Historically, the film industry’s best known Lithuanians have been exports – the late Jonas Melkas (we were lucky enough to get to speak to him last year), prolific avant-garde filmmaker, left the Baltic nation for Brooklyn in 1949; there’s also cinematographers worldwide of Lithuanian descent like blockbuster director Robert Zemeckis. The last ten years have witnessed the reversal of this trend, however, as more and more filmmakers return to or remain in Lithuania, and LT Kino Goes Berlin will once again, from Oct 31 till Nov 4, give film lovers the chance to see their results, as well as a wide range of classics. The opening night starts at 20:00 at ACUD Kino with the screening of the Short Film Competition, followed an hour later by a gig you won’t want to miss: the lively Lithuanian post-punk girl band ShiShi grace the ACUD Club to kick things off properly.
In the main selection of this year’s 9th edition is Motherland, a subtle but substantial coming-of-age story from Tomas Vengris, making its national debut here. Seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy in the 1990s, it follows the consequences of his newly-independent mother’s return to newly-independent Lithuania, and her attempts to reclaim the old family estate. Its deliberate pace and true-to-life feel reflect the background of its director, a Hollywood editor and the son of Lithuanian immigrants, and overall the movie provides a slow-but-enjoyable burn as its characters’ discovery of a new family living on their former property complicates the morality of taking it back. Another standout is last year’s Summer Survivors, directed by Marija Kavtaradze, a road-trip-movie-cum-drama about an aspiring research psychologist driving two mental patients across the state. Like Motherland, it uses deft editing to infer, rather than explain, the characters’ actions and motivations throughout; however, without the use of voiceover (which Motherland employs well) to explain a frequently meandering plot, it is difficult to fully grasp what Summer Survivors hopes to achieve. Still, the performances are strong and watching Paulius Markevicius embody his role as a charismatic bipolar man enlivens the entire piece.
Other films on offer include a retrospective of works by national favorite Arūnas Žebriūnas, with sentimental family-friendly films like The Beauty (1969) and Walnut Bread (1978), along with nightly selections of shorts from Lithuania and its neighbours, Estonia and Latvia. A side program of concerts, exhibitions and workshops will also run alongside the main screenings.
Lithuanian Film Festival | ACUD Kino, Mitte, and Sputnik Kino am Südstern, Kreuzberg. Oct 31-Nov 4.