Cannes Film Fest 2018: Four White Shirts–Latvia’s Banned Musical Drama Restored

Latvia brings its restored film Four White Shirts to the Cannes Classics series of the 2018 Cannes Film Fest, after being banned in Soviet Latvia for two decades. 

Rolands Kalniņš presented an ironic view of how hidden censorship functions in the soviet system in Four White Shirts, a musical drama about a rock group that gets banned.

In the story, telephone assembler, self-made poet and composer Cēzars Kalniņš (Uldis Pūcītis) puts together a band, but their outspoken lyrics increasingly draw criticism.  Meanwhile, cultural worker Anita Sondore (Dina Kuple) seeks all kinds of obstacles in order to stop their public performance.

Upon the film’s release in 1986, the score, written by composer Imants Kalniņš (not related to the director) with lyrics by poet Māris Čaklais, have influenced generations of Latvians, who know the songs by heart.

Rolands Kalniņš will celebrate his 96th birthday at Cannes and will be joined by DOP Miks Zvirbulis for the May 15 screening.

Four White Shirts was restored by producer Roberts Vinovskis of Locomotive Productions.

About Kalnins

Kalniņš is one of Latvia’s most talented filmmakers, which made his creative work subject to repression and censorship, not only in regards to Four White Shirts, but also with Stone and Flinders (1966), which was kept on the shelf for twenty years. Another film, Maritime Climate (1974), was terminated altogether with its footage destroyed.

Born on May 7, 1922 in a small town, he moved to the capital Riga in the 1930s. During World War II Kalniņš was in hiding from being drafted to the army, which became a reoccurring biographical theme, later depicted in his films. In 1947 Kalniņš began working in film and was fully self-taught. He made his directorial debut in 1959 and continued to work until 2007, with fifty years of work and fourteen feature films. In 2005 Kalniņš received the National Film Award for Lifetime contribution.

Latvia celebrates its Centennial this year with an extended pavilion in the Village International Pantiero at the Cannes Film Fest.