Baltic Modernist Cinema: Between Imaginary and Real


This film series represents the first substantial showcase devoted to the Baltic cinema of the 1960s-70s to take place in New York City. 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.


Photo: Viktor Mendunen