Swedish film provokes further protests

  • 2001-03-01
  • TBT staff
RIGA - The controversial film "Buy Bye Beauty" by Swedish filmmaker Pal Holander, which includes exaggerated statistics about prostitution in Latvia, has raised an uproar in the country. Most of Latvia's inhabitants have not yet seen the movie, as its broadcast here has been banned because of contractual obligations between the filmmaker and people who appear in the film.

The small Latvian Rebirth Party staged a picket outside the Swedish Embassy in Riga on Feb. 27 to protest the Swedish government's funding of the film. About 20 protesters, mostly young men in yellow Rebirth Party T-shirts, gathered at the embassy carrying signs bearing slogans such as "Buy, Bye Beauty, Ericsson, SAS, Volvo," "We demand an official apology by the Swedish government to Latvia," "We demand from the Swedish government $50,000,000 for slander and insult!" and "Go home."

Andris Rubins, the party's chairman, was eager to talk to the press. He said he has seen the movie but declined to say when and where.

"It's pornography and slander," he said. His fellow protesters, however, admitted that they have seen only as much as was broadcast by the Latvian television - very little.

"Buy, Bye Beauty" was shown on Sweden's TV3 television on Feb. 15, and the debate that followed the broadcast was shown in Latvia the next day.

The film claims that 15,000 to 18,000 women are regular prostitutes and every second woman in Latvia has had sex for money at least once in their lives.

Latvia's mass media and various officials were indignant over the exaggerated erroneous statistics and that the film was financed by the government-funded Swedish Film Institute.

Latvian musician DJ Ozols and his band Fact have decided to sue Hollander because he used their music in the film's soundtrack without their consent, the television channel LNT reported on Feb. 24.

Members of the band said that to use their music in the film did not concern them as much as "the current context concerning the film."

The Latvian Interior Ministry also considered the possibility of suing the Swedish film director, but this week decided against it.

Any court proceedings would be excellent promotion for the film and its director, the ministry explained.

"The Interior Ministry does not want to circulate once more the lies presented in the film," the ministry said in its statement.

Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins said Feb. 22 that he believed that the fuss raised over the film was exaggerated.

"Last night I got the video tape and watched it at home. To be honest, there were a lot of questions to be asked to the director. But I think the fuss has been exaggerated," the prime minister said in his weekly interview to Latvian Radio.

Latvian Institute head Ojars Kalnins told the Latvian daily Neatkariga Feb. 23 after seeing the film that "the contents are inconsequential, the statistics are erroneous, the conclusions ungrounded and arguments illogical." The Latvian community has expressly denounced the film, Kalnins said, suggesting that it no longer deserves public attention as the continued fuss will only increase the number of people willing to see it.

After 10 years of independence Latvia has grown mature enough to understand that pornography is not journalism and that "we do not always have to humiliate ourselves and explain the childish ravings and lies of every artist," Kalnins said.