Monika Gimbutaitė. In Focus: Women in Documentaries

Women breaking stereotypes. Women fostering close relations. Women who seek, create, fight, observe the world and are constantly observed by it. 

In the programme of six feature - length documentaries included in the platform, various portraits of women are revealed: their differing social roles, different representation strategies. The programme presents the experimental anthropological film Portraits of Ourselves (Lith. Mūsų portretai, 1994) by Karla Gruodis and Laima Kiškūnė, which looks at women from the perspective of other young women. The film Julia (2012) by Johanna Jackie Baier focuses on the life of a transsexual from Klaipėda working as a prostitute. Two complex family – and also directors’ personal – portraits are depicted in Lida, Vanda, Liusia (2014) by Julija Zubavičienė and Liebe Oma, Guten Tag! (Lith. Močiute, Guten Tag!, 2017) by Vilma Samulionytė and Jūratė Samulionytė. Finally, the stories of creative work of women artists are captured in the films I am Katya Golubeva (Lith. Aš esu Katia Golubeva, 2016) by Natalija Ju and Nijolė (2018) by Sandro Bozzolo.

The programme, which is based on the first book on feminist film studies in the Lithuanian language, i.e. the collection In Focus: Women in Lithuanian Cinema (Lith. Fokuse: moterys Lietuvos kine, printed by the publishing house LAPAS) edited by Natalija Arlauskaitė and Lina Kaminskaitė, poses a question – what kind of woman do Lithuanian documentaries turn to and how do Lithuanian documentaries speak of women following the restoration of independence?

The programme “In Focus: Women in Documentaries” was organised in cooperation with the publishing house LAPAS, Meno avilys, Lithuanian Shorts and LRT. Programme screening was supported by the Lithuanian Film Centre.

Maria Vinogradova. Filmmaking Is for Lovers

Filmmaking Is for Lovers: Rediscovering Soviet Amateur Film Culture

In the Soviet 1960s, suddenly, everyone was a film amateur. Members of tourist clubs packed the newly available light-weight 8mm cameras on their travels, while scientists, factory engineers, urban planners and other professionals organized amateur collectives at their workplace. This program highlights 11 films from the 1960s – 1980s. Most are amateur works, and one is an advertising film that “cast” cartoon superstars of the 1970s to promote filmmaking to non-professionals. The program concludes with a recent found footage film that demonstrates a powerful way in which an amateur film from the past inspired a new original work. From student shorts to industrial films and experimental works, these reflect the various modes, sensibilities, conditions of production as well as limitations created by the Soviet system of state support.

Maria Vinogradova is a film and media historian specializing in the study of Soviet film culture, in particular, nonfiction and amateur films: their creation, distribution, circulation, and afterlives in the post-celluloid era. She is currently working on her book manuscript “On the Public Rails: A History of Soviet Amateur Filmmaking (1957-1991).” Her research has been twice supported by American Council of Learned Societies fellowships. She teaches courses in film history, theory and research methods at Pratt Institute and Brooklyn College, and is a Visiting Scholar at New York University’s Jordan Center for the Advance Study of Russia.

Inese Strupule. Amateur Filmmaking in the Latvian SSR

Amateur filmmaking in the Latvian SSR: biting social satire and cinematic experiments

Although sanctioned by the state, amateur cinema in the Soviet Union enjoyed a degree of creative and ideological freedom that was denied to the ‘professional’ arts. Films that dared to experiment formally and thematically often emerged from the geographical periphery, where the regime never enjoyed the same degree of control. One of the citadels of the Soviet amateur filmmaking movement was the Latvian SSR. This film programme showcases the Soviet Latvian films that ironized and condemned not only contemporary social issues in the Soviet Union, but also the Soviet way of life and mentality, albeit in subtle and indirect ways. In addition to this, the programme explores the Soviet Latvian amateur filmmaking scene as a source of innovative and experimental filmmaking practices. The heritage of amateur cinema in the Soviet Union consists mainly of documentaries, but among the films that have captured everyday life and work, celebrations, and parades, there are also those whose experimental form and non-realistic diegetic worlds can still captivate viewers today. Their authors fearlessly challenged the Soviet cultural canon and conducted their own film experiments in the best traditions of Luis Buñuel, Jean Cocteau, Maya Deren, and Andy Warhol.

Inese Strupule has received her PhD from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London. Her thesis concerned the amateur filmmaking movement in Soviet Latvia and its social, cultural, and political impact. She has recently published an article entitled “Ingvars Leitis's Subversive Ethnographic Documentaries, 1975–1989: Cover Stories and National Representation in Soviet Latvia” in the edited collection Global Perspectives on Amateur Film Histories and Cultures (Indiana University Press, 2021).

Artūras Barysas. Obvious, yet Unbelievable

Artūras Barysas-Baras (1954-2005) is a creator of avant-garde cinema and music, one of the most prominent directors in the ranks of Lithuanian amateur filmmakers. After graduating from school, together with like-minded people, he created the Art-film studio where between 1970 and 2003 he went on to make about 40 short and full-length films. Most of these films received awards at national and international amateur film festivals.

This retrospective presents nine films that highlight a wide range of themes in Artūras Barysas’ work: from the ironic observation of everyday phenomena to political and social criticism. Films, as the author himself had said, are the exact spirit of that period, felt through urban architecture, people’s clothing, mindset and forms of communication that no longer exist today. The mood of the time is further enhanced by the soundtracks of the films that featured avant-garde and rock music popular in the West at the time.

Barysas’ work stands out not only for its connection to the avant-garde art tradition but also for humorously playing with the viewer’s preconceived expectations. Inspired by the hippie ideas, he constantly reminds us of the alternative point of view from which we could perceive the world and strive for freedom. Often his films are not complex stories but rather short anecdotes that give new meanings to ordinary, self-evident actions. Watching these remarkable films-anecdotes, one gets an urge to exclaim: obvious, yet unbelievable.

Oleksandr Makhanets. Making films, living our lives

This eclectic program represents five films that were part of independent and individual amateur practice in the late Soviet Lviv. For each of the authors, filmmaking was a part of their life, a way to express themselves and communicate with close friends. They are naive and clear, not trying to surprise the viewer, the main point is sincerity, enthusiasm, and freedom of creativity which is so common for amateurs.

The films are from the collection of Urban Media Archive, Center for Urban History of East-Central Europe.

Oleksandr Makhanets is a historian, archivist, curator of exhibitions, and head of the Urban Media Archive at the Centre for Urban History. He graduated from the Humanities Faculty of the UCU with a master’s degree in history. Since 2015, he has been working on the Urban Media Archive project at the Centre for Urban History, developing and preserving its visual and audio-visual collections. Curator of the [unarchiving] program, which is designed to promote archival heritage to the general public in non-academic forms and formats. He has been organizing International Home Movie Day in Lviv since 2016. Сurrently he is working on a research project on the history of film amateurs’ practices in Ukraine in the second half of the 20th century.

Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė. Whose Voice is This?

The short Lithuanian documentaries restored by Meno Avilys and presented in this programme cover a wide range of topics and diverse cinematic techniques. The programme features three films, in which the authors look at and listen to injured people and animals, exploiting the camera as an engine for empathy. The voice in the background transforms from informative to exaltedly poetic, ultimately becoming quiet and gentle.

Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, born in Lithuania in 1983, works as a filmmaker and theatre director. She explores the tension between documentary and fiction, performing and being, filming and seeing. Her recent collaborations include the documentary Acid Forest, the opera Have a Good Day!, and the installation Sun and Sea.


Gerda Paliušytė. “Portraits of Ourselves”

The programme presents four diary-like documentary video works centred around fragments from the daily life of their creators. The moments captured in these films are not only melancholic but also surreal, emerging from the specific atmosphere and time of the city where they were documented. Alongside the experimental video works, the programme features "Portraits of Ourselves" (1994), an anthropological film by Laimė Kiškūnaitė and Karla Gruodis. The film was made together with the students of the Vilnius Pedagogical Institute who participated in Gruodis’s seminar on feminist theory. "Portraits of Ourselves" are video portraits filmed by the students, presenting not themselves but women that they found interesting, including writer Zita Čepaitė and teenage girls from special care homes in Vilnius. Some of the films selected for the programme were created a little later than the usual early Lithuanian video art but were chosen because of the media in which they were created (DVD, VHS, or cine film) or the themes they explore, associated with the early video art period.

Gerda Paliušyte (b. 1987) is a Vilnius-based artist and curator. Her films tend to engage with a range of cultural agents, including historical and popular characters, focusing on the ways they modify the cultural landscape of specific places. Since 2018 Paliušyte has belonged to the artist collective Montos Tattoo.

Aistė Žegulytė. Urban and Human Time.

Three Lithuanian cinematic documents. Three filmmakers developing the dialogue about urban, nature and human time. Time Passes through the City (Lith. Laikas eina per miestą) by Almantas Grikevičius is one of the most exceptional experiments of Lithuanian film and photography reminiscent in its form of the classic film Le Jetee by Chris Marker. The etude Reflections (Lith. "Atspindžiai") by Henrikas Šablevičius is an abstract and highly personal meditation on the path of life as well as the meaning of being. Slowly falling Autumn Snow (Lith. "Rudens sniegas") by Vladas Navasaitis reminds us of a never-ending and eternal flow of time; the flow that has also become the central pivot of the programme.

The program is curated by film director Aistė Žegulytė, who is working with documentaries for over ten years. Her first feature-length documentary Animus Animalis premiered at the prestigious International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film. Currently, the director is focusing on her new documentary Biodestructors.