The Riga International Film Festival (RIGA IFF), which will be held for eleven days from October 17 to 27 this year, is going to feature 148 films across 11 themed sections and competition programmes – bringing together contemporary cinema and classics, festival hits by renowned directors as well as courageous debuts. As of September 26, all the tickets are on sale; many of the films will be shown only once, exclusively at RIGA IFF.
The sixth Riga International Film Festival will open with a celebratory reception in the evening of October 17, finally providing Latvian viewers access to the new local animation talent Gints Zilbalodis’ feature Away, which has garnered rave reviews from viewers and critics alike, and has earned him the Contrechamp award at the prestigious Annecy International Animation Film Festival.
The centrepiece FESTIVAL SELECTION includes 12 exceptional motion pictures recently screened at major festivals. It will open on October 19 with Cannes Palme d’Or laureate, Parasite by Bong Joon-ho – an elegantly effortless mixture of drama, thriller, black comedy with elements of farce depicting a relationship between two families: the rich and the abjectly poor. The festival will present the only big-screen viewing of Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir – a dark relationship drama with autobiographical origins set in 1980s London, starring Honor Swinton Byrne alongside her mother, film diva Tilda Swinton. Other not-to-miss singular screenings include U.S. film critic, screenwriter and director Roger Ebert’s The Lighthouse – a black and white horror drama with Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe that shook up the auteur cinema space in 2019 – and Beanpole by promising young Russian director Kantemir Balagov, who took inspiration for his film from The Unwomanly Face of War, Nobel Prize laureate Svetlana Alexievich’s 1985 book of documentary stories.
Latvian audience will be happy to hear that the NORDIC HIGHLIGHTS section includes 11 films from Nordic countries this year. This section will cover the gamut from exquisite visual pleasure (Out Stealing Horses), to passionate, brave and unbelievably candid works. Two of the latter are extremely heartfelt yet very different stories of men coping with the loss of women they love. In Dogs Don’t Wear Pants, shot in Riga by Finnish film director J-P Valkeapää, a husband tries to deal with the death of his wife by probing the inner fringes of his pain tolerance in S&M sessions; A White, White Day by Hlynur Pálmason of Iceland features a former police officer obsessed with finding out the truth and exacting his revenge. The phenomenon of white nights, a feature of Iceland’s Arctic latitudes that makes night-time skies as white as land, catalyses these profound pain states. Both screenings will be made more special by the presence of their creative teams – Dogs Don’t Wear Pants director J-P Valkeapää and A White, White Day star Ingvar Sigurdsson will attend to the Latvian premieres. The NORDIC HIGHLIGHTS selection includes a treat for admirers of Sweden’s great Roy Andersson – For Infinity is his latest feature, a divine comedy of the tragicomic nature of life. The director, whose unique handwriting is virtually a genre of its own, is not a pessimist but looks earnestly at the truth of the eternal tale of life as a tragedy where nobody comes out the winner.
Looking out towards new horizons, RIGA IFF reaches across the ocean to bring the NEW CANADIAN CINEMA section to Latvia. On October 23, it will offer an exclusive screening of Ghost Town Anthology, reminiscent of Latvian folk mystery, with a Q&A session by its author Denis Côté – one of Quebec’s most peculiar and internationally recognised directors. The following day, attendees are welcome to view The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, Xavier Dolan’s feature premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival: a condemnation of the cruelty and prejudice American cinema and TV star John had suffered due to his sexual orientation. Donovan’s seventh feature film stars a constellation of brilliant actors.
This year’s festival will be notable for its tech slant, as the RIGA IFF retrospective and research programme IN TECHNO VERITAS provides a treatment of the interactions between humans and technology through classical films. The festival’s guest curator, film theoretician Viktors Freibergs, invites us for a closer look at works of cinema that have awed and inspired many generations of admirers and creators. The section will open with Stanley Kubrick’s legendary 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Made in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut Riga, BERLINALE 2019 RIGA provides an annual glimpse at some of the Berlin International Film Festival’s most brilliant features, representing the expressive power and diversity of German cinema. The section will open on October 23 with Nora Fingscheidt’s feature-length story about a nine-year-old girl’s desperate attempt to find home and heart in System Crasher. Her picture proves that one can touch upon very uncomfortable topics and still be paraded through a head-spinning series of international festivals.
Our festival’s international FEATURE FILM COMPETITION will showcase 10 films produced in the Baltic Sea region, including Latvian director Laila Pakalniņa’s documentary, Spoon. Kaur Kokk carries the Estonian tradition of folk gothic cinema established by Rainer Sarnet with The Riddle of Jaan Niemand. Scandinavian Silence by another Estonian director, Martti Helde, and Lithuanian master Algimantas Puipa’s The Other Side of Silence will explore the Baltics’ most powerful trait of being unable to talk about what hurts. Yrsa Roca Fannberg documents the last autumn of an Icelandic sheep farmer. Paweł Ziemilski’s In Touch projects images on the surfaces of various spaces, objects and body parts to visualise longing and family isolation in a small Polish village.
The ARTDOCFEST/RIGA selection, as always, combines challenging documentary cinema and discussions with film creators and guests. ARTDOCFEST/RIGA opens on October 21 with School of Seduction, a film that took director Alina Rudnitskaya seven years of peering into the lives of three women that attended a psychologist’s course on seducing wealthy men in search of a prosperous life.
Traditionally, the first weekend at RIGA IFF is devoted to families and children, with the KIDS WEEKEND section at Splendid Palace, Riga’s oldest and most distinguished cinema, screening an all-day selection of European live-action films for children and animation films for the youngest film lovers. Like each year, we also have a rich selection of works at SHORT RIGA, while the HOME MADE section is devoted to animation this year. For the second year, the National Library of Latvia will be hosting the ARCHITECT'S CUT section, screening films selected in co-operation with architect Ieva Zībarte.
RIGA IFF will also be holding an event programme for industry professionals, public discussions, and meetings with the people behind many of the wonderful pictures being screened. The festival will conclude with an award ceremony recognising the winners of the feature, short film and music video competitions.
The full festival programme and tickets to all screenings are available on the festival’s website, rigaiff.lv.
RIGA IFF is possible thanks to the support of the State Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia, the National Film Centre of Latvia, Live Riga, Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) and the Riga City Council.