The Latvian film Vogelfrei is the sole omnibus film competing in the East of the West section at the Karlovy Vary film festival, a joint effort from four of Latvia's most promising directors, ranging in age from 35 to 43.
Vogelfrei was produced by Latvian film production company Film Angels Studio (www.angels.lv), is a full service film production company based in Riga that was established in 2002 when four film directors and friends -- Anna Viduleja, Janis Kalejs, Gatis Smits, and Janis Putnins -- finished their studies at film schools in London, Boston, Toronto and New York and returned home. While each had a promising career start, reality had them directing commercials rather than films. Finally, the Viduleja's fusband got the four together and the outline of Vogelfrei was hatched. Each director would work autonomously on one section of a linear story, overcoming the obstacle of funding individual films.
The four-part story by a quartet of young directors who captures four important moments in one man's life, progressing from childhood to old age. Teodors is first a small boy playing games in the summer holidays, then an adolescent hockey-player who starts up a relationship with a girl, a lonely but self-centered and manipulative manager, and finally a rural hunter of birds of prey. The four directors worked together on their scripts and in post-production to create an interwoven story. The title is a play on words, with a reference to both birds and freedom, which translates idiomatically to "free as a bird." Originally a working title, the directors kept it, insisting that as a German word titling a Latvian film, it not be translated into local languages for film festival screenings.
"Most of the film was shot on real locations, and was directed and produced in a very close interaction of all four directors involved. All the decisions about the script, cast and sound where made together," producer Alise Gelze told FNE. The film was shot over the course of an entire year. Alise Gelze, with Vogelfrei, represented Baltic films in Producers in the Move at Cannes 2008.
Film Angels Studio handles all distribution and sales. The film has attracted some interest from TV and international distributors. Vogelfrei was locally released in June, 2007, where it had solid admissions for a Latvian film of 4,000. The budget was €350,000, with 80% coming from the National Film Fund, and the remaining 20% from the Cultural Capital Foundation and through Angels Film Studio.
Along with Karlovy Vary, Vogelfrei was screened at the festivals in São Paulo, Pusan, Rotterdam and Turin, and won Latvia's National Film Award for Best Screenplay, Best Photography and Best Film.