What to watch during the New Year? Latvian films for every mood

The Christmas and New Year holiday period is a great opportunity to spend some time watching a film. We’ve put together a selection of unusual Latvian films from recent years that are worth watching. To put yourself back in the festive mood or to just spend some quality time with your family. Or maybe to immerse yourself in the historical past and learn something new about the place where you were born and grew up.

What to watch during the New Year? Latvian films for every mood

Something about the festivities 

New Year’s Eve Taxi  (2018, 2019)

The Latvian romantic comedy New Year’s Eve Taxi is a story of chance encounters, passions and romantic feelings experienced on New Year’s Eve. The film gives the viewer a taste of the approaching winter festivities and the wonder of that magical night. 

The main character Andrej, a taxi driver, ferries people around Riga. In his Volga, there are many characters: a grumpy couple, a tired Santa Claus, noisy mourners, a worried groom, a pregnant woman, and more.

What to watch during the New Year? Latvian films for every mood
Jaungada taksometrs (2019)

The constant stream of passengers, together with their turbulent lives, makes Andrej reflect on his own destiny. 

The first part is not the end of the characters’ adventures: a year later, the romantic comedy New Year’s Eve Taxi 2 was released, which only confirmed the success of the film and further developed the story.

Accidental Santa (2022)

Director Aigars Grauba made a witty, musical and dynamic fairy tale which reminds viewers that dreams and hopes do come true. According to the director, there are not many films in the Latvian cinema landscape that are saturated with the festive spirit, and for Aigars, Accidental Santa was an attempt to enrich our national cinema with a film about the magic of the season aimed at the whole family.

What to watch during the New Year? Latvian films for every mood
Circenīša Ziemassvētki (2022)

The film tells a Christmas story in which strangers who meet by chance experience a true miracle. The story centres on a modern Latvian family, where a Santa Claus with a criminal past comes to visit on Christmas Day. Quality humour, unusual plot twists and a New Year atmosphere leave the audience in a good mood. 

Meaningful Humour

Samuel’s Travels (2021)

The black comedy Samuel’s Travels can be described as a cruel and ironic story for adults. 

Sam, a non-Latvian speaker, travels to Latvia to find his father, but accidentally ends up in a family of pig farmers.

What to watch during the New Year? Latvian films for every mood
Sema ceļojumi (2021)

 At first, the villagers greet the stranger with reticence, but the farmer’s daughter Kirke falls in love with Sam. The next morning, however, he wakes up no longer a free man, but a slave shackled in chains. 

The madness portrayed on screen surprises even many sophisticated cinema-goers. Samuel’s Travels is a stunning piece of cinema-absurd, that explores Latvian film from an extraordinarily unique point of view.

Keep Smiling, Mom! (2022)

A road trip film with elements of black comedy about family conflict in extreme situations. 

The story focuses on three sisters – Žanna, Aija and Vera – who decide to transport their deceased mother from Finland to Latvia in the boot of their car.

What to watch during the New Year? Latvian films for every mood
Mamma vēl smaida (2022)

The journey home turns out to be more difficult than they had imagined and is packed with stressful experiences and full of unexpected surprises. However, it is this that will bring them closer together, force them to compromise, be creative in resolving their issues, get along and finally accept each other. 

Keep Smiling, Mom! is a film about family values and the warmth of their relationships, reminding us that it is never too late to tell those closest to you that you love them.

Homo Novus (2018)

Homo Novus is one of the six films in Latvia’s centenary programme. The film attracted a wide cinema audience because it harmoniously combined elements of adventure, comedy and love.

The film is set in 1930s bohemian Riga. The city is a “Mecca” of art, where the young artist Juris Upenājs arrives.

What to watch during the New Year? Latvian films for every mood
Homo Novus (2018)

He seeks fame and recognition, obsessed with finding his creative ideal among the local artists. However, his passion for this world is quickly replaced by disappointment. After all, it is impossible to reach your ideal, even if you spend your whole life searching for it. Yet it is this idealism that fascinates and attracts throughout the film, permeating every detail on screen – from the actors’ performances to the sets and music.

For adults and children alike

Away (2019)

In today’s world, cinema is a collective art, but Away breaks this rule ostensibly. This unique animated film with no dialogue was created entirely by the hands of one man – Gints Zilbalodis. It took the home-studio director more than three years to create this vivid and exciting animated film about the adventures of a young boy.

What to watch during the New Year? Latvian films for every mood
Projām (2019)

The protagonist parachutes onto an island inhabited by friendly birds, turtles and cats, but alongside the animals is a huge shadow monster whose touch instantly kills all living things.

The harmonious and fluid animation is imbued with a sense of freedom. This is not only expressed in the boy’s ability to go wherever he wants, but is also felt through the freedom of director Gints Zilbalodis, the “one man orchestra”, who is not limited in his creative work by the opinions of others. This animated film is his personal statement on the role of improvisation and intuition in filmmaking.

Jacob, Mimmi and the Talking Dogs (2019)

The story focuses on a young boy, Jacob, a real city boy, who is sent to live in a wooden house on the outskirts of Riga’s historical district – the “Maskačka”. At first, this journey is a challenge for the boy, but as the film progresses, it becomes the beginning of a meaningful adventure. His dislike of rural life quickly fades and is replaced by a passion for Riga’s Moscow suburb.

What to watch during the New Year? Latvian films for every mood
Jēkabs, Mimmi un runājošie suņi (2019)

Together with his new friend Mimmi and a pack of talking dogs, Jacob tries to keep the area from being demolished and built over with modern skyscrapers. This vibrant film strikes a balance between children’s fantasies and real-life problems, and is also educational, offering viewers an insight into the history of Riga.

Immersion in another reality

What Silent Gerda Knows (2020)

What Silent Gerda Knows is a film that immerses the viewer in another dimension, blurring the boundaries between dream and reality. 

The film is set in the Fittinghoff, a boarding house whose walls preserve the atmosphere of a 1930s house. No means of communication are allowed and there is an unconditional rule of silence. However, this rule must be respected by the characters in the film, but not by the director, Evgeny Pashkevich, who has created a symphony on film, filled not with speech but rather a multifaceted soundscape.

What to watch during the New Year? Latvian films for every mood
Ko zina klusā Gerda (2020)

In addition to the musical accompaniment, the film is filled with noise: wind and thunderstorms, crashes and blows, even the desperate screams of the inhabitants. What Silent Gerda Knows is like a painting with a set of oddities and conventions in which symbolism and endless madness play a central role rather than a secondary narrative.

River of Fear (2021)

A mythological thriller showcasing the mysterious nature of Latvia. River of Fear is a journey or rather an adventure into deep meaning, secrets and oneself. 

The plot centres on a guide who travels with a film crew to the mysterious valley of the river Upurga.

What to watch during the New Year? Latvian films for every mood
Upurga (2021)

Under strange circumstances, the whole group disappears, including the guide’s sister. On screen, a desperate search in the forest, a battle with mythological forces and the characters’ inner demons unfold.

The inner world of the characters turns out to be as deaf, gloomy and impenetrable as the forest in which the action takes place. The outer reflects the inner madness, hypnotising the viewer, coaxing him to plunge into the eerie but ever so alluring “unreality”.

Light in the darkness

The Mover (2018)

Dāvis Sīmanis’ film The Mover brings to the screen one of the most selfless episodes in the country’s history – the rescue of Jews from the Nazis by regular Latvians. The film tells the story of the ordinary but later legendary Riga harbour docker Žanis Lipke, played by Artūrs Skrastiņš. 

Žanis performs a heroic deed – he shelters and rescues 56 people from the Nazis.

What to watch during the New Year? Latvian films for every mood
Tēvs Nakts (2018)

This heartbreaking film is frank and honest in its tragedy, with no room for falsity. The Mover touches the viewer to the core, making you feel for the characters and delude yourself along with them, and the utmost naturalism and aesthetics in every frame forbid you to look away.

Sisters (2022)

Sisters is a moving film about two sisters from an orphanage who want to be adopted by an American family. 

This is not a sympathetic film about children with broken destinies, but rather an amazing story of orphanage girls making their way in the world and finding a path out of life’s traps.

What to watch during the New Year? Latvian films for every mood
Māsas (2022)

As director Linda Olte emphasised, the film was an opportunity for her to light a torch on a subject that is not much talked about in Latvian society. That is why, while working on the film, she and her team visited orphanages, met orphans and talked to social workers and mothers who had to leave their children behind. From these conversations, she learned many small stories that were translated into important social commentary. 

There is no future without the past

Blizzard of Souls (2019)

The military drama Blizzard of Souls managed to attract a record number of viewers during its theatrical release. In terms of viewership, the film outperformed blockbusters such as Titanic and Avatar in Latvia.

What to watch during the New Year? Latvian films for every mood
Dvēseļu putenis (2019)

The film is set during the First World War and Latvia’s struggle for independence. Director Dzintars Dreibergs emphasises that Blizzard of Souls serves as a reminder that freedom was not a given for the country, but was won in hard-fought battles. The cost of independence was high, and many people gave their lives in the struggle for it. This historical film has an important cultural significance for both cinema and the history of the country.

Jelgava 94 (2019)

Jelgava 94 is a memory of the 1990s, filled with self-discovery and a passion for hard rock. Directed by Jānis Ābele, the film is not so much about music as it is about everyday life. The film makes us consider how the environment influences the formation of a particular musical aesthetic, how the ideas and fears in the air determine the taste choices of rebellious young people.

What to watch during the New Year? Latvian films for every mood
Jelgava ’94 (2019)

 On screen is a coming-of-age story told through the unique prism of adolescence. 

Jelgava 94 will be of interest not only to those who personally experienced the 1990s, but also to today’s teenagers, as they will be able to feel a connection with their parents’ youth.

Author : editor nbhd
Date: 29.12.23