San Sebastian’s Focus On initiative, now in its fourth year, invites industry professionals from a country, or countries, to expand their networking contacts and participate in industry activities. This year’s featured Focus On region is the Baltics, and the event is hosting representatives from Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.
The Baltics boast strong comparisons to the Basque Country as marketplaces. The countries have similar populations of around two-million people, around 40-50 film and TV productions a year, and similar numbers of theaters, digital screens and domestic box office market shares.
Fifteen producers from the three countries have brought projects to San Sebastian’s shores, with the opportunity to seek out partners and talk with potential co-producers from across Europe and Latin America to fulfill a range of different needs. Some projects are at early stages of development, while others represent already-finished films looking to produce Spanish-language remakes in Spain and/or Latin America.
Lithuania is represented by five projects. World of Tanks is Andrius Lekavicius’s character driven documentary about collectors of WWII relics up to and including tanks, produced by virtual reality studio VsI 360 Laipsniu Filmai. Another doc, Gentle Warriors follows three women who join the Lithuanian army and is produced by Moonmakers. El padre medico documents the real story behind an early 20th century missionary to Amazonia, Brazil. It’s directed by Vytautas Puidokas and produced by Ironcat.
In fiction, Tomas Smulkis’ People We Know Are Confused tells three parallel stories set in Vilnius, a modern city still mired in the past, produced by Just a Moment. Juanjo Giménez’s Three, produced by M-Films, is the tale of a sound engineer whose hearing becomes desynchronized from reality, at first lagging behind before eventually allowing her to hear into the future.
Estonia brings six projects. Skype Story from director Kiur Aarma will document the story of the small country’s biggest contribution to the digital age, Skype. The other documentary, u.Q. is a biopic based on one of the music industry’s best kept secrets, songwriter Uku Kuut, whose unique sound helped form the musical profile of the 21st century. Both documentaries are produced by Film Tower. Grown Ups and The Dance of Men will look to show off the country’s funny bone, the former takes place over a crazy night shared by three sisters, the latter is the tale of a filmmaker suffering a crisis of creativity. O2 is a thriller set in 1939 about an Estonian Captain who faces a solitary fight against the aggressive Soviet Forces which threaten from the East. And Rain turns on an 11-year old boy in a small town struggling with family drama.
Five projects come from Latvia. The Shift Maina from director Reinis Kalvins is produced by Film Studio Mistrus Media and tells a dramatic tale of racketeering in post-Soviet Latvia. Another drama set in the early ‘90s, Janis Abele’s Jelgave ’94 is part coming of age tale and part cultural portrait of the chaos that engulfed many former Soviet territories after its fall. Liene Linde’s The Golden Spot turns on film director Martha and parallels her own life with one of her films. The fourth drama from Latvia comes in Loveable, director Stanislavs Tokalovs’ story of a modern-day ‘broken’ family and what happens when the person holding them together suddenly dies. And on the lighter side, Andrejs Ekis’ comedy Swingers is an ensemble vehicle which has enjoyed successful remakes in Norway, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Slovakia, and is looking to repeat that feat in Spain.
The Baltics are represented at this year’s festival by a number of finished productions as well. Core of the World from Nataliia Meschaninova participates in the New Directors section, and is a co-production between Russia and Lithuania. Xacio Baño’s Trote, co-produced between Spain and Lithuania, will see a Q&A with cast and crew at its Wednesday night screening as part of the Zabaltegi-Tabakalera section.