Film scholar and director Jānis Putniņš about film program: Rivers are always linked to undiscovered secrets. They are able to take those who dare towards the unknown, making them look at the world from a different viewpoint. This year’s film program presents four unusual perspectives that are all somehow intertwined with rivers.
In 1934, with support from the German company UFA, one of the first films to be made with sound in Latvia was the documentary Gauja (Kristaps Linde, dir.; Eduards Kraucs, camera op.). It is a unique, heritage-bearing chronicle that reveals not only the imagery and elevated sense of national self-awareness characteristic for that period in time, but it is also a record of many now-gone objects and culturally important Latvian luminaries – Jāzeps Vītols, Kārlis Skalbe, and Edvards Treimanis-Zvārgulis. Through this reel of film we have the rare opportunity to reconnect with a vanished time that has left only the river as a lasting link with today.
In addition to this wonderful, domestically-made film, the film program also includes three other very special films made by unusual directors; they may tell very different stories, but they all feature a river as a central character. Although the thriller The Night of the Hunter (1955) is the only film that the great British actor Charles Laughton directed, it is an emotionally rich journey through the darkest corners of the human soul, and stars the impeccable actors Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters. Standing out with a breathtaking performance by Klaus Kinski is Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972); the film was shot in extreme conditions in the Amazon jungle, and employed hundreds of extras dressed in costume as 16th-century Brazilian conquistadors. Vastly in contrast to the above films is The Margin (1967), by legendary Brazilian director Ozualdo Ribeiro Candeias. A work that balances somewhere between a feature film, a cinematographic experiment, and a documentary, The Margin offers a very unusual portrayal of Sao Paulo, one enriched by the search for new forms of expression by way of radical narrative solutions.