– The 8×45-minute show, helmed by Stanislavs Tokalovs and Juris Kursietis, is set in the 1970s and follows a businessman exploiting the weaknesses of the Soviet system
Kārlis Arnolds Avots in Soviet Jeans
The brand-new Latvian TV series Soviet Jeans will be one of the Series Market projects (see the news) set to be showcased at this year’s European Film Market (15-21 February), taking place during the days of the 74th Berlinale.
The 8×45-minute show was helmed by directorial duo Stanislavs Tokalovs and Juris Kursietis. Previously, Kursietis directed Modris [+see also:
film profile] (2014) and Oleg [+see also:
interview: Juris Kursietis
film profile] (2019), which had its world premiere in the Directors’ Fortnight strand of the Cannes Film Festival. Tokalovs’ latest efforts include the drama Lovable (2022 – see the news) and the documentary Everything Will Be Alright (2023), which took part in the Baltic Film Competition of last year’s Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.
The script for Soviet Jeans was penned by an international team, including the concept’s creator Stanislavs Tokalovs, Bulgaria’s Teodora Markova and Poland’s Waldemar Kalinowski. The writers promise to deliver “an intriguingly dramatic yet comically light narrative, as humour was considered one of the weapons against Soviet power”.
According to the creative team, the titular term sounds comical and absurd on the one hand, and volatile on the other. Set in the Soviet Union in the late 1970s, a period of profound stagnation, the series explores the hopeless atmosphere when Soviet ideology framed the world as an eternal struggle between the Socialist camp and Western capitalism.
“In this black-and-white, absurd division, jeans transcend mere trousers to become a symbol of freedom. The Soviet light industry struggles to produce anything comparable, leading to the smuggling of ‘real jeans’ into the USSR, embodying the dream of every ‘Soviet citizen’ and fostering a lucrative business for smugglers and counterfeit manufacturers,” the team further explains.
The story zooms in on Renārs, who embodies the archetype of an underground businessman exploiting the weaknesses of the Soviet system. Although such clandestine activities were criminally punishable, they were quite prevalent, as reflected in the series’ plot based on three documentary stories about real events when “underground jeans” produced in Latvia gained fame throughout the USSR. Adding a layer of absurdity, Renārs manages to establish an illegal jeans factory in the sewing workshop of a psychiatric hospital. The popularity of the factory’s products attracts the attention of law enforcement authorities, sparking a prolonged and unsuccessful pursuit to locate and eliminate this “hotbed of Western infestation”, creating a perpetual thriller element in the series.
The antagonist is a KGB agent called Māris, a mediocre Chekist with ambition but lacking the skills for career advancement. The jeans case becomes Māris’s final hope for a significant victory, and the conflict between Renārs and Māris transcends denim and criminal activities, evolving into a clash of life philosophies and ideologies. Renārs turns himself into a genuine rebel, and the jeans business evolves beyond a means to gain money and freedom, becoming a form of protest with a higher purpose. Adding a romantic subplot, Renārs encounters Tina, a Finnish actress played by Aamu Milonoff, who arrives with her theatre company from Finland to stage a play at a youth festival.
Latvia’s Kārlis Arnolds Avots, who portrays Renārs, is a promising young thesp, winner of the National Film Award for Best Actor for his role in Viesturs Kairišs’s 2022 coming-of-age drama January [+see also:
film profile]. He was also selected as one of the Black Nights Stars of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in 2022.
Soviet Jeans was staged by Riga-based outfit Tasse Film, with the support of the National Film Centre of Latvia. The Latvian firm is best known for producing projects such as Mellow Mud [+see also:
interview: Elina Vaska
interview: Renars Vimba
film profile], Oleg, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants [+see also:
interview: J-P Valkeapää
film profile], A Certain Kind of Silence [+see also:
interview: Michal Hogenauer
film profile] and My Freedom.
Check out our exclusive first-look pictures below: