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Reflecting on Place, Identity and Survival Battles at the 2021 New York Baltic Film Festival


By Roger Costa


The incredible true story of a Lithuanian sailor who drastically jumped from his Russian ship into the Americans begging for asylum and freedom is told with precise details by the hero himself, Simas Kurdika, who in 1970 became a celebrity for humanitarian causes with his humble sense of dignity and patriotism.

Award-winning Director Giedre Zickyte follows Simas through his memories of tragedy and glory, as he brilliantly reenacts those moments that touched American hearts, inciting a revolutionary action for compassion and solidarity.

Lithuania’s official entry for the Oscars 2022 introduces to the world the courageous and adventurous journey of a man seeking better days, while painting a relevant canvas of the social, political and humanitarian transformations around him. It is also a powerful statement on the immigrants’ rights and how one single action can sparkle a revolution. (Screens 11/7.)


Estonian director Lauri Randla’s engaging dramedy uses the story of a young boy infected with radiation to portrait the fall of the Soviet Union with efficient, crowd-pleasing results. Focusing on the experiences of Johannes, his eccentric family (especially his wise and evolving mother) and his friends from school, this nostalgic and bittersweet coming of age story is an inspiring ode to childhood, youth and the eagerness for freedom. As his mother tries to flee the regime imposed at their Estonian village by the Soviets, Johannes experiences the consequences of a divided ideology, as well as first love.

Based on his memories from childhood, Randla crafts a magically immersive and heart rendering film, able to enchant adults and children alike. (Screens 11/3.)


Giving the classic tale of Snow White a modern spin filled with selfies and live social media structure, this inventive and absorbing work from acclaimed Latvian filmmaker and documentarian Laila Pakalnina is a masterclass of creativity. Shot in an irresistibly affecting B&W and utterly stylish, the film explores identity, ego and family ties through the vivid interactions of the players in front of the camera (representing the use of a tech device): Snow White becomes the center of the attention at the gym, where her stepmother obsessively works-out, ensuing a game of rivalry, jealousy and vanity. It is a sarcastic and involving critique to society and its uncontrollable behavior in the era of the superficial, pre-fabricated emotions via tech. (Screens 11/4.)


An impressive look at the dangerous manipulation caused by the excessive consumption of technology, this mystical horror adventure gathers a group of kids willing to play with fire. When they are left by their parents at their grandmother’s country house, without any cell phones or connection to the Internet, they are led to discover the truth behind the folkloric tale of a man who built a sort of slave, who would do anything he’d command. Blending buddy comedy, horror and adventure, director Rasmus Merivoo scores a highly entertaining, fantastical wild ride. (Screens 11/6.)


(The New York Baltic Film Festival 2021 runs November 3rd  thru 14th In-Person at Scandinavia House in Manhattan and available Virtually nationwide. Go to for details.)

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