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Latvian films at the Berlinale (update)

2008-02-10

The New Species, the directorial film debut in animation by veteran Latvian cinematographer Ēvalds Lācis, has been selected for the children's competition section at this year's Berlinale. The film was produced by Animācijas brigade, one of only a few studios in the world creating classic handmade puppet animation.

Lācis is also the author of the film's screenplay and the cinematographer. This is the third film in a cycle involving amusing little stories about bugs living according to human rules and habits. The budget of the film was €16,000.

Animācijas Brigade, or AB, works not only with puppets, sets and miniature props, but also puppet manipulation in successive phases shot frame by frame. Working in this tradition are not only experienced master artists, but also the new directors. Dace Rīdūze's film Firefly was selected for the Berlinale children's competition in 2002, and participated in 52 film festival competition screenings around the world.

AB's relationship with the Berlinale goes back even farther. In 1995, Nils Skapāns' film Let's Fly?! won the very same competition, claiming the only Berlinale Crystal Bear won by a Latvian film to date.

This year's Berlinale Shorts programme will include another animation film, Teat Beat of Sex, created by Latvian-born director Signe Baumane. The film was made in New York, but the music was done in Latvia at Rija Films (www.latfilma.lv/rija) by composer Andris Barons, and the film's producer is Italian Pierre Poire.

This unusual film is composed of sex anecdotes and currently has 15 episodes, each one minute and 20 seconds long, budgeted at $2,000 apiece. The premiere for episodes 8, 9, 10 and 11 will be celebrated in Berlin.

Signe Baumane, a philosopher by education, creates films that are often considered shocking - sexually overt, but also clever. Baumane herself is the writer, artist, animator and "voice" of these films. She has been living more in New York than in Latvia for the past 10 years, but her films are made on both sides of the ocean.

"Teat Beat of Sex is a baby of globalization: Italian money pollinated a creative force in the USA that is inspired by Latvia," Baumane told FNE.

Within the framework of the Berlinale's 2008 EFM European Umbrella, producer Vilnis Kalnaellis of Rija Films will be working with a feature-length animation project Golden Horse featuring directors Signe Baumane (Latvia) and Valentas Askinis (Lithuania). The projected budget is €2.2 million.

Two feature films released in 2007 - Vogelfrei and Defenders of Riga - will also be screened at the European Film Market.

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