Before Flying Back to the Earth

Prieš parskrendant į žemę
Director: Arūnas Matelis

Germany, Lithuania, 2005, documentary, 52 mins., Russian, Lithuanian with English subtitles, N-13

A gracefully expressive journey into the lives of children living with leukemia at a pediatric hospital in Vilnius, Lithuania. Children enter an alien world, bereft of color and warmth, populated with kind strangers. Their new toys are made from stainless steel and new friendships are formed in the crucible of the cancer ward.

The film is described as ‘a poetic, unsentimental Lithuanian documentary about the resilience of the human spirit.’ Its laconic style and simplicity or form have been likened to haiku by some critics. Before Flying Back to the Earth is the most highly acclaimed Lithuanian documentary film and is considered one of the best documentary films of 2005 in the world.

2007 Directors Guild of America award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary
2007 European Film Academy nomination for best European documentary film
2007 Silver Wolf at Amsterdam International Film Festival
2007 Golden Dove at Leipzig International Film Festival
2007 Main prize at Documenta Madrid International Film Festival
2007 Great Seal at ZagrebDox International Film Festival
2007 Special prize at Silverdocs International Film Festival
2007 Brooklyn Film Festival Spirit Award
2007 Main prize of the Visual Anthropology Festival in Parnu
2007 Lithuanian National Arts and Culture Prize
2005 Best Lithuanian film - Lithuanian Filmmakers Union prize
2005 World art and inventors organizations PIN main prize – Golden Star
2005 LT Identity prize
2005 LNK Television prize Wing of Kindness
2005 The main prize at Oberhausen Short Film Festival
2005 Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas Award
2005 WIPO Gold Medal for creativity

About the director

Arūnas Matelis is a Lithuanian documentary film director and producer. In 1992, after studying Mathematics and graduating from filmmaking in the Lithuanian Music Academy, he established Studio Nominum, one of the first independent film production companies in Lithuania. Arūnas Matelis has directed 10 creative documentary shorts which have been awarded and selected for dozens of prominent film festivals, such as including Cannes, Rotterdam, Oberhausen, Torino, as well as screened in MoMA in New York and French Cinematheque.

The first medium-length documentary by Arūnas Matelis, Before Flying Back to the Earth, received over 10 awards, among which the prestigious Directors’ Guild of America (DGA) Award, IDFA, DOK Leipzig, ZagrebDox, Documenta Madrid and a European Film Academy nomination.


The film is part of the program Cinema is created by people. Retrospective of cameraman Audrius Kemežys, an homage to Lithuanian cinematographer. Throughout his life, Audrius Kemežys has worked on over 30 films, both fiction and documentaries, by established Lithuaian film directors, which received a number of international awards.

His work was a continuation of the Lithuanian cinematographic tradition, yet he stands out as an innovator with a unique ability to see and capture the filmic reality of his characters in an ethical, poetic and comprehensive way.

In 2010 he received a Lithuanian Cinematographers' Union award for the Best cinematographer. In 2015 he was awarded the prize for the Best Cinematography and a masterly synthesis of photography and cinematography in the documentary film Master and Tatiana, as well as nominated for the National Culture and Arts Award. In 2017 he was awarded the Silver Crane for the Best Cinematography in the documentary film Woman and the Glacier.

Section: Cinema is created by people. Retrospective of cameraman Audrius Kemežys

Dir. of Photography: Audrius Kemežys

Producer: Gerd Haag, Arūnas Matelis