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A Celebration of Cinema in Person and Online across Latvia – the Seventh Riga International Film Festival Concludes and Announces the Winners

The seventh Riga International Film Festival (RIGA IFF) ended on Sunday 25 October. This year, the festival lineup consisted of 129 films in 10 thematic programs and was presented in a new format – films were available for viewing in person as well as online across Latvia. Viewers in Riga, Jurmala, Ogre, Liepaja and Valmiera used the festival’s online screenings most frequently. Ivan I. Tverdovsky’s drama Conference (Konferentsiya, Russia), a film about overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder over the course of many years and coming to terms with a tragic event, won the festival’s feature film competition’s main prize.

In their statement, the jury describes the film as

“tackling the complicated issues of memory, fear and guilt in a very precise and restricted fashion. It manages to strike an impressive balance between perfectionistic aesthetics and a portraiture of characters that are fundamentally human in their moral imperfection”.

It has to be mentioned that this is not the first time that the director receives an award at RIGA IFF – in 2016, Tverdovsky’s Zoology became an audience favourite. Working remotely this year, the jury commented on their festival experience in videos that are available below. Videos of the competition winners’ speeches as well as speeches by other directors whose films screened at RIGA IFF this year can also be seen on the website.

Liene Treimane, the Director of RIGA IFF:

“This year has proven that a festival can be different. Cinephiles can still come together despite having to watch films on screens in their homes and having to distance and observe the multiple restrictions that have been imposed on cinemas. This year, we created a festival like none of us had ever experienced before: it was made up of 129 films in 66 in-person and 50 online screenings, and countless online meetings with film professionals from around the world. I would like to extend a special thank you to the festival’s daring team, including the over 100 tireless volunteers, as well as to all of our viewers.”

The FEATURE FILM COMPETITION programme included eight films from the Baltic Sea region and the Nordic countries. This programme combined outstanding narrative and documentary features, as well as the long-awaited national premiere of the surreal tragicomedy What Silent Gerda Knows (Ko zina Klusā Gerda, Latvia).

The feature films were judged by an international jury – director and producer Laila Pakalniņa, Marge Liiske, Head of Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event at the Black Nights Film Festival, Dmitrij Gluscevskij, a Programmer at the European Film Forum Scanorama in Lithuania, Eva Markovits a Film Programmer at the legendary Cinémathèque Française, and Theo Tsappos from the Swedish Film Institute.

The main prize at RIGA IFF is the festival’s symbol – a bronze cast of the Rooster of Riga created by artist Ervins Broks. The prize is made up of 8 parts as a reminder that a film can only be created as a collaboration. The director of the winning feature will also receive a cash prize of 2,000 euros, generously supplied by the insurance company BALTA.

The jury’s special mention goes to director Illum Jacobi’s reflection on philosopher Edmund Burke, in The Trouble with Nature (Denmark, France) – a subtle satire, under the guise of a costume drama, on humans’ relationship with the wildness of flora and fauna.

Nadja Andrasev’s animated short film Symbiosis (France) won the International Competition of the short film section SHORT RIGA, which tells the story of a deceived woman who begins to investigate her husband’s lovers. Alise Zariņa’s short film II Lines (Divas strīpiņas, Latvia) won the SHORT RIGA National Competition, a film in which six male actors relive 12 women’s personal stories about abortion. The winners of both competitions were selected by Wim Vanacker, a member of the Selection Committee for the Official Short Film Competition of the Cannes Film Festival, Signe Birkova, a Director and Co-founder of the Baltic Analog Lab, and Mikhail Zheleznikov, an organiser and curator of the experimental film festival Kinodot. The winners of both SHORT RIGA competitions will receive the prize Zalktis created by artist Maija Vītola. The winner of the international competition will additionally receive a cash prize of 1,000 euros supplied by the insurance company BALTA.

Since 2019 Riga International Film Festival and the SHORT RIGA section are one of 24 film institutions in the world who are able to put forward candidates for the prestigious European Film Awards nomination. This year’s RIGA IFF Short Film Candidate for the European Film Awards is Gabriel Böhmer’s Push This Button if You Begin to Panic (UK) – using experimental animation techniques, the film tells the story of a person reconciling with their illness.

For the sixth year in a row, the Baltic Music Video Competition took place as part of the SHORT RIGA section – this competition is unique to the Baltic States and offers viewers a professional overview of this specific artistic genre. The main prize of this competition, and the third SHORT RIGA Zalktis, was awarded to the video Kapapuu by the group Puuluup made by Zbanski Kino, while special jury mention was given to Bruises On Her Legs directed by Igne Narbutaite and Kabloonak, performed by Kabloonak.

The Splendid Palace cinema presented the Audience Award to director Andrey A. Tarkovsky Jr.’s documentary reflection on his father, legendary film director Andrey Tarkovsky. Viewers will be able to watch Andrey Tarkovsky. A Cinema Prayer (Italy, Russia, Sweden) again at a special screening at Splendid Palace on 31 October at 15:30.

The children’s jury also selected their favourite out of the RIGA IFF family film competition KIDS WEEKEND. The young experts presented their main award to Mischa Kamp’s Romy’s Salon (Kapsalon Romy, Netherlands), a film about the relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter.

This year’s RIGA IFF FORUM – a series of events dedicated to both professionals and newcomers to the film industry – took place entirely online for the first time and brought together participants from all over the world. A discussion about the opportunities that “alternative” realities could bring to education and a 28-hour hackathon took place at RIGA IFF GOES XR, and professionals from the Baltic Sea Region and the Nordic countries could study the production of television series in depth at MAGNETIC SERIES. At a discussion about the GREEN CHARTER initiative, solutions for sustainable and climate-friendly cinema were looked at, and creative short film projects were presented at the SHORT RIGA Test Screenings, whereas the BALTIC ANIMATION MEET-UP provided participants with an opportunity to network and expand their knowledge of the field of animation.

RIGA IFF took place from 15 to 25 October in person at the Splendid Palace cinema and the National Library of Latvia, and was available online throughout Latvia. A number of lectures, discussions and other events were also available for viewing during the festival, the recordings of which are available for viewing on the festival’s YouTube channel.

RIGA IFF is supported by the State Culture Capital Foundation, the EU Creative Europe – MEDIA program, the National Film Centre of Latvia and the Riga City Council.