Baltic Film Series Opens at Stanford

Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson in Tallinn

A new Baltic documentary film series opened at Stanford University in October and continues through December.

The series kicked off with the U.S. premiere of “Those Who Dare” (2015), an Icelandic-Baltic documentary feature outlining the Baltic nations’ struggle for the restoration of their independence in 1986-1995,  October 19. The event, brought together more than 150 people, opened the Baltic Film Series at Stanford – a series of public screenings of films throughout the fall quarter, focusing on various aspects of the history and culture of the Baltic countries.

Mr. Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson, foreign minister of Iceland from 1988-1995, launched the series with an introductory lecture. Iceland was the first country that officially acknowledged the re-independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – a step that was achieved thanks mainly to the role of Hannibalsson himself. He was the only western leader to travel to the Baltic capitals to show his support in January 1991, when the Soviet military attempted to brutally suppress the Baltic independence movements. The courage and support that Iceland showed during that momentous period in the history of the Baltic states has ennobled this country in the minds of the Baltic people.Hannibalsson received highest honors from the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in recognition of his political support for their restoration of independence. He is also an honorary citizen of Vilnius.

In his introdtory remarks (pdf), Hannibalsson provided insight into the “chapter in the story of the endgame of the Cold War, which the major powers in the West understandabucly want to forget, but the current masters in the Kremlin are by the same token unable to forget” – the story of the fall of the Soviet Union and the rebirth of the Baltic nations. Hannibalsson recollected the hardships he faced when trying to solicit support among the Western nations on behalf of the Baltic independence movement, noting that there was an unbridgeable gap between the official, idealistic view, andthe coldblooded realpolitik.

Recounting the reasons for his steadfast support of the Baltic cause, Hannibalsson noted: “Contrary to Putin – who is on record saying ‘the fall of the Soviet Union was the greatest geo-strategic catastrophe of the 20th century’ – I was convinced – and still am – that the dissolution of the Soviet Union should be welcomed as perhaps the most beneficial event of the 20th century. If it needed a little push from the Baltic nations, so much the better.”

Following this opening event, the Baltic Film Series will feature three films:

  • “Dangerous Summer” (Latvia, 2000) on November 2 at 6:30pm (RSVP)
  • “In the Crosswind” (Estonia, 2014) on November 16 at 6:30pm (RSVP)
  • “Land of Songs” (Lithuania, 2015) on December 7 at 6:30pm (RSVP)

The full listing of films, event times and locations, and synopses is available on the film series’ website, which is co-sponsored by Stanford Libraries and Stanford Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies.

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