Defenders of Riga

Defenders of Riga (Rigas sargi) is a 2007 Latvian drama film. Latvia submitted it to the 2007 Academy Awards for consideration for Best Foreign Language Film, but it was not nominated. The film is based on the book Clock in Reverse (Pulkstenis ar atpakaļgaitu) by Andris Kolbergs, who also contributed to the screenplay.

The film tells the story of Latvia’s struggle to maintain its independence in 1919, when the nascent Soviet Union invaded in an attempt to bring Latvia back under Russian influence. Latvia had gained independence from the Russian Empire in 1917, but became involved in a war for its independence not long after. The film, as its title implies, focuses on Latvian soldiers’ attempts to protect Riga, the capital, from Russian invasion. The main battle scene takes place on November 11, a key date in the struggle. It’s a true David-and-Goliath story, showing the less prepared Latvian soldiers winning against the more powerful German and Russian forces. And, of course, there’s a love story, between Martins, one of the main soldiers, and his bride, Elza, whom he left behind to join the war effort.

The film was very popular when it came out—it broke records to become the most-watched Latvian film since independence (the more recent independence in 1991, that is). It was criticized for some factual inaccuracies, and Kolbergs was reportedly unhappy with the final film. One American critic, from Variety.com, found little to like with the film, calling it “bland” and nothing more than Latvia’s obligatory national-pride film. It seems that the Latvian crowds who went to see it didn’t agree, however.

 

Director: Aigars Grauba
Stars: Jānis Reinis, Elita Kļaviņa, Ģirts Krūmiņš, Romualds Ancāns, Indra Briķe
Production company: Platforma Filma
Box office take: 328,592.63 Lats

 

A trailer:

Defenders of Riga

Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS’s Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.