Based on the true story of “Latvia’s Schindler,” this award-winning feature film, selected by Latvia as nominee for the Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards, offers a gripping account of Žanis Lipke, a blue-collar worker who embarked on a covert mission during WWII to save local Jews from Nazi persecution and certain death.
After Latvia was annexed by the USSR in 1940, Lipke began working at the German military aviation warehouses, supplementing his income to support his family during wartime hardship by smuggling at night. When the German occupation regime began its repressions against Riga’s Jewish population, Lipke ultimately made the decision to use his smuggling methods to help rescue them — using the same lorry in which he transported bootleg alcohol to pluck dozens of people away from the Riga Ghetto and forced labor sites. Despite the danger from German and Soviet forces, Žanis soon expanded his operation to build a special underground bunker beneath his shed after their temporary hiding place risked discovery, and soon his wife Johanna and young son Zigis became involved as well.
This film looks back at a man honored as one of the Righteous Among Nations for his rescue of forty people, and looks at Žanis Lipke’s courage: in parts adventurous and daring spirit, stubbornness, and a sense of responsibility to protect one’s neighbors. As one of the rescued would later say: Žanis and his deed of rescuing complete strangers under the reigning conditions of cruelty constituted a genuine miracle. Directed by Dāvis Sīmanis (Latvia, 2018)
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Dāvis Sīmanis is a Latvian filmmaker and theorist who has directed a number of poetic documentaries as well as cross-genre feature films. Dāvis Sīmanis also lectures on the film theory and history in film schools in Latvia and Finland, and has researched devices of representing history in movies. His films have participated and been awarded in a number of festivals, including IDFA, CPH:DOX, DOK Leipzig, and others.
His documentary Escaping Riga (2014) is a docu-fiction on two world-class 20th century geniuses, the British philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin and the Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein.