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RIGA 2020

Liene Treimane and Sonora Broka • Festival director and artistic director, Riga IFF

“We’ll continue working on our mission to create a cinema event that enriches the Northern European cultural space”

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- We spoke to Riga IFF’s festival director and artistic director, Liene Treimane and Sonora Broka, to get the low-down on the 7th edition of the gathering, set to be a hybrid event

Liene Treimane and Sonora Broka  • Festival director and artistic director, Riga IFF
Liene Treimane (left) and Sonora Broka (© Andrejs Strokins/RIGA IFF)

We had the chance to have a chat with Liene Treimane and Sonora Broka, respectively festival director and artistic director of the Riga International Film Festival (15-25 October), one of the leading film events in the Baltic region. This year’s gathering will take place in hybrid form, owing to the restrictions imposed by the ongoing health crisis.

Cineuropa: A question that is now more timely than ever: what’s new this year?
Liene Treimane:
I like saying that we reinvent our festival every year. This year, it’s not so much an ambition any more, but a necessity. The slogan of this edition is “Owning the Unknown”, which stems from our conviction that unexpected turns happen to us all the time, and the unpredictable is predictable only in its uncertainty. We choose to perceive the ever-changing world with confidence, and to learn and grow from it. Naturally, this year, the festival is going partly online. Most of the 129 films in our programme will be screened both in theatres with a significantly reduced capacity and online. All of our industry events will go fully online. One new thing is the challenge of making the theatre a “safe space” for cinematic travels and recreating the festival experience at home.

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What are the opening and closing films? Why did you choose them?
Sonora Broka:
We will open the festival with a cine-concert that will take the audience back 107 years, with a soundscape spanning decades. The film Where Is the Truth?! (1913) is a tragic love story and the oldest surviving feature shot in the territory of Latvia. It has been restored by Locomotive Studio, and this will be the world premiere of the restored version. Along with the screening, Latvian musicians Artūrs Liepiņš and Jēkabs Nīmanis will perform an original score that they composed for the film. Opening the festival with a Latvian film is our annual tradition, which makes it interesting for both local and international audiences. Owing to the current travel restrictions, our international guests cannot be present, so the cine-concert will be streamed worldwide.

How are you organising the screenings?
LT:
We have made a decision to reduce the number of the festival’s screening venues to the largest three, instead of the six we have used so far. Most screenings and events will take place at Splendid Palace – one of the oldest, most opulent and most beautiful cinemas in Europe, built in 1923. Due to the current regulations, we will use half of the theatre’s normal capacity, and viewers will be seated at a safe distance from each other. Our personnel will be using face masks and face shields, and all other precautionary measures that are necessary. Social gatherings will only take place outdoors. The online screenings are being organised in cooperation with the online streaming platform Shift72, and each online screening will have beginning and end times – it's still a festival screening after all, not VoD. Our international guests and filmmakers will meet our audience via cinema screens, as we’ll be presenting their introductory speeches as well as running Q&As after the film screenings.

Could you tell us something more about the Kids Weekend, In Kino Veritas and Architect Cut strands?
SB:
Within the Kids Weekend section, three new series of the short films Shammies (staged by Atom Art Studio) will be premiered. The protagonists of these popular Latvian series – Sockie, Hankie, Mitten and Pillow – are wonderful toys, made from pieces of fabric, buttons, ribbons and lace, revived in an animated collage. The screening will take place both in the theatre and online. Our retrospective programme In Kino Veritas this year has been created in cooperation with the Czech National Film Archive – it will be the first time that the classics of the Czechoslovak New Wave have been shown on the big screens in Latvia – Cremator by Juraj Herz and Diamonds of the Night by Jan Němec, among others. Within the Architect's Cut programme section, we are looking for a symbiosis between architecture and cinema, and the theme running through the selected films is reviewing and rethinking heritage and the need (or not) for conservation, city planning and women in architecture.

What are the main parallel side initiatives of the 2020 edition?
LT:
In close partnership with the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA), the Riga IFF is taking on a new annual industry event, called Magnetic Series. It is a pitching and networking event focused on drama series from the Baltic Sea region and the Nordic countries. We will also be partnering with the Latvian Fund for Nature, Les Arcs Film Festival and Secoya Eco Tournage to speak about climate change and discuss sustainability in film as well as film festivals. Plus, we will be joining forces with urban planners and architects in public conversations about pedestrian-friendly environments, parks, landscaping, the conservation of historic buildings and sustainable solutions – subjects that are currently hot topics in Riga. We’ll continue inspiring cooperation between cinema and virtual and extended reality within our RIGA IFF goes XR initiative, and encouraging cooperation among the region’s animation professionals via the Baltic Animation Meet-Up.

What are the festival’s plans for the future?
LT:
We’ll continue working on our mission to create a cinema event that enriches the Northern European cultural space, and advocate the development of an intelligent, open and active society. And we sure hope for some kind of face-to-face interaction with our international colleagues next year.

SB: Film festivals nowadays are a unique territory, allowing us to nurture and support films that have been made outside of big studios and mainstream rules. I feel so delighted that we are celebrating the seventh edition of the Riga IFF already, and I look forward to its long and meaningful life, as I believe it not only serves as a platform for movies that otherwise would not succeed in reaching audiences in Latvia, but it also opens new doors to the international arena for Latvian films.

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