PRODUCTION: Mythological Thriller Upurga Moves Into Postproduction

    Production Team of Upurga by Uģis Olte Production Team of Upurga by Uģis Olte

    RIGA: Latvian documentary director Uģis Olte has completed the principal shooting for his debut fiction feature film, a mythological thriller Upurga, produced by Uldis Cekulis and Raitis Ābele at VFS Films.

    Upurga is a mythological thriller in the wilderness, focusing on the main character Andrejs, who works as an outdoor adventure guide. He takes a film crew, involving his sister and her colleagues, into a wild river valley for a vegetarian sausage commercial shoot. The undertaking takes an unexpected turn when the film crew goes missing. What they haven’t been aware of is a strange, wondrous phenomenon, whose reckless power does not spare even the locals.

    “The idea for the film was long time fermenting. There wasn’t a very clear plot in my mind from the start, but more of a feeling I had for the Latvian nature. Some time ago I had experienced it as something frightening and threatening, but at the same time also very feminine. And around that feeling, different situations, episodes, characters were fleeting in my imagination until I decided to write them all down. Working with the film’s cinematographer Valdis Celmiņš on documentary shorts for the TV, we’ve always discussed how to bring this light touch to fiction filmmaking – to have a small production crew, use natural light as much as possible, and find real locations which match our expectations,” Olte told FNE.

    Olte has previously directed two feature length documentaries, several short fiction films, and numerous television programmes. His second documentary Liberation Day / Atbrīvošanas diena (2016, Latvia / Norway, VFS Films, Mute Records (UK), Norsk Fjernsyn) co-directed with Moten Traavik, premiered at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). The film received four National Film Awards, it was recognised as the best feature length documentary and in the film professionals’ categories it received best documentary cinematography, best editing, and best sound design awards.

    The cast of Upurga includes both professional and non-professional actors, including Igors Šelegovskis (Homo Novus, 2018), Inga Tropa, and Jēkabs Reinis. The film’s DoP is Valdis Celmiņš, one of the most prolific current Latvian cinematographers, who recently received the best fiction film cinematographer’s award at the National Film Awards for his work on the film Blizzard of Souls / Dvēseļu putenis, and was nominated for the IMAGO award for the same film. He worked on Olte’s previous films.    

    The film is produced by VFS Films. The budget is approximately 125,000 EUR, including a 79,783 EUR grant from the State Culture Capital Fund in the low-budget film production competition in 2020. The film’s national distributor is Spektrs.

    The release is expected in the autumn of 2021.

    Production information:

    VFS Films (Latvia)

    Director: Uģis Olte
    Screenwriters: Uģis Olte, Bojana Babič, Lucas Abrahão
    DoP: Valdis Celmiņš, LGC
    Producers: Uldis Cekulis, Raitis Ābele
    Editor: Gatis Belogrudovs
    Production Designer: Jānis Kalniņš, Lāsma Olte
    Costume designer: Jurate Silakaktiņa
    Make-up artist: Maija Gundare
    Original music: Reinis Sējāns
    Cast: Igors Šelegovskis, Rihards Sniegs, Inga Tropa, Reinis Boters, Jēkabs Reinis, Elvita Ragovska, Tīna Šipkēvica, Morten Traavik, Andris Akmentiņš, Māra Ķimele, Uģis Prauliņš