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VECĀKS PAR DESMIT MINŪTĒM (OLDER BY TEN MINUTES) (1978)

Documentary, 10.min. Director: Hercs Franks. Script: Hercs Franks. Camera: Juris Podnieks.

The most striking example of the so-called Riga school of documentaries; a film where the director’s vision finds its perfect match in the cameraman’s talent.

One of the outstanding documentary director Hercs Franks’s (1926) best films, it is laconic yet emotionally precise study of a little boys face. Almost for ten minutes straight the camera stares in the child’s face, only a couple of times fixing its gaze elsewhere – on children sitting next to the boy – to quickly return to its main subject. The audience never finds out what the boy is watching with such abandon and involvement. We now know that he was watching a puppet performance, yet for the authors of the documentary that is irrelevant. What is of essence is the child as an emotionally perfectly straight-forward, self-revealing, and therefore live being. "The film was shot in just one take… The second one just did not work. Yet Juris (Podnieks) and I, we knew with certainty that we should shoot en face, as if looking into a mirror. Because that’s what he was to us, in his face we saw ourselves. Our soul," recalled Hercs Franks.     The soundtrack includes atmospheric sounds and fragments of musical compositions, yet not a word is said. The authors simply wish to observe a child’s emotions and watch him become ten minutes older.

"Vecāks par desmit minūtēm" is one of the rare Latvian documentaries with a stellar reputation in the outside world.  It is included in the curricula of film students; in 2002 an international project "Older by Ten Minutes" took place. It included short films by Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Jim Jarmush, Spike Lee, Chen Kaige, and Aki Kaurismaki, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and were dedicated to Hercs Franks and Juris Podnieks.

"Vecāks par desmit minūtēm" represents a logical continuation of the Latvian poetic documentary tradition whose beginnings are dated with the late 1950s and early 1960s and which was a contrast to the ideologically engaged Soviet canon. The reality offered by the Latvian documentary cinema was free of ideological clichés, seeking to reveal emotional close-ups and relying on visual imagery.

Hercs Franks has been directing films since 1965 and has authored over thirty documentaries. He is one of the filmmakers who launched the Latvian poetic documentary tradition and one of its most outstanding representatives. His best films include "Mūžs" (Life) (1972),  "Aizliegtā zona" (Off Limits) (1975),  "Augstākā tiesa" (Supreme Court) (1987), "Augstā dziesma" (Song of Songs) (1989), etc.

Dita Rietuma

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