LAND OF SONGS is the first film by brother-sister filmmaking team Aldona and Julian Watts. Their Lithuanian-American mother raised them in San Francisco, California with an appreciation for their roots. As children she shuffled them, often against their will, to gatherings organized by the local Lithuanian-American community. They grew up listening to the stories of their Lithuanian grandmother, "Bobute." Aldona in particular was transfixed by Bobute's vivid accounts of her childhood in Lithuania, and her harrowing experiences during World War II. She planned to record her grandmother's oral history, but before she got the chance, Bobute suddenly passed away.
The summer after Bobute died, the family visited friends in a small village in the region of Lithuania called Dainava, or “Land of Songs.” To acquaint them with the oral tradition for which the area is named, their friends brought in the local experts: a sprightly group of twelve village grandmas. Aldona was charmed by their lively spirits, and moved by their haunting songs. She could see that singing kept the grandmas young at heart, and was the thread binding their lifelong friendships. It was also clear that the songs served as a record of their village's tragic history, and a means of coping with the traumatic memories of their lives - as it had been for generations of women before them. They reminded her of Bobute, and she felt she had been given another chance. She promised the grandmas that she would return and make a film about them. They were just as thrilled about the prospect as she was, if not a little surprised - their own grandchildren weren't interested in their songs, and here was this odd American teenager who couldn't get enough.
The years passed and life happened, but Aldona never forgot her promise. In 2011 she discovered that all but five of the grandmas had already passed away, and she knew it was now or never. Julian joined her, and with minimal filmmaking experience, they harnessed their DIY backgrounds, assembled a crew of skilled friends, and raised funds. By summer 2012, they were back in the village to make a film. The result is a tender, poetic record of the lives of five incredible women, and a testament to the universal language of folk music.