Cinematic Inclusions: Time, People and Places

Cinematic Inclusions: Time, People and Places

The seven films that comprise the film program Cinematic Inclusions are the highlights of 20th century Lithuanian documentary cinema. Like mineral inclusions, these films capture the relics of times gone by. The filmmakers arrested moments from their present, and by so doing, captured the past. Some of these images have become imprinted on the collective memory of the nation, whilst others have been left to obscurity.

Lithuanian documentary filmmakers are particularly interested in what has remained on the margins, or is about to vanish from collective memory. Therefore, marginal, forgotten heroes (be it a person, or a city district) have proven precious to Lithuanian documentary filmmakers. Their cameras frequently turn towards those people and places which remain at a distance from the platforms of fame. The films become ‘inclusions’ of the quotidian portraits of their heroes. Nonetheless, they tell more than a story of one person or one particular place. The portraits acquire, through the mediation of the lens, metaphorical meanings: in one film reflecting the invisible ensations of a human being (A. Stonys, Earth of the Blind), whilst in another revealing the feeling of expectation and anxiety in the Lithuanian people prior to the declaration of independence (A. Matelis, Ten Minutes before the Flight of Icarus), or expressing the archetype of national character (the films of R. Verba, H. Šablevi ius).

All films presented digitally and in Lithuanian with English subtitles. Total running time: 142 min.

The Old Man and the Land
dir. Robertas Verba, Lithuania, 1965, 20 min.

Robertas Verba’s first documentary film, described by film critic Živile Pipinyte as “the ‘ice-breaker’ which broke through the ice of Soviet ideology to form the peculiar stylistics of Lithuanian documentary film.” The hero of this film is the bright Lithuanian villager Anupras, whose archaic worldview becomes a symbol of the ethno-cultural Lithuanian identity that was often opposed to the identity constructed by Soviet propaganda.

Time Passes through the City
dir. Almantas Grikevicius, Lithuania 1966, 20 min.

The main hero of this film is the city of Vilnius. Vilnius is also a metaphor for the historicity of Lithuania. However, this film is unique not only for its cinematographic historical reflections on the statehood of Lithuania; it also reveals the history of cinema, encompassing both Russian (Soviet) montage techniques and the first traces of cinéma-vérité in Lithuanian cinema.

A Trip across Misty Meadows
dir. Henrikas Šablevicius, Lithuania, 1973, 10 min.

This film details the dismantling of the old railway Siaurukas in Lithuania and the construction of its new modern replacement. The old railway and the new railway become the symbol of the clash between the archaic rural Lithuania and Soviet industrialization. The film was often considered as an expression of the archetypes of Lithuanian character.

The Dreams of the Centenarians
dir. Robertas Verba, Lithuania, 1969, 20 min.

Though created to commemorate the centenary of Lenin, the documentary is far from celebrating soviet ideology. In the film people who are one hundred years old talk about their lives. Their remembrances illuminate traditions and past of Lithuania.

The Black Box
dir. Algimantas Maceina, Lithuania, 1994, 38 min.

Algimantas Maceina reveals the theme of the genocide of Lithuanian society from a very personal perspective in this experimental documentary. He films the repatriation of the remains of his grandfather from Siberia to Lithuania. This personal approach to societal tragedy–the genocide caused by the Soviet regime–links personal to collective memory and erases the boundaries between personal film archives and publicly acknowledged films.

Ten Minutes Before the Flight of Icarus
dir. Arunas Matelis, Lithuania, 1990, 10 min.

A manifesto for the post-Soviet generation of Lithuanian filmmakers who rejected straightforward declarativity and immersed themselves into the silent observation of reality. Arunas Matelis traces the beginnings of post-soviet transformation not in the main squares of Vilnius but observes it in the daily life of the inhabitants of Užupis–a historical quarter of the old town of Vilnius. The film, awarded in the Oberhausen, Bornholm and Pärnu film festivals, was also screened as a feature in the Cannes Film Festival.

Earth of the Blind
dir. Audrius Stonys, Lithuania, 1992, 24 min.

Filmmaker Audrius Stonys explains, “the film came into reality while trying to answer a question: how can one film the invisible?” The film subtly interweaves moments of interaction between people, animals and their surroundings. Long shots, the absence of words and the meditative images interplay with music, opens up to the viewer a haptic and philosophical realm which is beyond the visible. In 1992 the film received the FE LIX (European Film Academy award) for the Best European Documentary film.

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Cinematic Inclusions: Time, People and Places

Thursday, September 19 · 7:00 PM at International House Philadelphia