The Role of Television for Careers of Latvian Film Professionals in the 1990s

Elīna Reitere

 

For Latvian film professionals the collapse of the Soviet Union meant not only a cardinal change of the current political system and country they were living in. The uncoupling from the centralised system of Soviet film production and the necessity to learn a new model of film funding were two among several novel tasks for Latvian film professionals after Latvian re-gained its independence in 1990. My research project sheds light on this situation from the point of view of social history, asking what kind of strategies were available for film professionals in order to stay in the filmmaking business, despite the lack of appropriate funding for film industry, as it was common in Latvia in the 1990s. To start working for a television company was one of the options, especially for cinematographers and film directors. But this decision was accompanied by several constraints, the poor technical quality of the TV image in the 1990s being one of them. The digitisation of film and further development of camera technology made this hierarchal relationship between film and television redundant. Thus this particular episode of film history could be regarded only as a side remark to the central development of Latvian film industry. But this assessment seems to be insufficient if we take into account the paradigm of small nations. As Mette Hjort and Duncan Petrie state, small nations are not simply a small version of big nations. On the contrary, they have different ecosystems that function according to different rules (Hjort, Petrie 2008: 2). Therefore, the importance of TV assignments for the development of professional careers in the 1990s has to be reassessed.

 

Reference
Hjort, Mette; Petrie, Duncan (eds.) 2008. The Cinema of Small Nations. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

 

Elīna Reitere (PhD) is an independent film scholar and critic, second editor-in-chief of the Latvian film magazine Kino Raksti (kinoraksti.lv). She studied audiovisual culture, film, media and performance studies in Riga and Mainz. For her academic film reviews she has been nominated for Normunds Naumanis Prize for art criticism in Latvia in 2019.