After an unavoidable break during the spring of 2020, the cameras continued rolling in the NSFA region. Although COVID-19 is still keeping the film industry on its toes, with new measures and safety guidelines in place, many productions have been able to carry on or return to shooting despite the pandemic, creating exciting internationally produced TV shows, fiction films and documentaries. We will be looking at the three NSFA countries – Estonia, Finland and Latvia – in three different articles and here are six exciting projects that have recently been shooting in Latvia!
Latvia-based Armenian auteur Aik Karapetian has wrapped shooting of his upcoming film Samuel’s Travels, telling a story of a little piglet, that has saved the foreign visitor Sam from slavery at an Eastern European pig farm. During his adventures, Sam becomes the leader of a herd of pigs and guides them to freedom. Conceived as a dark comedy or a contemporary fairy tale, “which due to the style and story meets the spirit of our era, does not lack absurdity, stereotypes and misunderstandings”, tells producer Gints Grūbe, the head of Mistrus Media.
The production was supported by the National Film Centre of Latvia and the Belgian Tax shelter. Karapetian’s previous films ”Firstborn” and “The Man in the Orange Jacket”, both of which were crime tales, had successful runs at the international festival circuit, including Tallinn Black Nights FF, Moscow IFF, BFI London and Sitges FF.
A mythological thriller unravelling in a Latvian forest that brings forth the feminine elements of Baltic nature – this is enough to get us excited! Upurga focuses on Andrejs, an outdoor adventure guide who takes a film crew to shoot a vegan sausage commercial in a wild river valley, a region told to have a wondrous phenomenon that spares no one…
“The idea for the film was long time fermenting. There wasn’t a very clear plot in my mind from the start, but more of a feeling I had for the Latvian nature. Some time ago I had experienced it as something frightening and threatening, but at the same time also very feminine.”
Director Uģis Olte to Film New Europe
Director Olte has previously shot internationally-acclaimed documentaries such as “Liberation Day” and “Double Aliens” – both premiered at Amsterdam’s IDFA. The film is produced by VFS Films, with support from the State Culture Capital Fund. The release is expected in the autumn of 2021.
Watch the trailer!
Produced by Latvians while shot in Estonia and Finland, Troubled Minds is an upcoming drama with surrealist and black comedy elements. The story follows brothers Robert and Martin who are just a month away from their contemporary art exhibition. To get creative juices flowing Martin locks himself in a black 2 x 2-meter cube. Once out, both brothers start to lose control as Martin flees to Lapland and Robert starts a “trip” to find his bipolar brother.
“Troubled Minds” is a drama but hopefully full enough with elements of black comedy – as life itself. Visually we wanted to make this movie as a mix between highly artistic and sometimes even surrealistic expressions of fiction film and the feeling of ‘being there’ of a documentary. So that the mix would pull the viewer into a journey of many realms.”
Lauris and Raitis Abele, directors
The authors of the film are three brothers – Lauris, Raitis (co-directors) and Marcis Abele (DOP) and the production duties are handled by Tritone Films. “Troubled Minds” is set to be released autumn 2021.
The filming of the Polish and Latvian co-production “W2“, a sequel of the Polish director Wojciech Smarzowski’s (“Clergy“, 2018) 2004 film “The Wedding”, took place in Tukums and Cibla region, Latvia, in July and August, with shooting continuing in Poland until November. The comedy, written by the director himself, W2 deals with themes of intolerance, history and trauma, explored through one family at the backdrop of a wedding event and mixes the modern-time plot with historical events that took place during World War II.
Smarzowski accepted accolades for the first film at festivals like Locarno, Karlovy Vary and Warsaw in 2004, while his scandalous “Clergy” (2018) became a record-breaking audience hit in Poland. The new film is produced by Studio Metrage on the Polish side and Tasse Film as the Latvian partner, with support from Latvian National Film Centre and Riga Film Fund, and is expected to premiere in autumn this year.
Another Tasse Film collaboration is the fantasy feature “The Piper”, led by Cyprus’s Ratcatcher Entertainment. Directed by Anthony Waller (“An American Werewolf in Paris“) it’s based on the story of Pied Piper of Hamelin who, according to the legend, was a rat-catcher hired by the town to lure rats away with his magic pipe.
The project received backing from the National Film Center Latvia and Riga Film Fund and was filmed in October and November in several Latvian locations, the town of Cesvaine doubling for Hamelin. Latvia’s experienced film professionals, beautiful sites and low COVID-19 infection rate helped bring the project to the country. The shooting was meant to start during summer but like many other productions had to be postponed. After getting safety measures in order the team continued work in bubbles and were subject to regular COVID and temperature checks. “The Piper” is planned to be released during Halloween 2021.
Also receiving funding from the National Film Center Latvia and Riga Film Fund, and currently shooting is the Danish series “Nordic Narcos” produced by Monday Productions and Statement Film in collaboration with Latvia’s Ego Media. Labelled as ‘a spectacular genre hybrid’, the tale is a part true-crime murder tale, while also a biopic about a former drug lord trying to reconcile with his past. The series is starring various international actors and also, as a rather the drug lord himself. Latvian crew played a predominant role in the bulk of the production with 70 technical staff in addition to extras hired.
The producers expect to be premiere “Nordic Narcos” in the first quarter of 2022.