Members of the Baltic Film Festival

Baltic Film Festival celebrates underrepresented creators

Films from the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia were showcased throughout a two-day film festival in Hammersmith over the weekend.

The Baltic Film Festival started with a warm and welcoming reception on Friday 28th October with complimentary wine and an array of Latvian baked goods.

The festival took place from the 28th to the 30th of October at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith overlooking the Thames and was produced by the South Social Film Festival.

In addition, it was supported by the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Embassies, the Estonian Film Institute, the National Film Centre of Latvia, the Lithuanian Film Centre and the Lithuanian Culture Institute.

Paola Melli, a director of South Social Film Festival said: “The festival is all about diversity and inclusivity. 

“It’s going to be really exciting to see people discovering a pretty underrepresented kind of cinema.

“We want people to be open to all kinds of cultures and ideas and not to be afraid of other people.”

BALTIC FILM FESTIVAL: Exterior of Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. Photo Credit: Lara Iyer

The two day festival showed six films, two from each Baltic country and each screening was followed by a Q&A session, where audience members could hear from the directors and screenwriters of the film. 

Ernestas Jankauskas, Lithuanian director of ‘I Am Fine, Thanks’, the first movie shown at the festival, was thrilled to have his movie showcased in London. 

He said: “As a director, the Q&A section of the evening allows me to see if I have dropped a shadow on the audience. 

“It’s kind of a litmus test.”

‘I Am Fine, Thanks’ is a female-led film that explores the complex and stigmatised topics of anxiety, panic attacks and mental health.

Baltic cinema is a unique and authentic medium, however funding and representation are issues the field continues to struggle with.

Eitvydas Bajarūnas, Lithuanian Ambassador to the UK also attended, showing his support for the Baltic cinema scene. 

He said: “We want to show that we are European but also that we are unique. 

“If you are looking for smaller, boutique versions of Hollywood films that speak to the soul, that is what the Baltics do very, very well.

“This festival is a way to stop stereotypes because we have been separated by the Cold War and excluded from normal European cultural exchange so in this sense we must assist our artists.”

Members from Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Embassies with Baltic filmmakers | Photo credit: Lara Iyer

Ūla Tornau, Lithuanian Cultural Attaché and one of the organisers of the festival, added: “We really feel that Lithuanian, Estonian and Latvian cinema is not known enough.

“Baltic cinema is experiencing a huge boost because over the last ten years we have seen so many international collaborations. 

“We are lobbying for more funding for films too and it is now very obvious there is this new generation of young directors who are very different and have a strong voice.” 

Tornau hopes that the Baltic cinema scene will only grow from here and hopes the festival will expand in the years to come.

Two 24-year-old Estonian filmmakers, Meel Paliale and Urmet Piiling, flew into London just hours before the festival began.

Their movie, ‘Tree of Eternal Love’ was the final movie played at the festival. 

They began writing the story five years ago after finishing high school and took inspiration from their own lives. 

Paliale and Piiling were part of a group of six young filmmakers, all between the ages of 19 and 24. 

Piiling said: “We are really honoured that our movie is being shown at this festival. 

“I think our movie is special because it has a really youthful energy.”

Paliale continued: “Everyone has to fight to get funding for their films and we only had a really, really, really small budget.

“None of the crew got paid and so this was completely our passion project.”

Proud Estonian directors Urmet Piiling and Meel Paliale | Photo credit: Lara Iyer

The festival was a celebration of the Baltic cinematic scene and the event was immersive. 

Live music was performed by Ruta Di, a Lithuanian musician and bassist Michelé. 

Ruta said: “I think Lithuanian movies have a very unique quality. 

“I think it’s a great opportunity for people who don’t only want to watch mainstream films because you get to know about the culture, food and art.

“It’s crazy that the films are produced so well because the industry doesn’t have a lot of money.” 

The food served on the opening night was provided by Latvian Baked Goods, a bakery in North London and featured beef pasties, smoked bacon buns, custard rolls and sauerkraut rolls among many other items. 

Selection of foods provided by Latvian Baked Goods | Photo credit: Lara Iyer

The film festival proved to be a wholesome celebration of Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian creativity and strived to highlight the unique cinematic experience provided by their region’s filmmaking. 

Be sure to check out the other events organised by South Social Film Festival. 

Featured Image Credit: Lara Iyer

Related Articles