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"ŠĶĒRSIELA" ("SIDE STREET") (1988)

Documentary, 89 min. Director: Ivars Seleckis; script: Tālivaldis Margēvičs; director and cameraman:  Ivars Seleckis; music: Ivars Vīgners

Seemingly simple and unpretentious, this is a truly impressive film, recipient of the European Film Academy’s prize. The quiet little street with its residents and their lives is like a raindrop that reflects the universe.

This full-length documentary has received not only local recognition (award "Lielais Kristaps") but also the EFA prize and other international awards.

Šķērsiela, an 800 m long street on the left bank of the Daugava River, has served the documentary’s authors as the setting for a portrait of the late 1980s Riga. The people living on this street represent not only themselves with their particular traits, strengths and weaknesses, but are typical of the Latvian nation as a whole. The timing of the film is of essence: the Soviet empire is on its last legs, there is a new atmosphere of budding free speech, capitalism, and liberalism. On Šķērsiela there are found both the "proletariat" and the "new capitalists" whose entrepreneurship ranges from a headstone business to selling horseradish at the market. There is Tolik, born in Siberia, where his mother was deported, and handicapped from childhood, he receives a pitiful income by gluing together boxes for a factory and is dreaming of the unattainable — good health.  "I don’t think I have had a life," barely holding back tears and turning away from the camera says his mother in one of the many emotional close-ups.

Life stories – told by an off-screen voiceover and through on-screen interviews -- of the residents of Šķērsiela form the film’s structure. The author of the interviews and the script, Tālivaldis Margēvičs, sometimes succeeds in eliciting truthful replies from the protagonists, at other times they keep their distance. The strength of the film is in the gallery of portraits it presents: alongside ironic, even comical portrayals of neighborly relations (the noise associated with the headstone maker’s business upsets his neighbor), there are close-ups of the tragic: Tolik and his mother, the single mother Daiga, who is a relative of the banned Latvian author Jānis Veselis, and others.

An image that provides the red thread in the documentary is a weather balloon, which is used to "forecast the weather above Šķērsiela". The film "Šķērsiela" itself has become a kind of weather balloon that shows the psychological climate in Latvia in the late 1980s, just a few years before independence.    

Ten years later the same team shot "Jaunie laiki Šķērsielā" ("The New Era in Šķērsiela").

Ivars Seleckis (1934) started his film career in 1963; for the majority of the over thirty films he has been both the director and the cameraman.

Dita Rietuma

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