The Actor's Solo
Dear Yasha - work title
Yasha is a familiar variant of Yakov and Yakov is a Russian variant for Jacob
Last year there was a significant event in the cultural life of Latvia. Yakov Rafalson, a leading actor of Riga Russian Drama Theatre got for the second time in his career in Latvia Spelmanu nakts award in nomination the best actor of the year.
One can ask: what special is about it? why is it so significant?
It’s not a secret that the society of Latvia is not united. Actually it is divided into two communities: Latvian speaking and non-Latvian speaking. These two communities just co-exist in the country but this is not a normal situation for the country that is going to join the United Europe in few years’ time.
Thus on the one hand it is very important that the representatives of Latvian culture (the jury consisted mainly of Latvians) don’t choose the candidates to the highest prize according to their nationality, and most probably have never done it. And, on the other hand, it is important that the prize-winner, Yakov Rafalson, a Jew by origin, spent most of his life in Russia, and came to Latvia, his father’s homeland, not long ago, in 1991. For these ten years he managed not only to become a star of Riga Russian Drama, but also to learn Latvian in a few months’ time well enough to play in Latvian performance Tiritomba, or a Golden Fish together with the National Theatre actors.
The film where at least part of the action would take place in theatre couldn’t help arousing interest in the spectator. The focus on a star of the stage, a favourite of public definitely is the film’s trump card. And the fact that Yakov works not only in Russian Drama, he is also engaged in some performances staged by Latvian theatres. In a sense he becomes a key to both parts of the society: Latvian and non-Latvian.
Does he really feel integrated into the society of Latvia? We hope that Yakov’s life story shown in the film, interviews and episodes where the spectators could see him in everyday life – on the stage, behind the screens, during the rehearsals, on Riga streets, shopping at the market, or simply going in a trolleybus to a regular performance would prove his words. And the audience would judge themselves.
Yakov’s acting appeals to ideas common to all mankind, irrespective of the language the person’s speak, or the nation they belong to. No wonder that Yakov is one of us in different parts of today’s society in Latvia.
On the stage Yakov loves to balance between the comical and the tragical, he likes the border situation which help to reveal a person’s essence. Yakov Rafalson might tell: "We must evoke amazement in the spectators.
The film’s narrative will go in the chronological order. We will start from the remote 1991, the year when Latvia re-gained its independence. To visualize that time we will use archive materials.The life story of the film’s hero is closely connected with those events, as he arrived in Latvia on January 20, 1991, when a specialized unit of Soviet shock troops attacked the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Then we are going to follow his career in Latvia. Yakov became a star not in one day. The beginning was the only cue "There is a letter for you" in the role of a postman in Russian Drama performance Camera obscura. Today he is the most engaged actor of the theatre. A star.
We will show the episodes from various performances where Yakov Rafalson is engaged, including Tiritomba, of the Golden Fish and Nezabudka vulgaris where Yakov plays in Latvian. In one of the film‘s episode we will show the fragment of Russian Drama performance Fools’ supper. In the play by a French playwright‘s an actor of Russian Drama Theatre who is a Jew by origin is acting a role of a French bourgeois in the Russian language. And there are Russians, Latvians, Jews and representatives of other nationalities sitting in the auditorium who live in Riga or are visiting the city. Yet during the performance all the spectators are united by the sea of laughter being under the spell of Yakov‘s talent that gives rise to the things common to all humans.
The stage with the apartment of a French bourgeois is followed by a Latvian forest in a rainy day, where the actors of Russian Drama are picking mushrooms. This is a tradition and a rare pleasure they can afford in their busy life. This time some their colleagues from Latvian theatres joined their company. Perhaps the conversations how one and the same mushroom is called in Russian and Latvian, and which one is edible or a toadstool, are a bit funny and na?ve. Though in the question of edibility the full understanding is really a matter of life and death!
The rainy forest is followed by a desert in Israel, the land of Yakov‘s forefathers. His deepest roots are in this land which let call him a Jew. Riga Russian Drama Theatre is giving a performance in Tel Aviv. We will use the materials from the Theatre’s video archive to show this tour. Apart from work and meetings with his relatives, Yasha draws inspiration in the country for his next play – the role of a rabbi in Dibuk by S.Anskis. The fragment from this play will be the last episode in the film about a man who came to his father’s homeland and considers the country with all its positive and negative things as HIS land.
The play is about the Biblical times, still it is topical today. The truths found in pains can serve to the modern people as well. The play’s episode can be viewed as a message of the people of Israel to us.
What have we all, people of Latvia, Latvians and non-Latvians, gained from it?
A person who is loyal and devoted to this country. Good!
A brilliant actor who makes us laugh and cry. Great!
A striking example that people can live together, understand each other, find a common language. And this is peace.
But we, filmmakers, found a theme for a film which could spread the good news all over the world.
Production company
European Documentary Film Symposiums

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