Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) on Wednesday evening awarded Latvian documentary filmmaker and founder of the legendary Riga School of Poetic Documentary Cinema Ivars Seleckis with the festival's second annual Lifetime Achievement Award.
Born in Riga in 1934 and still making films at the age of 84, Seleckis is the oldest currently active Latvian documentary filmmaker. With a background in food techology, Seleckis began work as a camera assistant at Riga Film Studio in 1958, according to a PÖFF press release.
According to Kristīne Matīsa, a senior officer at the National Film Centre of Latvia (NKC), the first scenes shot by Seleckis to appear on film date back to the 1960 documentary "My Riga," a film that became the first tentative step away from official Soviet propaganda and toward more humanly intimate poetics.
In 1966, Seleckis went on to study cinematography at the Moscow Film Institute (VGIK), and made his debut in 1970 with "Girls from Valmiera." This work brought a modern edge to documentary filmmaking as it was unusual at the time for a Latvian documentary to pose daring and unflattering questions on social topics. The context of the film was a small-town factory with 2,000 female workers, which posed big problems for the local demographic balance.
Seleckis went on to direct a large number of films, and cemented himself as a vital part of Latvian film history. His biggest international success was "The Crossroad Street" (1988), the first of three Crossroad films, which earned three of the most prestigious documentary awards in Europe — the European Film Academy (EFA) award for Best Documentary, the Joris Ivens Award, and the Robert Flaherty Award.
The Latvian documentary filmmaker was previously awarded the Honorary Award of Merit and Exceptional Lifetime Contributions to Cinema at Latvia's Lielais Kristaps National Film Festival in 2014.
Seleckis was presented with the PÖFF Lifetime Achievement Award at Wednesday night's screening of his latest documentary, "To Be Continued," which was included in the Estonian film festival's Baltic Competition programme and is Latvia's Academy Award candidate for Best Foreign Language Film.
Editor: Aili Vahtla