DVD Review: The Idealist

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Riveting conspiracy thriller exposes a real-life Danish political scandal.

The story of a journalist’s investigation into the cover-up of a nuclear accident is a gripping drama that may represent the closest Danish cinema has come to producing its own equivalent of All The President’s Men.  A tense drama cast in the mould of classic 1970s conspiracy thrillers The Conversation and The Parallax View, director Christina Rosendahl’s second feature film is based on journalist Poul Brink’s book The Thule Affair – A Universe of Lies.

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Working at a local radio station Poul Brink (Peter Plauborg) uncovered one of the darkest chapters in modern Danish history. His commitment to revealing the truth about the nation’s nuclear policy during the cold war rewrote history. Batting against the Danish and US governments, he was prepared to risk imprisonment in his quest to uncover the facts about a botched cleanup operation.

The events recreated in The Idealist continue to resonate for Danish and Greenlandic audiences.  Poul Brink’s findings revealed that Denmark’s foreign and nuclear policies were based on a succession of lies.

In 1968 a B-52 bomber crashed in Greenland close to a US military base. The plane was carrying four nuclear weapons. Three were salvaged and one was lost. All references to the missing bomb were removed from official documents. 18 years later, Poul Brink discovered Danish workers involved in the clean-up operation were suffering from a variety of skin diseases, including cancer. Initially sceptical, Brink’s journey into the murky world of international politics will shatter a deceased Prime Minister’s reputation and lead to renewed calls for Greenland’s official independence.

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Underscoring her commitment to presenting an honest version of events, director Christina Rosendahl incorporates archival footage of the cleanup operation and news reports. Restrained in its treatment of the allegations contained within Brink’s book, The Idealist is an effective attempt to highlight abuse of power and dramatise one man’s determination to expose the truth.

Despite the story’s emotional potency and its continued relevance for Greenlanders seeking independence, the director has chosen to present a cool and largely understated account. Possibly the most significant film about Danish journalism, The Idealist‘s commitment to authenticity enhances its spellbinding power. An intelligent and challenging account of a reporter stumbling across a story that will transform how the nation views its own history.

The presence of high-calibre actors, including The Killing‘s Søren Malling, brings gravitas to the production. The Idealist is an impressive thriller that deserves to make headlines.

The Idealist is available to order from Amazon.

BBC News report of the B-52’s crash and search for the fourth bomb.

Film Review: The Balcony

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 Winner of the Silver Crane Award for best Lithuanian short film, The Balcony is a bitter-sweet tale of young friendship and dysfunctional families. A rose-tinted recreation of 1980s Lithuania. The era is seen through the eyes of two children and the director appears to be yearning for a simpler era. Those in the west seeing The Balcony for the first time may be surprised that the director has deliberately chosen to present a version of the Soviet era which runs counter to the more familiar narratives filled with oppression and poverty.

Director Giedrė Beinoriūtė’s recreation of the 1980s is filled with values that she feels have been lost in the years since independence. Directing films and documentaries since 1997,  Soviet rule and the consequences of its dismantling is a recurrent theme in her work.  Beinoriūtė’s 2008 film The Balcony is an unashamedly sentimental celebration of innocence.

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The film is set in a nondescript housing estate in an unspecified part of Lithuania. Rolanas’ parents have recently divorced and he has had to leave his hometown and move to a new district. Settling in he soon becomes friends with the young girl living in the neighbouring flat. Two shy and insecure children find that they have much in common.

The Balcony offers a glimpse of childhood under Soviet rule that may shatter many preconceptions. It is an effective dramatisation of children coming to terms with the breakup of their families.

The film is available to watch exclusively at Baltic View.

If you want to see The Balcony send an email to hello@balticview.online to register your interest.

Follow @baltic_view on Twitter.

A Facebook page has the latest information on screenings.

DVD Review: I Hunt Men (Mannaveiðar)

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Happiness is a Warm Gun: Compelling mystery is a prescient and exhilarating Icelandic Noir.

Two mismatched detectives investigate a serial killer and uncover a dodgy banker’s conspiracy to land-grab.
When a serial killer targets goose hunters a newly formed police department pairs by-the-book detective Hinrik with dishevelled and disorganised Gunnar. Overcoming their distrust of each other’s methods, the pair race against the clock to solve the killer’s riddles and crack the case before more hunters are slain.

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Adapted from Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson’s novel Daybreak, I Hunt Men aired in the spring of 2008. Anticipating the economic meltdown which occurred later that year the series highlights shadowy practices bankers were routinely practicing before the system crashed. The smart and searing screenplay rams home the fact that Iceland’s bankers acted without considering the consequences of their policies and thought they were above the law. Believing they live in a separate self-contained world, the bankers in this series buy up valuable land at bargain-basement prices and evict the tenant farmers without thinking about the lives they have just destroyed.

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Famously setting a record for viewing figures, it was seen by 60% of the available audience. The TV adaptation presents a streamlined version of Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson’s novel that features all the key beats but is leaner and more focused.
Not afraid to proudly wear its influences on its sleeve, the script is peppered with references to crime books and TV series. Aside from shots of Iceland’s breathtaking scenery, the glue that holds the series together is the engaging performances by Gísli Örn Garðarsson and Trapped‘s Ólafur Darri Ólafsson. At times the interplay between the two characters is more engrossing than the investigation. Produced when Nordic Noir was in its infancy the producers may not have thought about capturing lightning in a bottle and commissioning a follow-up. Now that both actors have gone on to enjoy international success it’s unlikely they will return to play these characters so I Hunt Men offers an intriguing glimpse into what could have been a highly successful long running series.

A rock-solid thriller which meshes tried and tested techniques with all too timely criticism of Iceland’s economy. Proof that Iceland was producing exciting thrillers long before Trapped and Case, I Hunt Men is worth tracking down.

A subtitled DVD is available to order from nammi.is

Film Review: Land of Soul

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A derelict church stands in a forest six hours drive from Chicago. Battered by weather, it’s a monument to forgotten waves of immigration from Estonia in the early years of the Twentieth century. One of the last surviving monuments to the hopes and dreams of that first group of settlers from the Baltics it’s a historically significant building.

When it seemed that the church might be lost forever due to the elements a saviour arrived determined to restore the building to its former glory and remind the descendants of Estonian immigrants about their heritage.

In 1900 large numbers of Estonians fled the country in search of a better life. Some went to Australia and Russia. For those who arrived in America, the land of opportunity promised greater religious and political freedoms. Close to 200 newly arrived migrants relocated to Gleason when an Estonian language newspaper published an article that noted similarities between the Wisconsin landscape and Estonia’s countryside. In 1907 the community purchased a stretch of land and established its first church on American soil.

Disused for more than half a century this church was forgotten as successive generations left the village and migrated to cities. Abandoned and later vandalised, it looked as though the elements would destroy this touchstone to the first wave of Estonian migration. When it looked like all hope of preserving it was lost a film director came to the rescue. For several decades Bill Rebane has written, directed, and produced low-budget cult movies. The great nephew of the church’s first minister of faith, his emotional attachment to the building galvanised Estonians into banding together to restore the church.

Kullar Viimne and Erik Norkroos documentary follows  Bill Rebane and his band of committed volunteers as they endeavour to restore the building to its former glory. The film successfully communicates why it is so important to preserve this place of worship. More than a testament to long gone generation’s hopes and dreams it’s a physical embodiment of a group of people’s one remaining symbol of home and spiritual freedom.

As the band of volunteers busy themselves restoring the building’s foundations and installing a new roof, Estonian Rock-star Tõnis Mägi is invited to fly to America and play at a benefit concert. Documenting the last few weeks of work on the church, it follows  Tõnis Mägi as he prepares to perform in it’s grounds. Land of Soul shows how song and prayer have united successive generations of Estonians.

Enlightening and moving, Land of Soul reminds descendants of immigrants about the importance of not forgetting their cultural history.  The film is a fitting memorial to those early settlers and a celebration of what their descendants have achieved in America.

The film is available to watch exclusively on Baltic View.

If you want to see Land of Soul send an email to hello@balticview.online to register your interest.

Follow @baltic_view on Twitter.

A Facebook page has the latest information on screenings.

The Bureau – Complete Season One

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Tinker Tailor Gallic Spy: Masterly stylish slow burning espionage series is a gripping drama.

As the spy who came in from warmer climes, French intelligence operative Malotru is recalled to Paris after spending six years in Damascus. Leaving behind a life recruiting new agents in the field he struggles to cope with the prospect of a desk-bound job at the Directorate General of External Security (DGSE).

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A world away from Ian Fleming’s view of spycraft, at times The Bureau plays out like an anti-Bond. Cynical, complex, and realistic, the series channels John Le Carre’s pessimistic view of the intelligence community. Expertly sketched atmosphere pours through every frame in this portrait of tradecraft and it’s consequences.

Based on accounts by former agents, The Bureau also draws from contemporary geopolitical events. Though France’s operations in Syria serves as the story’s backdrop, the narrative’s main focus is an agent’s behaviour threatening to bring down the entire department and put France’s security at risk.

Film actor Mathieu Kassovitz plays Malotru, an operative suffering from an acute case of Post-Mission Syndrome. After a six-year absence from his homeland, he is reunited with a daughter who barely remembers him and knows nothing about his work.  During his time in Damascus he fell in love and is now forced to relinquish all ties with his undercover identity. Convinced he is one step ahead of his enemies and allies, Malotru breaches security protocol and reaches out to his former girlfriend unaware that she is already in Paris on the false pretence of attending a UNESCO sponsored course.

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In a world of secrets and lies knowing when to ditch a false identity will save countless lives. Nadia (Zineb Triki) only knows Malotru’s undercover alias. She believes he is a teacher taking a sabbatical to write a novel. His superiors are unaware that he has reactivated “Paul Lefebvre” and begun living a double life. As their relationship blossoms the lovers will be forced to choose sides in a war against terror.

Less stylised than Homeland and more authentic than Spooks, The Bureau has a strong claim to being the most realistic depiction of twenty-first-century espionage on TV. Series creator Eric Rochant’s 1994 thriller The Patriots is used as a training film by the French intelligence community which led to the showrunner and his team being given special permission to visit the DGSC and speak with former agents.

Expertly building tension throughout the season, it’s a perfectly paced excursion into a world of subterfuge and betrayal. Distinctively directed, this understated show is filled with enough edge of the seat moments to make you devour it in a single sitting. Undeniably the best French show to reach these shores since Spiral‘s first season, The Bureau is an exceptional series.

The Bureau is available to order from Amazon.

Film Review: The Green Musketeers

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You Gotta Fight for the Right to Garden: How an environmentalist movement planted a seed which grew into Lithuanian independence.

As the Soviet Union started to crumble Mikhail Gorbachev introduced a number of reforms intended to strengthen the nation’s infrastructure. He may have ended the Cold War but the last General Secretary of the Soviet Union inadvertently brought about the downfall of Communism in Europe.

Under Soviet rule since 1944, the Communist Party of Lithuania governed with an iron fist. The implementation of Perestroika was meant to reform Soviet Communist parties but it led to citizens experiencing greater freedoms for the first time since the Iron Curtain fell across Europe.

In Lithuania, a group of young idealists enraged by plans to drill for oil in the Baltic Sea organised a large-scale protest. This band of ecologically conscious Lithuanians established a community “Atgaja” and defined the zeitgeist for a nation heading towards independence.

Swedish director Jonas Ohman’s documentary shines a light on a moment in history largely unknown outside Lithuania. Interviewing surviving members of the community and using archive footage he demonstrates how a single idea can overthrow a tyranny. Focusing on the community’s charismatic leader Saulius Gricius, the film explores the community’s considerable legacy.

The Green Musketeers has an undeniable environmentalist message but it also drives home the importance of standing up to oppression and injustice no matter how high the personal cost may be.

The film is available to watch exclusively on Baltic View.

If you want to see The Green Musketeers send an email to hello@balticview.online to register your interest.

Follow @baltic_view on Twitter.

A Facebook page has the latest information on screenings.

Baltic View – Your New Obession

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Eclectic collection demonstrates Baltic cinema has a wealth of talent awaiting discovery.

A new platform to view the latest films from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, Baltic View launched with a free-to-view showcase selection of shorts. In the ever crowded online marketplace, new content needs to be distinctive to stand apart from the rest of the crowd and hook an audience. Does Baltic View’s collection demonstrate freshness and originality? The answer is a resounding yes.
Delivering 25 films in time for Christmas the collection was more offbeat than Call the Midwife‘s festive special and had more to say about the human condition than ITV’s turkey Maigret. Still available to watch, the films are grouped into four collections: Baltic Party Time, Animation for Thought, Our Baltic Obsessions, and Family & Children’s Films.

At last year’s Nordic-Baltic Film Festival Mother demonstrated that Baltic Noir might be the next big thing. Overlooked for too long, Baltic cinema is on the verge of a breakout moment. If you are looking for an ideal place to start your journey into the vibrant and often experimental filmmaking from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania sign up for Baltic View. Not just a one-off film festival, further titles are going to be added to the portal in the coming days.

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With so many hours of exciting stuff available where to start? Check out the delightful stop-motion animated film No Routine. Director Jurate Samulionyte’s fifteen-minute film is a Latvian The Red Balloon but made for adults.
Ivars Zviedris documentary Man Who Plays is a screen poem which plays out like a distant cousin of the British Documentary Movement’s pioneering work. It is guaranteed to reawaken your inner child.
Marija Kavtaradze’s I’m Twenty Something marks her out as a talent to watch. A comedy by and about twenty-somethings. Expect great things when the director graduates to feature film production.

If you want to see the short films send an email to hello@balticview.online to register your interest.

Live screenings and events are planned for 2017.

Follow @baltic_view on Twitter.

A Facebook page has the latest information on screenings.