Anthology Film Archives


May 26 – June 15

All films stream for free from May 26-June 15 (extended one week)!


One of the programs we planned to present theatrically in that faraway era that was the Spring of 2020 was the first substantial NYC showcase devoted to the Baltic cinema of the 1960s-70s. After a year-long postponement, we’ve reconceived the series as an online program, which will encompass all nine of the films – three each from Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia – that were originally selected by guest-curator Lukas Brasiskis.

Traditional accounts of world cinema of this era invariably emphasize filmmakers’ newfound experimentation with the conventions of their medium, and their increasing exploration of subjectivity, self-referentiality, abstraction, and radical new approaches to storytelling. This type of cinema found its place in the Baltics too, where a group of directors broke with the dominant conventions of filmmaking that had previously held sway. During the second half of the 20th century, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian filmmakers, many of whom graduated from the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography, aka VGIK, left their mark on the history of modernist European cinema, echoing the uncompromising film style of the various global “New Waves” and, at the same time, implicitly reflecting the cultural specificity of the Baltic states incorporated into the Soviet Union.

Due to the Iron Curtain, however, Baltic films would rarely reach Western screens. Surprisingly, that has not changed even following the collapse of the Soviet Union. While certain Soviet film auteurs have been much celebrated in the U.S. and around the world, the Baltic filmmakers of the era have remained virtually unknown. This series aims to remedy that situation, by showcasing nine feature films – ranging from allegorical fictions to realist visions of the everyday – by the most renowned Baltic film directors of the period. The program introduces formal innovations and implicitly expressed political topics characteristic to the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian modernist cinema.

“Baltic Modernist Cinema” is guest-programmed by Lukas Brasiskis, and presented in collaboration with Gražina Michnevičiūtė, the Lithuanian Cultural Attaché in USA; the Lithuanian Cultural Institute; the Lithuanian Film Center; the National Film Centre of Latvia; and the Estonian Film Institute.

As a special supplement to the series, Edith Sepp (Director of the Estonian Film Institute), Dita Rietuma (Director of the National Film Centre of Latvia), and scholar and guest-curator Lukas Brašiškis gathered via Zoom to discuss and introduce the various films; click here to watch the recording of that talk.




Kaljo Kiisk
Estonia, 1968, 79 min, 35mm-to-digital. In Estonian with English subtitles.
During WWII, on territory occupied by the German army, a stranger appears at the gates of a hospital for the mentally disabled. When he is taken to a doctor, he tells him that the purpose of his visit is to find an English spy who is hiding among the patients. The man is, in fact, a Gestapo officer called Windisch, and he is to carry out his task before the Soviet army pushes its way towards this isolated house in the middle of the woods. Using simple provocation, Windisch tries to force the spy to give himself up, but the impaired logic of those around him gradually undermines his plans. In the hands of director Kaljo Kiisk, the story functions as a tool for analyzing the relationship between power and guilt, for questioning the possibility of free will in a totalitarian state.

Grigori Kromanov
Estonia, 1979, 80 min, 35mm-to-digital. In Estonian with English subtitles.
After receiving an anonymous phone call, police inspector Glebsky embarks on a journey to a remote mountain hotel to uncover a group of international terrorists. However, almost immediately after his arrival, an avalanche cuts the hotel off from the rest of the world and the situation changes drastically. The surreal nature of events and circumstances ultimately leads inspector Glebsky to question his sanity. This Estonian adaptation of the eponymous novel by the Strugatsky Brothers (renowned authors of sci-fi classics such as HARD TO BE A GOD and ROADSIDE PICNIC, the source for Tarkovsky’s STALKER) is a stylistically striking exploration of a fictional world that mirrors the Soviet one. The visual richness – the film is known for its unorthodox camera angles, vivid colors, and unearthly sounds – as well as the gripping script and unforgettable characters, has made THE DEAD MOUNTAINEER’S HOTEL a cult film.

Peeter Simm
Estonia, 1980, 86 min, 35mm-to-digital. In Estonian with English subtitles.
This film takes place during the era of collective farms in Estonia in the 1940s and early 1950s, a dramatic period that followed the mass deportations of March 1949. In this context, the protagonist, Mait Kukemeri, assigned by the Young Communist League, arrives at a collective farm in Central Estonia. His task is to confirm that the collective farmers have begun the spring sowing, following the guidelines issued by the Estonian Communist Party. However, the collective farm is in the middle of a realm of bogs and swamps, so the seeds are in danger of rotting if the rules are followed – a fact that the local farmers are well aware of, in contrast to the Communist party itself. When Kukemeri starts to understand the obstacles, he sends false reports to his chief in town. The authorities, however, become suspicious and send another representative dressed in a leather coat to investigate the situation.


Rolands Kalniņš
Latvia, 1967, 77 min, 35mm-to-digital. In Latvian with English subtitles.
1960s Riga: telephone technician, self-taught poet, and composer Cēzars Kalniņš plays in a rock band with his friends. However, the lyrics of their songs strike middle-aged cultural worker Anita Sondore as immoral, and she goes to great efforts to prevent them from performing in public. A censorship committee is assembled to discuss the creative work of the young songwriter. FOUR WHITE SHIRTS becomes a metaphor for an anonymous and omnipotent ideological pressure whose destructive impact cannot be stopped. The filmmakers almost prophetically predicted the destiny of their own film by presenting an ironic commentary on the functioning of the censorship mechanism. Sure enough, FOUR WHITE SHIRTS itself was put “on the shelf” for two decades due to its innovative style, biting irony, and revelation of the absurdity of the Soviet system.

Aivars Freimanis
Latvia, 1974, 76 min, 35mm-to-digital. In Latvian with English subtitles.
Janis lives on Zaķusala Island in Riga, the capital of Latvia, and has to take a ferry every morning to his work at the shipyard. One day he meets Anita. Their relationship blossoms, until Anita suddenly disappears from the city and from Janka’s life… Filmmaker Aivars Freimanis’s previous films were all documentaries, and APPLE IN THE RIVER began life as a non-fiction film as well. But when the censors raised an alarm over the film’s uncomfortably candid realism, Freimanis “solved” the problem by inserting a bitterly tender yet light-hearted teenage romance into the non-fictional urban setting. There was no written dialogue in the screenplay, so the acting was largely based on improvisation. As a result, APPLE IN THE RIVER became an early example of a fiction/documentary hybrid film.

Aloizs Brenčs
Latvia, 1976, 91 min, 35mm-to-digital. In Latvian with English subtitles.
Voldis Viters is released after seven years in prison. He is 46 years old and has no family or job. Some of his old friends have abandoned the life of crime, and the policeman Leo Aleksandrs – as well as the beautiful taxi driver Irēna – try to persuade Voldis to forget the past and move on. But when the crime boss Teksis proposes a plan to rob a jewelry store, Voldis agrees, thinking this will be his last crime before starting a new life. Crime dramas were the most popular product of the Riga Film Studio in the 1970s, and the best of the directors who contributed the genre was Aloizs Brenčs, who made a thriller every year and believed that directors should specialize in a single genre. Marking the pinnacle of his filmography, REDUNDANT is a psychological drama that centers not on a single crime or its investigation but on the emotional collapse of the criminal as he realizes that his amoral lifestyle has rendered him redundant within society. Specialists from the Ministry of the Interior were consulted to ensure the credibility of the action, and this was the first Latvian film to rely on the studio's newly established group of stuntmen.


Almantas Grikevičius
Lithuania, 1969, 89 min, 35mm-to-digital. In Lithuanian with English subtitles.
This urban drama offers a psychological reflection of the post-war period. Caesar, a former Nazi concentration camp prisoner, sifts through his traumatic experiences. His memories materialize against the background of the new modern buildings of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and become even stronger when Caesar learns of the death of a friend and fellow traveler. Caesar’s daughter Veronica is a fervent young playwright seeking to immortalize her father’s experience on film. However, her attitude towards her father’s past is quite different from his own. Adopting a boldly non-linear narrative, AVE, VITA! takes the audience on a hallucinatory journey from the war years to the then-contemporary realities of the Soviet era.

Raimondas Vabalas
Lithuania, 1969, 88 min, 35mm-to-digital. In Lithuanian with projected English subtitles.
This drama tells a story about the daily life of a provincial Lithuanian town in the 1960s. It opens with scenes depicting the preparations for two early summer events: the secondary school graduation party and a traveling theater performance. Gradually, dramas large and small emerge in the life of each of the characters, who are forced to deal with moral and existential conundrums vis-a-vis the Soviet realities. The production of the film coincided with the tail end of Khrushchev’s Thaw, which had brought increased freedom to artists. Vabalas, as a result, managed to portray everyday life in the 1960s in a vividly realistic manner. The monotonous rhythm of life and implicit criticism of the insularity and loneliness of ordinary Lithuanians create an unforgettable portrayal of existence on the periphery of the Soviet Union.

Arūnas Žebriūnas

Lithuania, 1969, 66 min, 35mm-to-digital. In Lithuanian with English subtitles. Newly restored!
THE BEAUTY focuses on a group of neighborhood children who spend their days playing a game: one of the kids dances in the center of the circle while the others ply him or her with compliments. Inga, a little girl who lives with her single mother, usually receives a lot of compliments and is therefore considered a beauty. But everything changes when a new boy moves in to the neighborhood. Rude and unpolished, he does not fit in and soon earns himself the nickname Mute. He doesn’t like Inga’s freckles and calls her ugly. Wounded by his insults, Inga sets out to win him over. This aesthetically stunning film became a cult teenage drama of the Soviet modernist cinema.

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