On the other side of the stage and screen
Can you believe that there used to be a time when you had to wait in a queue all night to acquire a ticket for a production by one of Lithuania’s top theatre directors? Before the country regained its independence, Lithuanian cinema and theatre provided an opportunity for artists to speak out about events or situations that were prohibited from being discussed. The bohemians of the theatre and cinema had always supported freedom with a rare fervency, and nothing has changed today: creative artists use the stage or screen to shed light on motifs or stories that are no less moving.
In her productions, this artist tries to address difficult questions connected with choice, seeks answers to them and delves into the deep waters of emotion. Anželika Cholina, who is one of Lithuania’s most famous choreographers and founder of the A|CH theatre, spends alternating periods of time in Vilnius and Moscow, yet the language of her dances is understandable to every viewer no matter what their nationality. She creates a special atmosphere in her dance productions, one that is shared by the actors dancing on stage and the audience alike. “My productions are a reflection of myself,” says the choreographer.
“They are attempts to understand love, to accept and live it – or simply to live. They are snapshots of life, as clear as spring water, where you recognise yourself and your friends. The existence of relationships from a person's birth until their final days, their various stages, are so changeable depending on their emotions, passions, concerns and worries. So much can be expressed through music and movement.” Jana Motovilova
The godfather of avant-garde cinema; one of New York’s legends, and a friend of Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Andy Warhol and Allen Ginsberg. Jonas Mekas (1922-2019) who has received a Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Arts and resides in New York, is referred to as one of the most prominent artists of the 20th century. Many years ago in the US, he began to film scenes from the lives of Lithuanian immigrants after borrowing some money and purchasing his first “Bolex” filming apparatus. Later, he delved headlong into avant-garde cinema, arranged movie festivals, wrote critiques of movies and helped establish the Anthology Film Archives, an archive of American avant-garde films that is one of the largest in the world. Although now in his 90s, he continues to write reviews for The New York Times, publishes books and organises festivals at which he gives talks to attendees and conducts interviews in person, while his films are presented at global-scale film festivals. Jonas Mekas has given Fluxus, a tremendous collection accumulated over many years that includes work by world-renowned artists, as a gift to Vilnius. In 2007, a visual arts centre named after him was founded in the city.
“There is no doubt that the films created by Jonas Mekas embody the spirit of the time. Through fleeting images at once poetic and empirical, they reveal what life used to be like in New York during one of the most productive decades of its history.” Journalist Joseph Jon Lanthier
An ambassador for Lithuanian theatre; a person without whom modern theatre in Lithuania would have been unimaginable, and someone who speaks out courageously about the uncomfortable issues of the present and about the nation’s experiences and faults. Oskaras Koršunovas astonishes and shocks the viewer, and injects them with an ability to think and appreciate the here and now. He has been a winner of the National Prize for Culture and Arts and a recipient of the Swedish Order of the Polar Star and the French Order of Art and Literature, as well as the Golden Cross of Merit from the Polish president. Oskaras Koršunovas has gone to the largest and most important festivals with his productions. His gift to Lithuania was the international theatre festival Sirenos, which takes place in Vilnius in the autumn and has already become a tradition. Plays by Oskaras Koršunovas can be seen at the National Drama Theatre, most of which are also translated into the English language.
“Productions by Oskaras Koršunovas are unique in that their language remains modern and recognisable despite their being shocking and profound. In our times of advanced technology, such existential miracles that lasts an hour or two and end in shock and ethical revelations may well be possible only in the theatre.” Philosopher Leonidas Donskis
A theatrical genius; a master of silence; and a winner of the National Prize for Culture and Arts whom Italians love as much as Lithuanians do – or perhaps even more so, judging by the varied epithets they use for the director. Some call him a god of the stage, while others refer to him as a theatrical demon. Productions by Eimuntas Nekrošius have invariably been exceptional, and when talking about simple, mundane matters, he has always been cosmopolitan, profound and comprehensible for viewers of any age, nationality or historical period.
"Eimuntas Nekrošius has dedicated his entire lifetime as a creative artist to exploring society. He uses his laboratory test tubes to analyse the psychology of art." Theatre critic Daiva Šabasevičienė
A teller of stories. A subtle chronicler of this day and age who is spreading Lithuanian documentary film notes around the world. Knocking where there is happiness and sadness, victory and defeat, life and death. A recipient of the Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Arts, the documentary film director gained international acclaim when he was awarded by the Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement. Filled with poetry, his documentaries are continually among the award winners at the most prominent film festivals. His last film, Wonderful Losers: A Different World, is about what goes on behind the scenes at the Giro d’Italia and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
“This is the Giro. Without departures and arrivals. Without surges and without victories. The film pulsates with bodies that are saturated with passion and fatigue,” wrote Bidon Magazine aboutWonderful Losers: A Different World.
A magician when it comes to imagery; a master of association; one of the most prominent and renowned Lithuanian directors in the world; and a winner of the National Prize for Culture and Arts. His slow movies have enchanted the audience at the Cannes and Berlin film festivals. Šarūnas Bartas is appreciated for his unique outlook on the world and his profound philosophical insight. The film-maker was Lithuania’s first to found an independent film studio, named Kinema, which has introduced several dozen documentary and non-documentary films to a global audience and participants at international film festivals.
“Šarūnas Bartas, a man of rare courage and a representative of what has already come to be the older generation of Lithuanian film-makers, does not seek security in any groups for creative artists – his mentality and work demonstrate that he has chosen an individual path, one that is more marginal, but far more interesting.” Literary critic Ramūnas Čičelis (PhD)