Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Written and directed by Maris Martinsons.
Starring: Kaori Momoi, Andrius Mamontovas, Monie Tung, Kristine Nevarauska, and Lau Dan.

So when is a Latvian film a Latvian film? Does it have to be in Latvian, with Latvian actors and take place in Latvia and have something to do with being Latvian? Directly or indirectly? No matter how remote?

Amaya takes place in Hong Kong. It stars Andrius Mamontovas (Lithuanian) and Kaori Momoi (Japanese). The dialogue is mostly in English and Cantonese. Its written and directed by Maris Martinsons (a Latvian, but one who has been living in Lithuania since 1991). Then again, Martinsons did recently move back to Latvia and the film has been selected as Latvia’s entry for the 2010 Academy Awards. That’s good enough for me.

Amaya is part Lost in Translation, part travelogue, and parts other. The story follows several characters who at the onset seem to have nothing in common. There’s Paul, the seemingly lonely and lost traveler who finds himself in Hong Kong. There’s Amaya and her husband stuck in the routine rut of everyday life. There’s Amaya’s brother in-law Tao who owns a massage parlor and gives classes on the side. We don’t really know much about the characters. Martinsons keeps the back stories and exposition to a minimum and allows their stories to unfold slowly. The film lives in the present and in the now and that’s its greatest strength. Its basically a journey of self-discovery. We discover the characters as they discover themselves.

Amaya will not be everyone’s cup of tea. The pacing can be slow and the motivations of the characters unclear. Its like traveling alone to a foreign place. Confronted with unfamiliar surroundings, tastes, smells and sounds one tends to first withdraw inward. The tendency is to stick to the grounds of wherever its is you are staying or at least the immediate vicinity. But, if you can overcome that first shock and are willing to start venturing a bit further, no matter how slowly, the rewards of what can be discovered are well worth it. Not only about the location, but about yourself.

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