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From the Personal to the Public: Juris Podnieks and Latvian Documentary Cinema
Vitols, Maruta Zane

2008, Doctor of Philosophy, Ohio State University, History of Art.

In recent decades and particularly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, cinema scholars have devoted a considerable amount of attention to Eastern European films and filmmakers. Yet, the rich film tradition of the Baltic States, particularly the thriving Latvian national cinema, remains foreign to western cinema scholars. One finds very little written in academia in this subject area, although the rapidly growing economies and the increase of the political currency of the Baltic States have sparked a new awareness of this geographical area. A fresh interest in Latvian filmmakers as the voices of their society is emerging, stemming from the country's rich cinema history.

Within the realm of Latvian documentary filmmaking, one figure from recent years shines as a star of the genre. Juris Podnieks (1950-1992) and his films hold a privileged place in Latvian culture and history. His breakthrough feature IS IT EASY TO BE YOUNG?(1986) heralded the advent of a new era for Latvian and Soviet documentary filmmaking accompanying the implementation of Gorbachev's glasnost plan in the Soviet Union. Podnieks took advantage of the new policy of openness and employed IS IT EASY TO BE YOUNG? as a vehicle for exploring the state of youth culture under a non-democratic regime. The high level of frankness of this documentary shocked spectators across the Soviet Union, and made IS IT EASY TO BE YOUNG? an unparalleled sensation in Soviet cinema history.


This study begins a new contribution to the understanding of Latvian cinema through an examination of Podnieks's documentaries. My assessment of Podnieks's documentaries entails readings of each of his films individually, as well as the identification and exploration of the main subjects and important themes of his oeuvre. Whenever necessary, I provide readers with the essential Latvian cultural and historical knowledge needed in order to access some of the meanings of Podnieks's documentaries. This study offers one entry point into the director's works, and invites further research on this filmmaker and on Latvian national cinema.


J. Ronald Green, PhD (Advisor)
Lisa Florman, PhD (Committee Member)
Judith Mayne, PhD (Committee Member)
268 p.

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Vitols, M. (2008). From the Personal to the Public: Juris Podnieks and Latvian Documentary Cinema. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Vitols, Maruta. "From the Personal to the Public: Juris Podnieks and Latvian Documentary Cinema." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio State University, 2008. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 17 Oct 2017.

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Vitols, Maruta "From the Personal to the Public: Juris Podnieks and Latvian Documentary Cinema." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio State University, 2008. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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