Scene from "Emilija iš Laisvės alėjos" / Photo by Asta Martinonytė
The history of film industry in Kaunas stretches back more than 100 years, as this was the place where Vladislav Starevich, the notable stop-motion movie pioneer, started his career in 1909. In this article, however, we focus on the past few years – and a couple to the future. It’d be hard not to notice all of the performances of Kaunas we’ve included in the watchlist are very historic. The reason is obvious – it’s quite easy to capture the vintage spirit in the city full of interwar modern architecture.
‘Kaunas has plenty of authentic, well-preserved interwar era buildings and interiors. Kaunas is an ideal choice for those who need to render the inter-war theme in their film’, says Lineta Mišeikytė, member of the Lithuanian Film Council. Producers from Italy, Sweden and other countries do agree with her! Check the website of Kaunas Film Office for more information and possibilties to shoot in Kaunas if you're interested.
What's great is that Lithuanian movie makers tend to shoot in Kaunas, too. Half of the list is local production!
The story about the Latvian basketball team, which won the first-ever European Championships in Geneva, Switzerland in 1935 was shot in 2012. All of the acting was done in Riga but the camera did travel to Kaunas to capture the sights of the city. In the movie, the team stops in Kaunas to play a game with Lithuania before the championship in Switzerland. Lithuanians lost but the movie’s so good nobody can complain about that.
Mercedes: Die Stunde der Silberpfeile (2012)
Kaunas was chosen by a film director Saskia Weisheit and her team to film a ten-episode documentary about Mercedes. The director had worked in Lithuania previously and Kaunas’ interwar spirit inspired her. She also particularly loved the fact Kaunas is a very walkable city! ‘My head explodes from uniqueness of Kaunas. There are plenty of places pulsating with the interbellum spirit. Wherever the camera turns, authenticity is everywhere - architecture of walls and details, stylistics of windows, doors’, said Weisheit.
The history of Mercedes was revived at the Lithuanian Armed Forces officers club (Karininkų ramovė), Metropolis hotel foyer, the cove of Kaunas reservoir and even at the authentic former Mercedes-Benz representation store on Kęstutis street.
A Swedish movie company “B-Reel” turned Kaunas into a gangster town of the 60s. The movie is based on a Swedish bestseller about flamboyant and charismatic brothers; Kaunas was used for shooting three locations. The scenes were shot in the Žaliakalnis market, Metropolis hotel (as a hotel in Vienna) and Laisvės alėja (as a street in Berlin).
Emilija iš Laisvės alėjos (2017)
In the summer of 2015, Laisvės Alėja was again welcoming the signs of Soviet era. Of course, it was all props and placed in Laisvės Alėja for the period of shooting a motion picture “Emilija iš Laisvės alėjos” directed by Donatas Ulvydas.
Photo by Andrius Aleksandravičius
The film tells the story about Lithuania in the 1970s and the effect that Romas Kalanta’s self-immolation had on society. The film will premiere on February 16, 2017.
Tarp pilkų debesų (Ashes in the Snow) (2017)
The upcoming a World War II drama was based on the best-seller “Between Shades of Gray” by a Lithuanian-American writer Ruta Sepetys. The movie will focus on the character of 16-year-old aspiring artist Lina who was deported to Siberia in 1941. Bel Powley, the British actress best known for playing Daisy Miller in the CBBC television series M.I. High, is playing the lead role in the film directed by Marius A. Markevičius. “Ashes in the Snow” was shot in Kaunas as well as Nida and Vilnius. It’s, same as "Emilija iš Laisvės alėjos", set to hit the screens in 2017.
Photos by Asta Martinonytė
Pelėdų kalnas (Owls Mountain) (2017)
This is the hottest topic at the moment as you can actually feel the action of the historical drama if you’re in Kaunas – the team will continue shooting until Nov 28th. The story is set in Soviet-occupied Kaunas and it starts at 1947. The war seems to be over but the fight isn’t. The Lithuanian movie is directed by Audrius Juzėnas. He and his team chose various historical locations including Neris harbour, VMU Kaunas botanical garden, Romuva cinema, Juozas Zikaras memorial museum, Lithuanian Zoo etc. The shooting will also continue in Spring.
Photos by Rokas Tenys / Kas Vyksta Kaune