I’ve just been commissioned to review various films for the London International Documentary Festival website, many of which fall within this blog’s remit - an excellent example being Peter King’s British-Latvian co-production Karosta.
This is one of the most vivid portraits I’ve seen to date of the legacy of the collapse of communism - Karosta began life in the 1890s as a Russian naval base for Tsar Alexander III’s Baltic fleet, but a century later the Soviet Union collapsed (1991), Latvia declared independence (1994), and the population dropped by 25,000 almost overnight as the Russians went home. The local authorities in the nearby city of Liepaja tried to encourage Latvians to move there, but they were understandably reluctant (they didn’t trust the Russians not to come back and steal everything), so Karosta was essentially left to rot. King’s film tells its history, and also describes how a pioneering art project managed to retrieve much of its former dignity, though there’s still a long way to go.
My full review is here, and the LIDF site also hosts Kamila Kuc’s interview with King here. It’s screening at the Barbican on 2 April 2009, followed by a Q&A with King and members of the production team.