Taking place in hybrid format, the 25th edition of Baltic Sea Forum for Documentaries (Baltic Sea Docs) brought together filmmakers from the wider Baltic Sea region, Eastern Europe and Caucasus region. 18 film projects participated this year, representing film studios in 17 countries including Latvia, Poland, Armenia, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Georgia, Russia, among others.
Prior to the pitches, which took place on 8-9 September, the project teams participated at a preparatory workshop, working on their presentations and pitch trailers. The forum also hosted a seminar on film distribution by documentary consultant Gitte Hansen and Jenny Örnborn (Swedish Film Institute), as well as masterclasses by Lithuanian producer Dagnė Vildžiūnaitė and Latvian director and scriptwriter Laila Pakalniņa.
Zane Balčus, the Baltic Sea Docs project manager, comments on this year’s edition: “This was a very special event for us - the 25th anniversary since establishing the forum in 1997 on Bornholm. Having a hybrid edition is challenging both for participants and organizers, and we do hope that we can meet again in person in Riga next time. And most importantly - we wish to see the projects presented at the forum as completed films in the coming years.”
Earlier this week documentary consultant Tue Steen Müller (Denmark) who has been part of the forum since its beginnings, was named the Officer of the Order of the Three Stars and received the decoration from the President of Latvia, Egils Levits.
At the Baltic Sea Docs closing ceremony on Thursday, 9 September, four projects received awards:
Baltic Sea Docs award (an editing consultancy) went to “Dedovshina” (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan), a film project directed and produced by Elyor Nemat, that tackles the decades-long culture of brutality against army conscripts. The jury of the award gave the following statement: “This is a documentary film that is full of empathy, and quiet dignity in the face of terrible violence. A vision with universal values, from a photographer's eye, in an underrepresented country, exploring the pain and hope of young men torn from their homes, and the families left behind to worry and mourn them.”
Documentary Association of Europe award (consultancy and membership) was given to “The Cello” (Finland), a creative documentary essay, directed by Kira Jääskeläinen and produced by Oona Saari (Illume Ltd), following a cello’s journey through history from a Copenhagen dumpster to the concert halls of pre-revolutionary Saint Petersburg.
BB Post House award (post-production services in value of 3000 EUR) went to “Stranded” (Latvia), directed by Staņislavs Tokalovs and produced by Guntis Trekteris (Ego Media), a film that attempts to look at the life of a half-million Baltic Russian community, through the stories of 3 generations of women in the director’s family.
Current Time TV award (a 2500 EUR cash prize) went to “Manifesto of Tenderness” (Russia), directed by Ksenia Okhapkina who also serves as the producer (Flash Doc) along with Vlad Ketkovich (Etnofund). Filmed in St.Petersburg, the project follows three women artists who practice another way of resistance, creating The Manifesto of Tenderness.
Also Baltic Sea Docs continued collaboration with Artdocfest, a festival and industry platform for independent filmmakers from the former Soviet Union. Ten projects were presented at the Artdocfest pitch on 8 September, and were awarded several prizes in cooperation with Current Time TV.
To the wider public Baltic Sea Docs offered a public film programme, screened at a cinema in Riga which ran parallel to the industry events and continues screenings until the end of the week. A special anniversary film selection showcasing nine films presented throughout the years at the forum at a project stage, also continues screenings on the platform www.filmas.lv administered by the National Film Centre of Latvia (organiser of Baltic Sea Docs). Three of the titles will be available for viewers worldwide on 12 September: the long-time forum participant Ivars Seleckis' “New Times at Crossroad Street” (1999)—the second film in the trilogy about the inhabitants of the small street in Riga; one of the most internationally acclaimed Lithuanian documentaries, Arūnas Matelis' “Before Flying Back to the Earth” (2005); and Maj Wechselmann's film following the life story of her mother Regina Korinman, “My Mother” (2017). The films will be screened at 17:30, 19:00 and 21:00 on www.filmas.lv, following the time zone of the viewers' location.
Baltic Sea Forum for Documentaries is organised by the National Film Centre of Latvia and supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia, State Culture Capital Foundation (special programme “KultūrElpa”) and Riga City Council. The next edition of the forum is planned to take place in Riga on 6-11 September, 2022.