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The Sign Painter

Original Title

Pilsata pi upis

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The Sign Painter is a tragicomedy about a young Latvian man (ANSIS) with simple dreams: to marry the free-spirited and beautiful daughter (ZISLA) of a local Jewish merchant and to pursue a career as an artist whilst supporting himself as a sign painter. But his dreams are repeatedly swept away in the tumultuous tides of serial totalitarian occupation of his home during the WWII era.

Technical Information

2020; Drama, War; Latvia, Czech Republic; 110 minutes; DCP, ProResHQ; 1:2,33; 5.1 mix; Original Language: Latvian, German; Subtitles: English

Viestur Kairish

Viestur Kairish

Gints Bērziņš

Production Designer
Ieva Jurjāne

Costume Designers
Rūta Kuplā, Agnė Rimkutė

Beata Rjabovska

Justė Janulytė

Sound Design
Ludvík K. Bohadlo, Robert Slezák

Armands Začs

Julietta Sichel, Kestutis Drazdauskas, Michal Krecek, Ludvik K. Bohadlo

Executive Producer
Pīters Ragaušs

Guntis Trekteris

Production Companies
Ego Media, 8Head Productions, ARTBOX

Dāvis Suharevskis
Agnese Cīrule
Brigita Cmuntová
Gundars Āboliņš
Old Captain
Juozas Budraitis
Aidas Jurgaitis
Ingrid Isotamm
Steffen Munster
Māris Susējs
Guntis Peļņa

Viestur Kairish is a film, theatre and opera director, born 1971 in Riga. He graduated from the Latvian Academy of Culture as a theatre and film director. Upon graduation he has been working as a film director, directing feature films and documentaries. Aside from his work in cinema, he has been stage director in Latvia and Germany. His previous feature film Chronicles of Melanie (2016) is Latvian, Czech, Finnish coproduction, supported by Eurimages. It won the Best Feature Film award at the Latvian national film festival along with 6 additional awards, including Best Director. The film was Latvia’s candidate for an Oscar nomination. It was domestically released and became the most popular film in 2016 with almost 100,000 admissions. His last documentary Pelican in the Desert (2014) was on the competition at the Visions du Reel in Nyon, France and received special jury prize at the Let’s Cee Film Festival in Austria. His documentary Romeo and Juliet (2005) was nominated for the Russian Film Academy Award for the best CIS and Baltic States film and won FIPRESCI award at the Latvian National Film Festival. His feature Leaving by the Way (2002) premiered at Karlovy Vary competition program and won FIPRESCI award, and as the Best Debut Award at the 10th Raindance Film Festival in London. Short feature drama The Wedding (2001) participated at the Oberhausen, Rotterdam and other international film festivals and won the Jury Award at the Film Festival Molodist in Kiev, Ukraine.

Jewish International Film Festival (JIFF) 2021
Australia 17 February — 24 March 2021

New York Jewish Film Festival
13 – 26 January 2021

13. – 29.11.2020 in competition / Estonia

Gershman Philadelphia Jewish FF
7. -21.11.2020 / USA

SCREEN INTERNATIONAL interview with director Viesturs Kairish
Viesturs Kairish talks about love, language and humour in “The Sign Painter”

The Sign Painter, which is based on a novel by Gunars Janovskis, follows director Viesturs Kairiss’s previous picture, The Chronicles Of Melanie, to the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. And like Melanie, it takes as its subject matter events from Latvia’s wartime history. Tonally, however, the films are worlds apart, with The Sign Painter’s lighter, more playful handling of its material already proving attractive to domestic audiences and to foreign distributors:”

“Viesturs Kairiss shows that you can paint over history all you want, but it will always be there.”


“This is a remarkable film that works on a multitude of levels that are relatable to all of us irrespective of language. We have been lucky enough to have been involved with numerous films from Eastern Europe that became nominees for Best Foreign Language film and we only hope the same result for The Sign Painter if the film becomes Latvia’s entry in the Best International Film category. Fingers crossed.”

Neil Friedman

Gundars Āboliņš is Latvian film and theatre actor, born in 1960. His main stage is Riga New Theatre, but he has been playing also Muechner Kammerspiele, Komische Oper Berlin, Burgtheater, Schauspielhaus Koeln, Schauspielhaus Zurich among others.
His filmography includes titles like Von 17 bis 19, Der Sohn, What Silent Gerda Knows,  Dolina Roz, Homo Novus, Monsieur Taurins, Little Robbers, Midsummer Madness and others.