Visiting Nijole Brazenaite-Paronetto

We recently visited our dear friend and supporter Nijolė Bražėnaitė-Paronetto at her home in New York. Nijole is an accomplished pathologist and scholar, and is also known for being part of a notable family: she is the widow of legendary Lithuanian partisan Juozas Lukša-Daumantas, and daughter of Konstancija Bražėnienė, who 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.

More photos here.

 Nijole and twin sister Vida

Nijole and twin sister Vida

Nijolė and her sister Vida in 1939.

 Juozas Lukša-Daumantas.

Juozas Lukša-Daumantas.

 Konstancija Bražėnienė on Christmas Eve in Siberia (1950), where she spent decades in exile. 

Konstancija Bražėnienė on Christmas Eve in Siberia (1950), where she spent decades in exile. 

SFIFF 2013

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 the stories 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.

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

Land of Songs & Her Girl Friday

I'm a co-organizer at Her Girl Friday, a Brooklyn collective that produces events for female journalists & nonfiction storytellers. On March 7, we had our first San Francisco event at 111 Minna Street Gallery. Almost 200 people came to hang out and listen to our speakers Ann Friedman, Martina Castro, Mimi Chakarova, and Katy Newton discuss their new projects. I was honored to present Land of Songs as a work-in-progress in such good company.

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Post-production & pizza parties

We successfully wrapped shoot number 2 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, tidying 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. There 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.

After the session, we took the močiutės out for a pizza party. They couldn't 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 [at] gmail [dot] com.

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