In 2013 Romas Zabarauskas made his first full-length movie. Today, it’s pretty clear that it was an amazing piece of work for many reasons.
At the time, the film was heavily criticised, and most of the criticism was probably fair. It’s a superlow budget film, a debut from a very young and inexperienced director, the actors aren’t going to win any Oscars, and the “riot” was just a smoke machine and one car windscreen getting smashed. The film’s low rating on IMDB probably isn’t just because of homophobes downvoting it. The Director knows that very well.
In 2013, it seemed like most of Lithuania just wanted Romas Zabarauskas to f%$# off and stop making films. But since then many people quietly admit that it was an important moment in Lithuanian cinema history, and everything in the script was way ahead of its time.
In 2013, the gay parade in Vilnius was still controversial, eggs were thrown, and even talking about LGBT equality was considered dangerous and radical. Putting a gay kiss in a film was so far-out that people didn’t even really make a scandal about it, they didn’t know how to react, it was just like WHOA, AWKWARD. These days it probably wouldn’t even be a thing. Lithuania is proud to have an award-winning film about two lesbians. The 2016 gay parade was a huge, happy, family-friendly festival.
Strict cannabis regulation
In 2013 nobody was talking about overly-strict laws against possession of small amounts of cannabis. In 2017 it was a huge debate in Parliament. Recently there have been TV debates about drug use almost every week. Better late than never, Lithuania.
Local government corruption
In the film, a corrupt Mayor makes a dodgy property deal and shuts down a nightclub. Today, the Council is cleaning up its rental contracts and there is a budget for improving the nightlife economy. And I am the Night Mayor. Nobody, including me, predicted that. But working on the film was maybe one of the inspirations for me to go into politics. When I was elected to the Council, the worst tabloid in the country printed a front page with a We Will Riot promo shot of me in a glittery rainbow dress, flipping my middle finger. The headline was “Well now, what has Vilnius elected?”
The male lead in the film is foreign. And black. There wasn’t much talk about immigration and the creative economy in 2013, it wasn’t something anybody thought was important. Defending the “n-word” was quite normal. Now the Mayor has launched a development agency which works on attracting creative talent to the city, and he makes speeches about the benefits of immigration and diversity.
I worked on the film as Music Supervisor, bringing together more than 20 young Lithuanian musicians to create the soundtrack. The album still sounds fresh today, and it was released on a UK label, advertising Vilnius all over the world. After making the film, I got investment from a huge UK distributor who wants to develop the indie music industry in Eastern Europe. We were right – there is a future for the Lithuanian independent music economy. Economists are now predicting growth.
My amazing sparkly dress
I’m not gay, and wearing dresses isn’t really anything to do with sexual orientation anyway. I simply like wearing dresses and skirts sometimes. It feels right. In 2013 I was a bit nervous to be on a closed film-set in a dress, and I wouldn’t have worn that dress in public, because it would be too dangerous. But basically Romas asked me if I wanted to be in the film and I said “only if I can wear a dress and smash a car”. Romas just said “OK”. I am very thankful for that. It was my coming out.
Then in 2016 I wore a skirt to the gay parade and didn’t even worry about being attacked. I sat at a pavement cafe drinking beer after the parade and nobody even noticed. It was awesome. I was photographed with a prominent politician, the awesome Aušrinė Armonaitė. And she wasn’t thrown out of her party for that.
Romas didn’t stop
The most amazing thing about the film is that Romas didn’t stop making films. He had hundreds of horrible comments thrown at him for weeks, about the film and about his orientation, and he just carried on. He made more films. He made more pro-LGBT projects. He is unstoppable. The haters lost because they were wrong, and he was stronger. They’re so 2013.
Watch the film
The film is screened on Lithuanian national TV (LTV Kultūra) tonight at 22:15, and you can watch it on demand here: http://www.epasaka.lt/lt/home-cinema/movies/we-will-riot