"Film Spring" bursts into bloom in Vilnius

  • 2000-04-06
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS – The annual "Film Spring" festival took the attention of Vilnius cinema fans from March 24 to April 1. The biggest enthusiasm erupted around two events: the newest Lithuanian movie "Elze from Gilija" and the arrival of Werner Herzog, the famous German director.

Movie buffs filled the halls of the Lietuva and Skalvija movie theaters during the festival, watching new productions from Lithuania, France, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Latvia and Estonia. For example, Britain was represented this year with Oscar nominee "Topsy-Turvy" by director Mike Leigh who has his roots in Lithuania and visited one of the previous "Film Springs" in Vilnius.

Thanks to this festival Lithuanians became fans of European films, unlike Latvians and Estonians where Hollywood rule, said Vida Ramaskiene, manager of the Lietuva.

"Elze from Gilija" directed by Algimantas Puipa, had its premiere at the festival. The international premier of this movie was held at the Berlin festival earlier this year. "Elze from Gilija" will be shown widely in Lithuanian cinemas starting from April 7. The movie has English subtitles.

This film is based on the novel written by German writer Ernst Wichert. It deals with 19th century Lithuania Minor or Prussia (currently Lithuania's Klaipeda region and Russia's Kaliningrad enclave) where Lithuanian and German people, languages and culture met and mixed during the last century. Puipa shot his film among spectacular littoral sand dunes in Lithuania's Curonian Spit.

Puipa said that the showing of "Elze from Gilija" in the Berlin festival signifies the recognition of the movie's high standard. Only Lithuania and Poland were invited from Eastern and Central European countries to take part in the Berlin festival.

"In Berlin everybody wondered how such a small country could afford to make a movie worth 10 million deutchmarks. Actually, it cost just 2,600,000 litas [$650,000]," Robertas Urbonas, producer of "Elze from Gilija," said.

"Representatives of many foreign companies are visiting the Lithuanian Film Studio, investigating conditions for shooting their movies here. They wonder about the professionalism of local crews. Now they see "Elze from Gilija," and they say, 'OK. Now we understand that your level is high,'" Puipa said.

He said his newest movie is of "Scandinavian mentality." Puipa said that he created this movie "with the intent to hide in Scandinavian fjords for several years." He wants to shoot his next movie in Sweden.

"Some say I did this film with the aim of getting a Swedish passport. No, I have no intention to emigrate," laughed Puipa.

"Film Spring 2000" presented a retrospective of Herzog's movies. The legendary German movie director arrived at the festival and announced his plans to shoot his next film in the surroundings of Vilnius.

Not only feature films appeared at the festival. Lithuania's newest documentaries were also shown the film "I am" by Diana and Kornelijus Matuzevicius speaks about the life of a young Catholic priest, Julius Sasnauskas, who in his teens was severely persecuted by the KGB for his anti-Soviet activity.

The documentary "Anthology of Jonas Mekas" by Vytautas V. Landsbergis (son of the current parliamentary chairman) portrays Lithuanian-American Jonas Mekas, New York's avant-garde film maker and poet, an old friend of Yoko Ono.

The documentary "Punsk Novels" by Marius Ivaskevicius shows the hard fight of the inhabitants of the town of Punsk northern Poland for the preservation of their native Lithuanian language.