Ignas Jonynas is Lithuanian director who just released his first full-length film, THE GAMBLER. Before that Jonynas worked in the theatre for almost 10 years, had several shows in the radio, created couple of short films (SUNDAY AS IT IS and DANCING WORM) and was part of the first generation of Lithuania’s advertisers, thus creating number of commercials. He always wanted to return creating films (something he studies at the Vilnius Academy of Music and Theatre) and when the possibility occurred he immediately turned back to it, which resulted in a six-year working period until THE GABMLER was presented to the public. Shortly after that, the director announced that he is already working on the new concept for his next movie, and even faces distractions by the thought for the one after that. As such, we will definitely be keeping an eye on him and waiting for his upcoming works, since he is being considered as a very promising and talented new filmmaker in the Eastern part of the Europe.
As for his latest movie, THE GAMBLER neither fits the criteria of commercial cinema, nor the one of being highly intellectual and artistic, that mainly targets the narrow professional audience. As Jonynas said himself, THE GAMBLER chose the third path – that of somewhere in between of those two mentioned earlier –reaching out to the public, and encouraging them to think about the dilemmas and problems, that the film debates. Some critics agree with this notion, saying that this film is a marker of a new beginning in Lithuanian cinema, that is distinctive by quality and value of the created content, that can even be seen as noticeable contribution to the Nordic cinema in more general terms. Knowing this, it is not surprising that THE GAMBLER was the first Lithuanian film to be premiered at the San Sebastian Film Festival. Since that THE GAMBLER has been screened at more than 30 film festivals and has gained number of awards.
The film itself tells a slightly surreal story of a team of emergency medics who develop a highly successful and profitable game involving betting on when patients are going to die. The main theme here spins around the moral choices between death and living, between desires and possibilities, and the game that one plays with himself, his own conscience. All that is done through revealing of the unique intersection between two worldviews: post-Soviet conformism and sucessful capitalism, which is very common in Lithuania as well as other post-Soviet countries and is of a high importance to the director. Critics agree that to develop such a theme in the film is quite complicated even for the greatest filmmakers, who have a lot of experience in the field, however Jonynas manages to do all that in his first shot.
It can be seen that Lithuania has submited THE GAMBLER for the Academy Award under the best foreign language film category not without a reason. The final decision for this matter will be announced on the 15th of January, so we wish to see THE GAMBLER among the nominees. On this note, we encourage you to pursuit your dream, search for new paths, have patience in the creative process and finally start your directed movie tour by submitting it to ÉCU!