Lithuania is an attractive destination for those foreign filmmakers who come here seeking not only for flexible prices for film production and services, but also for a professional crew and a good location. Last year, Lithuania attracted the highest number of foreign productions since the introduction of its 20 percent tax incentive in 2014. Directors, actors and producers, known worldwide, work with film productions, which were partly shot in Lithuania. The films produced in this country have also drawn attention of the international film market. In this article the founder and producer of a Lithuanian production company, ARTBOX, Kestutis Drazdauskas speaks about his international co-production experience.
“Film production is a long and complex process which requires time and effort in all its stages. Therefore, every premiere is a big event not only for the directors, actors or producers but also for the whole crew involved in the creation of the film. The premiere is the point beyond which the film becomes “independent”, and the viewer decides on its destiny. This autumn we premiered several films that vary from romantic dramas to historical documentaries. Many of them were selected for prestigious international film festivals, and this is really wonderful,” says producer Kestutis Drazdauskas.
One of the examples is a four-part historical drama, “Tokyo Trial”, (dir. Rob W. King and Pieter Verhoeff), a co-production between FATT (The Netherlands), DCTV (Canada) & NHK (Japan). “Tokyo Trial” is a dramatic historical recreation of the trial that started in 1946, immediately following WWII, whereby 11 judges from all over the world were called to Tokyo. There they spent two and a half years engaged in a landmark trial that determined the outcome for Pacific military and political leaders who were charged with war crimes.
The main part of “Tokyo Trial“ was shot in Lithuania. The cast of judges includes international stars Marcel Hensema (Hollands Hoop, Simon), Jonathan Hyde (Titanic, Jumanji, The Strain), Paul Freeman (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Irrfan Khan (Jurassic World, Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire), with Michael Ironside (Total Recall, Top Gun) as General Douglas MacArthur. Lithuanian actors Kestutis Jakstas and Gabija Jaraminaite were entrusted with two of the main roles. Gabija Jaraminaite, who received the Lithuanian Film Academy award “Silver Crane” this year for the Best Actress in a Leading Role, played the role of an interpreter and was the only female in the court proceedings.
Now „Tokyo Trial“ is available as a four part mini-series and as a 105-minute feature film. The four-part mini-series had its global release at NHK and Netflix on December 12th, 2016. The feature began its festival tour with a red-carpet premiere at the Netherlands Film Festival on September 25th, 2017.
However, the good news is that the nominations for the 2017 International Emmy Awards have been announced by the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. There are 44 Nominees across 11 categories and 18 countries, and “Tokyo Trial” is among them. The film has been nominated as the Best Mini-Series.
“I still feel as if I have been struck by lightning – “Tokyo Trial” is nominated for the International Emmy awards. It is an indescribable feeling. I am so proud the film was shot in Lithuania,” says K. Drazdauskas.
Another film – “Tulipani: Love, Honour and a Bicycle“ (dir. Oscar-winning Mike van Diem), co-production of The Netherlands, Canada, Italy, also co-produced by K. Drazdauskas. After losing his farm during the floods of 1953, a romantic Dutch farmer is tired of getting his socks wet. He cycles to Italy and decides to grow tulips in the sweltering heat of Puglia.
The main roles in this film are played by a well-known actress, Ksenia Solo, and an Italian actor, Giancarlo Giannini.
“Tulipani” had its worldwide premiere at the Toronto International film festival where it was part of The Contemporary World Cinema programme. It was suggested by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television as one of 10 must-see films: https://www.academy.ca/2017/csa-winners-at-tiff17.
This autumn the film was screened at the Netherlands Film Festival, where “Tulipani” was selected to be an opening film and had also been selected for The Chicago and Rio de Janeiro international film festivals. “Tulipani” also won the Best International movie award at the Terra Di Siena Film Festival.
One more film partly shot in Lithuania by ARTBOX, which has been premiered this autumn, is the coproduction between Poland, Lithuania, France, and Germany “Habit and Armour“ (dir. Pawel Pitera). This film narrates the history of the Teutonic Order and the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania as a huge strategic game in which different cultural values compete, and human emotions collide.
“Habit and Armour” was shot in historical places – among others in Gdańsk, Toruń, Warmia and Masuria and in Lithuania (Vilnius, Trakai, Kernave, and other places). The narrator is a Hollywood actor, the Golden Globe-winner Stacy Keach (American History X, The Bourne Legacy). The production is available in several languages: Polish, English, Lithuanian, German and French. Other film versions such as a TV series production is also planned. This film will start its festival circuit soon.
A special movie worthy of mention is the coproduction between Armenia and Lithuania, “The Last Inhabitant” (dir. Jivan Avetisyan). Evicted as a result of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, Abgar is left behind alone in a gradually shrinking enemy ring. An Azerbaijani named Ibrahim offers Abgar work on the construction of a mosque in exchange for finding and bringing back Abgar’s missing daughter. The film is a story of love, virtue and self-sacrifice.
Although this film had its premiere at the Armenian Film Festival, “Golden Apricot”, in 2016, this year was no less successful. The film was screened in USA, Lebanon, Iran, Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and elsewhere). It participated in Shanghai and Venice International Film festivals, and won the Best Feature and the Best Actor awards at the Scandinavian International Film Festival.
The main roles in this film were played by a Lithuanian actress, Sandra Dauksaite-Petruliene, and by two outstanding actors Aleksandr Khachatryan and Homayoun Ershadi. The music for this film was composed by the leader of the American–Armenian band, “System of a Down”, Serj Tankian.
TOKYO TRIAL trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdwKZwp4fHI
TULIPANI: LOVE, HONOUR AND A BICYCLE trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6N6Pve4wb9k&t=18s
THE LAST INHABITANT trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Nras4Uj_Z4&t=25s
HABIT AND ARMOUR trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYR8lOueJn8
About the ARTBOX
Established in 2003 ARTBOX is now one of the leading film production companies in the Baltic region. ARTBOX works with new talents as well as experienced artists. Productions and co-productions of wide international appeal is the main goal of the company. Films produced by ARTBOX have been screened and won awards at numerous international film festivals.