Lithuanian documentary film triumphed in Chicago

At the Lithuanian documentary film festival in Chicago
At the Lithuanian documentary film festival in Chicago

The first Lithuanian documentary film festival (LDFF) took place in Chicago where it attracted loyal fans of film. Cinema festivals in this city, inhabited by many Lithuanians, were formerly projected in 1978. Petras Bernotas was the first to organize the festival. After more than twenty years Arvydas Reneckis followed his path and organized a Lithuanian film festival, however, a festival dedicated to Lithuanian Documentary cinema has not screened in American theaters yet.

The two-week event presented by the authors featured eight of the latest works by Lithuanian documentary filmmakers. During the festival, American Lithuanians and Americans had the opportunity to see films: “Woman and The Glacier”, “The Ancient Woods”, “The Glow”, “Back to the Dreamland”, “The Code of Tumas”, “Chodakowski sisters. Lithuanian Case”, “Lituanie, my Freedom”, “Delta Zoo “.

The Lithuanian documentary films were presented by the directors: Audrius Stonys, Mindaugas Survila, Agnė Marcinkevičiūtė, Andrius Lekavičius, Ramunė Rakauskaitė, Eimantas Belickas, Martina Jablonskytė and producer Teresa Rožanovska. The Lithuanian Consul in Chicago Mantvydas Bekešius warmly welcomed such a successful initiative and the activity of the Lithuanian community. In every festival segment the halls were filled with viewers. Many of whom were Lithuanian who went to every session and tried to see all the movies.

Between eighty and one hundred thousand Lithuanian people live in Chicago and its surrounding areas. They are involved in strong national, cultural and social organizations, based on post-war emigrants who we call “Dipukai”.

They are the Lithuanian society, the intellectuals or richer farmers who were forced to leave their homes because of the Soviet occupation during or after the Second World War. They have always acted both socially, culturally and politically, seeking non-recognition of Lithuania’s annexation in the world doctrine. Today, these people are seniors of the honorable age, many of whom we could meet in the bustle of the film festival. Ramunė Rakauskaitė’s film “Back to the Dreamland” made them particularly happy and protected, because the basis of this film exemplifies their life story.

Lithuanian documentary film festival crew with Mantvydas Bekešius, Consul General in Chicago
Lithuanian documentary film festival crew with Mantvydas Bekešius, Consul General in Chicago
Building cultural bridges

A large part of the Lithuanian audience was comprised of the children of emigrants who are called “the third-wave” or “economic” emigrants because they came after the fall of the Soviet Union and joined into local Lithuanian activities.

Their active participation and long-lasting discussions with filmmakers testify to the great interest in their homeland, its history and present the longing for good and meaningful films. In the hustle and bustle of the festival after the “The Ancient Woods” session the audience felt back home, they said they could sense the smell of the forest. The director Audrius Stonys of the film “Woman and the Glacier” was taken back by the emotions received from the audience.

According to him, this festival is extremely important not only to the American Lithuanian community, but also to Lithuania and our common relationship. “The fact that we are building cultural bridges through documentary cinema is an important step in strengthening our historical and cultural place in the global world,” says the director.

Film producer Teresa Rožanovska, having presented three films at the festival on the theme of Lithuanian history. The producer was delighted that the festival’s organizers selected films having in mind “both heart and mind”, hoping to reach different age groups and interests in the diaspora. “We were interested in doing an important job. It is necessary to display films created in Lithuania in the emigration centers, thus strengthening their relations with Lithuania. We would like to thank Audra Januškienė for the enthusiasm and the community members for their help.”

Audra Januškienė hopes that the festival would become an annual event, during which the newest and best documentaries will be presented not only to the people of Chicago, but also to people of other American cities:

“Since this year there was interest from other Lithuanian and Canadian Lithuanian communities, I hope that next year we will be able to share the festival’s films with them and maybe even show Lithuanian documentaries to the American audience. There were more thoughts related to cinema during the festival, for example to collect funds for the preservation of ancient Lithuanian forests.  Project, which Mindaugas Survila is working on. Will it succeed, time will tell. ”

More information: @Lithuanian-Documentary-Film-Festival-LDFF

Translated by Emil Rožanovski Morris

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