LATVIAN CO-PRODUCTION “NATURAL LIGHT” IN THE BERLINALE MAIN COMPETITION
Természetes fény/Natural Light, the feature debut of the Hungarian director Dénes Nagy, co-produced by the Latvian company Mistrus Media, has been selected for the main competition of Berlin International Film Festival.
Berlinale is one of the world’s largest and most significant film festivals with long-standing traditions, taking place since 1951. This year, given the pandemic situation, the festival management has decided that the 71st edition of Berlinale will be organized in two parts. In February, when the festival usually takes place, the films selected for the festival’s programmes are announced and will be available for digital viewing during the European Film Market (the European Film Market and the Berlin Co-Production Market will take place online from 1 to 5 March). The second part of the festival is planned for the beginning of June – a special format within which most of the festival’s films will be shown in cinemas with their authors present.
Dita Rietuma, the Head of the National Film Centre, says, „Despite the effects of the pandemic, the Berlin International Film Festival will take place, although its format will be modified. Latvian films have been shown and succeeded in various programmes of the Berlin Festival, however, in recent years our films have not managed to enter the most prestigious competition programme. It is gratifying that the debut film of the Hungarian director with the participation of the Latvian creative team and the studio Mistrus Media has been selected for the Berlinale competition screening. This successful co-operation once again confirms that co-productions are a particularly important direction of development, which is also extremely important for Latvian film culture.”
“The Berlin Film Festival has always been important for our region, one of the most important European film events alongside the Cannes Film Festival. We are extremely glad that this prestigious festival has selected a co-production of our studio Natural Light – the first full-length film with Latvia as a full-fledged partner is in the main competition of Berlinale. Most of the film was shot in Latvia in 2019, the composer Santa Ratniece has created wonderful music for it, recorded by the Latvian Radio Choir led by conductor Sigvards Kļava. At a time when, because of the pandemic, transnational co-operation in filmmaking is becoming increasingly difficult and film screenings and co-operation are taking place remotely, this good news from Berlin gives hope that cinema will return to theatres by the summer.”
The film Natural Light is set in April 1943 in the territory of the former Soviet Union. The adaptation of Pál Závada’s novel focuses on the events taking place during three days in a territory occupied by the German army and their allies, the Hungarian forces. István Semetka is a simple Hungarian farmer who serves as a Sub-Lieutenant in a special unit scouting for partisan groups. On their way to a remote village, his company falls under enemy fire. As the commander is killed, Semetka must overcome his fears and take command of the unit as he is dragged into a chaos that he cannot control. It is a story about an officer who holds real power but chooses to be a passive observer of violence and crimes committed by his comrades.
Natural Light by Dénes Nagy is a co-production of Hungary (Campfilm), Latvia (Mistrus Media), France (Lilith Films), Germany (Propeller Film), and Belgium (NOVAK Prod). The film was shot in 2019 in Latvia – Pasiene, Ludza region, near Rēzekne, in Riga and Riga district, and Inčukalns rural municipality. Producers from Latvia are Inese Boka-Grūbe and Gints Grūbe, a large team of Latvian film professionals participated in the production – a crew of set decorators led by art director Kārlis Utināns, composer Santa Ratniece, production manager in Latvia – Mārtiņš Eihe, production coordinator Agate Prozoroviča, casting in Latvia was done by Dace Jokste, and music sound director Agnese Streļča. The production was supported by the National Film Centre, Riga Film Fund (Riga City Council) as well as European Cinema Support Fund Eurimages, Hungarian National Film Fund, French Film Institute, ARTE, ZDF.
Natural Light is a feature debut of the Hungarian director Dénes Nagy, his previous short films were included in the Cannes Film Festival programme Directors Fortnight as well as in the short film competition programmes of Rotterdam and Locarno International Film Festivals.
In recent years, Mistrus Media has participated in several co-productions screened at A-Class film festivals: Dusk by the Lithuanian director Šarūnas Bartas was included in the official programme of the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, Breathing into Marble by the Lithuanian director Giedrė Beinoriūtė was selected for the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival programme East West Competition in 2018, and the documentary The Birth of the Leopard by Luigi Falorni premiered at the Rome International Film Festival in 2019.