Art and Experience: Laila Pakalnin is graduated in film direction from the Moscow Film Institute (VGIK) and has directed altogether 30 documentaries and fiction films. Pakalnina appeared on the international scene when two of her documentaries were chosen for Uncertain regard section at the Cannes film festival. Her first feature film, ‘The Shoe’, was a return to Soviet Union in 1950’s. Pakalnina’s second feature ‘The Python’ was selected at Venice film festival programme and was shown also at PÖFF. Pakalnina’s documentary ‘Three Men and Fishbone’ (2008, co-director Maris Maskalans) won the best Baltic film prize at PÖFF.
‘Dawn’, a film by Pakalnina which is being screened in the 34th FIFF tells the story of young pioneer Janis who is inspired by the opportunities that have come to their village together with the creation of the collective farm “Dawn”. For him the picture is clear – there are those who are right and fair, the so-called “red”, the representatives of a new order who came to their musty world together with the Soviet government and the communists, and there are bad or “white” – those who do not accept this new and bright life. Janis’ father, a kulak, strongly opposes and prevents the creation of the collective farm, which means he is against the happy tomorrow and little Janis makes his major life choice: he betrays his father, telling the authorities about his unjust activities.
The history of the pioneer Pavlik Morozov, who informed the GPU on his father-kulak and was in return killed by his family, has become one of the most important stories, brought forward by Soviet propaganda in the struggle for the building of collective farms and in laying the foundations of a new Soviet morality. Laila Pakulnina has managed to create a powerful visual opus, which mixes all the epochs of the Soviet history and the foundation myth of the birth of the Soviet ideology and morality suddenly sprouts on Latvian soil.
Is this your first time that you experience participating Fajr International Film Festival?
Not only is it my first attendance at the FIFF, but also my first time to be in Tehran, Iran.
How do you feel to being present in Fajr International Film Festival?
I am very excited indeed. There are so many bright young talents as I have found the Iranian audience as the best audience for my films. In spite of the fact that my film is simply based on historical events that none of the Iranian audiences have experienced. The main thing in a film is sharing the emotion because the special language of the film is the language of feelings and for me being here proved that the film language exists. I am from this small northern European country with only 2 million inhabitants coming to Tehran with 12 million inhabitants; we have different backgrounds and we are taught to be different, but a film can connect us in a way that we forget about all these differences.
How did you see the festival atmosphere?
You are not going to believe me if I would tell you how great it seems to me or you might interpret it as a polite compliment, but it was really beyond my expectations as I can see such passion for films, such a clever and emotional young audience with a good knowledge of films and cinema as they obviously watch so much and learn so much, this is something that I have never experienced before.
What motivated you to participate in this edition of the FIFF?
I remember while I visited some places in Europe, and I suddenly ended up being at some art exhibitions through which I watch some photos and art performances from Iran and I was surprised how visual and interesting they were, so I told myself I will definitely give this country a visit in future and now here I am.
How did the idea of making ‘Dawn’ come to your mind?
After my first Cannes Film Festival, I was inspired by Eisenstein’s film script I thought the setting could be Latvia or any other country that has experiences totalitarian regime of the Soviet. Like my film ‘The Shoe’ that is based on the fairy-tale Cinderella, “Dawn” is based on the tale about the pioneer hero-traitor Pavlik Morozov although in the film the boy has a Latvian name Jānis. I decided that we would use camera angles and framing characteristic of propaganda films of the time, Eisenstein’s low angles combining those with contemporary film language that in those times was impossible also for the lack of the technology. All my childhood memories of the Soviet revolves around the colors black and white as at that time the films made in Russia were all black and white. For me there is so much grey to every story, nothing is so black and white so we filmed the ‘Dawn’ in black and white.
The 34th edition of Fajr International Film Festival is being held from April 20th to April 25th, 2016 in Charsou Cineplex, under the supervision of the well-known Iranian filmmaker, Mr. Reza Mirkarimi, who is also the Managing Director of Khaneh Cinema.