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This film is included in the Latvian Cultural Canon.
By means of a sharp publicistic film the authors enter into “on equal ground” conversation with the young people who enter in life or who’ve taken their first independent steps in it. The problems confronted by them are of a new nature for the society. Several young fellows wind up on trial after smashing a train carriage as they are returning from the rock concert, others become extreme examples of “punks” who view Soviet reality as “upside down”. A sixteen-year-old girl accused of stealing a dress tries to commit suicide by jumping out a window in a police station. A young man becomes an amateur filmmaker making a Kafkaesque avant-garde film, while another youth becomes a follower of the Hare Krishnas. Several other young people say they have turned to drugs, while a teenage girl who appeared in the opening as a child having a good time now has a child of her own and no idea what her future will be. And there are those who join the army and are sent to Afghanistan.
“Is It Easy To Be Young?” provoked interest in documentary film-making and made Podnieks famous all over the world. The film was bought by 85 countries in the world, a huge number for a Latvian film.
The film starts with rock concert in a small Latvia town Ogre. It wouldn’t be special at all but back in the 80-ies when Latvia was still a part of the Soviet Union, it was not allowed for teenagers to behave like their counterparts in the West. Young people were not allowed to burst out into emotions and behave freely. But they did. Even more. On their way back after the concert, teenagers vandalised the train carriage. They had to be punished just to threaten all the others. Out of 2000 youngsters 7 were put on trial, one of them (the only one who was of age) was sentenced with three years in prison.

The film openly speaks about the life of young people under the Soviet regime – their conflict with grown-ups, parents, teachers and the society, about drugs and the meaning of life. The film is a masterpiece in its expression and openness. Gorbachov once called it “The first bird of Perestroika”.

Juris Podnieks tragically died in a diving accident in 1992. Already when he was making “Is it Easy to be Young?”, he had an idea to make a follow up film after ten years. His idea was carried out by his team and is called IS IT EASY TO BE…

About “Is It Easy To Be Young?”:

The originality of ”Is It Easy To Be Young?” was a sensation: here, at last, were young people – sensible, articulate, unfrightening young people – speaking their own words about their own hopes and fears. By lingering on individual faces and listening to individual voices, by renouncing a commentary, Podnieks discovered a lost continent.
Sight&Sound, 1993

Juris Podnieks documentary ”Is It Easy To Be Young?” provided a public platform for mounting concern about the generation that had borne the brunt of the Afghan war. The demand for Podniek’s film was overwhelming.
Ian Christie, 1995
Read more on the Latvian Cultural Cannon homepage
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