Original title: Losejas
Directed by Ignas Jonynas
2013. 109 m. Lithuania-Latvia. Lithuanian with subtitles. NR.
Q&A with actor Vytautas Kaniusonis
Creative Freedom through Cinema
Guest Country: Lithuania
Making Waves’s Creative Freedom Through Cinema program continues to examine the relationship between arts and politics in Eastern Europe, with a spotlight this year on Lithuania. This Baltic country gave us two of the most exciting directors ever: Jonas Mekas, “the godfather of American avant-garde cinema,” and Sharunas Bartas, whose latest exquisite work, Frost, was screened this year in Cannes. Lithuania provides tremendous support to young filmmakers, and it’s always interesting to see how they artistically process the Soviet legacy of their now-free country. The chosen title for this year’s program, The Gambler, the debut of director Ignas Jonynas, is a case in point.
A Lithuanian paramedic praised at work for saving others’ lives cannot quite manage his own. With heavy gambling debts and threats of violence from the local mobsters who want their money back, he comes up with a secret contest, getting his coworkers to bet on which patients are most likely to die. As a political allegory, it is as macabre as the gambling operation itself, depicting a post-Soviet landscape torn between its socialist roots and the brutal new realities of capitalism. But there is plenty of black comedy and joie de vivre in this exciting piece of Baltic neo-noir, and it works just as well as a universal comment on the human condition. The Gambler was Lithuania’s entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2014.
Screenplay: Kristupas Sabolius, Ignas Jonynas
Cinematography: Janis Eglitis
Cast: Vytautas Kaniusonis, Oona Mekas
Production: Studio Uljana Kim & Locomotive Productions
Festivals: San Sebastian 2013, Warsaw 2014 – Special Jury Award, Lithuanian Silver Cranes 2014 – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor Awards