Professional Cinema in Lithuania

It was 1897 when the first public show of cinema took place in Lithuania, Vilnius.  8 years later the first cinema theatre was founded. The number of cinemas spread to 30 till 1911 where Russian, Italian and later  American and German films were shown.  The Lithuanian cinematography art was founded by Kaunas photographer Vladislovas Starevičius, later the art was developed by other talented people most of whom worked in USA.

During the years of independence of Lithuania there were created many films like short farce “A Doctor Under Compulsion” (1927), “Solder – Defender of Lithuania” (1928), full-length “Onytė and Jonelis“(1931) , first sound film “The Fatty`s Dream” (1938)and other. However, most of these creations did not survive till nowadays. After the Second World War the development of Lithuanian cinema was stopped as the whole process was controlled by soviet government. Cinema theaters were filled with the propaganda soviet films. Lithuanian cinematographs were under strict control as only the soviet chronicles could be created and shifted to the big screens.  Then the first film which was advertised as an original Lithuanian was “Marytė“ (1947), but it had nothing in common with Lithuania – it was a production of Moscow film studio “Mosfilm” and only the landscape and names of the main heroes were of Lithuanian orign.

The actors and director were Russians and the main purposes of this and later similar films was to spread the soviet idealism. Luckily, as soon as Stalin died in 1953, the circumstances got softer so the first strong generations of Lithuanian cinematographs could act more various. The main film thematic then was the after war life in villages in soviet Lithuania and the still alive fights between patriots and procommunists.  Of course,  the Lithuanian nationalism lightly penetrated into the cinema art then and the only concern they had to worry about then was to overcome the censor and to pursuit the commission that scenario was worth to be financed.

Later, in years of Regeneration, the situation changed. There was no more censor as well as no more financing. Despite the financial difficulties the real new competitors appeared as more new artists wanted to realize their cinematographic ideas. So the new generation of cinematographs worked under pretty tough conditions. These conditions grown many talented people who created small budget but great artistry films.

A few of the most important nowadays figures in Lithuanian cinematography are:

• Šarūnas Bartas, director
• Janina Lapinskaitė, director
• Jonas Mekas, cinematographer and poet
• Algimantas Puipa, director
• Regimantas Adomaitis, actor
• Donatas Banionis, actor
• Emilis Vėlyvis, director