Thursday, March 15, 2007

Latvia: From President to Film Star?

With only a few months left in office, Latvian president Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga might ponder upon her future career. Having failed to become UN Secretary General, she soon enters a new life - possibly as a movie star. Admittedly, this might be a grave exaggeration, as the film in question will be a documentary on Vīķe-Freiberga, and thus probably not a box-office hit.
As a new president will move into Riga castle on 1 July this year - possibly Foreign Minister Sandra Kalniete - Vīķe-Freiberga might reflect upon how to assume her rightful role in history books. However, she might not have to think for long, as a documentary film on her life has recently been put into production.

The documentary is to illustrate Vīķe-Freiberga's lifetime achievements against the backdrop of Latvian history from the 1920s. The director, Vilnis Kalnaellis, will have full access to the presidential film and video archives. The "Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga story" will not be opening at theatres before the end of the year, but the film is intended to be launched on the international as well as the domestic market.

However, public expectations might be higher for a potential sequel in four years' time - possibly starring Sandra Kalniete. The fact is that a "Sandra Kalniete story" might prove much more interesting for a movie audience than that of Vīķe-Freiberga.

In 2001, Kalniete published a book about the deportation of her family to Siberia during the Stalin era - With dancing shoes in Siberian snows (Ar balles kurpēm Sibīrijas sniegos). The story of her early life became an international bestseller and Kalniete was awarded several literary prizes for the book. So, one should perhaps keep one's fingers crossed for Kalniete to assume the Latvian presidency this spring - at least if you are a documentary film bum.


Pēteris Cedriņš said...

Dear Vilhelm,

As you noted at my blog re contextualization -- it's been difficult to digest the myriad events this week, with each day bringing more political excitement than the last ever since VVF so dramatically put her foot down and invoked Article 72 last Saturday, refusing to promulgate the security legislation the Government first forced through at Christmastide.

Kalvītis' ruling coalition, desperate to hang on to power in the face of a groundswell of condemnation, ditched the changed security legislation and in general acts as the Diena commentator Aivars Ozoliņš described it in a headline yesterday: "Just don't hit me!" The arrogance and self-confidence of the Government has been deflated, and we can thank our President for that. The arrest of Latvia's most prominent oligarch, the mayor of Ventspils, crowned the week -- and there are now demands that the names of those he paid "stipends" to should be made public.

Of Sandra Kalniete -- while she most definitely is one of the best candidates, her chances of becoming President are not good because she is the primary spokesperson for New Era (Jaunais Laiks) of late, and New Era is in stiff opposition on major issues. Though the Government withdrew the security legislation, signatures for a referendum on the now non-existent legislation will be collected from 3 April, and New Era will lead the drive.

Here is a portrait of the main candidates -- "Some candidates for the presidency." What Ernests so brilliantly illustrates is what the coalition parties and the oligarchs that stand behind three of them would like to see -- no public discussion and a President they can easily control. Though Vaira pricked their baloon, these are not the sort of people who give up easily -- there's too much at stake, and not a few powerful figures are determined not to join Lembergs behind bars.

I'm swamped with work at the moment, but I will try to post a followup to "The Showdown" as soon as I can. Though the last decade and a half hardened my realism, this week raised people's hopes that "business as usual" (Latvia "becoming only a token democracy," as the political scientist Lolita Čigāne put it) can actually be derailed... the way our system works, though, is that we need a President who can stick a stick into the hive when necessary. Kalvītis & Co. will do all they can to make sure the next President lacks a stick.

Warm regards,

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Pēteris,

I sincerely want to thank you for your very interesting and insightful comment on current political developments in Latvia. I only regret that I have not been able to respond earlier, as I as well have been swamped with work. I especially liked the very detailed characteristics of "some candidates for the presidency". It really gave a succinct picture of the entire situation. Finally, I hope to read more on this on your blog, and I realise I have a lot to learn from you.