The Nordic-Baltic film festival "Northern Lights" is an annual festival that introduces to the Belarusian audience all the best and newest fiction and non-fiction films from Northern Europe, the Baltic countries, and Belarus. Volia Chajkouskaya, a film director and filmmaker, founded the festival with the help of the Nordic Council of Ministers Office in Lithuania. The first Northern Lights Film Festival was held in 2015.
Through the language of cinema, the festival sheds light on the mindset and lifestyle of five northern European and three Baltic states: Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Since 2018, films from the Faroe Islands have also been included in the festival program, as have films from Greenland since 2019.
In 2020, the Northern Lights Film Festival first featured a special contest program for Belarusian modern independent cinema, thus supporting the further development of the Belarusian film industry and empowering Belarusian creators. An international jury is now evaluating this contest section.
The festival also strives to raise cinematic culture in Belarus to a new level through a range of industry events. The Northern Lights serves as a platform for professional and amateur cinematographers to share their knowledge and exchange ideas. During the festival and later on, additional screenings, lectures, master classes, and other events are held for Belarusian directors, filmmakers, and cinema lovers who take an interest both in feature films and documentaries.
Given the shortcomings of the Belarusian film industry, as well as a lack of financing and education, we believe it is critical to promote democratic values of diversity, equality, and freedom while showing Northern, Baltic, and Belarusian films: to contribute to the development of the filmmakers' community; to push the Belarusian cinema and film industry forward; to foster cooperation and inclusion; and to raise mental health awareness.
In 2022, the Northern Lights Film Festival first featured a program for Ukrainian cinema. The program "Ukraine Mon Amour" is dedicated to Ukraine's courageous fight against Russia's aggression and stands as an homage to freedom and a gesture of support to our colleagues and friends in film from Ukraine.
Through the history of the Northern Lights Film Festival, we have been honored to have had Swedish director Katya Vik, Icelandic filmmaker Anton Mani Swanson, Norwegian writer Erlend Loe, Latvian theater and film director Viestur Kairish, Estonian filmmaker Ivo Felt, Finnish actor Pamela Tola, Danish writer Peter Høeg, and many others as our guests. Lots of remarkable Belarusian creators participated in the Northern Lights events as guests and moderators: philosopher Olga Shparaga, writer Tatsiana Zamirouskaya, activist Nick Antipov, cultural researcher Maxim Zhbankov, filmmaker Darya Zhuk, and many others.
The Northern Lights Film Festival brings the art of filmmaking and the allure of northern and Baltic culture to Belarusian viewers. The festival used to be held in Minsk as well as in other Belarusian cities: Gomel, Vitebsk, and Grodno. In 2020, the festival took place online and partially offline, allowing more Belarusians to discover modern and Belarusian cinema wherever they are.