Parliamentary Grant for Patriotic Film Stirs Controversy in Latvia

    Latvian production "Kolka Cool" was criticised by a right-wing politician, raising a heated debate about national film industry earlier this year. Latvian production "Kolka Cool" was criticised by a right-wing politician, raising a heated debate about national film industry earlier this year.

    RIGA: Latvia’s National Film Center (www.nfc.lv) has expressed its concern over a special grant from the Latvian Parliament for a historical film, made by bypassing the project competition established in the country’s Film Law.

    The grant of 25,000 LVL (35,600 EUR) from the 2013 state budget was approved for the development of a film based on the historical novel Blizzard of Souls. The National Film Centre stated that such actions undermine the development of the film industry in Latvia and go against good management principles, while some filmmakers and members of the public welcomed the decision.

    This is not the first case when the right-wing party Nacionala apvieniba (National Alliance) has defended the necessity to support so-called patriotic films directly. Another 12,000 LVL (17,000 EUR) was granted for the development of the project A Seal in Red Wax during the 2012 budget modifications earlier this year. This project is also based on an historical novel, an epic trilogy taking place in 11th century Latvia and Europe.

    Blizzard of Souls producer Gatis Upmalis (www.studioforma.lv) said that it was submitted for the consideration of Saeima (Latvia’s 100-member parliament) according to the law to determine if the project is current and necessary for Latvian nation. The source novel is an account of Latvian infantry battles during WWI and is a seminal work of Latvian literature. “If our project was deemed unnecessary we wouldn't have taken it up. The rest is the responsibility of Saeima,” added Upmalis.

    NFC issued a statement about the parliament's decision to favour the projects over two proposals that would benefit the whole industry; the allocation of 300,000 LVL (426,900 EUR) for co-financing foreign film productions in Latvia and the much-needed 700,000 LVL (996,000 EUR) increase of subsidies for the film industry. The annual subsidy for film has been stagnant since it was cut by 70% three years ago during the financial crisis.

    The head of NFC Ilze Gailite-Holmberg also spoke about the ongoing work of the national commission for the films that could bring an additional 1 m LVL (1.4 m EUR) into the industry. “The National Commission could become a system that supports exactly those projects that take on Latvian history and national identity topics, so that similar incidents would not reoccur where financing is allocated without criteria, the participation of experts, and, accordingly, without substantial argument.”

    The Ministry of Culture has promised to find the 300,000 for the Latvian Film Fund initiative and confirmed that the co-financing regulations have been reviewed in the Cabinet of Ministers and await the confirmation from the European Commission.