Latvian production wins top tourism film prize

The Latvian Institute’s promotional video “Sounds Like Latvia” has won the grand prize at the 40th Annual Tourfilm Festival in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. The video, produced by Rīga-based Style Master Studios, was judged the best country promotional film of 2007.

The film was chosen from a record number of 775 entries representing 138 countries, Tourfilm organizers said in a press release. Slovenia won the prize last year.

The jury singled out the Latvian Institute video for its originality, creative direction, humor and storyline, Ojārs Kalniņš, director of the Latvian Institute, told Latvians Online. Especially noted were the “talking Jugenheads” (animated version of the heads often seen in the Art Nouveau architecture in Rīga), which have become a popular symbol for the city of Rīga. Kalniņš attended the event Oct. 3-4 and accepted the award on behalf of the institute.

The Latvian victory was one of several surprises in the competition, given that its entries had not fared well in the past, Tourfilm said.

Kalniņš, who served as executive producer of the film, praised director Ivo Kalpenieks, art director Eriks Bozis and music composer Girts Biss for offering an original idea that managed to stand out in a crowded and highly competitive field.

“Ironically, the LI’s video was not created to just promote tourism,” Kalniņš said. “We decided to expand on Latvia’s existing tourism slogan (“The Land that Sings”) and explored the country through its many distinctive sounds.”

Kalniņš said use of “talking Jugenheads” in the film was not necessarily an original concept, but simply a natural creative evolution of an idea that had been developing in Rīga in recent years. Advertising executive Ēriks Stendzenieks had toyed with the idea before his Zoom agency adopted the “Talking Stones” installation for the “Surprising Latvia” project in France. Pop group Prāta Vētra considered using singing “Jugenheads” for a music video.

“To me, the fact that so many people were thinking in the same direction indicated that this idea had a life of its own, and we simply needed to develop it further,” Kalniņš said.

The Latvian Insitute has recommended to the Rīga City Council that it adopt the “talking Jugenheads” has part of its marketing plan.

The 6-minute, 30-second film may viewed or downloaded through the Latvian Institute’s Web site,


A scene from “Sounds Like Latvia” features a “Jugenhead.” The film won the grand prize of the 2007 Tourfilm competition.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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