Just a few months ago, Alexander Belinski and Agne Dovydaityte, formerly journalism students, left their hectic lives in London and moved to Lithuania to make a feature-length documentary, The Sun Sets in the East, based on a peasant’s diary from 1984. In this article, they tell Deep Baltic a bit more about the film-making process, and what they want to express with the documentary. 

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The diary used to belong to Agne’s grandfather, and is in itself rather ordinary – something just like it could surely be found in any post-Soviet country. He writes about weeding allotments, going to church, attending village dances – but mostly about living at nature’s pace and devoting himself to God. The film’s director, Alexander Belinski, who recently completed a short film called Ypostas, felt that a combination of the diary and shots of contemporary Lithuania would show not just the historic but also the moral changes the country has undergone.

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Like the diary, the shots showcase the ordinary beauty of the landscape, which may be overlooked in day-to-day life, and which present a contrast to the diary. The shots are static and filmed in 4:3, avoiding urban settings and focusing instead on the changing rural landscape, showing technological advancements creeping into fields and forests. The style is reminiscent of the films of James Benning, Peter B Hutton, and Jonas Mekas.

Although this film might sound like something that wouldn’t attract ordinary moviegoers, Agne and Alexander are convinced that The Sun Sets in the East is a film for everyone and about everyone. They see it as a monument to all the people that were, are, and will be forgotten by history – to the salt-of-the-earth types that came and went without leaving any major marks in the flow of time.

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Because of their idea that this film should be for everyone who is open to any sort of cinema, the film crew is sharing with their audience everything from the film’s locations to tips about cinema, via their social media platforms and a blog on one of the major Lithuanian news websites, 15min.

“Because many films so often get made behind closed doors (one writes a project, gets funding, makes a film, writes a project for another one), we are aiming to open even windows, so more people can understand how films can be made. It does not necessarily need to involve renting massive cameras and having tonnes of assistants. It can start as a two-person project and organically grow into something bigger. It reminds me that we often talk with Alexander how upsetting it is that there is no standard film education in schools – and so we can’t blame people who are not familiar with slow-cinema or the directors that inspire us. But we will use this film as a medium to talk to people, not just after the film is made, but now – while we are making it – so they can learn together with us,” says Agne.

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“Living in Lithuania after London is not easy. Prices in the shops here match or even exceed Western prices, but salaries are very low. Added to the country’s unfortunate history, cold weather, broken politics, corruption – and you can feel this general sadness wherever you go in the country. However, I find this sadness and sometimes nostalgia very attractive. It reflects Lithuania’s landscape – beautiful nature, with cold industrial buildings and electric pylons wherever you go. I see our film as something which this kind of country – or any country, in this fast-changing world – needs. To remind them to see beauty everywhere, to show what it is like to live a life with God. I find it incredibly beautiful and I hope that this message will reach people today,” says Agne.

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Image: Gabriele Monginaite

You can find out more about The Sun Sets in the East at the film’s Facebook page

All images credit: Alexander Belinski/Agne Dovydaityte, unless otherwise specified

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