Visiting Nijole Brazenaite-Paronetto

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We recently visited our dear friend and supporter Nijolė Bražėnaitė-Paronetto at her home in New York. Along with being a lovely and accomplished individual, Nijole is part of a notable family: she is the widow of legendary Lithuanian partisan Juozas Lukša-Daumantas, and her mother, Konstancija Bražėnienė, was awarded the Yad Vashem Medal of the Righteous Among the Nations for protecting Jewish children during the holocaust in Lithuania. Needless to say, Nijolė has some incredible stories to tell. For more photos, check out our Facebook album here.

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Nijolė and her sister Vida in 1939.

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Nijolė’s late husband, legendary partisan Juozas Lukša-Daumantas.

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Nijolė’s mother Konstancija Bražėnienė on Christmas Eve in Siberia, 1950.

Highlights from the SF International Film Festival

We saw some incredible films at the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival, but nothing comes close to the mind-blowing audio-visual experience of Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s LEVIATHAN.

Joshua Oppenheimer’s THE ACT OF KILLING is easily the most disturbing film I’ve seen at the festival – or anywhere, ever. In which “history is written by the winners,” no matter who they are and what they’ve done…

Watching Sergei Loznitza’s IN THE FOG was like seeing some of our interview material from LAND OF SONGS brought to life. A bleak contemplation on how war effects the villager with no ideological stakes save his own personal integrity – but what does that matter in the face of death? “Do people really change so quickly?”

Other highlights include participating in San Francisco Film Society’s debut A2E Direct Distribution lab, and running into V.Vale of Re/Search Publications!

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Intern for LAND OF SONGS!

We’re looking for some stellar interns in New York City and San Francisco to join the LAND OF SONGS team. Duties and responsibilities can vary depending on the intern’s areas of interest, and may span post-production, administrative, and marketing tasks, including:

  • Organizing footage and creating subtitles in Adobe Premiere Pro
  • Growing and handling our web presence and social media
  • Conducting research
  • Preparing press items & maintaining contacts
  • General office management

This will be a rewarding experience for someone interested in DIY/grassroots indie filmmaking as well as Lithuanian culture, anthropology, gender issues, folk music, and oral history. The internship is unpaid to start, with the possibility of growth. The production will cover transportation costs and meals, and will offer film credits. Hours and scheduling can be discussed on an individual basis.

Qualifications:

  • Fluency in Mac systems a must.
  • Familiarity with Adobe Premiere Pro preferred, but familiarity with Final Cut Pro or other NLEs OK – we can train an individual on Premiere Pro if it’s the right fit.
  • WordPress and social media fluency preferred.
  • Knowledge of Microsoft Word processing and spreadsheets preferred.
  • Bonus points if you speak Lithuanian (and English!)

Please email your inquiry and resume to landofsongsfilm@gmail.com

Her Girl Friday’s “Choose Your Own Adventure”

I’m a co-organizer of Her Girl Friday, a Brooklyn group that produces events for female journalists & nonfiction storytellers. On March 7, we had our first San Francisco event at 111 Minna Street Gallery. 155 people came to hang out and listen to our speakers Ann Friedman, Martina Castro, Mimi Chakarova, and Katy Newton discuss their innovative new projects. I was honored to present LAND OF SONGS as a work-in-progress to the encouraging crowd!

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Pizza parties and post-production!

We successfully wrapped our second (and final) shoot last month! The highlight was Velines, a holiday observed in Lithuania November 1 – 2, during which the dead are remembered and celebrated. Velines has ancient roots in the Baltic pagan faith, but has been associated with the Christian All Soul’s Day since the Christianization of Lithuania in 1387. During Velines, many Lithuanians visit the cemeteries where their kin are buried, cleaning their graves and decorating them with flowers and candles. Even unmarked or forgotten graves are honored, as folk beliefs about lonely souls wandering the cemeteries at night persist in many of the villages. Throughout the country, the graveyards glow deep into the night. We spent the first day of Velines in Puvočiai, with the močiutės and their families.

But the real kicker was our last day on the shoot! We packed the močiutės into a van and drove them (singing all the way) to a pro recording studio in Kaunas. We were met by renowned composer Vidmantas Bartulis, his brother cellist Saulius Bartulis, and the Kaunas string quartet! They performed a four part piece based on the močiutės’ songs, composed by Vidmantas Bartulis exclusively for the Land of Songs film score! We were all in awe of the Bartulis brothers’ beautiful work and generosity. Next, we recorded a full set of the močiutės’ songs for our soundtrack. And it doesn’t end there – after the session, we took the močiutės out for a pizza party!!! They could not contain themselves, bursting into song mid-pie!

Back in the USA, we are starting the post-production phase. First we need to transcribe and translate all of our footage. The translation process is new to us, and though we’re off to a solid start, we appreciate tips from people with experience in these areas. If this sounds like you, please reach out to landofsongsfilm@gmail.com.

As always, check our  Flickr for more photos and Facebook for frequent updates.

Vėtra Trinkūnaitė

Check out this beautiful Lithuanian folk song performed by Vėtra Trinkūnaitė. We’re super excited to feature Vėtra and her family in our film! Her parents, Jonas Trinkunas and Inija Trinkuniene are the leaders of Romuva, a religious organization that revives the ancient pagan Baltic faith. They are also the key members of ritual folk group Kūlgrinda, performing ancient dainos at ceremonies and gatherings. Many of the songs they sing originate in the Dainava region, where our močiutės live.

We joined the Trinkunai and their friends and family for Jolines, an ancient calendar day celebrating the earth goddess Žemyna. We shot their ritual songs and dances, and Vėtra gave us a solo performance of some beautiful ancient folk songs, accompanied by a zither-like instrument called the kanklės.

For more of Vėtra’s music, visit her on Soundcloud, and of course, check her out in Land of Songs – coming soon!