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RIGA IFF 2020 Opening: Cine-concert “Where Is The Truth?!”

On the evening of 15 October, the Riga International Film Festival (RIGA IFF) will open with a cine-concert that will take the audience back 107 years, with a sound spanning across time. Musicians Artūrs Liepiņš and Jēkabs Nīmanis will perform an original score they composed together, while the oldest preserved feature film shot in Latvia will play on screen – the tragic love story Where Is The Truth?!

This year, RIGA IFF encourages audiences to explore the unknown – both in terms of the changes affecting us at the moment, as well as looking back in time. The first “cinematic dramas” were shot in Riga in 1913 with the participation of not only local artists, but also of artists from Berlin and Moscow. The “picture houses” of the time tried to meet modern technical standards: the halls were equipped with a recently invented device that prevented the image from shaking, or catching on fire, and in some places a “silver screen” made up of glass pearls was even put up to help the image come to life. Short films that had used gramophone records to ensure synchronous sound went out of fashion. Live accompaniment by individual musicians, or whole orchestras, or less frequently, by actors’ recitations, became the voice of silent cinema at that time.

Both musicians giving the opening of the festival’s seventh iteration its voice have experience in cinema. Artūrs Liepiņš created the soundtrack for the German silent film People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag, 1930), an important film in European cinema history, commissioned by the Les Arcs Film Festival. He also created the soundtracks for Paradise ’89 (Paradīze ’89, 2018), All My Friends Are Dead (Visi mani draugi miruši, 2019) and Fable (2019). The musician is an audio artist for RIGA IFF and is known in other parts of the world, especially in Francophone countries, for his musical alter-ego project Domenique Dumont. The other half of the creative tandem is Jēkabs Nīmanis who has created film soundtracks since 2008 and received the Lielais Kristaps national film award for the music for the film Māra (2014). Since 2010 he has been creating the sound for the children’s favourite animated short film series Shammies (Lupatiņi). He additionally composes for theatre, actively performs at concerts in Latvia and works with sound installation and audio-visual design.

The silent film Where is the Truth?! that was shot in Riga and Ventspils reached audiences in 1913, thanks to Giliom Berlin (owner of the cinema Ziemeļpols, initial financial supporter of this film) from Ventspils and Siegfried Mintus (a producer, owner of film theatres and distributor of motion pictures and cinema equipment) from Riga. The screenplay is based on a play by Abraham S. Schomer, a lawyer, writer and author of the idea for the World Jewish Congress, On the Sea and Ellis Island (Afn yam un Ellis Island), which has been filmed and staged for the theatre many times. It is the story of a Jewish orphan who was forced to register as a prostitute in order to stay in the city where her lover lives. Being accused of robbery and consequently being imprisoned awakens unbearably painful memories from the past for the woman. In 2020, the film was restored by the studio Locomotive Classics at the initiative of the Riga Film Museum, and with the support of the State Culture Capital Foundation.

The cine-concert will be available for free worldwide. Tickets will go on sale for those wishing to witness the premiere of the composition and the restored version of Where Is the Truth?! in person. This will take place in the cinema Splendid Palace, which was inaugurated 10 years after this film was made.

In This Screening