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How is Lithuanian cinema getting on today?
This time the guest of the month in “Sociumas” is Skirmantas Valiulis, famous public man, lecturer and cinema’s critic, who shares his ideas about nowadays situation of Lithuanian cinema in our country and Europe as well. Is it really true that Lithuanian cinema is dead and still dying, as mass media is frequently stating?

„Sociumas“: Why Lithuanian cinema is dying?

S. Valiulis: Everybody says it’s because of finances. But I think that there are more reasons: different existence of the state, different themes, coming of other cinematographers; older generation is dying, and middle generation is coming, especially lots of young people, that are just starting or waiting for start and can’t go any further. There are many reasons, and the word “dying” is fusing a little bit, as something totally new and unseen for our eyes is coming into life.

„Sociumas“: Do you mean that cinema of Hollywood style is coming to being, as many people get their education in America or somewhere else?

S. Valiulis: Education in America can give the birth to twofold cinema: commercial cinema, like produced by our neighbours Poles and Russians, by which they are trying to attract audience not just from their country but from abroad as well; and vanguard of Lithuanian cinema. Here in Lithuania we have cinema of such type as produced by Jonas Mekas in New York, and we have acting or vanguard cinema with European nuances as well. Maybe we had too much of such cinema during last decade, it took dominant position in documentary, and partially in artistic cinema and lost touch with spectator. It’s said nobody is showing Lithuanian cinema. But even if it would be shown, it wouldn’t have spectator, as he is spoiled by commercial Hollywood production. So we need to go to spectator, but to go with various cinema production. Television already passed through this, as every television now has original TV series, and part of young cinema directors and creators is working in this field. As far as I know, this year there are quite many commercial projects and wish to produce commercial cinema.

„Sociumas“: What was the last movie that reaped laurels in any international festival?

S. Valiulis: Documentary cinema reaped many laurels in festivals, and this shows that Lithuanian cinema is dying only in somebody’s lips. Judging from pulse of international festivals Lithuanian cinema is not behind the cinema of any European country. Even artistic movies in festivals of neighbour countries – Russia or Berlin – get any awards. But there is another matter: first, we are not producing as many artistic movies as we did in Soviet years; they are not so various, as they used to be; the level of directing and sound as was reached these days do not exist anymore. Second, festivals are festivals, we have many in Lithuania as well, but in these festivals there are few spectators. Thus we don’t have to speak about death of Lithuanian cinema – I would speak about death of whole cinema’s myth.

„Sociumas“: You know the situation in neighbour Baltic States. Is Lithuanian cinema superior than Latvian and Estonian cinema, and then how?

S. Valiulis: Although it’s strange, we are superior in artistic cinema. We produce more, even under very difficult traditions, and have more original series. I think that our “Relatives” (“Gimines”) is however better than Latvian series “It happened in Riga”. Maybe it’s superior because we have more of talented directors in documentary cinemas, especially young ones. Hercas Frankas went to Israel, and from older generation only Seleckis is left. He is working perfectly, but there are few of younger generation. The same happens in Estonia, although tradition that small Baltic countries can produce great documentary movies and arrange their festivals remains. In what they are superior? I think that Estonians have very strong animation. Our animation is still at the stage of creation, and although has a lot of talented people, still didn’t reach such artistic level as Estonians. Latvian animation was and still is very interesting as well. There is much space to compete in this sphere, and it is very important. Other neighbours, Poles for example, are ahead by at least two parameters: during several recent years they perfectly arranged affairs of television and cinema – financial as much as creative; they help television to produce movies and order, and show them: documentary and artistic movies; and they achieved impressive number of movies. Poland reached the level of Russia by number of yearly produced movies. Second, they created quite good balance between selected – intellectual and commercial cinema. They get money form commercial movies, like “By flame and sword” or “Master Tadas”, and part of this many is assigned to debutantes and original searches. They have their minuses as well: their commercial cinema recently has become too “gangsterous”, “Americanised”, if speaking about young directors. The commercial cinema, which is developing national tradition, historical movies is really good.

„Sociumas“: What will be the influence of production of American movies for Lithuanian cinema?

S. Valiulis: At the first place, it’s financial profit. Cinema workshop, which was on the edge of failure now, is holding out, and doing this quite good – it can even renovate equipment and help Lithuanian cinema, if only state would give more finances. Second, old pre-war dream about which Poles were writing in 1929 came true – “Vilnius is second Hollywood”. Many years passed, and now we can really ask: “Isn’t it a real second Hollywood?” Two important arguments decided that Hollywood came here: first, incredibly nice and pictorial environs, second, unexplored light. It is suitable as for Robin Hood, as for other series as well. And Vilnius has specific architectural aura, especially old-town. Vilnius is like holly city, not in vain it’s called “second Jerusalem”. That is why Vilnius is suitable for creating movies of religious theme – in the future this idea might be developed and realised in European cinema.

„Sociumas“: How do you see the future of Lithuanian cinema?

S. Valiulis: I tend to see though Pole’s prism: the future of Lithuanian cinema is related not only to money and economics, but to various kinds of Mass Media as well, it will depend on relations with TV channels. I think that in the future there will be symbiosis with the Internet, too: for the spread of works, discussions and all other forms of co-operation. I see the future of Lithuanian cinema as the future of cinema in general: cinema which till today passed through at least three huge waves of innovation at the moment is exhausted and not able to renew oneself by itself. It is possible just taking into account totally new technologies, new situation, new being in Europe and the whole world. It has to change together with neighbours.

„Sociumas“: Who else, except you, are working in the field of cinema critique? Are there enough competent cinema critics in Lithuania?

S. Valiulis: Older generation developed itself and now has such critic of European level as Saulius Macaitis. Only now, and maybe belatedly, neighbours and colleagues begin to envy us for having him and evaluate him. In other conditions he would be recognised long time ago, much more his books would be published. And I am surprised by swiftness of young people, journalists or art critics, who have so much wish to write, prepare, go to lectures. Only one thing is missing – place for their expression. We have to be grateful for having the Internet. I know several sites in which people can discuss. People from Kaunas have idea to publish monthly cinema magazine not only in the Internet, but also in traditional – printable way as well. Maybe magazine “Kinas” which at the moment is released only twice a year will appear more frequently. I think that sections of cinema critique united with television should be revived in all newspapers. This way youth would have space for expressing not just advertising attitude but critical opinion as well.

„Sociumas“: Thank you for conversation


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Skirmantas Valiulis

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