The Fourth Annual New York Baltic Film Festival (NYBFF) presented by Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America returns in 2021 as a hybrid festival with both in-person and virtual screenings on November 3-14. This year, the festival will feature eleven feature films and one TV series with three International premieres, three North American premieres and one U.S. premiere, two New York premieres, and two East Coast premieres. Filmmakers will be in attendance to participate in Q&As after the screenings.
The festival will kick off on Wednesday, November 3 at Scandinavia House (58 Park Ave., NYC) with the East Coast premiere of Goodbye Soviet Union (Estonia, Finland), a playful, nostalgic, and thought-provoking comedy that follows the life and misadventures of Johannes and his eccentric Ingrian-Finnish family in the waning days of the Estonian Soviet Republic. Lauri Randla’s debut feature won the Audience Award at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival last year.
The film perfectly embodies this year’s festival theme: Adaptation and Resistance. Jūle Rozīte, the festival’s Head of Programs, states: “These past two years have thrown us all off course and forced us to rethink our daily routines, expectations, and future plans. But this is not the first time in recent history that the Baltic States have had their daily lives turned upside down. And by delving deeper into these stories maybe we can learn a thing or two.”
The theme of Adaptation and Resistance recurs throughout this year’s program, including narrative features such as the North American premiere of Runner (Lithuania, Czechia), a punchy and dynamic drama about love on the run; U.S. premiere of In The Mirror, Latvian auteur Laila Pakalniņa’s modern reimagining of the Snow White fairytale; East Coast premiere of the quirky genre gem Kratt, a gleefully chaotic and absurd dark take on an Estonian myth; the International premiere of the first Latvian western Wild East; and New York premieres of historical spy thriller Dawn of War (Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania) and the visually dazzling murder mystery Isaac (Lithuania), both of which grapple with personal culpability in the atrocities of WWII. The festival will also present the International premiere of the first two episodes of TV miniseries Emīlija – Queen of the Press (Latvia), a ’20s period drama about Emīlija Benjamiņš, Latvia’s most powerful press and fashion magnate of the interwar years.
The festival lineup also includes feature documentaries, such as the North American premiere of A Year Full of Drama (Estonia) about a woman who has never been to the theater tasked with seeing every play produced in the country; the International premiere of Tree Opera (Latvia) about staging an unconventional opera in a wild forest in Finland, the North American premiere of Gentle Warriors (Lithuania, Estonia), tracking the physical and emotional transformation of women military service volunteers when conscription for men was reintroduced in Lithuania; and The Jump (Lithuania), a stranger-than-fiction story of a Lithuanian sailor attempting to defect from the USSR by jumping on board an American ship off Martha’s Vineyard at the height of the Cold War.
The Opening Night celebration at Scandinavia House on Nov. 3 will start with the Goodbye Soviet Union screening at 7 PM, followed by a filmmaker Q&A and the Opening Reception, open to VIP passholders and special guests. Goodbye Soviet Union will have an encore in-person screening on Saturday, Nov. 6, 12 PM and will be available via streaming to Virtual passholders from Sunday, Nov. 7th.
From Nov. 3-7, festival in-person screenings and events will take place at Scandinavia House in New York, presented in accordance with new Covid-19 safety guidelines and protocols. Following the success of last year’s festival, the online version will once again be available to viewers all across the U.S. via the streaming platform Elevent from Nov. 5-14.
2021 New York Baltic Film Festival Lineup
DAWN OF WAR (O2, Dir. Margus Paju, Estonia/Finland/Latvia/Lithuania, 2020, Narrative)
*New York Premiere
An Estonian intelligence officer is tasked with tracking down a Soviet double agent on the eve of WWII.
EMĪLIJA – QUEEN OF THE PRESS
(Emīlija. Latvijas preses karaliene, Dirs. Andis Mizišs, Kristīne Želve, Latvia, 2021, TV series) *International Premiere
The true story of Emīlija Benjamiņš, a woman who was in turns exalted, envied, hated, and adored. She built a press and fashion empire, but ultimately not even her wealth and influence could save her from her fate.
GENTLE WARRIORS (Švelnūs kariai, dir. Marija Stonytė, Lithuania/Estonia, 2020, Documentary)
*North American Premiere
Three young women who volunteered for military service in Lithuania experience physical and emotional transformation as they learn to become responsible for their own faith and happiness.
GOODBYE SOVIET UNION (Hüvasti, NSVL, dir. Lauri Randla, Estonia/Finland, 2020, Narrative)
*East Coast Premiere
A nostalgic coming-of-age comedy about the misadventures of Johannes and his eccentric Ingrian-Finnish family in the waning days of the Estonian Soviet Republic.
IN THE MIRROR (Spogulī, dir. Laila Pakalniņa, Latvia/Lithuania, 2020, Narrative) *U.S. Premiere
Once upon a time, there was Snow White and her father, when along came a gym-obsessed stepmother, and countless selfies.
ISAAC (Izaokas, dir. Jurgis Matulevičius, Lithuania, 2019, Narrative) *New York Premiere
A Soviet-style film noir about complicity and murder in the dying days of WWII. An investigation decades later and mounting guilt distorts the line between memory and fiction.
THE JUMP (Šuolis, dir. Giedrė Žickytė, Lithuania/Latvia/France, 2020, Documentary)
In 1970, just off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Lithuanian sailor Simas Kudirka jumped off his Soviet vessel onto a U.S. coast guard cutter and requested asylum. His leap for freedom set off a chaotic series of events, leading to one of the biggest political standoffs of the Cold War.
KRATT (dir. Rasmus Merivoo, Estonia, 2020, Narrative) *East Coast Premiere
Two city kids, one Estonian village, zero smartphones. When they are dropped off at Granny’s house, a brother and sister find instructions on how to build a mythological servant. The only piece of the puzzle missing is a human soul…
RUNNER (Bėgikė, dir. Andrius Blaževičius, Lithuania/Czechia, 2021, Narrative)
*North American Premiere
Maria is frantically searching for her boyfriend who is missing after his latest psychotic episode. Armed with patience and love, she chases down clues throughout the city, but the real story keeps evading her.
TREE OPERA (Koku Opera, dir. Mārtiņš Grauds, Latvia, 2020, Documentary)
A group of Latvian artists stage an unconventional opera in the middle of a wild Finnish forest, reimagining our relationship with the natural world and the genre in the process.
WILD EAST (Kur vedīs ceļš, dir. Matīss Kaža, Latvia, 2021, Narrative) *International Premiere
The first Latvian Western mixes scheming aristocrats, runaway brides, and a missing inheritance with intrigue, shotguns and sailboats. Where will this road take us?
A YEAR FULL OF DRAMA (Aasta täis draamat, dir. Marta Pulk, Estonia, 2019, Documentary)
*North American Premiere
A young woman who has never been to the theater takes on an ambitious experiment to spend a year immersed in drama as she tries to find her place in the world.