The 5th New York Baltic Film Festival (NYBFF) presented by Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America returns on November 2-13, 2022 as a hybrid festival featuring 15 feature films – 10 narrative and 5 documentaries.
The festival will screen new and critically-acclaimed Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian films in-person in NYC November 2-6 and virtually November 4-13.
The festival will kick off on Wednesday, November 2 at Scandinavia House with a screening of the animated feature My Love Affair With Marriage (Latvia/USA/Luxembourg) by Latvian-born and Brooklyn-based Signe Baumane.The film is a wild semi-autobiographical musical journey inside the mind of Zelda, exploring the notions of love, sex, and romance through the lens of neurochemistry. Baumane’s fiercely original and visually arresting work was recognized with the Jury Distinction for Feature Film at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival this year.
The film embodies this year’s festival theme Past or Present, inspired by the intense emotional response felt in the Baltic countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Jūle Rozīte, the festival’s Head of Programs, states: “When the war started, Eastern Europeans and many of us globally experienced the dissonance of seeing both past and present play out simultaneously. Suddenly, family traumas and collective memories were forced to the surface, as the inherited stories of occupation we have grown up hearing were playing out in real-time in Ukraine. Cinema from the Baltics can remind us of what was, act as a warning, elicit communal resistance and instill hope for a better tomorrow.”
The theme of Past or Present recurs throughout the festival’s program. It is especially embodied by the U.S. Premiere of Mariupolis 2 (Lithuania/Germany/France), a powerful documentary about Russia’s brutal siege of Mariupol in Ukraine this year by Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravičius, who was tragically killed during filming. Mariupolis 2 was recognized with a Golden Eye Special Mention at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. We are also proud to present the film’s predecessor, Mariupolis (Ukraine/Lithuania/Germany/France), in which Kvedaravičius documented the lives of people during Russia’s attacks on Mariupol back in 2014.
Narrative features presented this year include the North American Premieres of Sandra Gets A Job (Estonia), a topical drama about a suddenly-unemployed physicist’s increasingly baffling search for a job and her identity; The Sleeping Beast (Estonia/Latvia), a sometimes dark yet ultimately hopeful fable about childhood rooted in reality; Lame-Os (Latvia/Czechia) a fun, colorful and nostalgic musical about Latvian highschoolers at the turn of the millennium; Tree Of Eternal Love (Estonia), a quirky comedy that follows a self-centered mechanic and his filmmaker friend on a road trip to find the meaning of life and love; the surrealist Songs for a Fox (Lithuania/Latvia/Estonia), a tale of a musician searching for his lost lover in the realm of dreams, drawing on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice with a mesmerizing Lithuanian indie-rock score; and Sisters (Latvia/Italy/Czechia), an intense social drama about two Latvian teenage sisters in the process of adoption by an American family, brought to life with rebellious vitality by its young stars’ stellar performances. The festival will also present the quietly devastating Pilgrims (Lithuania) about an increasingly unsettling journey undertaken to make sense of a seemingly random and brutal crime, which won the Best Film Award in the Horizons section at the Venice Film Festival last year and was chosen as Lithuania’s entry for the Best International Film Academy Award in this year’s race.
The festival lineup also includes feature documentaries, such as the North American premieres of u.Q. (Estonia), a visually enchanting journey tracing the extraordinary lives of musician Uku Kuut and his creative collaborator mother, Estonian jazz diva Marju Kuut; and Homo Sovieticus (Latvia/Lithuania/Czechia), a deconstruction and exploration of a totalitarian mindset through the eyes of the last Soviet generation. The New York premiere of the visually striking Burial (Lithuania/Norway), a hypnotizing meditation on the power and danger of nuclear energy, will present the paradox of scientific advancement coupled with environmental destruction with a meticulously crafted, eerie soundscape.
From November 2-6, festival in-person screenings and events will continue to take place at Scandinavia House in New York. The online version will once again be available to viewers all across the U.S. on Scandinavia House’s streaming platform from November 4-13.
BURIAL (Kapinynas, Dir. Emilija Škarnulytė. Lithuania/Norway, 2022, Documentary, 60 mins. In Lithuanian and English with English subtitles) *New York Premiere
Burial gazes through the radioactive ruins that we’re creating from the eyes of a future archeologist. Dive into the haunted depths of inaccessible places and the time that is being buried there.
HOMO SOVIETICUS (Homo Sovieticus, Dir. Ivo Briedis. Latvia/Lithuania/Czechia, 2021, Documentary, 70 mins. In Latvian, English, Russian with English subtitles) *North American Premiere
In a psychological portrait of the totalitarian mind through the eyes of the last Soviet generation and the lingering effects of occupation, director Ivo Briedis and writer Rita Ruduša examine themselves and their contemporaries from several countries that were once behind the Iron Curtain.
LAME-OS (Tizlenes, Dir. Marta Elīna Martinsone, Latvia/Czechia, 2021, Narrative, 101 mins. In Latvian with English subtitles) *North American Premiere
With the new millennium fast approaching, three high school girls on the brink of graduation decide to change their lives to become the most popular girls in school. Lame-os is a fun, colorful, nostalgic musical about friendship and Latvian high school life.
MARIUPOLIS (Mariupolis, Dir. Mantas Kvedaravičius. Ukraine/Lithuania/Germany/France, 2016, Documentary, 90 mins. In Russian with English subtitles) **Virtual screening only
A man repairs his fishing net and goes out to the bridge. Two trams run into each other – nobody is hurt and cables are fixed the same day. A small concert is given for factory workers and the violinist’s sincere performance makes them cry. Bombs fall into the sea and no one notices. This is Mariupol; where everyday life is defined by the threat of violence in the background.
MARIUPOLIS 2 (Mariupolis 2, Dir. Mantas Kvedaravičius. Lithuania/Germany/France, 2022, Documentary, 112 mins. In Russian with English subtitles) *U.S. Premiere **In-Person screening only
In 2022, Mantas Kvedaravičius went back to Ukraine, at the heart of the war, to be with the people he met and filmed in 2015. Following his death there, his producers and collaborators have put all their strength into continuing to disseminate his work, his vision, and the story of the people of Mariupol.
MY FATHER THE SPY (Spiegs, kurš mans tēvs, Dir. Jaak Klimi & Gints Grūbe. Latvia/Germany/Czechia/Estonia, 2019, Documentary, 83 mins. In Russian, English, Swedish and Latvian with English subtitles) **Virtual screening only
As a young Soviet student in 1978, Ieva could not have predicted that a holiday visit to her father, Imants Lešinskis, working in the Soviet mission at the United Nations in New York City, would irreversibly split her life in two.
MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH MARRIAGE (Mans laulību projekts, dir. Signe Baumane. Latvia/USA/Luxembourg, 2022, Narrative, 108 mins. In English, no subtitles)
*Opening Night Film **In-Person screenings only
In this animated coming-of-age musical, Zelda (and her brain) try to grapple with hormones, societal pressure, the Soviet regime and falling in and out of love.
PILGRIMS (Piligrimai, Dir. Laurynas Bareiša. Lithuania, 2021, Narrative, 92 mins. In Lithuanian with English subtitles)
Indre and Paulius travel to the small town where a gruesome crime was once committed and learn it is not as easy as they expected to revisit the past.
ROCKS IN MY POCKETS (Akmeņi manās kabatās, Dir. Signe Baumane. USA/Latvia, 2014, Narrative, 88 mins. In Latvian with English subtitles) **Virtual screening only
In Latvia in the 1920s, Anna falls in love with an adventurous entrepreneur 30 years her senior. But with marriage comes jealousy, and the entrepreneur hides Anna away in the forest where she bears him eight children. Years later, Signe, a young artist, asks her father how her grandmother died.
SANDRA GETS A JOB (Sandra saab tööd, Dir. Kaupo Kruusiauk. Estonia, 2021, Narrative, 96 mins. In Estonian with English subtitles) *North American Premiere
Suddenly without a job, Sandra, a Doctor of Physics, finds herself in increasingly baffling, comical, and hypocritical situations. Can she remain herself and find a job at the same time?
SISTERS (Māsas, Dir. Linda Olte, Latvia/Italy/Czechia, 2022, Narrative, 90 mins. In Latvian with English subtitles) *North American Premiere **In-Person screening only
Two sisters from a Latvian orphanage are about to be adopted by an American family. While Diana cannot wait, her older sister Anastasia holds out hope that their biological mother will finally take responsibility for them.
THE SLEEPING BEAST (Tagurpidi torn, Dir. Jaak Kilmi. Estonia/Latvia, 2022, Narrative, 101 mins. In Estonian with English subtitles) *North American Premiere
Joyful summer days turn sinister when a group of carefree young kids have a run-in with the janitor of the abandoned building where they play. The morality of right and wrong is put to the test. But everything is fine … as long as you don’t tell anyone.
SONGS FOR A FOX (Dainos Lapei, Dir. Kristijonas Vildžiūnas, Lithuania/Latvia/Estonia, 2021, Narrative, 125 mins. In Lithuanian with English subtitles) *North American Premiere
After his lover’s death, a rock singer studies the art of lucid dreaming and descends into the netherworld in hopes of finding her again. A surrealist tale from inside the mind’s eye, Songs For a Fox weaves together dreams with the lethargic realism of post-Soviet small-town life.
TREE OF ETERNAL LOVE (Kiik, kirves ja Igavese Armastuse Puu, Dir. Meel Paliale. Estonia, 2021, Narrative, 82 mins. In Estonian with English subtitles) *North American Premiere
Haunted by a recent breakup, Kiik, a young car mechanic, sets out to chop down the tree on which he once naively etched the initials of his former girlfriend. Bringing his best friend along for the quirky, colorful, and unpredictable road trip, the two find that the journey to the tree is not as straight as they think.
u.Q. (Dir. Ivar Murd, Estonia, 2021, Documentary, 83 mins. In Estonian with English subtitles) *North American Premiere
The story of international phenomenon Uku Kuut and his mother and creative collaborator, Maryn E. Coote (known as the Estonian jazz diva Marju Kuut) is a journey through different musical niches and sub-genres. Visually captivating, their highly original story evokes a Greek comedy captured on 8mm, VHS, and BETA tape.