RIGA IFF Responds to Signs of Cultural Colonisation Mindset in Film Media
A country the size of Latvia isn’t often OVERrepresented, but seeing their country’s name one time too many is exactly what raised quite a few of the Riga International Film Festival (RIGA IFF) delegates’ eyebrows when they opened Screen International at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Jury grids, usually published during the film industry’s largest festivals, are compact tables where the films in official competition programmes are reviewed daily by selected film critics from different countries. In the jury grid published during the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, Russian film critic Anton Dolin’s affiliation surprisingly read: “Meduza, Latvia”. As those of us present in Cannes received quite a few inquiries regarding our opinion regarding the way our country’s affiliation was being used, we decided to voice it publicly.
We respect Anton Dolin, and perceive Meduza as one of the most important independent information sources in Russian (and mostly about Russia). However, in this case our country’s name is being used as a cover to protect Screen International from being affiliated with Russia, which we find hypocritical.
Technically, the facts are correct – Meduza is registered in and has been operating from Latvia since its creation in 2014 by a group of Russian journalists who left Moscow-based news outlet Lenta due to censorship. Since the beginning, Meduza has defined their focus as primarily being on Russia, never really aiming to serve as a local, Latvian, media outlet. While we are proud that our country’s democracy can provide a safe space for journalists from other countries, we do not support Screen International’s decision to affiliate the aforementioned critic and outlet with Latvia in the way that they have done. Especially, considering that Meduza has previously been affiliated with Russia (see prior Screen International jury grids from 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021).
In our eyes, this is an example of a cultural colonialist mindset: Latvia is being represented by a Russian film critic and a news outlet whose motto reads “The real Russia, today”. Latvia, like other countries that have endured Soviet occupation during which the local population was heavily decimated, forcibly deported to Siberia, and subjected to russification, does not use its traumatic Soviet past as a self-defining descriptor. As the Russian Federation proudly declares itself the ideological heir of the Soviet Union, such affiliations feel tone-deaf and we strongly condemn them.
To us this is not a trivial incident, but rather an example of how Latvia is yet again being misportrayed as an adjunct of Russia, which it is not. Such misportrayal not only creates a distorted image of Latvian society and its information space, but is also the embodiment of a form of cultural colonisation where smaller cultures and societies are assimilated into larger ones.