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Lithuanian-American filmmaker raises funds for documentary about Lithuanian folk singers

BC, Vilnius, 04.07.2012.Print version

Independent Lithuanian-American producer/director Aldona Watts is about to implement a documentary film called "Dainava", or "The Land of Songs" about a group of elderly women that sing traditional folk songs, or dainos, Lithuanian news portal The Lithuania Tribune reports.


This folk group from a village Puvociai – mociutes which means grannies in Lithuanian – is the last one generation in a long line of traditional folk singers with ancient roots. Therefore, the multimedia director wants to create a story about this unique singing group and their precious musical deeds, writes LETA.


The objective of this film is not only to preserve the precious dainos of the mociutes – transcriptions and recordings can be found in archives throughout the country. Land Of Songs will be unique in that it will show the dainos as living, breathing stories, deeply rooted in their natural surroundings, daily routines, and rich histories. Shot in an observational style, Land Of Songs multilayered and poetic, like the dainos themselves, as the passionate author and leader of the project described her future job.


After hearing the music for the first time, Watts was so delighted. She said that: "the songs were at once melancholy and joyful; the hauntingly beautiful harmonies seemed from another world. After each song, the women's wrinkled faces cracked into wide smiles, and the ghostly echo of the voices ringing through the trees was replaced by raucous cackling."


Watts has initiated a fund-raising campaign in the Internet source Kickstarter.com where each supporter of the project, after getting acquainted with the project, can commit to transfer a certain amount of finance. Currently, 118 enthusiasts pledged 8,597 US dollars, a total of 10,000 US dollars is needed to implement the project.


"[The story] has to be told now, before it's too late," said Watts.


The village Puvociai is nestled deep in the forests of a region called Dainava or "The Land of Songs", known for its rich tradition of folk singing called the daina. Ranging from the deeply personal to the profoundly political, the many-layered dainos are woven with the memories of the souls who have lived and died in these same forests for millennia. Remnants of the ancient pagan past remain intact in many of the dainos, and great pains were taken to preserve them throughout modern history, even as Lithuania was pummelled by wave upon wave of war and occupation. Today, many of the younger generations are leaving the villages to seek work in the cities and abroad. In Puvočiai, for the first time in history, there is no one to carry on the oral tradition of the daina, writes Watts to explain her desire to film the documentary depicting the beauty and profound value of this creative work.


The mociutes, now in their eighties, have been singing together since girlhood. Today only five remain of a group that once numbered twelve. Each of the five remaining mociutes have suffered serious health problems in recent months.


The Mociutes are Stase Bogusiene (1935) – an outspoken and vivacious ringleader. Maryte Klimaviciene (1942) has a tough demeanor and a great wit. Prane Barysiene (1929) is soft-spoken with a sweet nature. Jone (Jonuke) Dvareckiene (1931), the tiniest of the bunch, is nonetheless the strongest voice and often leads the others in song. Maryte Bingeliene (1931) has missed recent performances and gatherings due to serious health problems.


Aldona Watts is a multimedia producer living in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from New York University, and has since produced several audio documentaries. She currently manages and produces GRYC Radio, a youth radio station in Queens, and is the host/producer/engineer/DJ of a long-running weekly radio show broadcasting in New York City on WNYU FM, and in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Start FM. She is a co-organizer of Her Girl Friday in Brooklyn, a group dedicated to empowering women in journalism and nonfiction storytelling.


"Land Of Songs is a true labor of love, and its success relies on friends, collaborators, and community members who are willing to help out in any way they can," pointed out Watts.


The creative filming group comprises Director, Producer, Cinematographer Aldona Watts, Local (Lithuanian) Producers Kestutis Nenius, Danguole Neniuviene, Ingrida Neniuviene, Motiejus Nenius; Producer/Production Sound Mixer Julian Watts; Producer Matthew Shorr; Local Production Coordinator Algimantas Kazlauskas; Sound Design Aldona Watts and Kyle Keays Hagerman.

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