2013 Bushwick Film Festival Filmmaker Profile: Romas Zabarauskas (Director – ‘WE WILL RIOT’)

Luke is an up-and-coming DJ from an affluent New York family with a Lithuanian father and an African-American mother. When Luke hears from an estranged grandmother in Lithuania, he defies his parents and decides to visit this far-away country, flying straight to the capital city Vilnius. He falls in love with the city, a rebellious girl called Marta, and the local music scene – the beatmakers – promoted by an aggressive gay manager, Andy. Luke’s grandma’s connections get him a deal with the municipality to become the manager of a new nightclub, and he takes up the challenge… but the deal turns out to be poisoned, forcing Luke to rebel in ways he never imagined.

Anticipating the 2013 Bushwick Film Festival screening of ‘WE WILL RIOT‘ we profile the films Director Romas Zabarauskas. ‘WE WILL RIOT‘ screens on Friday, October 4, 2013 (7:45pm) at Light Space Studio in Brooklyn, NY.

Purchase Tickets for ‘WE WILL RIOT’ at the 2013 Bushwick Film FestivalHERE

As a filmmaker based in Lithuania, can you give us an idea as to the nature of the Lithuanian Film Industry? Who are some major players? What is the best way to fund a Lithuanian production?
It’s a very small market. We only have 3 million people in all country, so it’s practically impossible to make a commercially viable genre film. We have art films supported by State and co-production funds. Sharunas Bartas is the most successful art film director who premiered his films at Berlinale, Cannes and Venice side sections. Recently we started to have attempts to make commercial blockbusters like heroic drama “Tadas Blinda” and a Valentine’s day comedy “Valentinas Vienas“. All that added to the fact that this year we’re having 10 new Lithuanian film premieres instead of an usual number of 2-3. That makes it more difficult to compete, but at the same time I think it’s positive – more competition, more choices force the filmmakers to reach out for their audiences and really make their best.

I myself debuted with my short, first Lithuanian gay film, ‘Porno Melodrama‘ in 2011. After the premiere at the Berlinale Panorama, I launched it at the festival “Kino pavasaris” in Lithuania, causing a media scandal after coming out as gay and stating Lithuania will have to change, not the gay people. We enjoyed a limited theatrical release and now just last week I launched my debut feature WE WILL RIOT in the theatres of 6 different cities – we’ll see how that goes!

We Will RiotElectronic Music (a personal favorite of mine) features prominently in ‘WE WILL RIOT’. What is it about this genre that works with the subject matter of the film? What is your own personal connection to electronic music?
The film itself is about beatmakers electronic music community in Lithuania, discovered by the protagonist, black New York DJ Luke. What is different in Lithuania, is that these are very young people creating that music, and coming from very different backgrounds, because all you need to have is a laptop and creativity. I am personally an outsider of this scene, but I consulted my music supervisor Mark Splinter from the very beginning of writing the script, met with the other scene leaders etc. Part of them aren’t happy with the result, because at the same time I didn’t really try to be realistic at all – for me, the political subjects and a journey of the protagonist were more important than representing the scene. However, I’m sure it will be a great discovery for many seeing and even more so hearing it from abroad, and good news are you can already buy a soundtrack album CD or digital download, released by UK label “Slime“!

Buy the WE WILL RIOT Soundtrack on Juno DownloadHERE

Describe the casting choices behind ‘WE WILL RIOT’? Why these actors for these roles?
I choose actors that are natural, fit the character and are sexy! And then also, while rehearsing I rewrote a lot of the dialogues so it would fit these actors better. For me, that’s why independent filmmaking is so great – I can always create and recreate at any given moment of production.

We Will RiotDescribe your strategy in getting ‘WE WILL RIOT’ out to the widest audience possible? With several routes of distribution, filmmakers have more control than ever before. Have you given this aspect of the films life much thought?
We’ve made a successful Kickstarter campaign raising $10.000 before producing the film, which not only helped to get the funds but also created a needed buzz. In Lithuania, we were rejected by the main cinema chain and major distributors, but I succeeded to secure theatrical distribution in the theatres of six different cities myself, which I feel is quite an achievement – fingers crossed! We have a huge demand for VOD and DVD on demand coming from Lithuanians who live abroad, as well as people interested in this particular music scene and political subjects, so we will launch it on Vimeo’s VOD very soon – keep updated! We’re also applying for festivals, presented the film at Moscow International Film Festival, Wiz-Art in Lviv, Kaunas International Film Festival, Commffest in Toronto and others coming. I started to think of the festivals as a way to build an audience, too – once we launch VOD, everyone who sees it at a festival screening can immediately recommend it for their friends! We’re also trying to arrange parties to match the premieres – we did that in Moscow, Vilnius and Kaunas for now, and planning one for another festival premiere in the future.

In your own words, please describe why did you HAVE to make WE WILL RIOT? Filmmaking is a long (sometimes painstakingly so) undertaking that requires immense commitment and ambition, so why this film? Why now?
We’re living in times where a lot of us understand there is a need of urgent change, not just because of social issues like racism, homophobia, nationalism, sexism, but also even deeper structural issues in the political field. Yet at every step that we do something to encourage that change, we end up contributing to the same things we criticise: for example, we make a Facebook event inviting to protest Facebook privacy policies, or we make a fashion statement with provocative clothes that were produced using cheap and unfair labor in developing countries… My film is an attempt to discuss this reality.

– Interview Prepared & Submitted by Steve Rickinson


Facebook: /WeWillRiot



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