With a production boom in progress in Russia, commitmentsfor increased government funding in Poland and a major new player in theBaltics entering the field the film industry in the east is seeing its bestyear in a decade.

While Latvia produces only one or two feature films a yearproducer Andrejs Ekis who heads Riga based Platforma Films, is investing $3m ina new post WWI feature directed by Aigars Graupa, titled Defenders Of Riga, that he believes will make the country a Meccafor international producers.

Ekis who also helms the Cinevilla Studios, a newly upgradedproduction facility with a 450 acre backlot near Riga where the film startedshooting last week admits that the Latvian language film will never make backits budget on the Latvian market. Hesaid: "This is the biggest budget project in Latvian history and I have twoobjectives in producing this film.

"First of all I want to show Latvians and also the worldsomething about our little known history.In 1919 Riga's citizens and soldiers stood up to and defeated 50,000German troops that threatened our city.Secondly, I want to show the capabilities of Cinevilla. The cost of production here is at least 70percent cheaper than anywhere else in Europe and I think when people see whatwe have been able to achieve they will be eager to shoot here."

The sets for the period war drama are indeed impressive witha whole village reconstructed along with railway lines and bridges on thebacklot. The cast will require hundredsof extras and costumes have been skilfully made by the costume departments ofRiga's five professional theatres which Ekis points out will also be able tofulfil the needs of foreign producers.

This is director Graupa's second feature after his awardwinning Dangerous Summer, releasedmore than ten years ago which still holds the record for highest grossing filmin Latvian history.

In Poland Krzysztof Zanussi's Warsaw based Tor Studios andNikita Mikhalkov's Moscow based Three T continue their historic collaborationon Persona Non-Grata which isshooting in Warsaw after a two week stint in Moscow. Next the production moves to Uruguay before its expected wrap inNovember.

While Polish film has languished in the low budget doldrumsfor the last two or three years promises of increased government funding fromthe Ministry of Culture during the recent annual meeting of the PolishFilmmakers Union in Gdynia holds out hope that 2005 will see a better fundedcrop of features.

In Moscow the public is eagerly awaiting the sequel to therecord breaking hit Night Watch whichhas finished shooting and is in post production. Titled Day Watch anddirected and produced by Timur Bekmambetov and Konstantin Ernst, the same teamas the first film,it is due out in sprint of 2005. Meanwhile further afield the Kirgiz, Russian, French, Germancoproduction The Ancestor's Chest (SundukPredkov) has finished a two month shoot in Kirgizia and will move to Parisnext week to complete shooting. Thefilm directed by Nurbek Egen and scripted by Ekaterina Tirdatova is expected tobe completed by early 2005.

For full Eastern European production listings, click here