blogEast is a new initiative of goEast - Festival of Central- and Eastern European Film. We hereby declare our solidarity with our colleagues and friends from Central- and Eastern Europe, who see themselves confronted with large challenges because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Within the following weeks blog entries will be published here, looking at the situation from a cinematic, political and/or social point of view. blogEast is supervised and edited by the goEast team and is part of the program Pan-Europan Picknick, supported by the Kulturfonds Frankfurt Rhein Main.
Compared to other countries, Latvia is doing very well – the numbers of infected people and corona deaths are low, the shops, restaurants and cafes are still open. The lockdown is planned to continue until May 12th. In the middle of March, all cultural institutions were closed, the last film that was shot in Riga before the state of emergency was the American fantasy thriller Warhunt with Mickey Rourke.
All processes associated with film production and distribution were placed on the list of companies allowed to apply for state grants for their employees because of a lack of work by the Latvian government as early as March 24th. Although we now know that these Corona wages are usually turn out to be pretty miserable. Many people who work in the film industry as freelancers also have problems getting aid from the state. But the government is constantly adjusting the measures. At the moment, they are working on emergency funds for the cultural sector. There is a lot of fear in the Latvian film industry that the Covid crisis could throw it back into the sparse times of the early 90s, when the film industry had to set itself up again after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was only just in 2018 with the film funding program for the 100-year anniversary of Latvia that this trauma seemed to have been overcome.
What should we write about as a film website when there are no film premieres? The logical thing to do in this situation would be streaming tips and reports on the current situation in the film industry. However, in a way this feels like an impoverishment of discussion forums about film. Because reporting on every bigger Latvian film in Kino Raksti – the only magazine devoted exclusively to cinema – consists of at least two extensive film reviews, interviews and analytical articles, which contextualise the new piece of work. For that reason we have decided to keep writing. For example, the new documentary film First Bridge by Laila Pakalniņa just had its world premiere at Visions du Réel, the film will only come out in October in Latvia. We published a review of this eleven-minute film. The new feature film by the Latvian old master Yevgeny Pashkevich What Silent Gerda Knows was supposed to premiere on April 21st in the opulent Splendid Palace. Even if the film has not been able to begin its life in the cinema yet, we are still publishing the first review of it. Because no one knows what this future in the autumn will be like. That's why we're already writing about films that are finished and only waiting for their audience. Because now we not only have more time for streaming, but also for reading about films. That's why we're already directing our attention now to films that will only meet their audience in the autumn. This could be considered a form of 'slow criticism'. Because if a film team invest years of their lives in a film, then we should be decent enough to write about it for half a year.
Dr. phil. Elīna Reitere is a 2nd editor-in-chief of the Latvian film magazine kinoraksti.lv. She studied audiovisual culture, film, and performance studies in Riga and Mainz. For her academic film reviews she has been nominated for Normunds Naumanis Prize for Art criticism in Latvia in 2019.