By Laman Ismayilova
Mindaugas Survila, Lithuanian director and cinematographer, is a talented filmmaker who makes a great contribution to the development of modern documentary cinema.
For many years, the film director captures viewers' attention with his successful and critically acclaimed works. He enjoys working on projects which require powerful visual storytelling.
Survila has visited the City of Winds, Baku, where he presented his documentary "The Ancient Woods" to the cinema lovers.
He spent almost ten years making the film which immerses the viewers in the life of an ancient Baltic forest. His patience has resulted in an enchanting film.
The documentary offers an exciting journey into the world of nature, starting with forest thickets, wolves' caves and a black stork's nest, then plunging into the depths of the underwater forest and returning to the people inhabiting this land.
Survila had a dream to create this film since he was in the fifth grade.
"All young children have their own secret places, say, near the garage or somewhere else. And my secret place was in the forest. Once, when I went there, I saw that the whole forest was cut down. I wanted to tell people: 'What are you doing? It was such a great place, but now everything is cut down here.' Then I realized that there are different ways to talk about this problem. You can just talk, or you can take pictures, and then more people will know about it. But then I realized that the movie will have the greatest impact on people," he told Trend.
Survila said that in his film, he wanted not only to tell people that a forest is not merely trees that can be cut down to get money; he also wanted to show the spirit of the forest itself.
“The issue of deforestation in the film 'The Ancient Woods' is global in nature and applies to the whole world, not just Lithuania," he added.
The filmmaker devoted 12 years to the project. He faced with many difficulties while filming "The Ancient Woods".
"There were a lot of difficulties. For example, we were filming at the top of trees. So, you should know how to build a tent and what kind of construction should be used. It took a lot of time to come up with a solution. Another challenge was to sit on a tree for 23 hours. The tent was small and it was on the tree on 27 meters high. There was no possibility to go outside because there were only two of us. I stayed in the tent while my colleague was outside and vice versa. I could not leave the tent; I did so only the next night. The place was quite north, so nights there were very short: only one hour, so 23 hours I had to sit on the tree, no matter if it was raining or storming, I did not have any possibilities to go outside. And the underwater shooting was also very hard," Survila noted.
The premiere of the film took place at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).
"It is the biggest documentary film festival in the world and it was a big honor to be there. After the festival, we asked the cinema directors about the number of people that might come to see the movie after the film's release. We made a big advertisement campaign for the movie and 8,000 people came to see it on the first weekend. Now we have about 67,000 comments that our movie is a popular documentary," the film director said.
After the first weekend, the film crew decided to spend half of the money for an interactive platform project, and the other half for a special foundation that will buy the forest so that nobody will be able to bring harm to it.
“So far, we have about 60,000 euros. However, it is not a big amount, considering the forest's cost. Thus, we invite all the people to join us to buy more of these lands so our children will have possibility to visit the forest. It will be a private fund, the government will not have any influence over this place," Survila added.
In his films "The Ancient Woods" and "The Field of Magic", the filmmaker was both the film director and the director of photography.
"I myself act as a director and a cameraman, because it is not always possible to ask another cameraman to replace me, since I spend a lot of time looking for a suitable frame, and also because of the climatic features," said Survila. "In addition to new films, I have plans to create an interactive platform. For example, a it can be a web page where we see the forest, hear the sounds of wind and birds. When we hear the sound of an animal or a bird, a link to the movie about this or that animal will appear on the screen.”
In his interview, the filmmaker said that he always sought to make films, despite the fact that he is a biologist by profession.
"I studied biology at university. After the graduation, I worked as a volunteer with many famous directors. Since childhood, I had the desire to make films. I worked with professionals, and one of them said to me, 'There are no books that teach what to do and how to do it. You have to catch the frame yourself. If you read about movies, you will make films like everyone else,'” Survila noted.
Master classes by other directors are also very helpful, as you learn their techniques and ways to solve problems, he added.
“In the movie you have to be unique, that is what matters the most. I focus on the environment in my films. For example, the film 'Field of Magic' tells the story of people who live near a landfill. I just watch the wildlife and the environment and film them. We do not have a specific scenario, and this is more difficult, because you do not know the ending of the film in advance," the director said.
Speaking about his visit to Azerbaijan, the film director said that he would be happy to take a walk around the city and get acquainted with its sights.
"After the presentation of the film, we will have time to see the sights of Baku. My first impression is that Baku is a very good city. There are beautiful architectural buildings here," he said.
Survila held a master class for Azerbaijani undergraduates studying cinema art. At the master class, he talked about the film making process.
"After all, it took us eight years for preparatory work - finding the right locations, special equipment, and the shooting itself took four years. Ours is not a typical film about nature. There is no voice-over and no music; only sounds of the nature and the magical atmosphere of the forest," he said.
The film director noted that the film was shown in 30 countries at 50 film festivals.
"I am glad to come to Baku. I receive many invitations to visit different countries like France and Spain. Sometimes I do not have time to visit all countries, but I was very pleased to receive the invitation to visit Azerbaijan. I hope that at the presentation in Baku all viewers will get something good for them," he concluded.
Laman Ismayilova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Lam_Ismayilova
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