The Baltic Film Series at Stanford—a program of Fall Quarter film screenings focusing on the history and culture of the Baltic countries—concluded Dec. 7 with “Land of Songs” (2015). This screening, the most popular of the series, attracted more than 300 students, faculty, staff and Baltic community members.
The event opened with a reception co-sponsored by the Consulate General of Lithuania in Los Angeles and the Honorary Consul of Lithuania ín San Francisco. After the screening, film director Aldona Watts, as well as other members of the film crew, engaged in a lively discussion with the audience.
“Land of Songs” is a documentary about five elderly women who uphold the ancient folk singing tradition of their village in Dainava, a region of Lithuania known as the “Land of Songs.” Singing has sustained the women’s lifelong friendships, and has also helped them cope with decades of war and occupation. As the village’s youth move away in post-independence Lithuania, the women struggle to keep their singing tradition alive.
“Land of Songs” is the first film by Aldona and Julian Watts, a brother-and-sister filmmaking team from San Francisco. Nicholas Berger, MFA ’08, edited the documentary, which had its World Premiere at the Vilnius International Film Festival in Vilnius, Lithuania in March 2015. The U.S. Premiere was held at the Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in October, where it received the Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award Honorable Mention. The screening at Stanford was the film’s West Coast Premiere.
The film, which is fiscally sponsored by San Francisco Film Society, was selected for the Independent Filmmaker Project’s 2014 Spotlight on Documentaries at Film Week in New York.
The Baltic Film Series at Stanford featured four films during Fall Quarter. These included “Those Who Dare” (2015), “Dangerous Summer” (2000), “In the Crosswind” (2014) and “Land of Songs” (2015). Liisi Esse, Stanford libraries’ assistant curator for Estonian and Baltic Studies, says the series will likely be repeated in the future because it was so well received by the campus and Baltic communities.