Dita Rietuma, the new director of the National Film Center of Latvia, was at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival this week for the world premiere of Signe Baumane’s competition entry “Rocks in My Pocket,” which the Film Center backed. She met with Variety to outline Latvia’s plans for increasing its production incentives and to host a film festival running up to the European Film Awards, which takes place Dec. 13 in the Latvian capital, Riga.
The Film Center fosters home-grown films and international co-productions by spearheading the national cash rebate scheme, the Latvian Co-financing Fund, which can be combined with the rebate offered by the Riga Film Fund. International co-productions to benefit from the funds in the past three years include Sergey Loznitsa’s “In the Fog” and Ryoo Seung-wan’s “The Berlin File.”
Creatively, Latvian filmmaking has always been very strong in animation and documentaries, but recent features have also attracted acclaim, like “Mother, I Love You,” winner of Berlin’s Crystal Bear, which was commended for its sensitive observations of personal relationships.
Rietuma, a former editor-in-chief of Latvia’s cultural newspaper Diena, took the reins of the Film Center on May 1. Her first duty was to announce at Cannes that the Film Center would raise the national cash rebate to €996,000 ($1.36 million) for next year and to $1.69 million for 2016.
“I’m so glad that we are able to build on our successful cash rebates for international co-productions, which is good news for local producers as well, and helps keep the momentum we’re enjoying right now,” she said.
As host of the European Film Academy’s awards, Latvia is aiming to maximize its presence in the international spotlight when the European press and industry arrives in Riga.
The Latvian Co-financing Fund requires films, animation features, TV series and docs to be shot in Latvia, with a Latvian partner, and a budget of at least $953,000, and with 50% of the financing already in place. The rebate offers 25% of the budget if the storyline takes place in Latvia or if the country’s landscape or architecture were used and if it is identifiable as Latvia.
Projects are able to combine the national coin with the Riga Film Fund’s cash rebate, which offers 20% for films or TV series with a storyline set and shot in Riga, and 10% for productions shot anywhere in Latvia, using Riga-based service companies. The fund has an annual budget of $1.55 million.
Another development is the launch of the Riga Intl. Film Festival, which runs Dec. 2-12. The festival, which leads up to the Dec. 13 EFA awards, will showcase Latvian films for the international press and industry — and European films for local audiences. The fest was set up by an alliance of several film festivals and film industry professionals.
“The idea to put Latvian cinema in the international spotlight was fueled by the European Film Awards ceremony in December,” festival director Sonora Broka said.
“Riga Intl. Film Festival will be Latvia’s biggest film event, comprising existing festivals and an extended industry section, which will bring international exposure to the Latvian industry, and hopefully lead to the exploration of local locations, talent and financing opportunities by European producers and filmmakers. Conversely, our festival will also bring the best of European cinema to Latvian audiences.”
Riga film fest is a collaboration among the Latvian Filmmakers Union, the National Film Festival Lielais Kristaps, Intl. Film Festival 2Annas, Intl. Film Actors’ Festival Baltic Pearl and the Latvian Film Producers’ Assn. It is supported by the Latvian Ministry of Culture, Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia, Riga City Council, National Film Center of Latvia and the foundation Riga 2014.
Lielais Kristaps, the national film awards, will be a large part of the program, with a competition, nominated by professional organizations and a commission of experts. An international jury, including EFA members, will pick the winners, in addition to audience voting for best Latvian film and European Film.
The screenings will take place in almost every cinema in Riga, the Riga Film Museum and the National Library of Latvia. Creative workshops and master classes supervised by film professionals, discussions and press conferences, as well as meetings with the filmmakers will serve as an addition to the event.
The Festival Baltic Pearl event, which has delivered Europe’s best films to local filmgoers for over 20 years, will serve as an overture to the EFA ceremony, with its December program entirely devoted to the films nominated for EFA awards, and a tribute to the recipients of the EFA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Intl. Film Festival 2Annas, which showcases “disruptive trespassers,” in other words contemporary avant-garde films, will celebrate its 19th edition. The December session showcases the most notable Latvian “trespassers” as well as a selection of 15 EFA nominated shorts. The fest will organize a conference for scriptwriters, which forms part of the Riga film fest industry section. The industry section provides Latvian filmmakers with master classes, workshops and lectures by leading European industry professionals in order to create an “inspiring platform for exchange of ideas and experience, allowing for the discovery of Latvia and its benefits,” said the fest.