As already reported, in the European Film Market (EFM, 16-22 February) held as part of this year's International Berlin Film Festival, the main focus was on Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, united in the Baltic Countries in Focus programme. This was the first such high-level cooperation event for the Baltic countries’ film industries - a joint platform at one of the most important European film festivals, an opportunity to position the Baltics as a region of strong film art and professional production, to promote the competitiveness of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia on a European scale and even further.
Dita Rietuma, head of the National Film Centre of Latvia (NFC), comments, "The fact that this year's focus countries in the European Film Market were the Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) can be evaluated as a demonstration of consistent position of the Berlin Film Festival and the European Film Market in a complicated geopolitical situation as well as support for the promotion of the small, in terms of film production, but powerful Baltic countries. The Berlin Film Festival focused us as reliable European cooperation partners, and this is essential both for the Latvian film industry, as well as for the image and international recognition of the country and the entire Baltic region.
For the first time three countries together were the focus of the European Film Market (until now, the influential international platform had chosen large countries with notable film production volumes – Canada, Norway, Mexico, Chile). Intensive preparations for this organizationally complex series of events had been taking place in all three countries since 2022, and the cooperation with the European Film Market was successful - the Baltic countries stand attracted a lot of international attention; during the EFM, more than 10 events presenting the cinema of the Baltic countries were organized, and they were well attended.”
For the programme Baltic Upcoming Producers, experienced and active film producers from each Baltic country were chosen for the international presentation, Latvia was represented by Guntis Trekteris, Inese Boka-Grūbe and Matīss Kaža. Three young Latvian producers – Alise Rogule (Mima Films), Inga Praņevska (KultFilma) and Paula Jansone (VFS Films) had a chance to present their projects within Visitors Programme - a separate section of the coproduction market. In the Rough Cut Presentation session of the EFA moderated by Zane Balčus, film historian from Latvia and head of the Baltic Sea Forum for Documentaries Baltic Sea Docs, highlighted two documentary projects from Latvia, while Inga Blese, deputy head of the NFC, outlined coproduction possibilities and the availability of financial resources in Latvia in the coproduction market section Country Sessions.
In the EFM section Berlinale Series Market, where Latvia was represented by Dita Rietuma, head of the NFC, and producers Jānis Kalējs, Inese Boka-Grūbe, Andrejs Ēķis, Elīna Losa and director Staņislavs Tokalovs, our country presented itself as a strong supporter and funder of quality TV series. The first mini series supported by NFC, A Criminal Case for Beginners and Emīlija. The Press Queen of Latvia, have already been filmed and premiered in Latvia. Currently four more mini series are being created with the support of state funding and REACT EU. Their premieres are expected next year.
Ministers of Culture of all three Baltic Countries attended Berlinale and after mutual negotiations met with Claudia Roth, the Minister of Culture of Germany, who was very interested in national filmmaking of each Baltic country and the European media space (visit the photo gallery on our webpage HERE). The Latvian cello group Melo M demonstrated the potential of Latvian film music at the opening of the European Film Market. One of the members of the band is Kārlis Auzāns, an experienced and award-winning composer of film music whose filmography includes music for more than 25 Latvian films and international co-productions.
The name of Latvia and other Baltic countries was very visible in the urban environment of Berlin, the visual identity of the focus on Baltic countries was widely used in the communication of the EFM. More than 7,000 professionals accredited in the EFM received Baltic Film, an illustrated magazine produced by film institutions of the Baltic countries. The NFC had also prepared a catalogue of the latest Latvian films and projects Films from Latvia 2022-2024 as well as a statistical overview Facts & Figures for use both at the Baltic stand in the market and online.
Influential international publications, such as The Hollywood Reporter (https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/baltics-film-backlot-feature-berlin-2023-1235328536/), Variety (https://variety.com/2023/film/global/latvia-spotlight-efm-countries-in-focus-1235515710/), Film New Europe (https://www.filmneweurope.com/news/latvia-news/item/124504-fne-at-berlinale-2023-latvian-cinema-in-berlin), wrote about film industries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
As Dennis Ruh, head of the European Film Market, notes, this year has been very successful for the EFM in general - after the break due to the global pandemic, even more professionals visited the EFM than in 2019; more than 11,500 participants from 132 countries worked at the European Film Market this year. Latvia's participation in the EFM was partially supported by the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA).
Latvian and Baltic participation in the European Film Market is also appreciated by producers who actively participated in events and project presentations. Inese Boka-Grūbe of Mistrus Media comments, "The focus of Baltic cinema in the European Film Market is undeniably one of the most significant events in the promotion of Latvian film industry in recent years. Presentations of film projects and financing opportunities as well as articles in the largest film industry publications show Latvia as a valuable and strategically important partner in filmmaking, and it is important that the Baltic countries have strengthened mutual institutional cooperation, which could also create new initiatives." Paula Jansone of VFS Films attended a film industry event of this scale for the first time and she used all the opportunities to "get to know each other and network", but the studio head, Uldis Cekulis, tells more, "First of all, we had a collective joy and satisfaction to see how the Baltic countries show themselves in a global context. For example, I took a photo of a shuttle that was driving the festival guests, and on the back window - in the best advertising spot! – there were names of all three Baltic countries. And it is important that all three countries were together, especially nowadays it is important to create the feeling that we are a small Baltic Union, a strong region. This is a very important message for those who will come to film here. It is also important for the circulation of cinema money in the region that professionals from other countries know that one can fly to Tallinn and film the old town, but during the same trip one can also go to Latvia and film the black stork in the forest.
The Baltic stands in the film market got a quite royal location, again all three together, and I think half of the market participants came to our Happy Hour - the balcony almost fell!
Professionally, it was a good opportunity to present the upcoming documentary Company of Steel together with Ukrainian colleagues and the Slovak co-producer. This pitching was followed by several hours of fruitful conversations, and we will see the result in the next few weeks."
Guntis Trekteris, head of Ego Media, succinctly summarizes the feelings and benefits of Berlinale, "Until now, we were looking for co-producers from other countries in Berlin, but this time co-producers from other countries were looking for us, and it's a completely different position."
The NFC staff, Dita Rietuma, Agnese Zapāne, Inga Blese, Lelda Ozola, Eva Erdmane-Durandina and Zigita Saulīte, was present in the Berlin Film Festival and European Film Market and worked in cooperation with representatives of other Baltic film institutions.