This is the story of my personal escape from the brainwashing of the Soviet Union. "My Favorite War" reflects my childish notion of war as some kind of romantic, adventurous game. I watched war fiction on TV and played war games with one simple truth: “We’re the good ones”.
When my Father got a promotion we had to move to the town. I had to learn to live with two identities. With two opposite worlds inside me.
The ideological conflicts between the society and the individual were very potent in my family, and in my childhood. My father was a member of the Communist Party, and my Grandfather had been sent to Siberia.
I will draw parallels between my own background and the Latvian and Baltic process towards liberation from the Soviet Union.
The regime in the Soviet Union used World War II as a significant ideological weapon: A means to intimidate and suppress the population during the Cold War. The war was kept very much alive through the worship of heroes and the cultivation of fear. The narrative of "we are the heroes of the war" was cunningly transformed into an image of "us and them».
At school everybody became a pioneer: it was "mandatory volunteering". Marching, atom-bomb dodging, and shooting at painted human targets. A pioneer should always be prepared to defend "His country, and the Soviet Union’s Communist Party". We all had to swear to this. But what did it really mean? I believed that "they" where going to attack us, that there will be a new war.
It wasn’t until I dug out a bone of a German solder in my sandbox that I started to find some other stories buried under the propaganda: "We are occupied by the Soviets". "Civilians also suffered during the war, not only the Red Army heroes".
Another turning point in the film is when we are made to draw human targets on paper for shooting lessons. Instead I write a letter on behalf of the girls in my class demanding a stop to the military training.
I have to make up my mind when my Latvian patriot grandfather asks me about the kind of person I want to become: "A tomato, red all the way through? Or a radish - red only on the outside?"
In the story of Ilze growing up there are numerous cinematic moments: Such as Ilze digging up a German soldier’s bone from a sandbox, the children hanging out of the school windows when the mass grave of Germans soldiers is excavated – bones and skulls flying into the air and then the "House of the Young Communists" is built on the same site, with the shadow of a German soldier that refuses to disappear.
My Favorite War is a documentary film that is 75% animated. It tells the personal story of growing up in Latvia under the Soviet Union from 1970 to 1990. It makes perfect sense to animate what is not filmed.
There are few photos of the Soviet military bases and objects today: The "weather zeppelin" turned out to be a communications link to USSR nuclear submarines; the "radio tower" that was the largest air surveillance radar aimed at the West;
Bomber planes where flying over our school, bombing the nearby forest, testing bombs in an abandoned village and a cemetery.
Today NATO want to use the same area for their training as new military bases are being set up in the Baltic region.
My Favorite War will combine animation with archival film & photography, and live-action contemporary footage of the director meeting and visiting significant characters and locations from her childhood.
The animated scenes, all from the director’schildhood, will show Ilze’s life unfolding, the other scenes tie the story together and position everything within a broader perspective.
The animation is based on the original work of one of Norway’s most talented and award-winning illustrators, Svein Nyhus.
How could I become a little communist when my family was tormented by Stalin-era deportations? When do you stop being afraid? How do you make a choice in a situation in which you feel there is no choice? When do you speak out, finding your own voice?
In this day and age we should not simply take for granted all the "truths" presented to us. We still have to be prepared when those in power tell us to choose the “right” side, and that war could be a good solution.