The 6th Annual New York Baltic Film Festival (NYBFF) presented by Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America returns on November 8-19, 2023 screening the best new and critically-acclaimed Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian films in-person in NYC November 8-12 and virtually November 10-19.
This year, the festival will feature 13 screenings — including eight narrative features, three documentaries, and one TV series — with two International Premieres, six North American Premieres, and one New York Premiere. Screenings and premieres will be accompanied by exclusive Q&As, panels, and concerts with filmmakers, most of whom will be in New York for the festival.
The festival will kick off with an Opening Night Celebration on Wednesday, November 8 at 6:30 PM featuring the North American Premiere of Remember to Blink (Per Arti, Lithuania, 2023), Austėja Urbaitė's captivating drama starring Arthur Igual and Anne Azoulay as a French couple who adopt two Lithuanian children, and enlist a young student (Dovile Kundrotaite) to serve as interpreter and nanny; the idyllic facade of their new family arrangement soon gives way to underlying tensions and cultural clashes. The recipient of several awards including Best Film at GoEast Film Festival, Urbaitė's film deftly explores human intricacies and the boundaries of culture and identity — as well as the "Neo-colonialism" reflecting broader conflicts — amid the subtle dynamics of becoming a family. The Opening Night will also feature a reception following the film; Remember to Blink will screen again in the NYBFF on Saturday, November 11 at 1 PM.
Highlights of this year include major festival prizewinners including Marija Kavtaradze's Slow (Lithuania/Spain/Sweden, 2023), a moving film exploring the unconventional relationship that develops between a contemporary dancer and a sign language interpreter that has been selected as Lithuania’s contender for Best International Feature Film at the 96th Academy Awards and won Best Director at Sundance Film Festival (World Drama Category), screening in-person only on Saturday, November 11 at 8:15 PM. Anna Hint's intimate documentary Smoke Sauna Sisterhood explores the cultural tradition of Vana-Võromaa’s smoke saunas in South Estonia (included in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list) and their role in healing, community and childbirth. The first Estonian film to win an award for directing at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in the World Documentary category, and also selected as Estonia's Best International Feature Film contender at next year's Academy Awards, Smoke Sauna Sisterhood screens in-person only on Sunday, November 12 at 7 PM.
Making its International Premiere in-person on November 11 at 6 PM and virtually from November 12-19, Ināra Kolmane’s Soviet Milk (Mātes piens, Latvia/Belgium, 2023) is a poignant study of resilience and sacrifice set in Soviet-occupied Latvia from 1945-89 based on the bestselling novel by Nora Ikstena. Also making its International Premiere in-person on November 10 at 8 PM and virtually from November 11-19, the film anthology Collective (Kolektīvs, Latvia, 2023) presents unique perspectives on the participants of the Latvian Song and Dance Festival, a cherished cultural tradition thriving in the Baltic states, through different and often-humorous shorts from six different directors.
North American Premieres include The Poet (Poetas, dir. Giedrius Tamoševičius & Vytautas V. Landsbergis, Lithuania, 2022), which follows the journey of a disgraced poet in post-war Lithuania who is recruited by the KGB to infiltrate a partisan group, screening in-person on November 12 at 4:15 PM and virtually from November 13-19; Kaupo Kruusiauk’s documentary Machina Faust, which offers an unfiltered look at the life of Estonian composer, saxophonist and feminist Maria Faust, including both her accomplishments as an artist and battles with trauma and domestic violence, screening in-person on November 10 at 6 PM and virtually from November 11-19; and Melchior the Apothecary: The Executioner’s Daughter (Apteeker Melchior. Timuka tütar, dir. Elmo Nüganen, Estonia/Germany/Latvia/Lithuania, 2023), the third installment of a film trilogy based on Indrek Hargla's bestselling book series about an apothecary solving crimes in medieval Tallinn, screening in-person on Saturday, November 11 at 3:15 PM and virtually from November 12-19. The first two films of the series, Melchior the Apothecary (Apteeker Melchior, 2022) and The Ghost (Viirastus, 2022), will also be screening virtually only from November 10-19.
The festival also includes the International Premiere of Armands Zvirbulis’s Crime Solving for Beginners (Krimināllieta iesācējam, Latvia/Lithuania, 2022), a gripping Baltic Noir television series set within the turbulent landscape of post-Soviet Latvia, which follows three intertwining plotlines in the wake of a nationalist MP aide's murder; the first two episodes screen in-person on November 12 at 2 PM, with all episodes screening virtually from November 13-19. And on Thursday, November 9, the Festival will feature a special evening dedicated to the Ukraine with a documentary film screening and performance by Maria Faust (details to be announced).
“After the past few years marked by big changes and uncertainty, it's important to remember the joy and wonder of watching films together on the big screen, and the power of cinema to transport us to other worlds, introduce us to new ideas and perspectives, and ignite our imaginations,” says NYBFF Head of Programs Jūle Rozīte. “As we celebrate the global success of Baltic films at major international film festivals, we invite you to join us at Scandinavia House and see the world through Baltic eyes.”
In-person screenings and events will take place at Scandinavia House in New York (58 Park Ave, 10016); the online version will once again be available to viewers all across the U.S. on Scandinavia House's screening platform Elevent from November 10-19 (full schedule here). For program announcements, please subscribe to the festival newsletter at balticfilmfestival.com and Scandinavia House newsletter at scandinaviahouse.org. For more immediate updates, follow NYBFF on Instagram and Facebook.