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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Latvia

Historical series Emily. Queen of Press wraps filming in Latvia

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- Inspired by the true life story of legendary businesswoman Emīlija Benjamiņa, the script features a number of important 20th-century Latvian historical figures and events

Historical series Emily. Queen of Press wraps filming in Latvia
The cast and crew of Emily. Queen of Press (© Andrejs Strokins)

After 50 intensive days, shooting for the Latvian mini-series Emily. Queen of Press, consisting of seven episodes, has just been completed at the original summer manor house of the Benjamiņ family in Valdeķi. The plot revolves around the biography of publishing entrepreneur Emīlija Benjamina, known as the “queen of the press” in interwar Latvia, whose wealth, success and tragic fate have become part of the local folklore.

The script covers the period from the beginnings of Emīlija’s magazine Atpūta (Leisure) to her arrest and deportation to Siberia. Each episode focuses on a significant segment of her life while illustrating various aspects of her personality. The ominous prophecy of a prominent clairvoyant predicting that Emīlija would die from starvation in a foreign land weaves through the entire narrative. With a strong female character at its centre, the series depicts Latvian society in all its richness and provides insights into the lives and socio-political influences of prominent Latvian historical figures, such as poet Kārlis Skalbe, writer and left-wing politician Vilis Lācis, journalist Pēteris Blaus and others. Six of the episodes are designed as fiction features, while the seventh is a collection of documentary evidence on the era, providing references to what remains today.

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“We created this mini-series, which is so significant in terms of Latvia’s 20th-century history, for less than a year in difficult circumstances, and we are thankful to all of the teams who made the reconstruction and interpretation of this period possible. Our hope is to better understand people’s destinies back then, the relationships between the ruling power and the media, and the political dilemmas, including gender-equality issues. Our special gratitude goes to the Benjamiņs, who kindly shared their family memories and archives with us,” says producer Gints Grūbe, of Mistrus Media (The Shift, My Father the Spy [+see also:
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trailer
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]
).

The screenplay was written by Baņuta Rubess, Ivo Briedis, Aiva Birbele and Tabita Rudzāte, and the directing was a joint effort by Kristīne Želve, Andis Mizišs and Dāvis Sīmanis (The Year Before the War [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Dāvis Sīmanis
film profile
]
), while the documentary episode has been created by Gints Grūbe and Lilita Eglīte. Prominent actors Guna Zariņa (Oleg [+see also:
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interview: Juris Kursietis
film profile
]
, Breathing into Marble [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Giedrė Beinoriūtė
film profile
]
) and Juris Bartkevičs (Still River [+see also:
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trailer
interview: Angelos Frantzis
film profile
]
) star in the leading roles; the cinematography has been entrusted to experienced DoP Andrejs Rudzāts (What Silent Gerda Knows [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
, The Year Before the War).

Emily. Queen of Press is being produced by Mistrus Media, which has several historical films under its belt, such as The Chronicles of Melanie [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
and The Mover [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, as well as being the co-producer of In the Dusk [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Sharunas Bartas
film profile
]
and Natural Light [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Dénes Nagy
film profile
]
, which was premiered in the Berlinale’s main competition earlier this year, winning the Silver Bear for Best Director. The series was supported by the National Film Centre of Latvia and the local Ministry of Culture via the state contingency fund due to the state of emergency. The national co-producers of the series are technology and entertainment company Tet, Latvian Television and Riga Film Studio. Its premiere is scheduled for autumn 2021, and the series will be screened on Latvian television in 2022.

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