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Documentary films with a sense of humour: A retrospective of Laila Pakalnina


Great retrospective of a director with an original sense of humour - Laila Pakalnina is one of Latvia‘s most prolific directors today. She often uses the form of absurd mystification comedy.

Her documentary film Udens was awarded the Golden Bear at Berlinale in the short film category. In the film Dream Land (Leiputrija), the film crew look for new, mutated animal forms living at garbage dumps. This documentary film received the European Film Award. Her feature length films usually have the form of comic, absurd mystification.

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Fiction Features:
The Hostage (Ķīlnieks) 2006
The Python (Pitons) 2003
The Shoe (Kurpe) 1998

2006 Silence (Klusums, short) 2009
Stones (Akmeņi, short) 2008
Fire (Uguns, short) 2007
Water (Ūdens, short) 2006

Snow Crazy (Sniegs) 2012
33 Animals of Santa Claus (33 zvēri Ziemassvētki vecītim 2011)
On Rubiks’ Road (Pa Rubika ceļu) 2010
Three Men and Fish Pond (Par dzimtenīti) 2008
Theodore (Teodors) 2006
Dream Land (Leiputrija) 2004
The Bus (Autobuss) 2004
Martins (Mārtiņš) 2002
Papa Gena (Papa Gena) 2001
Wake up (Mostieties) 2000
The Oak (Ozols) 1997
The Mail (Pasts) 1995
The Ferry (Prāmis) 1994
The Linen (Veļa)1991

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Films for the event


Dream Land

Leiputrija (Orig.) / 2004 / Latvia / 35 min

There are places that we don’t want to know anything about, places that we would rather pretend don’t exist at all. One such place is a dumpsite. From the humans’ point of view, it is a ghastly place, a stinking desert of trash. But it’s a desert that is teaming with life. The astounding profusion of insects, reptiles, birds and mammals, all intertwined in an existential life-death relationship imparts to it with some strangely alluring dream-like quality.



The Hostage

Kilnieks (Orig.) / 2006 / Latvia / 74 min

A hijacker forces a plane to land in Riga, in Latvia. A child hostage wants to lean all about the country where they have landed, so he begins to ask for local chocolate, information about Latvia and so on...



The Python

Pitons (Orig.) / 2003 / Latvia / 88 min

The story is imaginary but based on real events. An incident has occurred at an average post-Soviet school in Latvia. Somebody has defecated in the attic.



The Shoe

Kurpe (Orig.) / 1998 / Latvia / 83 min

An official selection at Cannes, Toronto and Berlin, this quiet comedy takes us back to the late 1950’s and the Cold War, when the white sandy beaches of Latvia were part of the Soviet Union’s frontier.




Klusums (Orig.) / 2009 / Latvia / 14 min

There should be silence in a museum. And someone should see to it that the silence is there. It’s the logical order of things. However, it might seem weird to somebody.




Akmeni (Orig.) / 2008 / Latvia / 21 min

A man in a grey coat roams the city. He is interested in boys and men. Those good enough for him will get a green bag. Marija is home alone. She is the only woman to get a green bag. But the film does not end quite there.



The Mail

Pasts (Orig.) / 1995 / Latvia / 21 min

Morning starts with the mail. That's customary. Let's have a look at habitual things, habitual movements, habitual life.



The Water

Udens (Orig.) / 2006 / Latvia / 12 min

Maria decides to go for a swim in the pool even though it looks deserted and she’s warned that the water is cold. When she gets into the pool she is faced with not only the frigid water, but with her other feelings as well. Like fear.



The Linen

Vela (Orig.) / 1991 / Latvia / 10 min

"The Linen" is a silent dissertation on the daily life of a truck driver who delivers clean linens to a children's hospital. He unloads the sheets and divides them up among the wards, where small, gripping dramas of life and death are unfolding. And every day it's the same story.



Wake up

Mostieties (Orig.) / 2000 / Latvia / 22 min

The world seen through the eyes of children. The action takes place in Karosta, the former military port of Liepaja city – however, it is not that important, as the film could take place anywhere. We observe children playing on the beach, revealing the core of Pakalnina’s work: perceiving and transmitting emotions.




Uguns (Orig.) / 2007 / Latvia / 12 min

Already before Marija is born it is clear that she will be a person getting into trouble all the time. However, that’s not all. The most important thing is that she is often alongside firemen. Is it because things around her catch fire?



On Rubiks' Road

Pa Rubika Celu (Orig.) / 2010 / Latvia / 30 min

Rubiks’ Road is a bicycle path built in the 1980s and named after Alfreds Rubiks, leader of the Latvian Communist party at the time.



Snow Crazy

Sniegs (Orig.) / 2008 / Latvia / 34 min

There is a popular Latvian folksong which begins with the phrase “I was singing out high on a mountain”.




Teodors (Orig.) / 2006 / Latvia / 29 min

What is there left in life, when you are old, poor and lonely?


three men and a fish pond_1

Three Men and a Fish Pond

Three Men and a Fish Pond (Orig.) / 2008 / Latvia / 52 min

Three elderly country bachelors idle away their time amidst semi-wild nature, closer to birds and pond fish than to humans.



33 Animals of Santa Claus

33 zvēri Ziemassvētki vecītim (Orig.) / 2011 / Latvia / 50 min

Santa Claus lives on the fourth floor of an apartment block. Santa owns seven dogs, six cats, two rabbits, one crow, one pigeon, one chinchilla, one guinea pig, ten degus and some fish...



The Bus

Autobuss (Orig.) / 2005 / Latvia / 58 min

The Tallin-Kaliningrad bus crosses three borders during one night: Estonian-Latvian, Latvian-Lithuanian and Lithuanian-Russian.




Martins (Orig.) / 2002 / Latvia / 28 min

A film about the daily life of Martins, a handicapped child who will always be dependent on his parents.



The Oak

Ozols (Orig.) / 1997 / Latvia / 28 min

The oak tree in Seja is roughly 700 years old. Around this monumental tree, the peaceful and repetitive life goes on in the village, a group of houses in the middle of the forest.



Papa Gena

Papa Gena (Orig.) / 2001 / Latvia / 10 min

The city is a frenetic place, and a reason is needed for asking the people to stop for a moment and stand in front of the movie camera.



The Ferry

Pramis (Orig.) / 1994 / Latvia / 15 min

A ferry crosses the river. The work of the ferry is never-ending. It is a boat that transports people from one shore to another, from one country to another, without ever stopping, regardless of the changing seasons.



Interview: Laila Pakalnina

Interview: Laila Pakalnina (Orig.) / 2013 / France / 7 min





“My work has two strands: the first one deals with direct political images of violence, aggression and protest, mostly in Israeli-Palestinian context. It’s critique of news media, researching the complex, both realistic and surrealistic aspects of these images. The second strand of videos is more abstract and universal, dealing with cognitive, environmental and existential issues,” says the director about his works.

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