Latvian co-production “Natural Light” wins the Berlin Silver Bear
The feature film Natural Light/Természetes fény, co-produced by the Latvian company Mistrus Media, has won one of the main awards of the Berlin International Film Festival – Hungarian director Dénes Nagy has received the Silver Bear as the best director for his feature debut. The jury decision was announced at the press conference on 5 March.
The jury members of the main competition were the only ones who watched the films in person at the cinema in Berlin. This year, the jury consisted of six former Golden Bear winners, film directors, Mohammad Rasulof from Iran, Nadav Lapid from Israel, Adina Pintilje from Romania, Ildiko Enyedi from Hungary, Jasmila Zbanic from Bosnia, and Gianfranco Rosi from Italy.
The Berlin International Film Festival 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, and the winners will receive their awards. The winners were announced at the press conference on 5 March (at 1 p.m. Latvian time).
Natural Light/Természetes fény, the feature debut of the Hungarian director co-produced by Latvia, has gained critical acclaim. The British Screen Daily, for example, calls the film a remarkable debut, a pure arthouse cinema that will flourish and last long after its premiere at the Berlinale competition. The film’s theatrical release in Latvia is planned for this autumn.
Dita Rietuma, the Head of the National Film Centre says, “This is an unprecedented success – so far no film made with Latvia’s creative and financial participation has won a significant prize in the main competition of the Berlin International Film Festival. Latvia has been successful in Berlin with children and youth films, our animation is highly valued there, but the main Berlinale competition was an unconquered peak so far. I am happy for the success of Hungarian director Dénes Nagy, happy for the professional achievement of the Latvian company Mistrus Media. Co-productions are an essential part of the European cinema ecosystem, and successful co-productions such as this film also strengthen the recognition of Latvian cinema in the world.”
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. “It was interesting for me to explore human self-reflexion, quietly watching their meetings with strangers,“ director Dénes Nagy characterizes the story.
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). Hungarian producer Sara Laszlo thanks the Latvian crew for their work because the film was mainly 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.
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.
Currently, Mistrus Media has several projects in production: the historical drama Marija’s Silence directed by Dāvis Sīmanis about actress Marija Leiko, January directed by Viesturs Kairišs, TV series Emily. Queen of Press and other projects.
March 5, 2021