This year, Latvia is sharing a spotlight with neighboring Lithuania and Estonia at the European Film Market, which has dedicated its 2023 Country in Focus Spotlight to the Baltic nations. It’s a sign of the tremendous strides the country has taken to put itself on the world cinema map, with the screen industries both producing more films and TV series than ever before and luring increasingly ambitious international projects to Northeastern Europe.
Here’s a rundown of some of the top Latvian projects in the pipeline that their producers will be pitching in Berlin:
Director: Juris Kursietis
Producers: White Picture, Stellar Film, Asterisk*
The follow-up to Kursietis’ Cannes Directors’ Fortnight player “Oleg” is the story of a successful couple whose comfortable life is turned upside-down when the husband is implicated in a massive corruption scandal.
Soviet Milk (pictured, top)
Director: Ināra Kolmane
Producers: Jānis Juhņēvičs, Marta Romanova-Jēkabsone
Based on the bestselling novel by Latvian author Nora Ikstena, this multigenerational drama follows a young doctor who loses everything under the Soviet regime and, years later, must rely on the care of her daughter as she copes with depression.
Sales: Eyewell AB
Director: Davis Simanis
Producers: Gints Grūbe, Inese Boka-Grūbe
The fourth historical drama from the veteran director is based on the life of Marija Leiko, a stage and silent film star who late in her career must decide if she’s willing to risk everything in the face of Stalin’s totalitarian regime.
Directors: Vitaly Mansky, Yevhen Titarenko
Producers: Natalia Manskaia, Nataliia Khazan
Premiering in the Berlinale’s competitive Encounters strand, this timely documentary follows six months in the lives of a group of young Ukrainian men who volunteered to join the first aid battalion on the war’s frontline after the Russian invasion.
Sales: Deckert Distribution
Director: Gints Zilbalodis
Producers: Matīss Kaža, Gints Zilbalodis, Ron Dyens, Gregory Zalcman
Annecy prize winner Zilbalodis (“Away”) returns with this animated feature set after a flood wreaks havoc on the world, forcing a stubborn cat to share a small boat — and get along — with a group of other animals.
The Book of Everything
Director: Ineke Houtman
Producer: Fatt Productions
Based on the bestselling book by Dutch author Guus Kuijer, the first co-production between the Netherlands and Latvia revolves around a 9-year-old boy who’s able to see things no one else can.
Sales: Nine Film
Director: Viesturs Kairiss
Producer: Guntis Trekteris
The latest from the director of 2022 Tribeca winner “January” returns with a real-life, Soviet-era coming-of-age story about a giant girl from the countryside who gets drawn into the world of professional basketball.
Coming of Age
Director: Ivars Seleckis
Producer: Gints Grūbe
The venerable documentarian’s latest returns to the five schoolchildren he followed in his IDFA premiere “To Be Continued,” Latvia’s submission for the best international feature Oscar race, to see how they’re faring seven years later.
Director-producer: Andrejs Ekis
Based on true events, this seven-part historical drama series follows one man’s struggle against the authorities that leads to a mutiny on the Soviet warship.
Company of Steel
Director: Yuliia Hontaruk
Producers: Yuliia Hontaruk, Ivanna Khitsinska, Alexandra Bratyshchenko, Igor Savychenko
Co-producer: Uldis Cekulis
Three young war veterans returning from the frontline in Eastern Ukraine, already struggling to adapt to civilian life, must face a new reality after the 2022 Russian invasion in this documentary from Ukraine’s Babylon ’13 filmmaking collective.
Director: Stanislavs Tokalovs, Juris Kursietis
Producer: Tasse Film
A small-time crook peddling black-market blue jeans gets caught in the crosshairs of the KGB, setting off a conflict that goes beyond petty crime to become a clash of ideologies.
Director: Andrii Lysetskyi
Producer: Gennady Kofman, Olga Beskhmelnytsina
Co-producer: Uldis Cekulis
After the Russian invasion of their homeland, this documentary follows four Ukrainians from the art world who are suddenly forced to question the role of an artist in a time of war.
Director: Linda Olte
Producers: Matīss Kaža, Una Celma, Dace Siatkovska
Olte’s feature directorial debut follows two siblings in a Latvian orphanage grappling with the prospect of moving to America to live with a foster family.
Sales: True Colours