The Making of Waiting for Invasion
An Interview with Neringa Medutyte, Director
Commissioned by Al Jazeera, Waiting for Invasion is Rogan Productions' latest feature documentary directed by Neringa Medutyte. Waiting for Invasion is a film that follows the stories of Lithuanian conscripts as they prepare for Russian invasion.
Neringa first approached James Rogan with the idea of making Waiting for Invasion following Russia's annexation of Crimea. Having been born in Lithuania whilst the country was still under Russian occupation, we interviewed Neringa to find out more about her experiences and why she felt this was such an important film to make.
"Lithuania has became a target of constant Russian provocation. In the beginning of 2015, the situation got so tense that our President brought back conscription and NATO opened a force integration unit, so that in case of an attack our country would be ready. It seemed that just overnight peaceful relations had radically turned into a quite uncertain future. I now live in London and I noticed that the changing geopolitical situation in Lithuania and the Baltic countries wasn't getting enough media coverage - I knew that I had to tell the story of my country to as many people as I could.”
When Neringa was just four years old she witnessed Lithuania declaring independence in 1990: "It is still one of my strongest memories. I have pretty much grown up at the same time as my country has grown. Somehow, all the problems that Lithuania was facing, I was facing as well. I know from both my personal experience and from the stories of many Lithuanians that almost 50 year long Russian occupation and soviet crimes had and still has profound impact on Lithuanian society. From past experience, Lithuania knows the price they'll pay if they don't react to aggressive Russian politics. I moved to London five years ago, but I still feel strongly connected to my country and its people - though now I can evaluate the situation from a distance and use the language of film to share our story with the world."
Waiting for Invasion focuses on the phenomena that occurred after the Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite announced conscription: many people volunteered and in the end, no one was conscripted. The film follows two soldiers who were amongst the first to sign up. Both characters have very different personalities and backgrounds, but Neringa was struck by their motivation and determination to serve their country: "We got to know their families and most importantly their mothers, who still remember the days when Lithuania was occupied by Soviet Russia. It was touching to hear them explain why it was worth letting their sons enter the military to prepare for defence. Even after 26 years of freedom, their memory of the Soviet occupation is still very much alive, and their crimes are not forgotten. The film shows that despite the personal challenges involved in joining the military, the younger Lithuanian generation want to help to avoid history repeating itself"
The story is told from many different angles - from the national political situation, filming with President Dalia Grybauskaite and NATO forces, to the individual foot soldiers, their lives and their families. This rounded view has enabled Neringa to show the full impact a political decision can have on an individual: "It was extremely interesting to get to know the characters before they went to the military and to see them change during their nine months training. Nine months is quite a long period, so we learnt a lot about the inner workings of the military and the individuals who are being transformed into soldiers."
Filming with the military can also present a number of practical challenges: “This was the first time I had filmed within the military. In the beginning the crew and I would sometimes suddenly find ourselves in the middle of a formation of 500 soldiers with no clue as to which direction they were going to move to. Sometimes they were going quite fast and straight into us and we didn’t know where to run!”
Neringa Medutyte received her MA in Directing Documentary from the prestigious National Film and Television School (NFTS) in the UK. Her film Today and Yesterday was presented at BAFTA by NFTS as a “Future Star of Tomorrow”. Her documentary Twogether received the Royal Television Society Wales Student Award. Neringa also holds a BA in Journalism and classical art school diploma. She has worked as a journalist in current affairs and business. She wrote a book called Verslas Naujai (Business in A New Way) for one of the most successful Lithuanian entrepreneurs, Ilja Laurs, which then went on to become a number 1 best-seller in Lithuania. Neringa later made a documentary called Dream Valley as her graduation film about Ilja Laurs and his success in Silicon Valley.
Waiting for Invasion is due to be televised by Al Jazeera later this year. For more information on the film, please visit the Waiting for Invasion microsite.