Baltic films are not a punchline anymore. Forget all those images of Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians shooting polar bears on a drifting ice island. As the first New York Baltic Film Festival demonstrated last year and the second one hopes to reiterate this month, the three industries in northern Europe are as versatile and surprising as those from the hovering Scandinavian nations.
Like all small countries, the Baltics made an initial impression with animation and documentaries. But it wasn’t long before features spanning historical epics to modern psychodramas began filling out festival slots. As might be expected, many of the dramas reflected a century in which the Soviets, the Nazis, and then the Soviets again occupied the states. Comedies have had a few laughs about that, too. But that’s the set-up, not the punchline. For the rest, go to the second New York Baltic Film Festival being held at Scandinavia House (58 Park Avenue) between November 7 and November 10. —Donald Dewey