Yesterday (directed by A. Juzėnas) - an ode to the giants of Lithuanian rock

2023 / 09 / 02

From September 8th in cinemas, the latest film by Audrius Juzėnas, the director of The ExcursionistVilnius Ghetto, and Owl Mountain - Yesterday, about the pioneers of rock music in the 6th and 7th decades and legendary rock groups in Lithuania, the era of beat music and Beatlemania, which carried an extraordinary youthful energy, a hunger for new ideas, an endless thirst for freedom, and a special love for music.

Rock music, arriving in Lithuania from the West, from behind the Iron Curtain, equated to a nuclear explosion, an inexhaustible energy, a movement that brought with it the ideas of freedom, brotherhood, love, and rebellion. The simplicity and innovation of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones' music enchanted young hearts. Long-haired, in patched jeans and floral shirts, hippies walked with portable radios in city streets, gathered in squares, listened to and recorded music, at night catching the waves of Radio Luxembourg, BBC, and Voice of America, read cult Western authors, and discussed. Driven by "holy vandalism," they destroyed telephone devices in city streets, stole movie reels from cinemas, cut piano strings to make electric guitars, amplifiers, sound equipment, sometimes losing their fingers... "For a guitarist, losing a finger is a tragedy, but despite that, they continued their creative path," says the film's director. Pursued by the security and the Soviet authorities, they formed youth music groups, organized underground music festivals or pop sessions, played at dances, where huge crowds of their fans gathered. During this period, A. L. Webber's rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar saw the light of day on the stage of the Vilnius Art Institute, demanding a huge sacrifice from all its builders and the ideological author - Kęstutis Antanelis. Soon, the drama of Romas Kalanta, who self-immolated in the heart of Kaunas on Laisvės Avenue, and the manifestations of his fellow fighters deeply touched the youth of Lithuania and rock music - it became banned, censored, persecuted by the repressive Soviet regime, but this only strengthened the desire for freedom and the spirit of rock.

The film Yesterday (2023) - an ode to the giants of Lithuanian rock - is a vivid, compelling story about what Lithuanian rock was, the message it spread, and what its performers and fans experienced. Although there is practically no visual material from the performances of the iconic Lithuanian rock groups of that time, the film's creators, having reviewed mountains of film chronicles, using archival material from the U.S. President R. Reagan's library, the Lithuanian state, and personal archives of rock pioneers, filmed frames of the hippie era by Romualdas Požerskis, masterfully recreate the era of Beatlemania. The original music performed by the groups of that time became part of the film's soundtrack, and the film music created by the composer Titas Petrikis for that historical period became the heart of the film. The film, like the famous song Yesterday by The Beatles, dedicated to the era of Beatlemania, to what was yesterday, is today, and will be tomorrow.

"While filming, we met with almost fifty musicians of that time or cultural giants who stood at the roots of rock. Sometimes I couldn't believe how creative and brave those eternally young people were. Taking Western weapons into their own hands - guitars, drums, electric organs, they played a special role in our liberation from the clutches of the Soviet empire," says director A. Juzėnas.

Each interview, in which performers of iconic youth groups of that time and their fans share their experiences, each frame in the film is a unique document revealing a new, unheard page of rock history, recorded for future generations on film.

The production and distribution of the film Yesterday were partially financed by the Lithuanian Film Centre and the Lithuanian National Radio and Television.