In 1935, the former silent cinema and theatre star in Germany, Marija Leiko, goes to the Soviet Union to take over the care of her granddaughter. The way back to Latvia leads through Moscow where her former friends, revolutionaries of 1905, now commissars of the Stalinist regime, talk her into staying in Moscow to perform with the Latvian theatre. Soon enough she becomes aware of the schizophrenic and violent character of the new regime. Leonīds Zakovskis, deputy head of the NKVD, becomes her admirer and romantic suitor. A year later, the NKVD-organised “national operation” begins, and Zakovskis is put in charge of it. Should the actress admit to anti-Soviet activities, it would prove the Latvian disloyalty to the regime.
Albeit in the dark about the fate of her granddaughter, kidnapped by the NKVD, Leiko cannot admit to “crimes” she has not committed. She is forced to play her life’s most tragic role – an innocent victim, along with thousands of other Latvians in Soviet Russia.
Marija Leiko should be considered one of the most important personalities in Latvian cultural history who owes her successful career to German theatres and cinema. In her life’s journey, several plots emerge, allowing for very different experiences (lives) and serving as a testimony to an individual’s unforgiving relationship to the great processes of history. The film provides an opportunity to remind ourselves of important personalities of the first half of the 20th century and to raise the level of discussion on the greatest Latvian genocide in history when approximately 20 thousand Latvians were killed in less than a year. Leiko’s life story is related to different powers and political convictions, therefore narrating this story means generalising about the relationship between political power and art and murderous “blindness” of totalitarianism. Yet the main role in this story is played by the motif of love - for life, mother’s love and actresses love of her work.
Dāvis Sīmanis, PhD Arts, is a Latvian filmmaker and theorist. He has written and directed historical feature films, poetic documentary films and cross-genre features. His docu-fiction Escaping Riga (2014) is a story of two geniuses - philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin and film director Sergei Eisenstein, premiered internationally at IDFA 2014 and is still screened at documentary film festivals worldwide. Feature fiction film The Mover (2018) - the true story of the “Latvian Schindler” Žanis Lipke, was Latvia’s official candidate for best foreign-language film for the 2020 Oscars and premiered internationally at Moscow IFF, received National Film awards: Best Director; Best Production design; Best Cinematography; Best Supporting Actress.
Since founding Mistrus Media in 2000, Gints Grūbe has been producing documentaries, features and TV programmes. ‘Escaping Riga’, by D. Sīmanis a docu-drama following a unique friendship between the Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein and the British philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin (2014), it participated in many FF around the world, including CPX Docs, IDFA panorama, Tallinn Black Nights. ‘My Father the Banker’ by I. Ozoliņa telling the story of banking crises in the Baltic States became the most watched documentary in Latvia in 2015. ’Chronicles of Melanie’, dir. V. Kairish, premiered in Tallinn Black Nights IFF 2016, ‘To Be Continued’, dir. Ivars Seleckis premiered at Visions du Reel 2018, ‘My Father The Spy’, co-directed by Gints and Jaak Kilmi premiered at Sheffield IFF 2019.
MISTRUS MEDIA is one of the most experienced Latvian film production companies, working on international co-productions, TV projects, film production services for foreign productions. Films produced by MISTRUS MEDIA have received several national and international festival awards and have been broadcast worldwide. A minority co-production of MISTRUS MEDIA by Sharunas Bartas was the Official Selection of Cannes Film Festival, 2020. In 2020-2021, we plan to release documentary Land (dir. I. Seleckis), feature debut The Shift (dir. R. Kalviņš) and two minority co-productions Natural Light (dir. D. Nagy, Hungary, France, Latvia, Germany) and Tsoi (dir. A. Uchitel, Russia, Latvia). The Mover (dir. D. Sīmanis 2018) was Latvia’s official candidate for the best foreign-language film for the 2020 Oscars.