FNE at Riga IFF 2019: Latvians Celebrate Local Success


    RIGA: The 6th edition of the Riga IFF opened on 17 October 2019 with the national premiere of emerging young Latvian filmmaker Gints Zibalodis’s auteur success Away at the historic Splendid Palace, Riga’s oldest cinema and one of just three remaining art house cinemas. The singular achievement of the film is just one facet of the growth of the Latvian film industry, from near extinction a decade ago, to having a film short-listed for an Oscar nomination in the animation category, and a new crop of domestic films which are attracting local audiences. The festival continues through 26 October.

    Zibalodis wrote, directed, produced and composed the music for his film. It was awarded at Annecy in the Contrechamp selection of films by emerging talents, but Riga IFF's Artistic Director told FNE that they had already selected the film for the opening night before its international recognition at Annecy. Noting its similarities to the Japanese film The Red Turtle, one animation producer quipped that the Japanese film certainly had a bigger team.

    The festival itself is taking a giant step forward with the launch of a new industry event, the Magnetic Latvia Conference. Participants and presenters include CEE heavyweights, Agnieszka Holland, Romanian producer Ada Solomon and Lithuanian producer Ieva Norviliena, covering topics of particular interest to Baltic filmmakers.

    Equally important to the feeling of hopefulness in the Latvian film industry is the strengthening of Latvia on the international scene, under the guidance of Dita Rietuma, director of the National Film Centre of Latvia. Latvia’s minority coproduction scheme has been in existence for only three years, with up to 300,000 EUR available for funding. It has also instituted a generous rebate scheme and offers co-financing of up to 50%.

    Vying for attention during the intensive long weekend of industry days are a focus on and presentation about the VR industry, and the continuation of the Baltic Animation Meet-Up. The latter is a reminder of the importance and long tradition of the animation industry in the Baltic region, and a tie-in to the selection of an impressive Lativan animated film as the festival’s opening selection.