanian pop singer and has enjoyed the status of celebrity in Lithuania since the late 1980s. He also became an actor when in 1997, Eimuntas Nekrosius, the Europe-wide famous theater director, gave him the role of Hamlet on stage. Mamontovas, together with several other celebrities, created the group LT United for Eurovision 2006 where their song, with text stating We are the winners of Eurovision, received sixth place. Robbie Williams sang that line of their song for fun during one of his concerts in Germany. Martinsons invited Mamontovas to play a Lithuanian priest in Ireland, one of the main roles in the Lithuanian movie Loss (2008). It was a debut movie by Martinsons, telling a rather depressing story about a Lithuanian woman with some psychological problems. Mamontovas is quite a talented actor because he understands the difference between playing in the theater and in the cinema. Not understanding such differences is a problem for many Lithuanian actors who tend to overact in Lithuanian movies - it is also a problem for many Lithuanian film directors who allow such theater-style acting in their movies.

The movie Loss was presented with great success in the Shanghai International Film Festival where it was awarded with the festival’s highest prize, the Golden Goblet. Kaori Momoi, 58, chain-smoking Japanese movie superstar, known to international audiences due to her role in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, was so impressed with the movie that she approached Mamontovas during his breakfast in a Shanghai hotel telling him that if Martinsons and Mamontovas will create some new movie, she would like to have a role in it. It is how the idea to create Amaya was born. Momoi plays Amaya in the new movie of Martinsons. Momoi is quite a revolutionary personality in Japan – for example, she stated that she will never officially marry which is an unusual behavior in Japan. Momoi speaks some Chinese in Amaya which is quite controversial in Asia because of historical animosities between China and Japan.

Mamontovas speaks English in Amaya with his own voice. His former girlfriend is played by Latvian actress Kristine Neverauska. Her voice was dubbed by English native-speaker Erica Jennings, vocalist of the Lithuanian pop band Skamp, because the English of Neverauska had too hard of a Latvian accent. The music for the movie was created by Mamontovas. His song Heal is sung by Canadian Monica Blaire, who was recommended to Mamontovas by his friend in America. Mamontovas himself sings another of Amaya’s songs, World is Full of Love, which he created some years ago during one of his numerous trips to Hong Kong – he likes that city. However, World is Full of Love was not played by Lithuanian radio stations, which somehow do not like playing non-Lithuanian language songs by Lithuanian musicians.

Martinsons asked for money to create Amaya in Lithuania, but got refused. Then he got it in Latvia. During the shooting of the movie in Hong Kong, the money ran out and then Mamontovas decided to support the movie with his own money, which made him a shareholder of Amaya. Actually, initially Martinsons planned to shoot Amaya in Japan, but it turned out to be too expensive, and then Mamontovas proposed his beloved Hong Kong, which caused re-writing of Amaya’s scenario.

Fifty-year old Latvian Martinsons has lived in Lithuania for the last 18 years – some seven years of that period he has lived with his 17 years younger Latvian wife Linda Krukle, who is one of the producers of Amaya. Shooting Amaya in Hong Kong, Martinsons decided that his family should move from the big house in the Vilnius suburbs to a flat on a busy street in Riga, because the eldest son of his family needed to start going to school – Martinsons decided that if that son and his younger brother would start going to school in Lithuania, Latvia would then not mean much to these kids. Martinsons also finished writing his book Amaya, which he wrote in Lithuanian – partially due to the fact that he, although speaking Lithuanian with a slight Latvian accent, has slightly forgotten the Latvian language. He says that living in Lithuania, he had nostalgia for Latvia and now, due to the recent dirty parliamentary election campaign in Latvia, he has nostalgia for Lithuania.