Vilnius stands with Ukraine

Festival hosts day of fundraising screenings ahead of this year's edition

by Amber Wilkinson

First Cow focuses on the friendship that blossoms between Cookie (John Magaro) and King-Lu (Orion Lu) in the Oregon territories of the 1800s
First Cow focuses on the friendship that blossoms between Cookie (John Magaro) and King-Lu (Orion Lu) in the Oregon territories of the 1800s Photo: Courtesy of Vilnius International Film Festival
Vilnius Film Festival had its thoughts with Ukraine ahead of this year's edition, which opens in the Lithuanian capital tonight with Kelly Reichardt's tale of comradeship in adversity First Cow.

It turned these thoughts into practical action ahead of the opening night, by holding a Day For Films From Ukraine yesterday, which presented films from the region, with all  proceeds donated to the support funds for Ukraine, indicated by the creators of the films. Thousands of Ukrainians have fled to Lithuania since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the festival has also invited all Ukrainians to see movies in Vilnius and Kaunas for free during the event. Special screenings of Belle and Petite Maman will also be dubbed or subtitled in Ukrainian.

The festival's industry event Meeting Point Vilnius will also host a Ukrainian Day, which aims "to highlight what is the status of events from political, institutional and film industry point of view, so as to have a common strategic position of the European Film Industry".

The festival's CEO Algirdas Ramaška said: "We all must support the people and filmmakers of Ukraine, many of whom are currently holding guns in their arms or otherwise contributing to the defence of their country.

Feature Film About Life is among the Lithuanian films in the line-up
Feature Film About Life is among the Lithuanian films in the line-up Photo: Courtesy of Vilnius International Film Festival
"The festival is doing this in many levels: starting from Ukrainian refugees in Lithuania by inviting them to attend the festival for free, Ukrainian filmmakers by involving their films in our program and donating all the income from screenings to them, to the European film industry level by initiating Ukraine dedicated discussions during Meeting Point Vilnius. We also help Ukrainian refugees who are from the film sector by integrating them in the Lithuanian film community."

The festival's section To Exist You Coexist also nods to the subject of living side by side harmoniously, with films including Berlin Golden Bear winner Alcarràs, Oscar-nominated documentary Flee and classics like Do The Right Thing.

The festival itself holds plenty of highlights and the prospect of new discoveries. Lithuanian films include Pilgrims, which premiered at Venice Film Festival last year, and Feature Film About Life, which first screened in Tallinn,which will both compete in the European Debut Competition. The Panorama section also features homegrown documentary Mončys. Samogitian from Paris, about sculptor Antanas Mončys, and drama Songs Of A Fox. Other films of note in the Panorama section, include Sundance World Dramatic Grand Jury Prize winner Utama, which blends family drama with an observation of the climate crisis in the Bolivian HIghlands, and also fresh from the US festival, science-fiction musical Neptune Frost.

The Critics Choice strand also offers a strong line-up, including tense drama Onoda: 10,000 Nights In The Jungle, gripping bullying tale Playground and Sean Baker's ambiguous comedy drama Red Rocket. Meanwhile, the Masters section boasts the likes of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Memoria and Terence Davies' Siegfried Sassoon biopic Benediction - on release in the UK on May 20 - alongside classics including Charlie Chaplin's The Circus.

This year's festival features 90 feature films and 51 short films from 56 different countries and will run until April 3. We'll be bringing you more reviews from the festival and you can see our current coverage here and read more about the festival on the official site.

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