06-11-2007

Latvian landmark film Defenders of Riga to be screened Nov. 11

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The long-awaited national film Defenders of Riga will appear on screens throughout Latvia on Nov. 11. A film of this scale is without precedent in Latvia, not only because it is the most expensive domestic film ever made (with a budget of 2 million lats or €2.8 million), but also because it is the first historical drama in 20 years and has used vast artistic resources.

The film is an attempt to depict important Latvian historical events for a wide local and international audience.

In 1919, not long after the end of World War II, Latvia declared its independence, but the German army in collaboration with the Russians, continued to exercise control over the area and concentrate military power. Some 11,000 Latvians battled an army of 50,000 conspirators and managed to defeat them, thus defending the fledgling nation's sovereignty.

"We need to have our heroes and preserve our legends," director Aigars Grauba said at a news conference. "But I don't, with this film, want to talk about some general heroism and patriotism. Each person makes his individual and personal decisions to be active or passive. Everyone has to make such decisions every day in his life."

The film was created as an original story of love and youth played out on the backdrop of the military events, and thus should be understandable to a broad audience. The leads are well-respected younger-generation Latvian actors who, in special preparation for their roles, became "recruits" and received military training alongside real army soldiers.

The film is produced by the Latvian film studio Platforma, which has worked on this complicated project for three years, and was shot in Cinevilla, 60 km from Rīga on a specially constructed 14-hectare back lot housing early 20th century buildings that reflect the panorama of Rīga.

The constructions, including a bridge, railroad, church, market square and other period details, were enhanced with computer effects. Because this is the first of this kind of experience for Latvian cinematographers, the visual effects were created in conjunction with specialists in Russia, Germany and the Czech Republic.

Taking into account that audiences for locally made films have been decreasing over the last decade, the film industry is looking to Defenders of Riga to reclaim the public's interest.