Soviet Lithuanian Amateur Film Collection
The collection represents filmmakers in Soviet Lithuania who could escape Soviet censorship because they were not professionals, and therefore worked outside official structures. As a consequence, these artists were able to address sensitive social issues, and use avant-garde forms of expression that were forbidden in official contemporary cinematography.
Vilnius O. Milašiaus gatvė 21, Lithuania 10102
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Name of collection
Soviet Lithuanian Amateur Film Collection
Provenance and cultural activities
The collection consists of films made by Lithuanian amateur filmmakers. During Soviet times, the Lithuanian Central State Archives stored only films that were made by official professional filmmakers. These include both artistic films and documentaries. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the archives also started to collect films received from private collections. There is no purposeful programme aiming to collect all amateur films, or even as many as possible, made during the Soviet period. According to Nikolajus Gubanovas, the head of the Film Department, the decision to accept a film from a private collection depends on personal attitudes and contacts with film organisations and private filmmakers. For example, it was the suggestion of Vidmantas Gaigalas to accept films by Barysas-Baras (1954-2005). The Lithuanian Amateur Film Association did not have the possibility to store these films properly. There is no doubt that most amateur films made during the Soviet period are held in private collections. Journalists often expected to discover anti-Soviet expression and demonstrations filmed by amateurs. Such hopes were expressed during the filming of the Lithuanian film Emilija iš Laisvės Alėjos (Emilija from Laisvės Avenue, 2017). The film is about the generation of Romas Kalanta, who set himself on fire in Kaunas in 1972 in protest against the Soviet regime. The film’s director and producer expected to find footage of the protests made by amateur filmmakers. But these expectations have not so far been fulfilled.
The most famous and well-known filmmaker is Artūras Barysas-Baras. Many of his films have double meanings, and some of them are very provocative. For example, his film Tie, kurie nežinote paklauskite tų, kurie žino (Those of you Who don't Know, Ask those Who do). The idea of the film could be interpreted as mystical. Its action happens in Cathedral Square. In the film, the main actor (Barysas-Baras himself) points a finger to the sky, as if showing that only the sky knows all the answers to questions. According to Vidmantas Gaigalas, the chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Amateur Filmmakers, it is sometimes hard to envisage anti-Soviet or non-Soviet moments in Barysas' films, and yet Barysas shows issues that contradicted the official picture of the period. Simply filming everyday contemporary life, like scenes in which actors are smoking Marlboro cigarettes, which were only available on the black market, could illustrate the contradictions in Soviet Lithuanian society.
The collection is used by researchers and students who want to understand contemporary ways of filmmaking, and to learn more about the period. In fact, many amateur films crossed the borders of the official ideology. They have multiple meanings and avant-garde forms of expression.
Description of content
The collection holds more than 60 films. These are short films, most of them are from one to 18 minutes long. The makers of films are Artūras Barysas-Baras, Vladas Blinstrubas and Evaldas Darškus. Many of the films look like a simple moment from everyday life, filmed without a clear scenario, and yet they have an avant-garde form and a double meaning ('Aesopian' language). The films show the strange behaviour of people who do not fit in to the ideologised picture of the doctrine of that time. According to Gaigalas, the chairman of the Lithuanian Amateur Cinema Association, the films by Barysas-Baras show Lithuanian youth groups (such as hippies) that did not adhere to the clean-cut pro-Soviet style. All Soviet citizens had to be directed towards socially healthy activities. In Baras' films, to the contrary, the main heroes very often do nothing. Even small details like a packet of Marlboro cigarettes become a small but clear element of non-Soviet consumption.
There is no doubt that the collection represents only a selection of underground filmmakers and films. For example, there are many films made by Barysas-Baras that are not in the archive. One of them is Jos meilė (Her Love, 1979), which played an important role in cultural dissent in Soviet Lithuania. According to Gaigalas, Barysas-Baras was punished for showing the film, by being excluded for one year from participating in film festivals. The content of this film has elements of gerontophilia. The heads of the Amateur Film Association suggested Barysas-Baras should not show this film to a wider audience. Despite this, he took the film to the All-Union Amateur Film Festival in Bryansk (Russia), and after that he was punished.
- film: 10-99
Date of founding
Place of founding
Vilnius O. Milašiaus gatvė 21, Lithuania
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Creator(s) of content
- Gaigalas, Vidmantas
Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
- No publication
Part of network
Author(s) of this page
Gaigalas, Vidmantas , interview by Grybkauskas, Saulius, April 07, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection
Gubanovas, Nikolajus , interview by Grybkauskas, Saulius, April 06, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection