FNE at Berlinale 2024: World Premiere of Latvian Maria’s Silence by Dāvis Sīmanis in Berlin

    Maria's Silence by Dāvis Sīmanis Maria's Silence by Dāvis Sīmanis credit: Mistrus Media

    Film studio MISTRUS MEDIA presents Maria’s Silence - a film by Dāvis Sīmanis


    The true story of Maria Leiko, a famous actress who struggles with fame and love during Stalin’s totalitarian regime.


    This historical drama set in 1937 portrays Maria Leiko, the star of silent cinema and theater, who travels back to the Soviet Union upon the birth of her granddaughter. During her trip to Latvia, Leiko passes through Moscow, where she is convinced to perform at the Latvian theater "Skatuve" (Stage). Soon after, she is faced with violence of the NKVD (the interior police of the Soviet totalitarian regime) who brutally kidnap her granddaughter. Consequently, Leiko is forced to play her life’s most tragic role – an innocent victim destroyed as she struggles between her ideals and the murderous regime that surrounds her.

    Teaser - https://vimeo.com/786911374/6794604b3c?share=copy


    The national operations of 1937 and 1938 became the main line of work of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). The orders issued by the NKVD essentially legitimised the widespread persecution of various ethnic groups. The turn for mass destruction of Latvians came at the end of November 1937. In these national operations, it was the so-called “dvoika” (two-man team) deciding on the fates of the arrested. This team consisted of the NKVD foreman and prosecutor. They evaluated the investigation data and decided which one of the two penal categories should be chosen. Category 1 meant capital punishment - shooting; category 2 entailed the imprisonment up to 2, 5, even 10 years. Every day, 200-300 cases were reviewed. Within two months, NKVD reviewed 105,032 cases, and only 137 people were released. All the arrested were charged with affiliation to the Latvian nationalist (also: fascist, counter-revolutionary, military, espionage, saboteur or terrorist) organisation, with the purpose of espionage and gathering intelligence for Latvia against the existing regime.

    About Marija Leiko

    Marija Leiko was a Latvian theater and silent film actress. Born on August 14, 1887 in Riga, she studied at B. Reinas private school for girls, which she graduated in 1903, then studied at the Vienna Imperial Academy of Musical and Dramatic Arts. She further worked at the New Theater in Frankfurt, the City Theater in Leipzig, and the Chamber Theater in Munich. In 1917, she started filming silent cinema in Germany and worked in M. Reinhart's troupe of actors. Leiko also filmed with a classic of German cinema expressionism: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnav. After the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, she returned to her native Latvia. In 1935 she visited the Soviet Union and stayed to join the company of the Latvian State Theatre “Skatuve” in Moscow. During the so-called "Latvian Operation" the theatre was shut down, and on 15 December 1937, Leiko was arrested on charges of belonging to a "Latvian nationalist conspiracy". On 3 February 1938 at the age of 50 she was shot and buried in a mass grave at the secret NKVD killing field at Butovo, near Moscow.

    Director's statement

    Our film, “Maria's Silence” unfolds the true story of Maria Leiko, a Latvian-born German silent film and theatre actress. The film delves into the concluding chapter of Maria Leiko's life, a period marked by her journey to the Soviet Union to care for her new born granddaughter. Here, she inadvertently becomes a witness and, tragically, a victim of the ruthless persecution of Latvians instigated by Stalin in what became known as the national operation of the NKVD. The characters embodied by Maria Leiko, her distinctive style, and expressive acting, transcended mere artistic representation. They mirrored her political convictions and avant-garde sensibilities, ultimately shaping the tragic trajectory of her life. Having lived through the most progressive and creative era of the 20th century, starring in films like Friedrich Wilhelm's “Satan” and gracing the stage at Erwin Piscator's German political theater, she envisioned an ideal society where individual rights were revered, sparing the majority from a wretched existence. The roles portrayed by Maria Leiko and her unwavering belief in the transformative power of art in the face of political oppression positioned her against Stalin's brutal regime. As is often the case in history, she found herself on the losing side of this struggle. Nevertheless, much like millions of other innocent souls, she imparts a profound historical lesson. Surprisingly, this lesson resonates with heightened relevance today, less than a century later, amidst the inhumane conflict in Ukraine, internal repressions in Russia under Putin's regime, global strife, and the unsettling ascent of authoritarian tendencies even within certain European countries.

    About Dāvis Sīmanis

    Davis Simanis, PhD in Arts, is a Latvian filmmaker and theorist. He has directed historical feature films, numerous poetic documentary films as well as cross-genre features that have participated in various major festivals. His docu-fiction Escaping Riga (2014) premiered internationally at IDFA 2014 and is still screened at documentary film festivals worldwide. Simanis previously received the Award for Best Debut "Version. LNO" (2006), historical drama The Mover (2018) WP in Palm Springs IFF, received an award "Best Foreign Film" in HAIFA festival, "The Year Before the War" (2021) WP in Rotterdam Film festival.

    About Mistrus Media

    Operating since 2000, Mistrus Media has established itself as one of the leading film production studio in Latvia. In 2022, in honour of Cannes' 75th anniversary, Screen International selected Mistrus Media as one of the top 75 independent European production companies. Actively engaged in the development and production of feature films, working with other co-production partners to create works for arthouse audiences and the global festival circuit.

    A few noteworthy co-production titles include feature drama “January” (2022) directed by Viesturs Kairišs, which won Best International Narrative at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2022. “Natural Light” (2021) directed by Dénes Nagy, was selected for the Berlin International Film Festival, and awarded the Silver Bear for Best Director. “In the Dusk” (2020) directed by Sharunas Bartas, selected for the Cannes Film Festival in 2020. Limited TV series “Queen of the Press” produced by Mistrus Media was released in 2021 and the dark comedy “Samuel’s travels” (2021), directed by Aik Karapetian premiered at the Fantastic Fest in USA.

    Crew List

    Directed and written Dāvis Sīmanis
    Script Co-Writers Magali Negroni and Tabita Rudzāte
    Director of Photography Andrejs Rudzāts
    Production Designer Kristīne Jurjāne
    Producers Gints Grūbe, Inese Boka-Grūbe
    Co-Producers Justė Michailinaitė, Kęstutis Drazdauskas
    Composer Paulius Kailbauskas, Justas Štaras
    Costume Designers Kristīne Jurjāne, Rūta kuplā, Aija Strazdiņa
    Editor Ieva Veiverytė
    Sound Designer Jonas Maksvytis
    Head Make-up Artist Aija Beata Rjabovska
    Gaffer Aleksandrs Čerkašins
    Camera Operator Kristaps Dzenis


    Maria Leiko Olga Šepicka - Slapjuma
    Jēkabs Peterss Artūrs Skrastiņš
    Osvalds Glāznieks Vilis Daudziņš
    Anna Lācis Inese Kučinska
    Leonīds Zakovskis Ģirts Ķesteris
    Nikolajs Ježovs Gļebs Beļikovs
    Mila Dana Ščerbina
    Nora Ženija Škuberte-Sudmale
    Dakteris Mihails Karasikovs


    Gints Grube - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - +371 29455252
    Inese Boka-Grube - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - +371 29259580
    Gertrudes street4-10, Riga, Latvia, LV-1010