2Annas 2024. Review of “RadiRaidi” by Ugis Olte

RadiRaidi, Ugis Olte’s captivating and intriguing short film was shown in the Baltic Short Film Competition of the 2024 Riga International Short Film Festival 2ANNAS. Made during the director’s studies in the National Film School of the Latvian Academy of Culture, it details the story of Balss, the voice of the radio legend. The protagonist’s heart-gripping story unfolds shines a light on the history of Latvian journalism.

The main character, whose name is not disclosed, is the voice of Riga’s radio in the late 1920s. Since RadiRaidi is a one-take film, the camera follows him for a seemingly short time, yet the director masterfully conveys his (almost) entire life story. As he goes through the hallways of the radio building and gives an interview to a journalist of a new and upcoming medium – television – one understands how attached he is to his job and the space he works in. A very short remark, once the interview is done, gives away a tragic experience that the protagonist faced as a young child. With such a simple reveal, Olte unravels this character and shows his pride and obsession in a sympathetic light. Lapoška’s portrayal of the radio broadcaster deserves a special mention – his careful and meticulously crafted performance entrances the viewer and, while hearing his voice, one can easily understand why he was cast for this role.

The period is represented immaculately – the decorations and especially the actors’ costumes, make-up and hair transport the audience to late 1920s Riga. The colour palette of the film, too, creates a historical and sombre mood. One of the most interesting choices made in the film is the complete stylistic switch once the TV journalist and the protagonist commence the interview. Firstly, the camera switches from non-diegetic to diegetic – one can see how it is readjusted by the operator, while the main character looks into the lens and, in a sense, breaks the fourth wall. Additionally, the visual and sonic marks of underdeveloped equipment – a sepia palette, visual noise and the crackling sound of the microphone – are used to emulate early TV broadcasts. The director creates a film within a film, which is quite impressive for a film of such short length.

Speaking more about the cinematography, the one-shot technique keeps the audience limited to the main character. It helps understand him better and reflects how he feels, trapped with his thoughts and feelings. This technique might also be the reason why magical realism has been attributed to this film. In fact, at one point, two timelines – late 1920s and modern times – are blended into one, when two young journalists working for today’s radio pass by the protagonist. The scene is a bit disorienting and leaves the viewer guessing what is really happening on the screen. Yet, as it is magical realism, these events need not be explained, they do not have to match our world’s logic and can exist in their own right.

 The end is a fitting culmination to RadiRaidi; the tension and uneasiness, at last, come to the surface and the breaking point is expertly illustrated via sound design. By concluding the film ambiguously, the director ensures the ensuing discussion and the film’s continuing existence in the audience’s minds. RadiRaidi is one of the most compelling films of the Baltic Short Film Competition, which is why it is very exciting to look forward to Ugis Olte’s future projects.

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