Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Big in Lithuania

When we were first invited to the Vilnius international film festival, we did wonder if I would be arrested immediately on leaving the plane. The penultimate scene in Starsuckers is a quick tour of Lithuanian politics, as they recently elected a party to their government comprised mainly of celebrities. When we discovered this a year ago I got the next plane out, and spent a memorable couple of days running round the parliament of a former soviet country with a camera. We interviewed several of their MP’s who were extremely frank with us, including Valinskas the Speaker of the Parliament, best described as the simon Cowell of Lithuania. Sitting in their cabinet office he explained to me that where he was once known as the best politician in Lithuania, but now he is known as the worst politician. As if to prove this point, he forced to stand down shortly after the interview, after allegations emerged linking him to the mafia.

As it happened we needn’t have worried about the reception, as we were given excellent hospitality from the second we landed. The opening night party was livened up when a gang of completely pissed brits gate crashed the party. They did an excellent job as upstanding ambassadors for our country: one of them staggered up to the doorman, flashed a credit card, and declared “we’re all from BBC3”. This somewhow gained them entrance, and they quickly dived into the copious brandy. The festival director’s son, who was utterly delightful but built like a brick shithouse, was alerted and turfed them out into the street. We heard that several of the celebrity politicians featured in the film were planning to attend our screening the following evening, including Linas (the ex member of thrash metal band ZAZ). WE learned that he is also in trouble with his political colleagues, as he had missed the official opening of the government as he had stayed on his Thai holiday for an extra week.

The morning journey to breakfast I was reminded that the most popular elevator manufacturer in this part or the world is a company called Schindler, so you are able to travel between floors in Schindlers Lifts. Boom tsh… We were taken on a lovely guided tour of the city, including several stunning churches and cathedrals. Lithuania has been in the news recently for a man attacking a policeman with his penis, so I worked in my “golly what a big organ” gag as often as I could.

The screening seated over 600 people, making it the largest auditorium we have played to date. It appeared that Linas hadn’t actually turned up to the screening as he was having too much fun at a nearby party. We crept back in to the screening towards the end to see the reaction to the Lithuanian scene, with the plan that if it sounded bad we could do a runner to the airport with a healthy head start. Fortunately they laughed in all the right places, so we decided we were safe to stay for the Q&A. They had decided to experiment with a new mechanism for the audiences participation - rather than have the hassle of running a microphone around what was a colossal auditorium, they decided to ask the audience to text their questions anonymously. Once received the host host would then pose the questions to me. This worked extremely well, as it meant that people could be more challenging in their questions, which always makes for a much more interesting debate than if you just get quizzed by people who completely agree with you.

While the audience was generally very positive, I was asked if I felt guilty for mocking the Lithuanian people in the film. I responded that I thought we were pretty fair, given that I spent a lot of time interviewing ordinary Lithuanians about the political situation, and the majority were unhappy with the performance of the celebrity party. These interviews are not in the film, so I'm going to cut together a little montage of this and youtube it (when our feet touch the ground) as it does give the argument extra credibility.

We then went out onto the town, and bumped into the same pissed brits who were again stinking drunk, and then sadly had to catch the morning flight home.

DVD is out on the 12th April available to pre-order on Amazon

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