Director Donatas Ulvydas is taking on the legendary Vilnius Poker and inviting you to become a part of his new film 

There are exactly 100 days left until Vilnius’s 700th birthday. As this anniversary of the birth of Vilnius approaches, Vilnius Poker – a new film by director Donatas Ulvydas – is being born. Ulvydas’s tenth film is a dream that he has been nurturing for years on end, accompanied by fateful “Gavel-like” signs. For this reason, the making of the film will begin in an unusual way.

At 18:00 on 15 November, the filmmakers are inviting residents and guests of Vilnius to a cinematic modern jazz concert that will take place in the cultural space as Lukiškės Prison 2.0. The concert is free, and anyone who would like to become part of the film and has registered on the website is welcome.

“This concert is a herald to the birthday of our city of Vilnius. And it will become the first and most important scene in the film Vilnius Poker. I want to give people the chance to make waiting for Vilnius’s birthday special in a different kind of way, and become the spirit of Vilnius themselves. This won’t be an ordinary concert – it’ll be a unique experience and a chance to learn about filmmaking. Register and come. Not only will it be interesting – it’ll also be meaningful,” says Donatas Ulvydas.

The heart of the “Gavel-like” concert will be the music of composers Kipras Mašanauskas and Jievaras Jasinskis, which will be performed by the Vilnius JJAZZ Ensemble, an orchestra of professional jazz musicians. As many as 20 of Lithuania’s most famous jazz artists are getting together expressly for this concert, and Vilnius will finally have a big band!

The concert will become a film set, where the soundtrack will play, the ever-so-mysterious walls of the former prison will be filled with effective lighting, and the audience in non-traditional seating will be able to watch how the actors and the director work, and how a film is born in the hands of a large team of professionals.

Only 250 registered people will be admitted to this free cinematic concert with the opportunity to listen to jazz on set. Everyone who has registered and plans to come to Lukiškės Prison will be asked to follow the black dress code, and the film crew will take care of the rest.

According to the director, the free jazz concert that will be transformed into a film set is not just a filler scene. On the contrary, it is a key scene in the film. Just like the jazz concert in the abandoned church in Ričardas Gavelis’s novel by the same name, this concert will also become the main line of a game where everyone is gambling with their lives without opening their cards.

During the concert at Lukiškės Prison, you will not have to risk your life, but you will inevitably have to merge with the spirit of Vilnius.

The significance of Vilnius Poker for Vilnius 

This year, Ričardas Gavelis would have turned 72. Published in 1989, his Vilnius Poker has been translated into numerous languages and is the most well-known Lithuanian novel about Vilnius both in Lithuania and abroad.

For its 700th anniversary, the film adaptation of this novel will give Vilnius the opportunity to play itself. The plot of the novel takes place in the 1980s, but the filmmakers have moved the action to present day, so not only the interwar, post-war and Soviet era, but also present-day Vilnius, with all its virtues and vices, will intertwine on the screen.

The novel remains relevant today. It is a great opportunity for foreigners to take a look behind the Iron Curtain, and for locals – to see how the city has changed.

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