Main competition films for Rīga International Film Festival named

On 12 October, the Baltic premiere of the carefree kung fu comedy Invisible Fight will launch not only the tenth anniversary celebrations of the Riga International Film Festival (RIGA IFF), but also one of the festival’s central events – the RIGA IFF Feature Film Competition. In the festival’s anniversary edition, eight films from the Baltic Sea region and the Nordic countries will compete for the festival’s main award and a cash prize of EUR 4,000, according to organizers. 

The festival’s Feature Film Competition includes films made by Latvian filmmakers that will be screening for a local audience for the first time. The opening film is a co-production between Estonia, Latvia, Greece and Finland – Rainer Sarnet’s captivating film The Invisible Fight, which shatters all stereotypes about the Estonian temperament and shows the fractured nature of Homo sovieticus. Another film screening in competition is the world premiere of Latvian director Aik Karapetian’s latest film, the psychological relationship drama The Brazen. As the director meditates on the idea of shame in the circle of people closest to him, the structure of family relationships is revealed to be the most fruitful arena for exploring the anatomy of the psyche.

Finnish director Tia Kouvo’s debut feature Family Time has also put the family under a microscope. Her film is relentlessly funny and offers an anthropological but loving close-up of family relationship patterns against the backdrop of the hustle and bustle of Christmas celebrations, something the viewer is sure to be able to relate to. Meanwhile, the contemporary Danish film Copenhagen Does Not Exist, directed by Martin Skovbjerg, can best be described as a detective story of feelings, memories, and traumas. In exploring two lovers’ pasts, the director, together with his creative collaborator Eskil Vogt (co-screenwriter of The Worst Person in the World, 2021), uses clever paradoxes to tell the story: through an unreliable narrator, a man’s fractured memory is detonated like a minefield. 

Director Angela Schanelec, the most prominent member of the Berlin School, deconstructs Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex in her film Music which won her the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay at this year’s Berlinale. This anti-psychological tragedy, imbued with postmodern mythology and an affecting use of music, rewrites the world as we know it and reminds us of the pain that only those closest to us can inflict. The documentary Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, by Estonian filmmaker Anna Hints, who is well-known to Latvian audiences and won the Documentary Directing Award in Sundance this year, will also be competing in the RIGA IFF Feature Film Competition. This intimate, restorative film about community documents the open conversations of several southern Estonian women in a sauna, depicting it as a place for healing and community. 

Another film in competition at RIGA IFF is The Peasants, the latest oil painting animation project by Dorota Kobiela Welchman and Hugh Welchman, the creators of the Academy Award-nominated Loving Vincent (2017). Drawing on the 1924 novel by Nobel Prize-winning writer Władysław Reymont, it is a timeless, painterly tale of man’s destructive and healing nature in the vicissitudes of time, nature and beliefs, evoking similar motifs to the Latvian writers Blaumanis and Virza. 

Ivan Ostrohovsky and Pavol Pekarchik’s latest film, Photophobia, was shot over several months in a metro station in Kharkiv, where the yellow glow of lamps replaces daylight for hundreds of people. The hybrid documentary follows the surreal daily life of 12-year-old Nikita’s family in a subway car, revealing a longing for the simple, peaceful routine of childhood, uncertainty about the future, and their efforts “not to see” in order to keep living. The film bravely and empathetically seeks to answer the question: what if war takes away our ability to see the world as children?

Screenings of films in the RIGA IFF Feature Film Competition can be found in the “Calendar” section of the festival’s website. These films will be screened throughout the festival and the winning film will be publicly announced on the last Saturday of the festival at the Award Ceremony together with the winners of all four RIGA IFF competitions. Tickets for the films in the Feature Film Competition can be purchased on the festival’s website and at Biļešu serviss box offices. Tickets for all festival screenings are available from 14 September.

Celebrating its tenth anniversary, RIGA IFF will present a selection of more than 100 internationally acclaimed feature and short films highlighting current trends in cinema and key contemporary filmmakers. Created by a team of professional local and international curators, the programme will be screened over 11 days in the cinemas Splendid Palace and Forum Cinemas in Riga. A selection of the films will also be available online throughout Latvia. A programme of events for industry professionals and public events for the general public will also take place in parallel to the screenings.


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