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Latvian cinema

Latvian cinema

Six months after the Lumiere brothers made the first cinema projection in Paris in 1896, Riga, through the magnificent Solomonsky Circus, enjoyed the same privilege. In the forthcoming five years, Latvia capital entrepreneurs opened more places to showcase films such as The Royal Vio, in 1901 and later that decade, film nights were held at the Vermanes Gardens in Riga.

Sharing its fate with fellow European countries, the first film made in Latvia was a documentary. Directed by Aleksandrs Stanke, the innovative venture was the inauguration of a monument for Peter I in Latvia’s capital.

Lacplesis

Lacplesis

Due to the lack of information and official documentation on Latvian cinema, many versions have been said about the exact date of the first feature film in the country.

Some historians assure that the first silent films of that type were made since 1913, in contrast, others stick to a version which says that the country needed to wait until the 30s when Alesandr Rusteikis directed Lāčplēsis. Which is truly certain is that in those first years, women such as Lia Mara and Maria Leiko became the first divas from the big screen.

After the World War I, the Latvian Filming Companie was founded by three families: the Blumbergs, the Edgars and the Voldemars. At the same time, former photographers such as Eduards Kraucs, Jānis Sīlis and Arnolds Cālītis started to venture into filmmaking. From those years, the most prominent film is Vilis Lapenieks’ The Fisherman’s Son (1939).

When the World War II was finished Latvia was left under the Soviet regime, and its film industry –as in the other USSR countries- remained under surveillance and censorship as well as financially supported. Movies such as The Story of a Latvian Rifleman (1957) directed by Pavels Armands and Tobago Changes Its Cource (1965) by Aleksandras Leimais, reflected the new propagandistic trend boosted by the soviet regime.

However, after its independence in 1991, Latvian cinema seems to have flair to promote human rights and specially children rights with award-winning directors like Janis Streics and Varis Brasla, who have won notable prizes in different film festivals, among them, the Chicago International Children's Film Festival.

   

Vilis Lapenieks

Vilis Lapenieks

Pa celam aizejot

Pa celam aizejot

In recent years, directors such as Uma Celma, winner at the Upsala International Short Films Festival; Varis Brasla, nominated for his prominent work at the Berlinade; and Viesturs Kairiss, winner of the Jury Priza at Radiance Film Festival for his debt film Pa celam aizejot (2001), shine among the best in Latvia.

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