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Country Focus: Latvia

Baltic states resilient to economic downturn (1)

by  Annika Pham

14/12/2009 - Badly hit by the global economic crisis, the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – also known as the ‘Baltic Tigers’ – are lying low until better economic times return. Dependent more than ever on foreign money to survive, local film producers remain optimistic as public organisations look for solutions to keep their film industry afloat.

The regional film market Baltic Event, the seventh edition of which was held in Tallinn in early December, was the perfect place to find out how film professionals on the eastern side of the Baltic Sea are doing. Times are evidently tougher as film subsidies for 2010 have been cut drastically (by 20% in Estonia and 40% in Latvia) and foreign investment has dried up after four or five years of booming trade following the entrance of the Baltic States in the EU in 2004.

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Nevertheless, the overall spirits of Baltic producers at the market was positive. “[The financial crisis] makes you more creative when looking for co-producers,” said Riina Sildos, one of Estonia’s leading producers (Amrion) and head of the Baltic Event. Sildos is preparing a €2.7m co-production with France, One More Croissant, to be directed by Ilmaar Raag (The Class [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
) in 2010, and a new animated film based on the popular dog Lotte, co-produced with Latvia.

Anneli Ahven, whose Tallinn-based company Exit Film is co-owned by Zentropa, said she planned to make a couple of smaller films (under €500,000) in 2010 to keep her company going, while taking her time to develop a bigger budget project (€1.2m) with filmmaker Ain Mäeots (Taarka [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
).

Estonian filmmaker Kadri Kousaar (Magnus), who was pitching her second feature film European Psycho at Baltic Event, was rather cynical about the economic crisis. For her, only the strongest projects will be able to survive.

Lithuania’s Ieva Norviliene (2006 Producer on the Move) had no less than five feature films in various stages of production at Baltic Event. Alongside the majority of “no-budget films” (under €300,000) produced at her mini studio/film collective Tremora was Low Lights [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Ignas Miškinis, a €1.3m co-production with Germany. Currently playing in Lithuania, the urban road movie is nearing 15,000 admissions and has recently been sold by Media Luna to the US (Global Entertainment).

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