Latvia launches ‘Leaving’ at Karlovy

Eurimages helps country jumpstart film biz

KARLOVY VARY — The 37th Karlovy Vary film festival, which kicked off July 4, sees Latvia’s first feature film in competition — and it’s a double debut.

“Leaving by the Way” is Viesturs Kairiss’ first pic and the first to come out of the inaugural graduating class of Latvia’s national filmmaking program.

Bruno Ascuks, managing director of the National Film Center, which provides most of the $1.5 million that goes into local film production, sees other reasons for optimism over the future of local films.

Latvia joined Eurimages, the European support fund for film co-production, in January. Since then, funding and filming are on the rise.

“Mika Kaurismaki is shooting his film ‘Honey Baby’ there, and that’s a direct result of Eurimages,” said Guntis Trekteris, director of independent production company, Kaupo Film.

Latvia also entered the European Union’s Media Plus program on July 4, which gives the country access to script and pre-production development funding.

But the country still has far to go. “Our main task now is to convince the television stations to co-produce,” Trekteris said.

And the Riga Film Studio, the largest facility in the Baltics, is still empty except for its highly regarded animation department.

According to Ascuks, the state — which holds a 33.3% share in the studio — will decide the studio’s future by the end of the year. A lack of labs and the Latvian tradition of location filming are the main problems facing the studio.

But for the summer, at least, the country’s underused film professionals have more opportunities. Helmer Laila Pakalnina will shoot her new feature “The Python” July 29-September 1. Latvia’s annual output stands at two or three films. “We need five to six as a minimum to keep this film industry working,” Ascuks said.

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