Emīlija. Queen of the Latvian Press

Emīlija: Latvijas preses karaliene – Emīlija. Queen of the Latvian Press is a seven part television series produced by Mistrus Media during the height of the pandemic in the fall of 2020. It is the true story of Emīlija Benjamiņa, who, together with her husband Antons, built an empire of newspapers and magazines in the interwar years in Latvia. Her wealth and tragic demise have since become folklore.

I wrote two forty-five minute episodes for the series, which were directed by Kristīne Želve and Andis Mizišs, respectively. I had written about Emīlija before and directed a one-woman show commissioned for performance in her former mansion in Riga. (see Mrs. Benjamins. Tips for Modern Living)

The television series is nominated for the most prestigious Latvian cinema award, the Lielais Kristaps, in ten categories, including Best Writers. (Other categories: Best Series, Best Cinematographer, Best Leading Actor, Best Leading Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, Best Composer). The show wins the award in Best Series and Best Leading Actress. 

Watch with English subtitles here.

From the Mistrus Media website: 

The film’s narrative covers the period from the beginnings of Emīlija’s magazine Atpūta (Recreation), to her arrest and slow demise in a train en route to Siberia. Each episode focuses on one significant part of her life and illustrates different aspects of her personality – family life, entrepreneurship, how she established her social status, her influence on politics and culture, her dreams and obstacles as a woman and ultimately how her own employees betrayed her. The most prominent clairvoyant of the time - Eugene Fink’s prophecy that Emīlija would die from starvation in a foreign land (which served to be true) weaves through the narrative as a red thread. With this strong woman at the centre of the story, the film shows Latvian society in all its richness and gives the audience the opportunity to meet many well-known historical figures. Six episodes are made as feature fiction episodes - filmmakers’ artistic interpretation of the protagonist and various historical events, and the seventh and last episode is a collection of documentary evidence of how things were, and what remains today.

Guna Zariņa as Emīlija