__MAIN_TEXT__

Page 1

A M A G A Z I N E F R O M T H E E S TO N I A N F I L M I N S T I T U T E

I

w w w.f ilmi.e e

3/2020

INTERVIEWS EVENTS NEWS

Peeter Simm’s On the Water in PÖFF’s Main Competition

Veiko Õunpuu &

Goodbye Soviet Union

says Lauri Randla

His Nordic Western

Film Estonia

Cash Rebate Small, but Mighty FEATURED FILMS: The Last Ones I On the Water I Rain I Kratt Goodbye, Soviet Union I The Man Who Dried a Towel in the Wind


FOREWORD

2020

will be remembered as the year that changed the film industry. The shadows of these changes are very long. COVID-19 has been hard on all of us, personally and professionally. The long term impact remains to be seen, but at the moment, the future looks bright for the Estonian film business. This year’s biggest challenge will be the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, which will be a hybrid festival - part physical, part digital. I am happy to say is that this year we have a record number of Estonian films in many different programmes of the festival. It is clear proof that we have had a very productive year. The crisis has spurred us to change some things for the better in the Estonian film business. Although we had to stop production in the early spring, most productions had resumed shooting by June. The Government provided extra support, distributing 1.3 million euros as mitigating measures to help the film business as a whole. Cinema admissions bounced to a record high after Tenet premiered in Estonia, but as importantly the international interest in the Estonian cash-rebate incentive grew immensely. This summer, we had a lot of projects shooting with the support of the cash-rebate and many will continue to shoot throughout autumn. Cinema attendances might have dipped slightly after Tenet but three excellent Estonian features – Rain, The Last Ones and O2 – brought audiences back into cinemas and Estonian admission numbers look good for such a challenging year. 2020 will also be remembered as a year when Estonia had four films eligible for Oscar nominations – one feature, a documentary and two shorts. And we are very proud that a student film My Dear Corpses by talented young director German Golub won the gold prize at the Student Oscars and is also running now for a nomination. These were all great achievements during such challenging times, but the cherry on the top of the cake was that in September 2020 the Estonian Government decided to raise the Estonian Film Institute’s yearly budget from 2021 by an additional 3 million euros. Estonian films have a solid 22% share in the local market. People here love to watch Estonian films and this is reflected in this new and extremely welcome support from the Government. Our goal is that with this additional support Estonian films rise to a 25% local market share. This is truly remarkable and bears witness to all the incredibly hard work Estonian filmmakers have put in over the years. New initiatives for children’s and youth films, and increased support for Estonian talent will be a greater focus for film policymakers in the coming years. Stay tuned!

Edith Sepp, CEO of Estonian Film Institute

Content 4

6

NEWS Four Estonian Films are Chasing an Oscar Nomination DIRECTOR Peeter Simm On the Water

10 NEWS Kalev Can Jump 12 IN FOCUS Veiko Õunpuu

The Last Ones

18 DIRECTOR Rasmus Merivoo

Kratt

12 18

20 IN FOCUS Film Estonia Cash Rebate 26 DEBUT Lauri Randla

The Absurdities of Soviet Estonia

30 EVENT Black Nights Film Festival –

The Wolf That Turned Into a Hybrid

32 EVENT Industry@Tallinn &

Baltic Event – Online by Design

34 DEBUT Janno Jürgens

Boys, Men & Their Shadows

40

38 DOCS Docs Back in Cinemas 40 NEWS Estonian Film and Television

Awards 2020

42 EVENT Films as Part of

the Educational Program

44 NEW FILMS The overview of

the latest Estonian films

Estonian Film is published three times per year by Estonian Film Institute Estonian Film Institute Uus 3, 10111, Tallinn, Estonia Phone: +372 627 6060 I E-mail: film@filmi.ee I filmi.ee Editor in Chief: Eda Koppel Contributing Editor: Maria Ulfsak (Eesti Ekspress) Contributors: Aurelia Aasa, Hannes Aava, Egle Loor, Mikk Rand, Filipp Kruusvall Translation: Lili Pilt, Tristan Priimägi Linguistic Editing: Paul Emmet Design & Layout: Profimeedia Printed by Reflekt Cover: Goodbye Soviet Union by Lauri Randla ESTONIAN FILM

ISSN-2585-674X

Good News for Estonian Films

3


NEWS

A New Record Four Estonian Films 2 are Chasing an Oscar Nomination

The expert committee called together by the Estonian Film Institute, decided that the Estonian candidate for the nomination in Best International Feature category is to be The Last Ones by Veiko Õunpuu – an Estonian-Finnish-Dutch co-production by Katrin Kissa from Homeless Bob Production (Estonia), Mark Lwoff and Misha Jaari from Bufo (Finland), and Ellen Havenith from PRPL (the Netherlands). By Maria Ulfsak

4

ESTONIAN FILM

020 has been an exceptional year in more ways than one, and so the rules for choosing the national nominee been altered. The premiere window is longer and there is no premiere requirement at the moment of selection – the films can still qualify if they will be screened before the year is over. Because of that, the work of the committee was more tense and time-consuming than usual. Some films in contention are still waiting for their theatrical release. The expert committee praised the winning film’s clearly formed story, wellshaped characters and gratifying execution, stressing that Õunpuu has succeeded in expressing great problems with minimal means – the eternal state of hope of a human being, and the ambition to progress towards a better life; greed and small-­ mindedness that


Virago

smother humanity; the extinction of traditional ways and customs in the face of capitalist self-interest; the environment that has been exploited to the point of no return; feelings of uncertainty facing the future. The second Estonian film to chase an Oscar nomination is a short My Dear Corpses by a young director GerThe Last Ones man Golub. The film was first elected in the top three best narrative shorts in the international category at the Student Academy Awards, and after the final round, My Dear Corpses emerged a winner with a Student Academy Awards gold medal for best inter-

national short film. It was a graduating film for Golub from BFMACS. My Dear Corpses tells the story of a boy named Erki who is unexpectedly evicted from his house. Facing the difficult task of taking care of his lonely mother, he is forced to take up a job in a cadaver cleanup unit. “While the film is not autobiographical in any way, I am familiar with the work and have tried it myself,” the director remarked. Estonian documentarist Eeva Mägi won the best short documentary award at the Melbourne International Film Festival with her The Weight of All the Beauty gaining the opportunity to submit the film to the Oscars. The film is produced by Liis Nimik for Alasti Kino, and it’s a poetic and personal documentary about men whose souls are full of beauty, fire and life, but also extreme solitude. The men who lived in Põdra vil-

lage of the Sõrve region of Saaremaa, the largest island in Estonia, often had only the devil in the shape of vodka as their only playmate. The protagonist Villi tells the story of how the devil lured away his friends, one by one. The fourth Estonian film to participate in the Oscars race is Virago, the short film debut of Kerli Kirch Schneider. The film premiered internationally at the Busan Short Film Festival and won the Grand Prix in the international category, gaining the right to be submitted to the Oscars in the best short film category. It’s a black comedy about a Southern Estonian village called Virago, where no man has lived to see his 40th birthday since the Second World War. Contemporary gritty realism is blended with the mystical and magical in the film. Virago was produced by Diana Mikita from Nafta Films. EF

The Weight of All the Beauty

My Dear Corpses

ESTONIAN FILM

5


TALENT DIRECTOR

COMING OF AGE ON THE WATER Peeter Simm has been in the film business since the 1970s and can most certainly be considered a living legend of Estonian cinema. His 11th feature film On the Water is based on the renowned Estonian novel by Olavi Ruitlane. It is the first Estonian feature in three years to premiere in the main competition of Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. By Aurelia Aasa Photos by Liisabet Valdoja

6

ESTONIAN FILM

T

he story takes us to the Soviet Estonian backwoods with fighting neighbours, drinking men, and fishing seemingly the only escape. Teenage Andres has to grow up and become a man in this challenging environment. Yet, he finds comfort and wisdom over time in the local fellows on whom the rest of the world has given up. On the Water grasps


the tough reality of the era through bizarre friendships. It is a touching film with a number of Estonian 80’s music hits in the background. In his interview to Estonian Film, director Peeter Simm talks about why and how this film was made. You were not attached to the project from the start. How did you end up with it?

It’s been a while since I directed a story that was offered to me. I hadn’t read the Olavi Ruitlane novel On the Water (2015) yet, and I was perplexed to find out how many people were familiar with the book in South Estonia. I believe that my generation sees it as a lingering memory of the 1980s. The atmosphere was muted, calm, secure, the Afghan War was going on somewhere on the background. Initially I meant to end the film with some war footage, but then I understood that it will make things too complex. War is not a dish in this menu. We remained true to the original novel. Maybe our version is slightly more brutal and has more fishing, but the core is generally the same.

Director Peeter Simm and the central character of his new film, Andres (Rasmus Ermel).

It is, first and foremost, a story about growing up, but it touches on serious themes like alcoholism and domestic abuse. How did you balance it?

Frankly, I didn’t want to stray too far from the original text. Some aspects have been streamlined, but the characters have remained largely the same. We

didn’t want our characters to be thin as cling film. Or they should have several layers of thinness at least. We also have a host of side characters. As per the classic approach to screenwriting, there shouldn’t be any characters that appear and disappear again right away. Some of them, like the militia, received additional scenes in writing. We had to cut some roles though – not because the actors didn’t suit the film, but for length issues. It was my wish for the film to be 90 minutes long, but we arrived at 1 hour and 40 minutes, nevertheless. And I’m reluctant to cut anything else! Looking at the main characters in the film – three village men with whom the protagonist, young Andres, fraternizes with, they seem like a pretty hopeless bunch. But Andres sees goodness in them.

T S t

There can be a hidden side to every seemingly hopeless and grim figure . For a long time, I’ve had the idea to make a movie about the situation where only your enemy can help you at your worst hour. Because he knows you better than your own mother – he has learned everything about you. Take Valter, one of Andres’ friends. He is subconsciously, if not consciously, the projection of the boy’s father. The boy has no father. As the school director puts it at the teachers’ meeting: “Andres’ dad journeyed somewhere, went to do con-

On the Water takes place in a fishing village during Soviet times.

ESTONIAN FILM

7


TALENT DIRECTOR

Colorful On the Water by acclaimed director Simm premieres in the Main Competition of PÖFF.

You can find the Devil in the corner of a painting sometimes, but he is still a central character. struction and went missing”. Valter becomes his main teacher, supporter. Never mind the rest of the world looking down on him. The development of characters was helped along by the fact that the actors had the opportunity to improvise, adding some authenticity to the whole thing. There are characters in paintings too, that are out of focus, but still relevant. You can find the Devil in the corner of a painting sometimes, but he is still a central character. The same thing with this film. Female characters – as many or few as there are – are also often central players here. I had a feeling that the women are the ones who keep the community life in the yard together.

Life in the yard resembles the one in Maxim Gorki’s The Lower Depths. Like this one guy yelling: “No wonder Andres is like that if you have these living in the yard!” The film talks about the Soviet Union but there is no nostalgia for

8

ESTONIAN FILM

the era. It doesn’t decorate the past but shows the poor and dirty reality instead.

Life in the film is hapless indeed. I think that the majority of Estonians lived a much better life than the one depicted here. But we are talking about the periphery here. I had a guy at the school who had never been to Tallinn. One day, the other classmates took him on the bus to visit. He asked why Tallinn is so small, because he had envisioned it to be a metropolis. Our characters are the same – they haven’t been anywhere, at least they don’t talk about it. Their clothes are different too, because they come from the outskirts, and their fashion changes more slowly than around hotel Viru in Tallinn. On the Water is a story about the rejects, of sorts. But we didn’t create this environment only because it’s apparently very picturesque, but for honesty. The collapsed huts and roofs on the old Dutch paintings are lovely but I wouldn’t want real estate like that on my own land.

It seemed like fishing serves the pur­­pose of a meditative break in the film.

That’s what it is, meditation. You’ll find peace on the lake. Many people found peace ice-fishing back then. It was maybe the only place where you could leave the reality behind. As we hear in the film: “Life won’t catch up with you on the ice”. I had a feeling that we had captured the everyday life of the times quite well. How did you cast the film?

Actors Aarne Soro and Marko Matvere had great screen tests from grown-ups. There were difficulties as well. We had to substitute our protagonist, because the boy grew too big too fast. He participates in the film, but not in the lead. Rasmus Ermel who plays Andres, was a close call. When we recorded some extra bits later on, his voice had already changed, and he had to alter it. The actors grew as people right in front of our eyes. In the scene where Andres is looking for pennies while queuing up for the


Marju Lepp, producer of On the Water “Peeter is the master of disguise - when the shoot took place on ice, he appeared on the set fully in white, in summer he wore some paramilitary camouflage outfit. The aim, total assimilation with the surroundings, the location, and the crew. Every day started with new fantasies that Peeter had envisioned at night. In order to remain in the framework of the story even remotely, we had to remind him now and then, what movie we were currently making. He is very protective of the actors. When there’s danger, he is always ready to try the shot first on himself regardless of the fact that there are experts on set - he is ready to test if the ice holds or to jump into the ice hole, etc. He is a good storyteller, and he never runs out of stories to tell – be it about his shenanigans on movie sets, or the many films he has watched. He keeps up the spirits of the whole crew with his upbeat attitude.”

cinema screening, the camera moves to Maria (Aurora Künnapas), Andres’ loved one. Rasmus said on the set that let’s shoot a more delicate scene, otherwise it’s like in an American movie where it’s clear from the start who’s dating who. Both young talents have acting in their blood. Let’s talk about the Estonian weather. Your shoot was postponed because there was no ice. It must be pretty hard to make a movie where you have all four seasons.

Yeah, time flies, the actors are growing… It was last winter, just before the virus outbreak. The ice arrived finally, but it was so thin that it could carry only birds. We were not bold enough to walk on it. One of the actors tried near the shore and fell through. I mean, he was supposed to, but not there… We had planned earlier on to drill some cracks in the ice to make sure he goes through. Nature took its course. The shot is in the film as well. But the shooting period was very

smooth in general. The kiss of fate and a small gift appeared in the form of the locals who arrived on set after the shooting had commenced and asked us if we know where the writer Olavi Ruitlane lived. The guy who had written our novel. We found out that Ruitlane had lived there years ago, right next to our location. Some of the characters described in the book were the same people who helped us on the set. You have a long film career behind you. Does it become easier every time to make a movie?

This was the first time when I filmed a feature in a digital format. Even Lonely Island (2012) was shot on film. And although film stock has that whiff of oldschool aristocracy about it, it was very comfortable to shoot the kids on digital – you could make amends and film for as long as you wanted. In case of On the Water it’s not that necessary to shoot on film. We could fix things on the computer that needed fixing.

How much has the film world changed during the period you have been making movies?

According to my own theory that can be agreed with, or disproven, big changes started happening in the 1970s when the cinema became torn between the elitist art-house and the mainstream. Before that, all the big players – the French New Wave, Italian Neorealism – made films for everyone. Today, the intellectual and mainstream cinema move further and further apart, scaring people, stressing the opposition. Mainstream cinema has become more welcoming towards its audience. Film education is very important. When students come to study in the film school, they often don’t know any directors beside themselves, but they are full of knowledge six months later. I think that understanding film needs to be taught as well. People don’t just become interested in films by themselves. Watching a film in the cinema – even when somebody laughs at the wrong time – makes you feel alive. EF ESTONIAN FILM

9


NEWS

KALEVcan Sports drama Kalev, a cooperation between Allfilm from Estonia and Ugri Film, is currently in production. Directed by Ove Musting, the film has a budget slightly over 2 million euros and is being made with a combination of public and private funding. By Maria Ulfsak Photos by Allfilm

10

ESTONIAN FILM

T

he producers for Kalev are Pille Rünk, Maria Avdjushko and Kristjan Rahu. The drama tells the true story of Estonian basketball team Kalev and their path to winning the championship in the crumbling Soviet Union of 1991. The film revolves around the legendary Estonian basketball players and their turbulent lives during that era. The first five shooting days were completed last winter. The spring shooting period was supposed to take place in late March, April and May but the pan-

demic caused delays. “Most of the dramatic scenes and our Latvian shooting period have now been completed. We will film some more in November and plan our last shooting days for the time between Christmas and New Year. If everything happens according to plan, and there are no more unexpected circumstances, then we will be finished shooting by the end of 2020. And then we will enter our long post-production period,” producer Pille Rünk commented to Estonian Film.


The players on the Kalev team were – and are – legendary and the year 1991 was a historical turning point.

The screenwriters are Martin Algus, Mehis Pihla and Ove Musting, and Musting also makes his directorial debut with the film. “Making such a technically complicated film is a challenge for any director. Ove was brave enough to agree to the project and get interested in the subject matter. He has a strong technical background and is skilled at directing massive scenes. The film definitely also benefits from our very experienced DOP, Rein Kotov,” Pille Rünk added. Domestic audiences have high expectations for Kalev because the film talks

about a very significant phenomenon for Estonians – the Kalev team symbolized the re-independence of the country for locals. Pille Rünk thinks that Estonian audiences will easily find their way to cinemas for this film. “This is a significant event in our history and many of us still remember it. But there is definitely a lot to see and watch for the generation that doesn’t remember the controversy and excitement of that era. The players on the Kalev team were – and are – legendary and the year 1991 was a historical turning point. The basketball team from

tiny Estonia was crowned champion of the Soviet Union for the first time, at the same time the Union was crumbling under its own weight. And that turbulent time, and the personal dilemmas that came with it, can have a wider appeal too. The performances of the actors playing the legendary players are definitely another magnet for the film. It’s difficult to speculate about the international reaction to the film. The fact that it is also a debut for the director makes it all the more interesting. The film got a lot of attention from sales agents in its early stages when it was just an idea, so we hope that it will find its audience outside of Estonia as a film as well,” Rünk commented. The film stars acclaimed actors Mait Malmsten, Reimo Sagor, Priit Võigemast, Veiko Porkanen, as well as younger generation talents Mihkel Kuusk, Ott Kartau, Kristjan Sarv and others. DOP Rein Kotov is widely known for his work in the domestic box office success Truth and Justice and the Oscar nominated Tangerines. Kalev’s premiere is planned for spring 2022. EF ESTONIAN FILM

11


IN FOCUS

Õunpuu HIS NORDIC &WESTERN Interview with director Veiko Õunpuu, whose film The Last Ones was released in Estonia and Finland this autumn. The film is a Nordic western that takes place in Lapland in Northern Finland. The Last Ones is the Estonian official title submitted for the Best International Feature Film category at the 2021 Academy Awards. By Eero Tammi Photos by Kiur Kaasik, Gabriela Urm and Max Mjödov

E

ero Tammi: How did you come to have such a close relationship with Finland?

Veiko Õunpuu: Everything we saw on Finnish television during the Soviet times was also our culture. Suomi rock, the sketch comedy of Pulttibois, films, Knight Rider with commercial breaks… And yet we were observing it from the side as mere spectators. I listened to Peer Günt, Sielun Veljet, Juice Leskinen… The first time I went to Finland, I was on a school field trip in 1987 and I opened my mouth and fluent Finnish came out. We might consider the psychoanalytic implications of that. I didn’t believe in the collapse of the Soviet Union one bit and I avoided the army. I wanted to go to Canada or Australia but I couldn’t get a visa to go further than Finland. I spent some time working illegally in the countryside but that

12

ESTONIAN FILM

went sour fast and I then went to the Helsinki police station and asked for political asylum. That was the only way I managed to avoid going back. And it took one more year for Estonia to become independent…

I was sent from Helsinki to Tampere. But there were so many Estonian shoplifters gathering there that they sent all of us Estonians to Hauho, somewhere in the forest near Hämeenlinna. We spent several months there – a whole winter – together with a hundred Somalis in a large, dilapidated building that looked like a Soviet pioneer camp. The idea for the film The Last Ones came from a desire to do something like a western but taking place up north. What was your main motivation?

The chaotic and somewhat rueful

life of a mining village seemed like a good metaphor that carried a certain mood. Having lived too long in the city, I thought I would find the remains of some sort of authentic proximity to nature, or some tiny insight into a world before the industrial revolution - indigenous people who would be shocked at the destruction of our planet. But I had romanticized the life up there. I just saw leather couches and plasma TVs in the homes of reindeer herders. Tourist traps and a lot of talk about shooting commercials. Basically ordinary people coping with life. Were you even interested in making a western?

Not really. I see westerns as something in which boys’ fantasize about manliness. In The Last Ones, I was more interested in the collapse of masculinity. And not even that particularly. The charac-


ESTONIAN FILM

13


IN FOCUS

ters all dream of something bigger and aren’t totally aware of what they’re doing. Self-deception, looking for a solution in the wrong place – that was my main interest. The events in the film are carried by active losers. By underdogs.

I don’t like to call them losers. So many people live like this on our planet, forced to sell their labour for nothing while living in inhumane conditions. Life’s a struggle. I would describe those characters as a bit clueless, but so are all of us, aren’t we? We hope that if we achieve a certain goal, it will make us happy and complete. This never happens, or at least the happiness never lasts. It only creates false hopes and makes us assume wrong roles. The farther you go from your personal state of balance, the more hollow the whole world becomes. And that road leads straight to hell.

14

ESTONIAN FILM

I watched your film Empty (2006) yesterday and noticed similarities to The Last Ones, at least when it comes to comic register.

Back then, I wrote down Beckett’s thought that “nothing is funnier than unhappiness.” The tough guy in The Last Ones, Fisherman Kari (Tommi Korpela) seems to be related to the violinist in Empty, Eduard (Taavi Eelmaa). Two strong exhibitionist males who wear tasteless clothes and enjoy stealing women out from under other men’s noses.

But they see themselves as strong healthy men with reasonable thoughts. They don’t realize the effect they really have or what we might infer about the extent of their real understanding of the world by the way they dress. The world is an altar where their will determines how others act. This

Director Veiko Õunpuu (on the right) and Estonian actor Pääru Oja.

model only works of course, if there’s enough raw power. I think Kari and Eduard might have a similar relationship with sexuality – they are deeply violent but at the same time inexplicably functional. A great conundrum – something is fundamentally unhealthy and yet so common. Young Rupi (Pääru Oja) starts out as submissive. Male competition has been a theme of your earlier films also.

Rupi is a melancholic observer until he starts to see the bigger picture. Kari, his boss, owns every­ thing. And, for him, when he has

In The Last Ones, I was more interested in the collapse of masculinity.


taken that everything from someone else, it adds value to the conquest. A man who demands to own all the pleasures. He can’t feel the pleasure of being, but acquires some through winning. I can’t help but suspect that a lot of the shit that’s going on in the world right now is a direct outcome of a dysfunctional male ego. I’m not fit to offer any coherent explanation why it has to be a particularly male problem, perhaps because it is a man’s world, but it seems obvious that the gist of the problem lies within us. It doesn’t help that the ladies are also quite susceptible to the allure of the psychopaths. Take that, add the commodification of absolutely everything and you have our world. I’d like to believe though that you always have the possibility to refuse complicity. Even if it might mean dying of hunger, there is always the possibility to draw the line. I think that is exactly what Rupi does, in the end, after some quiet observing and pondering. He might not be the sharpest tool in the box, but he slowly gets there. Even though mine owner Fisherman Kari is extremely influential, he still had to choose a tactic for getting by.

On a personal level, the difference between Empty and The Last Ones is that now I am more emphatic to-

ward such types. People like him suffer terribly. I used to only see the comical side of him. Kari acts from a place of distress which can also be only a symptom. He attempts to live by his understanding of the world. Perhaps his lunacy is the outcome of his conscience struggling within the restrains of his worldview. I tried to follow him even when it’s not easy to understand the internal logic he operates by. At times it was difficult. Tommi had to achieve some very unnatural states to show flashes of just how messed up this man’s deck of cards is. How much should an actor know about what you’re about to do?

They don’t need to know the most hidden motivations of the character, but they need to be able to justify the character in their own mind. I introduce the actors to the ulterior motivations and set up basic relations between them. About the rest I just ask them to trust me. The actors in The Last Ones liked this kind of an approach. Laura Birn’s character is somewhat ambivalent, a woman who wants to tear herself out of her misery but doesn’t quite think things through. She’s recklessly enters a situation where ugly things start to unfold. But where is the beginning

ON THE LEFT: Finnish actress Laura Birn plays Riitta, a woman who wants something more than boring life in Lapland. Fisherman Kari (Tommi Korpela, above) and his right hand man Rupi (Pääru Oja).

of that trajectory? How would you depict a girl who through the taste of champagne suddenly understands the limitations of her life? If Laura would have demonstrated it directly, it would have seemed contrived, no matter how perfect her performance. But now it’s perfect, a subtle, tiny flow of gestures that fully open only on the second or third viewing. And her character emerges as a complex human being. At some point, you feel sorry for her, at some point, she’s scary. It’s easy to moralize over her. But when you really understand the hopelessness that she is living in, a new dimension to her opens. In that sense, she is also a positive character who starts towards some sort of understanding. The way you make films doesn’t meet generally established norms. You forgo the script during the shoot and move closer to a John Cassavetes-like style where you search for something more meaningful

ESTONIAN FILM

15


IN FOCUS behind the scenes. You do many variations with the actors. This is a time consuming and risky approach.

Even crossing the street can be risky. What is the worst thing that can happen when making a film? The film could turn out to be shit. Lifeless, pointless, a sad waste of everyone’s time. But you know for sure it will be a shitty film if you begin with worrying, or if you let fear overcome you. So, in a way, risk is essential. Directing starts before the shooting period. The artists behind the space and costumes need tasks.

Yes, if you want to dance, you first have to build a dance floor. But I

16

ESTONIAN FILM

don’t really comprehend the nuances in the characters’ interpersonal relationships until we arrive on set. You can take care of the settings and the costumes and the general structure, but some of it you can work out during the shooting. Cassavetes also said that it’s impossible to consider all aspects when writing. The actor always discovers something you could not have thought of. But actors also get blocked and so you need to release them from their fears and allow them to make mistakes.

this film. It seems to me that Finnish actors are ready to go beyond what is generally expected of them, and those particular people I worked with are extremely talented and courageous people.

Do you maybe see our Finnish star actors slightly differently than the average Finnish audience?

I trust the internal clock to tell me when things are becoming boring or may start to torture the viewer. But you need to push a little. Every one of us wants to feel good, but no

I love and respect all the actors in

You have created images and paintings, and your films have an effect that’s often difficult to explain. Especially when it comes to composition, movement, sound and time. What effect do you want your films to have and how do you know you’re on the right path?


one can feel good if they always get what they want. In life, this leads to a kind of frustration, boredom and depression. I realized through painting that if you stare at something longer than you need to, at one point you stop wanting to avoid it and relax. So I don’t usually submit to the feeling of what I think the viewer might want. I don’t help them escape, to cling to a pace that suits them or make the identification with characters seamless. That, of course, doesn’t mean that watching films should be a painful experience, on the contrary. I’m aiming for the cathartic release in the end. I’ve started to think of films mainly according to rhythm. The viewer is faced with a certain situa-

Director Veiko Õunpuu on the set of The Last Ones.

tion in a scene that may be as psychologically natural as possible but it is the rhythm and extent of alternating scenes where the delicate charm of this art form lies. The intensity of a scene can be tempered with moments of contemplation. To keep the rhythm so that the story is generally graspable, but the whole work still remains abstract enough to qualify as an artwork. That is what I hope to achieve. To you, a film is basically a giant canvas where events line up that keeps people captivated for a few hours. As an artist, you don’t work on the short form or gallery piece, you race straight towards the oasis of the entertainment industry – the cinema.

Based on personal experience, I can tell you that the cinema can surprise you. I saw Gena Rowlands in Love Streams and I could practically hear my internal protective layer tearing. The best films always find an amazing middle road – pleasure filled with the truth of existence. In that sense, cinema is one of the cleverest things we have in the form of an entertainment. Once you are in the cinema, you are forced to watch. And once the viewer’s natural superficiality fades away, another state of being arises, where it becomes possible to present complex ideas in a way that they can have a strong emotional impact. It’s true that a lot of people watch films to find out something about themselves. But most films are based on embedding different consumer identities.

For me, the problem with so-called consumer films is the automatism. You walk to the same spot again and again, stimulating a routine habit. I search for a solution to this problem by trying to meet expectations in the most minimal way necessary. In general, I want a lot of different people to watch my films. Unfortunately, in Estonia I’ve been made out to be some sort of weirdo who likes to put people in

uncomfortable situations only to tell them off. Which isn’t true. Have all your films been made using the same method?

Yes, even though two of them were directed by a crazy person. When I was making Autumn Ball, I thought every day I should kill myself, the tension was too much. But then I would go and sit by myself for fifteen minutes or longer and wait for that feeling to subside. Although confrontations are real during the shoot, the panic only exists in your head. You must wait a little and an idea always pops up how to do something differently. The knowledge that the panic will always subside is my method. Because I am sure that everything will pass. And that inspiration exists. That is the truth. What do you think, why is the film industry everywhere so protected from and closed off to anyone doing anything unique? Why does it feel like you’re robbing a bank?

Maybe because this is exactly what you are doing when trying to make something unique or truly original – you become a liability. The film industry sees itself as a steady service provider for those who want to remove themselves from reality for a while, and the junkies who just want a fix don’t want to experiment too much with the product. The other function of cinema – an insight into the reality we inhabit, can even be troublesome. As Henry Miller put it: “Truth can hurt, sometimes in the wallet.” So the first consideration of the industry, and understandably so, is always the consideration of the market. And as the publicly funded art depends on both the mental horizon of the bourgeoisie and a certain public consensus of what a tax payer should receive for his buck, the limitations are there. But it would be defeatist to end with a pessimistic note. We made a film and, God willing, we’ll live to make another one. To ask for more is to bring the wrath of the Fate upon ourselves. EF ESTONIAN FILM

17


TALENT DIRECTOR

Blood, Humour & Ivo’s Penis

Kratt is the new film by the Estonian director and screenwriter Rasmus Merivoo. It will be premiered as the opening film of this year’s Just Film, PÖFF’s sub-festival concentrating on Youth and Children’s films. By Maria Ulfsak Photos by Virge Viertek and Tõnu Hiielaid

R

asmus Merivoo rose to notoriety fast with his shocking and absurd short called Alien, or the Saving of Valdis in 11 Acts (2006) that became an instant cult piece. Then Merivoo debuted in 2009 with a feature film called Buratino, and after that he has been making TV series and shorts. Now he’s back with a film called Kratt. Rasmus, what kind of a film is Kratt?

It’s a feature film. A small town story. Small town kids getting caught up in a global adventure. Almost like me, making this film. One thing turned into another and suddenly I found myself on this merry-go-round.

18

ESTONIAN FILM

What or who is a kratt?

A kratt is a mythological creature made of available materials, and in order to give it life you have to sell your soul to the devil. A kratt follows orders and constantly demands work. It’s customary to use it for the owner’s personal advancement. It seemed interesting to depict a situation where a kratt is brought to life in the present day. Is it the only one, or is the village brimming with kratts already? The producers have mentioned that it’s exactly the kind of film you wanted to make, and it’s made exactly how you wanted to. Is it true? Can you elaborate?

The only obstructions were the budget

and me cramping up, because it had been over 10 years since my last feature film. But the cramp gave way gradually. Besides these two things, everything was governed by an artistic freedom worth living for. All we could come up with in development, was plan B, plan A came into existence on the set. Now I’d very much like to get started on a new film, with the same gang. The script seems pretty juicy – satisfyingly bloody at times, told with a sense of black humour. Who do you see as your target audience, from what age upwards?

I don’t like setting limits. I am aware of the world that lies in the smart devices of


Rasmus Merivoo, the director of Kratt.

WHAT HAPPENS IN KRATT? The children have been stranded at grandma’s without smartphones. Bored with the mundane rural life and unwilling to work, they suddenly uncover instructions to build a kratt – a magical creature from old Estonian mythology who obeys every command of its master. All the kids need to bring the kratt to life now, is a soul. Life becomes a lot less boring very fast, turning into total bloody mayhem.

our kids. I wouldn’t worry about Kratt. There is just enough blood necessary for telling the story. Rude words are used on occasion but not more than in real life. Ivo’s penis that appears in the film, is concealed by different objects, so nudity won’t be an issue. My only advice to parents is to discuss the themes of the film together later on, in case a family day at the cinema is planned. Like, what is worth being afraid of in the first place, and what is not. Kratt is not a horror film. Jump scares are not a thing here. All the characters are good, but the events bring on this weird cluster fuck. I understand that the film is made in a rather experimental manner – partly due to the budget, and partly because it’s your personal style, if any conclusions can be drawn from your previous work. What solutions were you looking for, how and where did the shooting happen?

One thing leads to another and it’s no fun to get stuck in some initial perspective of things. Openness draws close all kinds of solutions that cannot be fathomed at first. Miracles happened too. Our movie set in Kuusalu town was graced by the visit from helicopters. The main location turned out to be my neighbour’s house, etc. I continued to be thankful and kept on piecing that big puzzle together with my friends. Is there anything that a foreign viewer should know about Estonian life or Estonian mythology before coming to see Kratt?

I hope not. EF ESTONIAN FILM

19


TALENT IN FOCUS

Nele Paves is the Film Commissioner of the Film Estonia Cash Rebate Program.

20

ESTONIAN FILM


INVENTIVE SOLUTIONS

& Hard Work The Film Estonia Cash Rebate Program is a great success story. Film Commissioner Nele Paves talks about Film Estonia, the projects they have worked on, and of course, how they got Christopher Nolan to shoot a large part of his blockbuster Tenet in Estonia. By Maria Ulfsak Photos by Virge Viertek

N

ele, to begin with, please tell us – what is Film Estonia?

Film Estonia is a production incentive created in cooperation between the Estonian Film Institute and the Ministry of Culture to attract foreign productions to film in Estonia where foreign producers are reimbursed part of the investments they make here. Similar programs are widespread around the world and often one of the reasons why producers select partners from certain countries. In Estonia, the maximum rebate is 30% on expenses incurred in Estonia. The reimbursement takes place after the end of the shooting period once all of the costs incurred in Estonia have been reported and audited. But our incentive is very layered and has strict conditions. One of these is that 25% of the costs incurred have to be expenditures on Estonian taxpayer labour. This ensures that the state receives direct tax revenue. As such incentive programs are widespread and available to film producers, competition in this area is very fierce. Having these rebate incentives is more or less film production hygiene at this point. Without such an incentive, we would not be able to attract filmmakers from other parts of the world to film here. The film and TV industry is a massive business that every country wants to be a part of and get a piece of. Film Estonia is an economic stimulus

measure but we cannot underestimate its wider impact. First of all, our filmmakers get jobs and valuable experience, and many other companies from accommodation to catering to construction make an income. But if you look even further, our shooting locations may very well become future tourist attractions. This has happened in many countries where the shooting locations of famous filmmakers are visited by tourists and special tours are organized to see them.

ment where you can still find abandoned buildings and also well-preserved architecture, a long coastline and wild nature. But Estonia is much more than just a location – the right place might give you a reason to come here, but our people are the reason to keep coming back for longer and larger projects. It’s the skills and flexibility of Estonians coupled with our efficient and quick problem solving that many international film professionals have highlighted.

Why should someone come to film in Estonia – what are your selling points?

Please tell us a little more about the cash rebate system. Has it justified its existence? Please give us some examples.

People come here because we have worldclass film professionals. We have been making films for more than a hundred years and that long history is in our blood. If we add the general diligence, cleverness, sense of humour, and solution-oriented thinking of Estonians, then all of the filmmakers who have been to film in Estonia can confirm that we are valuable and reliable partners they want to keep working with time and again. The film industry is a high stress environment full of constant surprises. Our true strength is our ability to resolve complicated situations. As a small nation, we are used to having to push through with inventive solutions and hard work. We do things fast and our management of projects is transparent and precise. It’s true that Estonia is attractive mainly because of our diverse environ-

Without the Film Estonia Cash Rebate Program, it would be hard, if not impossible, for us to attract foreign productions here. If we compare the number of foreign productions before Film Estonia, at the beginning and now, then it’s clear that there is a lot of interest in us and many productions are now filming here. In 2016 when Film Estonia was established, foreign productions brought in about 1.5 million Euros to Estonia and in 2019, the total amount of foreign investment was already 23 million euros. These numbers are impressive and speak clearly of the fact that Film Estonia has justified itself. The support scheme was designed to attract foreign investment to Estonia but also to develop the local film industry. The principle of every such support scheme is that foreign productions bring ESTONIAN FILM

21


TALENT IN FOCUS

in more money than the state reimburses, which means the program plays a large role in boosting the Estonian economy as well. The filming of Tenet and several other large international films in the last few years has proven that the four-year-old Film Estonia program is necessary on a local, state and international level. In 2016, the Estonian Film Institute took modest steps to start a rebate program but it has now grown into a functioning system that is clear, quick and transparent for filmmakers, and beneficial to Estonia as a whole. Please tell us about the most important projects that Film Estonia has brought to Estonia so far.

It’s very important for me that the Finns, our neighbours across the pond, come often to Estonia to make their films. This has been and still is a close and pleasant collaboration that guarantees continuous

employment for our filmmakers. Without a doubt it is exciting and thrilling to chase big Hollywood projects, but the goal of Film Estonia is not only to stimulate the economy but also to ensure permanent employment for our film professionals, to make sure that new people are entering the industry, and that they can find work in their chosen field. By supporting international projects, we are actually supporting the local film industry so that they have work even when there is a shortage of Estonian productions. They gain knowledge and opportunities that the local film industry doesn’t always provide them with. Obviously we want to make our own Estonian films with the best professionals and it’s important that they don’t have to leave Estonia for lack of work. But, of course, it’s hard not to mention the first big Hollywood film made with Film Estonia support – Tenet. It’s impossible to overestimate the influence

Photo by Erlend Štaub

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN

22

Christopher Nolan

ESTONIAN FILM

(director, writer and producer of Tenet): I am extremely grateful to the government and people of Estonia, who welcomed us and enabled us to film in multiple locations in their beautiful country. It was an honor to shoot at Tallinn’s historic Linnahall, and the Laagna Tee was the perfect location to shoot what was an incredibly demanding stunt sequence. The support of the mayor of Tallinn, as well as the public, was integral to our accomplishing it and the results are on the screen.

Photos by Heikki Leis

Finnish TV series Bad Apples was shot in different locations in Estonia.

that Christopher Nolan had on Estonia’s reputation as a film nation. There are few directors today whose films are so hotly anticipated and make people so excited. He is the best of the best and we were able to attract him to Estonia. For him to make so much of his film here was a great victory for us all. And what secret trick did you use to

THOMAS HAYSLIP (executive producer of Tenet): Estonia has great locations, fantastic crew and citizens, and the service and accommodations are first rate. The film commission and governmental bodies worked closely with us to achieve all that we scheduled in a very timely and orderly manner. Their rebate process was competitive and effortless, which encouraged us to stay longer and take advantage of more great locations. The recoupment of our rebate was very fast and cooperative which made filming in Estonia a true pleasure.


There was no specific secret trick. In order to get such a large scale project, a lot of things have to fall into place. Especially when it comes to a small and unknown country like Estonia. The competition between countries for such projects is extremely fierce. You need luck, good timing and hard work. Of course, it all starts with finding the right shooting locations and we had those for this project. From there, countless people had to work very hard to bring Tenet to Estonia and then provide fantastic services for the film. It was a great challenge for us and became Film Estonia’s first business card and ticket to Hollywood. How did the shoot for Tenet go? How much of the film was shot in Estonia? What kind of feedback did you get from the filmmakers?

Photo by Karl-Andres Vaikla

Who has seen Tenet by now can confirm that a very large part of the film was shot in Estonia. We see Linnahall, the Maarjamäe Memorial, Laagna Street, Kumu Art Museum, Pärnu Street and many other locations in the film. Some of the action in the film actually takes place in Estonia and Tallinn, we can hear our language and see Estonian actors on the screen. True, some of the scenes shot in Estonia are actually located in Norway or Ukraine according to the storyline. Of course, there are challenges with any big project that you have to resolve on the go. But the response has been very positive and the interest in Estonia after

Director Henrik Ruben Genz on the set of Erna at War that was shot in Southern Estonia.

Photo by Andres Teiss

lure the very secretive Tenet project to Estonia?

Tenet is bigger than ever. Both from Hollywood studios and other countries as well. Countries that have not had Estonia on their mind before this. In bringing other films to shoot in Estonia, this was a great achievement and a big step forward. Speaking of shooting locations in Estonia, what do we have to offer to foreign producers?

Estonia is small in area but rich in history. That means we have a lot of diverse architecture from different eras and beautiful landscapes to offer. Everything is located within a few hours’ drive from Tallinn. Forest is a forest and coastline is a coastline everywhere. But our biggest hits have been the Soviet era industrial architecture and manor complexes from different time periods that foreign filmmakers really like to use. The variety is one of the major things that attracts big international productions. Tenet was the first international blockbuster to use different locations in Tallinn such as Linnahall and the Maarjamäe Memorial. Antti Jokinen’s Helene found the Esna and Palmse Manors to be great places to recreate his historical drama. Henrik Ruben Genz’s large production, Erna at War, was filmed in Tartu and South Estonia, and the thrilling Finnish TV series Bad Apples was shot in Ravila Manor near Tallinn and on the picturesque Estonian island of Aegna. What about production companies and talent?

We have a lot of production companies that have coproduced or provided pro-

Helene

ANTTI JOKINEN (director of Helene): I’ve really enjoyed working in Estonia and the country can be compared more and more to European filmmaking centres like Budapest or Prague. The production here is very high quality and I can feel the commitment of each crew member into the project. I’ve expressed my support for working in Estonia openly all over the world when I’ve spoken to other directors and producers about different places to film.

duction services for foreign projects. At a time when people have proven to be the most important commodity, the Estonian film industry has proven itself to be a professional and reliable partner to international projects. The quality and reputation of our filmmakers is excellent. International producers value the skills and creativity of Estonians as well as their efficiency and speed in problem solving. International productions have included different film professionals in their projects, from sparks to production designers. For example, Tenet hired a record number of people in Estonia, many of whom continued to work on the film outside of Estonia. We have also created a good foundation to involve production designers in international projects. Estonian talents were involved with Finland’s Helene as well as the Danish film Erna at War. To generalize, we could say that we are most often entrusted with the creative roles of production designer, make-up designer and sound designer. But it’s also very common for our actors to be cast in foreign films. That is a big compliment for us. Last summer, the Danish-Belgian-Estonian film Erna at War was shot in Tartu ESTONIAN FILM

23


TALENT IN FOCUS It’s important to mention that we also support interactive feature films. Thus far, Film Estonia has supported two interactive works – Anatomy of a Decision, which was launched on the interactive storytelling platform Whatifi, and House Hack which is currently in post-production. We also support just post-production, which has become relevant in today’s world-wide pandemic when travelling to locations is hindered. Estonia can be proud of the competitively priced and high quality post-production professionals we have to offer. One project that took advantage of this opportunity is the Finnish Elisa Viihde TV Series All the Sins, which was sold to more than 30 countries after its first season. All the Sins will return to Estonia for post-production of its second season as well. What are the moments in your everyday job that make you the happiest? And what are the most complicated moments?

No good job goes unnoticed and Estonia is turning into a considerable partner to filmmakers who want to come here for longer periods and larger projects. County. The film is directed by Henrik Ruben Genz and stars actors Trine Dyrholm and Ulrich Thomsen, who are some of the most valued actors in the Danish film industry. The film will premiere in the Black Nights Film Festival’s main competition program this year. Erna at War was shot in Tartu and around Tartu County. They filmed an army barracks scene with more than 200 extras in the former national archives

24

ESTONIAN FILM

building. But the more explosive scenes of the film unfold on Kindralimägi located in the village of Tamsa in Tartu County, where they dug special World War One trenches just for the film. More than 200 Estonians were involved in the film, including production designer Matis Mäesalu, costume designer Pille Küngas, composer Mihkel Zilmer and young Aksel Ojari in a supporting role.

My job is to bring foreign productions to Estonia. And that was very hard at first because so little was known about us. Thanks to the success stories of the last few years and the hard work of our filmmakers this is changing, and it is becoming easier and easier to do my job. We are getting on the map but we are still small and relatively unknown. The biggest praise is always when someone wants to come back for another project. No good job goes unnoticed and Estonia is turning into a considerable partner to filmmakers who want to come here for longer periods and larger projects. What is your background and how did you end up working in the film industry?

I’ve spent my whole professional career working in the media in one way or another. In short, I am a media enthusiast with a business degree. I was previously in charge of media strategies for TV clients at a media agency and then moved on to create and run a TV channel for ten years after that. Moving from the small screen to the big screen was a natural next step and an exciting challenge for me. As a big time movie buff who has inhaled tons of films, working in the film industry was exactly the missing puzzle piece that fell into my lap at the right time. EF


Tartu Film Fund supports the shooting and post-production of • international full length feature films • documentaries • short films • animated films • TV series

Photos by Karl Anders Vaikla

Cash rebate for a single project is up to 20% of eligible expenditure incurred in Tartu or Tartu County.

Tartu Film Fund is managed by the Tartu Centre for Creative Industries Submit your application here tartufilmfund.ee


TALENT DEBUT

THE ABSURDITIES OF SOVIET ESTONIA Lauri Randla’s debut feature, an Estonian-Finnish co-production Goodbye, Soviet Union has quickly become the most-watched Estonian film in Finnish cinemas, in spite of the COVID-19 crisis. By Aurelia Aasa Photos by Viktor Koshkin and Liisabet Valdoja

26

ESTONIAN FILM

I

n Estonia, it will be released theatrically after Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, where the film is shown in the First Feature Competition. We speak with Lauri about his debut feature, childhood in the Soviet Union, and his way of approaching difficult topics with humour. Lauri, given that you are based in Finland and also working there, are you a Finnish or an Estonian director?

(Laughs). I have been asked this question all my life and not only in the context of cinema. The family of Young Johannes, the protagonist of Goodbye, Soviet Un-

ion, doesn’t have a permanent place to stay, their own apartment. It was like that with me. I lived in Sillamäe at first, but as an Estonian, I was the devil to the Russians there. When I moved to Tartu, I was a Russian to Estonians. Moving to Finland, I became a homo Soveticus. I have always been asked, what is my nationality. To me, this is weird, because I always carry all three cultures with me. My grandmother was accompanied by the same issues in her life. She was asked in Auschwitz: what is your nationality? Back then she learned that nationalities don’t matter, the only important thing is if you’re a good or a bad person.


The events of Goodbye, Soviet Union take place in the second half of 1980s.

I reality, we were never thrown out of the city (as happens in the film – ed.), but it did happen to my uncle. He came to visit us and wandered off to take pictures of the sunset. After that, my uncle disappeared for two days. He returned to my granny’s place beaten up and without a camera, saying that he has to leave the city and never to return again. This incident has influenced my film a great deal. Initially we had the uncle in the film but decided then that it should be mainly the story of my protagonist Johannes.

Your story focuses on the Ingrian Finns. Who are they? What was their life like in the Soviet Union?

Simply put, Ingrian Finns are a Finnish tribe that travelled to Finland in the 17th Century. They are speaking their own Ingrian dialect, a variation of the Finnish language. It was possible to get by with Ingrian dialect up until the 1930s. The situation changed during Stalinist times and they fell victim to Russification. They were a minority inside a minority. Is Goodbye, Soviet Union inspired by your childhood?

It’s an autofiction. The first draft of the

script was over 240 pages. It became clear quite quickly that the script had to be shortened, because it’s impossible to fit the lives of so many characters into two hours. In reality, my father was an artist who moved around freely within the borders of the Soviet Union. Mother stayed put. In the film, the life stories of my parents blend together. Leningrad 3, a place we see in the film, is a closed city. It is not a carbon copy of my childhood hometown Sillamäe, but it is a general depiction of a closed city. I wanted to describe the atmosphere to a foreign audience, and I had roughly 15 minutes to do so, because we won’t remain in one place in the film.

There are many aspects in the film that are familiar to us – rare luxury goods at the time like bananas and chocolate, secret radio listening sessions, not to mention the constant fear of surveillance. Do you think that the picture painted in the movie is an authentic one, and gives a good overview of the times to the foreigners?

I believe that the film requires some general knowledge of history. On the other hand, there are more familiar aspects for the Finnish viewer, especially for the older generation who have heard about the struggle of obtaining certain goods, and the lengths that were taken to get a new pair of socks or sneakers. Young people read the film differently, but they feel those days as well. In Finland, after seeing Goodbye, Soviet Union, the young people are asking very specific questions ESTONIAN FILM

27


TALENT DEBUT

A variety of emotions from the set of Goodbye, Soviet Union.

I think that a human is the only animal whom evolution has given the ability to approach situations with humour. about the Soviet time that are hard to answer even for me. On the other hand, I aimed for a universal story that could be understood by everyone, regardless of their time and region. Your film was released in Finland before it came out in Estonia. Are Finns interested about life in the Soviet Union?

A certain sense of nostalgia has come to signify those times. When the COVID-19 restrictions kicked in, there was a lot of joking around in the newspapers that the Soviet Union has returned. Right after my home province in Finland was reopened, people wanted to go to the cinema, enjoy culture. Goodbye, Soviet Union has had more than 22,000 admissions so far. It’s the most popular Estonian film screened in Finland, ever. Goodbye, Soviet Union is a co-production of two countries. How did the collaboration between the Finns and Estonians work out?

I began collaborating with the Finns already in school and the model is familiar to me. You have to make certain compromises when co-producing internationally, because people have different ideas and

28

ESTONIAN FILM

perceptions. It is important that you could relay your artistic vision as a director. I have lived in Finland over 20 years and it comes naturally to me. We were content with having a largely Estonian cast and crew, but the Finns brought their own nuances. I think that it would not have been possible to make this movie without international co-production – it was difficult to get the funding together even now. In our case, the co-production helped us to perfect the formula. There are well-known Estonian actors in the film. How was it for them to work in various foreign languages, Finnish and Russian?

Some of the actors were also with me on my previous film Mausoleum, so they were already used to that. It is customary for me to communicate in different languages. Naturally, there were moments of confusion on the set, for instance some people couldn’t understand anything if there was Finnish talk in the crew, etc. I was the only language connector on the set, understanding everyone. The actors Pääru Oja and Tõnu Oja asked me at first, how can I manage. I answered that you get used to it – three months, and everything comes naturally from then on.

Many Eastern European directors have dealt with the trauma of the Soviet past in their work. There is usually a certain anxiety or sadness attached to the proceedings. Your look at the past is in contrast a rather humorous one.

I think that a human is the only animal whom evolution has given the ability to approach situations with humour. The perspective of Goodbye, Soviet Union enables, and even forces, us to see the events from a different angle. Starting to make this film, I came to realize that my childhood wasn’t so bad. I’m not a big fan of Soviet times, but I wanted to show that people kept on living and tried to make as much out of life as they could. Many films have been made about the hardships and atrocities of those times. That was one of the reasons that the system collapsed – it simply didn’t work. But to my mind, there is no sense in pointing fingers and repeating how ugly the system was. Those who know nothing about the Soviet Union have asked me countless times, how did I manage to overcome the system and become a functional human being? And I have kept explaining that it wasn’t like we had the KGB at the front door every morning. A lot else happened in life. This


always comes across as a mystery, and that mystery is what I wanted to communicate. You are joking a lot about the period. Are there any subjects you don’t make fun of?

I think that the complicated and sensitive topics can be touched upon as well, if the perspective is right. If we can’t do that, life becomes too dramatic. We have to be able to reflect back on all the themes – they are part of life. My goal is to approach them in a way that would make people understand them correctly. You have made quite a few shorts – 13 altogether.

Entering school, I set myself a goal to make at least one film a year, or you won’t develop enough. Officially we were required to make three films during our studies. I set up an opportunity to make more. It was very helpful, but when I graduated to a feature film, it felt like a marathon as opposed to a short film feeling more like a sprint. It’s always perplexing how hard the distance can become somewhere in the middle, even if you’re prepared for it. The thing is that if you cannot tell your story in short format, it’s

more than certain you can’t do it in long form either.

That is much harder because I don’t have the necessary context.

Was it challenging to make your debut film a period piece?

As a person who lived in the Soviet Union, did you do a lot of additional research about that period?

I like period films. Modern times don’t interest me at the moment. I think it’s because we need distance to dissect and analyse certain eras. That’s why I am writing about a time that is twenty years in the past. With enough distance comes nostalgia – whether you want it or not. Using that, it is easier to touch upon the topics that felt unpleasant before. I feel that the past needs some sugar on top. Today there is a lot of nostalgia about the Soviet Union. Does that worry you? Or do you remain indifferent?

It depends on what to feel nostalgic about. In the Soviet Union, there was very little worth pining for that we don’t have today. On the other hand, it is only normal that people miss the periods they are familiar with. Currently there are a lot of films coming out about the 1980s, because our generation has now grown up to make movies and we are depicting the times we know. I am currently writing a TV series for the Finnish channel YLE about the Ingrian Finns in the 1930s.

I have been interested in that era since my teenage years. There is an abundance of stories there that the Westerners know nothing about. I have been especially intrigued about that part of Soviet heritage. I haven’t been making solely Soviet period films – only about half of my films are about that (laughs). I will come back to that theme when I find something that might feel new and exotic to people. How did COVID-19 affect your life?

As Elen Lotman, our cinematographer, put it: there was probably only one guy in the world whose life wasn’t changed by the crisis, and that is Lauri. I stayed in and wrote. My life works in phases. First year is writing, the second, funding, the third, shooting. Then back to writing. Corona arrived in my year of writing. I had an easy time declining offers to do this or that, when the calls came in. I was able to concentrate. There is something good in everything. EF ESTONIAN FILM

29


TALENT EVENT

Wolf

The That Turned Into a Hybrid Adapting to the challenges of this crazy year has impacted, well... almost everyone on the planet. The preparations for the 24th edition of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) changed the festival’s DNA probably more than anything else ever before. By Hannes Aava Photo by Aron Urb

T

here will be fewer guests attending physically this year, but thankfully, the film programme, available to global professionals, and press for the first time, hasn’t suffered a bit! It’s hard to imagine a more difficult context to organise any cultural events,

30

ESTONIAN FILM

film festival or otherwise, as, in the words of festival director Tiina Lokk: “The organisation is comparable to solving a puzzle in which the pieces keep changing shape at almost every step.” Having lamented the challenges, it may come somewhat as a surprise that the festival has cancelled none of its programmes

and will screen a record number of world and international premieres this year – 32 and 28 respectively. Set to return are the four international competition programmes: Official Selection – Competition, First Feature Competition, Rebels With a Cause and the Baltic Competition – most of them with bigger lineups than ever before. NEW PROGRAMMES AND OPENING FILM

PÖFF has also launched a new programme in co-operation with Estonia’s Environmental Agency to study the burning ecological topics we are faced with, and has given a face-lift to the former Fashion Cinema that will now in-


rell, and Blind Side (2009) that brought the Best Actress Academy Award to Sandra Bullock; and for critically acclaimed independent films such as Golden-Globe-­ winning Taking Chance (2009), starring Kevin Bacon. The second Award goes to a director who has been hailed as one of the driving forces of the new wave of cinema in Germany in the 1970s and ‘80s. This director has won the Golden Lion in Venice for the film Marianne and Julia in 1981, directed the film Rosa Luxemburg (1986) that earned the Best Actress award for Barbara Sukowa and made, throughout her decades-spanning career, films that have been praised by critics, festival juries and fellow filmmakers. The second PÖFF Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented The man with the gifted sight: Lifetime Achivement Award recipient Alar Kivilo

Photo by Börres Weiffenbach

Who will receive the Lifetime Achievement Awards – among the most distinguished awards at the festival this year? As per the tradition, Black Nights selects two people to honour, one for their contribution to cinema in our geographic region, and another for whose artistic merits have resonated globally. The first Lifetime Achievement award laureate of 2020 is Estonian DOP Alar Kivilo, who can be considered the most successful Estonian cinematographer alive, having a career that spans decades and includes big Hollywood productions such as the WWII thriller Hart’s War, starring Bruce Willis and Colin Far-

Announcing the awards of PÖFF in 2017, the head of the jury of the Official Selection - Competition, Dennis Davidson and festival director Tiina Lokk.

Photo by Rick Thomas

HONOURING THE MASTERS

Photo by Aron Urb

clude a wider range of topics and be called #PÖFFTrending. Altogether, the festival screens 170 films in the main programme, in addition to the 44 children’s and youth films screened by sub-festival Just Film and the 166 shorts and 123 animations shown by PÖFF Shorts. Opening the festival is Oskar Roehler’s Enfant Terrible that offers a worthy portrait of the controversial film director and cinema legend Rainer Werner Fassbinder, this also serves as an introduction to the festival’s country of the focus of 2020: Germany. Together with German Films and the Goethe-Institut, the festival presents a special programme, made up of 15 distinct German films, distributed throughout the rest of the programme, including recent critically acclaimed festival hits such as Udine by Christian Petzold, Berlin-Alexanderplatz by Burhan Qurbani and Exil by Visar Morina.

The heroine of art house cinema: Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Margarethe von Trotta.

to the German director, writer and actress Margarethe von Trotta. In addition to this, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the global entertainment communications company DDA, Tallinn Black Nights will introduce a new award honouring an artist or filmmaker whose recent work takes a concerted step forward in improving diversity and inclusion in the film industry and cinema culture. As expressed by founder of DDA Dennis Davidson: “I am humbled by this incredible opportunity to present an annual award at such a prestigious festival and I am looking forward to returning to Tallinn! As I have experienced, Black Nights occupies an important spot in the global film calendar and has the foremost footprint across Northern Europe and adjacent countries”. The award laureate had not been confirmed by the time this article was published. EF ESTONIAN FILM

31


Photo by Johan Huimerind

TALENT EVENT Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event continues to be a good place to do business.

Online by De INDUSTRY@TALLINN & BALTIC EVENT The unexpected crisis in 2020 has impacted all our lives and the film industry has unquestionably also been hit hard. Due to these rapid changes in the professional world, Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event takes place in an entirely new way this year – fully online – and is ready to greet virtual participants from every corner of the globe. By Egle Loor

I

ndustry@Tallinn & Baltic Event, one of the largest and most prestigious film events in Northern Europe, takes place from the 23rd to 27th of November 2020. Organising the summit as usual was completely out of the question, so the team made the decision to run a fully-online event: offering a quality film industry programme

32

ESTONIAN FILM

and connecting a pool of professionals from all around the world. “It’s no use pretending otherwise – the world has changed, and we all need to find new ways to succeed in the film industry,” says Marge Liiske, the Head of Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event. “Taking the full picture into consideration, this year’s event will help film industry

professionals to find resilience, motivation and success in an unprecedented situation,” she adds. DOING BUSINESS AND FINDING NEW PARTNERS

First and foremost, Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event continues to be a good place to do business. The programme, refocused and streamlined for easy online participation, includes numerous presentations of projects, the co-production market, works in progress screenings, and one-to-one meetings. The Baltic Event Co-Production Market celebrates its 19th edition by welcoming both promising debutants, as well as industry heavyweights, and presents 14 projects from around the globe, including three from the Baltic States, and EAVE On Demand from Russia in Focus. Works in Progress programmes showcase fresh and promising projects in three categories – International, Baltic Event (Baltic and Finnish projects), and Just Film (children and youth film projects). The 4th edition of Script Pool Tallinn


As Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event has Russia in Focus in 2020 (in collaboration with Roskino), participants will have the opportunity to find out more about projects, companies, and the regional business environment. In addition, Black Nights Film Festival’s focus country is Germany, so there will be opportunities to learn from some outstanding German film and series writers, in association with German Films. TIME TO LEARN FROM THE BEST

Photo by Lilli Tölp

sign

Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event has always offered its visitors opportunities learn something new. The drama series programme TV Beats, taking place for the 3rd year in a row, focuses on the challenges of production in the Covid-era, as well as on gender equality in the industry. This year’s program includes several case studies providing know-how about international co-productions including the Netflix hit series Stanger Things; Ukrainian global crime thriller Hide and Seek and forthcoming series There Will Be People; and Russian thriller Dead Mountain – The Dyatlov Pass Incident, as well as brand new Estonian crime series In the Line of Fire.

Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event continues to be a good place to do business. The online programme includes numerous presentations of projects, the co-production market, works in progress screenings, and European Film one-to-one meetings. Forum Tallinn 2019

helps talented scriptwriters with producer partners to maximize the potential for their projects to get produced and altogether presents six feature film projects. In addition, drama series, under Script Pool TV, sees participants bringing another six brand new drama series projects to the table. MIDPOINT Institute will also present nine pitches of exciting new series from Central and Eastern Europe in the final week of November.

Music Meets Film takes place for the 9th time and brings together industry professionals sharing their insights on current trends in film scoring and how the film music industry operates, through discussions with four-time Oscar nominee Danny Elfman, Andrey A. Tarkovsky and BBC 3 Controller Alan Davey. Black Room is the newest addition to the Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event programme, exploring the visual lan-

guage of cinema through the craft of production design. Black Room is comprised of a training programme for six selected production designers and open masterclasses for film industry professionals who would like to take their knowledge of visual storytelling further. Black Room mentors and speakers include Simon Weisse (The Grand Budapest Hotel and Isle of Dogs), Jacqueline Abrahams (Lady Macbeth and The Lobster), Emita Frigato (Happy as Lazzaro and Wondrous Boccaccio) and Karen K Burns, who is known for working on Hollywood A-Class films. The Black Nights Stars programme supports young actors from the Baltic Sea region, to take their next steps into the international arena by connecting them to key international film professionals such as casting directors, casting agents, producers and the press. Also, the online-summit welcomes selected POWR Baltic Stories Exchange scriptwriters, as well as European Genre Forum talent lab participants and offers them opportunities for one-to-one meetings and trainings to develop online-pitching skills. Discussions between creatives, technologists, investors and policymakers regarding industry innovation are held at the European Film Forum Tallinn 2020. “The New Playbook: Resilience, Foresight, Transformation” is a half a day virtual summit with debates, case studies, and showcases on the most pressing topics for the European film, television, and content industry in the time of the pandemic. Adding to these topics are workshops and masterclasses on how to approach international streamers, maxi­ mize the potential of a project through well-targeted packaging, develop new short formats like web series, write your new VR story, and much more. “Creating and delivering an engaging programme of seminars, workshops and discussions; project presentations and one-to one meetings; and so much more online, is a challenge but also an exciting task. I firmly believe that these digital transformations are an equalising force in the industry,” Liiske comments. “I hope that going online allows talents to connect regardless of their operating territory or size of budget. We want to get the very best people together in a virtual room, pushing amazing projects forward and creating cinematic magic,” she adds. EF ESTONIAN FILM

33


DEBUT

Boys, Men

& Their Shadows Janno Jürgens’s feature Rain is competing in this year’s Black Nights Film Festival Baltic Competition Programme. By Tõnu Karjatse First published in Sirp Photo by Virge Viertek

34

ESTONIAN FILM


T

Photos by Siim Vahur

he film was supposed to premiere domestically in the spring, but cinemas closed due to the virus just before the premiere date. Jürgens’s debut revolves around two brothers: pre-teen Ats (Marcus Borkmann) and his more than ten years older brother Rain (Indrek Ojari), whose return home becomes a sort of coming of age moment for young Ats. Rain also deals with the topics of masculinity, fraternity and family. What did it mean for you as a filmmaker for a film planned to be released in the spring not to reach screens until the autumn?

As far as the Estonian premiere, there wasn’t much difference for me whether it premiered in the spring or now in the autumn. It’s unfortunate, of course, that so many films are piled on top of each other now and their unique time on screen remains so short. In the wider scheme, it seems like the coronavirus has caused a lot of festivals, that could have fit our film, to be cancelled, so we still have to wait and plan our world premiere a bit. It took a total of seven years to make Rain. How did the success of your short film Distance (2012) help you – it was a film that screened at many festivals, including Locarno?

I think it must have been very much thanks to Distance that we found ourselves in a situation where we got feedback for our treatment from Andrzej Wajda himself. We had the opportunity in 2014 to take part in the Ekran workshop in Warsaw, which was very useful for Rain. What did Wajda say?

If I remember correctly, he said something about the supporting role Music-Mart (Meelis Rämmeld). We had Music-Mart as a guy with a slight speech defect and Wajda seemed to like his character. In general, I think he made some comments on the style of our treatment because it wasn’t a classical treatment, but rather a sequence of visual descriptions. But there was a lot to be learned from that also. How did you development the storyline for Rain?

I wanted to talk about brothers, characters who had several decades between them, in the complicated context of the nineties with a father-son conflict in the backdrop. Producer Kristjan Pütsep seemed to like the idea, so he encouraged me to keep working with it. I involved my good friend, screenwriter Anti Naulainen, and we started writing the script. Once a month, we got together in the producer’s summer home and

Director Janno Jürgens working with the actors on the set of Rain.

sat there in twos or threes, listening to music and thinking about things. That’s where the story started to grow and develop, to become layered. In addition to the Ekran workshop, we also participated in many others around Europe where we got some good feedback. Later, the story developed further into new, interesting directions with cinematographer Erik Põllumaa and production designer Matis Mäesalu. And that’s how it gradually took shape. Is Rain still a very personal film? It’s dedicated to brothers. And the era – the 1990s – which was probably when you were growing up?

Yes, it’s true, a lot of it came from the world of my own childhood and from that of the screenwriter also. As well as from other team members. Everyone contributed in some way. And if I was the one who started more with making a period film, then, as it developed, I realized more and more that it really isn’t. I understood that we were in a certain timeless nostalgia and we didn’t really have to frame or affix the story to any certain time period. The time period isn’t precisely defined in the film. You get glimpses of the 1990s, but there are also hints at the present day. There are nostalgic trinkets around nowadays too. You go to your parents’ home and see that everything remains practically unchanged since your childhood.

Absolutely, people still have tape recorder discos to this day. Bands release their albums on cassettes. Some neighbourhoods still have the asphalt roads ESTONIAN FILM

35


DEBUT

Polish actress Magdalena Poplawska plays Aleksandra, the love interest of Rain.

Indrek Ojari as Rain, a man who has to struggle with his past.

with green tufts sticking out from the cracks, where everything is not clinically sterile, proper and tidy yet. In that sense, the events of the film could very well take place somewhere in some interesting corner of the world today. I’d rather not set any boundaries timewise.

Rein Oja (Kalju) is the introverted father of the two brothers - Ats and Rain.

The time and place where Rain took place could also have been located anywhere. How did you agree on a place, considering that the 1990s were essentially different culturally in Estonia and Finland? Don’t the film’s locations hint more at Eastern Europe?

The world of the film was created mostly during the development process, together with Matis and Erik. At first, my script took place in this cute, quiet, small town. But as everything started to grow slowly and naturally, we finally found that it made sense to take the story to Ida-Viru County. The nineties weren’t even that important. It was more that our modern day in its certain clinical sterility hasn’t quite made it back to the wistful nostalgia and childhood worlds we depicted in the script. You can feel the effect of an Eastern European and Nordic film mentality – as is common for Estonian films.

That’s difficult for me to analyze. It’s easier to see the effects in retrospect somehow. You don’t think about things like that during the process. You do what you feel and see where it takes you and always try to stay as honest as possible. In our primary shooting location in Eastern Estonia, the city of Sillamäe, I like the way that the primal nature and concrete buildings were so close to each other. I stood in front of the stairwell of

36

ESTONIAN FILM

Friends Ats (Marcus Borkmann, on the right) and Tom (Andres Roosimaa) playing in the forest.

one apartment building with an endless and wild beach only a dozen metres from me. With some kind of trees I’d never seen before. And a harbour visible in the distance, and a bar somewhere else. It was all just right there. Like it was put there for our film. The Russian topic is also in the film, even though the Russian woman is played by a Polish actress.

The Russian element wasn’t put in the film on purpose as a theme. It’s rather just there as something from the past and my memories. In my home town, there was a Russian bar and we always heard stories about who went there and what they did. So it made its way into the script and developed into our Russian female lead. I really liked the idea of using the Russian language. And it’s also very natural for us in Estonia that it’s there. It’s kind of a parallel culture that lives by our side and sometimes crosses our paths briefly, which you also notice in the film.

Exactly. I think that the viewer might not even notice it, and that’s very natural. But to continue my answer to the last question – I met our amazing Polish-Rus-


Rain as the bearer of change. The saviour. The destroyer. After it rains, the sun comes out, etc. sian actress Magdalena Popławska at the same Ekran workshop in Warsaw. Ekran is great for being such a practical workshop where you get to actually film the scenes you’ve written with local actors and crew. The final scenes are analyzed and you get feedback, which you use to improve your script. There are a lot more actors in Poland than we have here in Estonia, so the choice was very big. The local casting people sent me different pictures and I made my choice. That’s how I chose Magda just based on her eyes. And my collaboration with Magda and the scenes we shot were so nice that they left a deep impression on me, and that made me invite her to play in the actual film also. Was that a demand of your co-production?

No, it was just a part of the process. At that time, we didn’t even dream of having a co-production. But she still had to play a Russian woman and speak Russian. Did you write less dialogue because of that?

No, I didn’t. We had so little dialogue anyway that it wasn’t really a problem. Magda was very convincing and she had some experience with Russian too. Weren’t our local actresses with Russian background upset that you brought in someone else to play a role they could have done?

I hope not. Since we dreamt of a Polish co-production, Magda could have been a great trump card for achieving that. Unfortunately, or co-production didn’t work, but my thought of using Magda was so firm that we managed to get her for our film despite everything.

Photo by Virge Viertek

But you still got the editor Przemysław Chruścielewski from there also?

Yes. Since our cooperation deliberations took a very long time, then Przemek and I had already started working in good faith that things would work out. He was touched by the script and decided to take the project. He’s a true professional and a very nice person who taught me a lot.

According to the director, Rain is a very personal film and it is dedicated to his brothers.

It was also a very big win for Rain to have him because Przemek brought clarity and objectivity to our deeply subjective nostalgia. Would your Nordic temperament prefer that the film be longer or slower? Were there scenes that got completely cut out?

I guess at first you want to put in everything you filmed, but then you’d probably have to watch the final film all by yourself. In some strange way, what works and what doesn’t becomes clear over time. Producers probably wouldn’t like hearing this, but it seems natural that some scenes or even storylines get cut in the end. It’s part of the process. Coming back to the story, the film is entitled Rain but it talks more about Rain’s younger brother Ats.

Rain is the role model and driving force behind our main character, Ats. He’s the central point between everything and everyone. At some point, I started to like the idea that Rain has a double meaning in the international sphere also. Rain as the bearer of change. The saviour. The destroyer. After it rains, the sun comes out, etc. But it’s also nice to just think of it as one man’s name. That it’s all just as simple and sincere as if Ats had written it all. One of the themes in Rain is masculinity and becoming a man. Could we see this as a challenge to masculinity or criticism of the nineties’ cult of masculinity?

I guess the scale is much bigger than just the 1990s and touches on the cult of masculinity in a wider sense. On conservative men and their rigid principles. It almost seems that the deeper you go, the less clear the image becomes. The fathers of our great-grandparents didn’t think it right to breastfeed children or let them sit at the same table with them. Nowadays, that’s hard to imagine, of course, and it was a very different time. But it worries me that this rigidness is still being carried down from generation to generation, taking new shape with the new times, but still sprawling across many of the fathers in our families today. Rain takes a narrower look at the men from three generations in one family. We try to use the perspectives of these different generations to observe and understand the generational differences and similarities. And figure out why it’s so hard for change to take place between generations, and whether it’s even possible to break free or if everything is really just predetermined in some way. Has Rain screened in Poland yet?

Rain hasn’t been released in Poland yet, but we hope that it will be possible to release it there someday. EF ESTONIAN FILM

37


DOCS

Docs

Ülo Sooster. The Man Who Dried a Towel in the Wind

Back in

Cinemas After a short break in the pandemic and forced postponements, many Estonian documentaries are coming back to the big screen. By Filipp Kruusvall

T

he season of premieres was opened by the portrait-documentary of legendary Estonian surrealist and Soviet nonconformist artist Ülo Sooster. It’s an Estonian-Russian co-production by Lithuanian-Russian director Liliya Vyugina and renowned producer

38

ESTONIAN FILM

Marianna Kaat. The world premiere of Ülo Sooster. The Man Who Dried A Towel In The Wind took place simultaneously in Moscow at Tretyakov Gallery and in Tallinn at the Kumu Art Museum. This year Black Nights Film Festival will present a wide selection of Estonian documentaries. Soviet Friendsbook is a thrilling quest to find director Aljona Surzhikova’s classmates she last time saw in 1994 when they graduated the high-school in Tallinn’s largest soviet block district Lasnamäe. It was a revolutionary time for the newly independent Estonia, which scattered the graduates of the Russian-language school around the world and offered them incredible

To Save a Language

destinies and life twists and turns. Roman was the strongest boy in the class, and today he serves as a bodyguard for the President of Estonia. Another old friend from the Book is Nastja – currently probably the most well-known psychic


The Body Fights Back

Once again, in his humorous and witty way, Vainokivi opens the brighter and darker aspects of human nature and is not afraid to laugh at himself as an author. The third doc in PÖFF’s program is To Save A Language by Estonian documentary filmmaker and ethnologist Liivo Niglas. He puts in the spotlight a unique story of a man who holds in his hands, or more directly in his brain, the destiny of the language of the Mandan tribe. Indrek Park is a linguist who is currently the only man in the world who speaks Mandan. He learned it from the last fluent speaker Edwin Benson, and after his death in 2016 Indrek Park holds the responsibility to teach and pass on the language to the community. Meanwhile the COVID-19 pandemic is creating turmoil in the film industry. Estonian filmmaker Marta Pulk has initiated an original project that captures the fragile state of people suffering from the consequences of lockdown around the world. Marta Pulk is leading and co-

Memphistopheles

Soviet Friendsbook

and clairvoyant in Estonia. Then there is Stas who lives in Cambodia, playing poker and riding motorcycles; and Julia, a Waldorf School teacher in Berlin. It’s an emotional generation portrait and generalization of very rapid changes in society. The Trending program of the Black Nights Film Festival includes a debut by Marion Võsumets on a very contemporary and acute topic. The Body Fights Back is a feature documentary about five people navigating the paradoxes of diet culture. While promises of happiness, desirability and perfection are irresistible, joy and contentment remain out of reach. Self-starvation and compulsive exercise

bring temporary satisfaction, only to be replaced with binging and purging soon after. Surprisingly, none of it has much to do with food. Featuring exclusive footage from London’s contemporary anti-diet movement and fascinating personal archives, the film offers a unique insight into the complexity of eating disorders, body image struggles and most importantly, the socio-economic realities of health. Productive and playful on genre boundaries, director Manfred Vainokivi presents at PÖFF his intriguing and provocative documentary about Estonian intellectual and professor Linnar Priimägi.

ordinating a collective of international filmmakers who met in 2018 during Werner Herzog’s masterclass in the Peruvian Amazon. At a time when people are feeling so much but have few outlets to express it, 19 filmmakers from 12 countries have set up a series of voicemail boxes around the world. People are encouraged to call and leave messages with anonymous thoughts or feelings - be it stories or songs, laments or proclamations, these calls are brought together as a unique portrait of humanity in isolation. Tell Me received production support from Estonian Film Institute and will premiere in 2021. EF ESTONIAN FILM

39


NEWS All the winners of Estonian Film and Television Awards 2020.

Estonian Film

Celebrates Winners Announced for the 2020 Estonian Film and Television Awards

The Estonian Film and Television Awards were handed out in September because the April plans for the gala were delayed due to the pandemic. By EFI Photos by Erlend Štaub

Director Tanel Toom, the biggest winner of the night.

40

ESTONIAN FILM

T

he biggest winner of 2020 was the Estonian Republics 100th Anniversary competition film Truth and Justice by Tanel Toom, which took home seven awards. Awards in more than 30 categories were given and the ceremony was shown live by Estonian Public Broadcasting. The award for Best Feature Film went to production company Allfilm’s Truth and Justice, produced by Ivo Felt. The epic, historical drama is based on a literary classic with the same title written by Anton Hansen Tammsaare, which tells

From the left: The Best Sound Design award-winner Tanel Kadalipp, the host of the show Tõnis Niinemets, director Mikk Mägi and actor Franz Malmsten

the story of vengeance between the families of two neighbouring farms. The film also received the coveted awards for Best Director and Best Screenwriter, which went to debut filmmaker Tanel Toom. The Best Actress award went to Ester Kuntu who played Mari in Truth and Justice and the Best Actor award went to Priit Loog for his performance of Andres in the same film. Truth and Justice also received two more awards – for Best Costume Design (Kristiina Ago) and Best Achievement in Film Making Art (legendary props master Karin Tetsmann). The jury gave the award for Best Documentary to Marta Pulk for her film A Year Full of Drama, which tells the story of a young girl given an odd job – to watch all of the premieres in Estonian theatres throughout one full year. The


The award for Best Production Design went to the full length black comedyanimation film The Old Man Cartoon Movie and its production designers Triin Paumer and Sven-Tõnis Puskar

The jury gave the award for Best Documentary to Marta Pulk for her film A Year Full of Drama.

The team of Truth and Justice - the film that was awarded as the Best Feature and also received prices for directing, scriptwriting, acting and costume design.

film was produced by Paul Piik. The award for Best Animation film went to Chintis Lundgren Animation Studio’s film Toomas Beneath the Valley of the Wild Wolves (directed and produced by Chintis Lundgren). The title for Best Short Film went to international sensation Bad Hair, directed by Oskar Lehemaa and produced by Evelin Penttilä of Stellar Film. The coveted award for Best Cinematographer was shared between two talented DOPs of the younger generation – Erik Põllumaa and Sten-Johan Lill for their film Scandinavian Silence (directed by Martti Helde and produced by Elina Litvinova of Three Brothers). The same

film also received an award for Best Composer, which went to young composer and musician Mick Pedaja. The award for Best Production Design went to the full length black comedyanimation film The Old Man Cartoon Movie (directed by Mikk Mägi and Oskar Lehemaa) and its production designers Triin Paumer and Sven-Tõnis Puskar. The same film also received the awards for Best Sound Design (Tanel Kadalipp) and Best Editor (Oskar Lehemaa). The Best TV Series award went to Estonian Public Broadcasting’s Divorce the Estonian Way and the Best TV Actor was Tambet Tuisk who stars in the Elisa-produced TV series Traitor. EF

The title for Best Short Film went to Bad Hair, directed by Oskar Lehemaa and produced by Evelin Penttilä.

ESTONIAN FILM

41


EVENT

Films

The whole of Europe has moved increasingly towards acknow­ ledging the importance of encompassing films into the curriculum.

as Part of the Educational Program Using films as part of the curriculum is a very popular approach amongst the younger generation, everywhere in Europe. The problematic part is the lack of qualified teachers, experience, and know-how. By Mikk Rand Photos by Mikk Rand

At

the end of August, an international film education conference took place in Tallinn, in BFMACS, the main topic being the specialized film education for teachers. In the past decade, the whole of Europe has moved increasingly towards acknowledging the importance of encompassing films into the curriculum. Theoretical starting points are being shaped into practical methodology, the terminology is being standardized. The conference that took place in August in Tallinn was part of the series of events. Here, Baltic and Ukrainian film education experts, teachers and professionals of the politics of film education came together, similar conferences take place everywhere in Europe, regionally. The main topic of the conference was the introduction of a publication called “Film Education: A User’s Guide” – a general overview of the current situation in film education in Estonia and the whole of Europe. Renowned filmmakers and theoreticians all over Europe worked three years in an attempt to find ways to use film in everyday education.

42

ESTONIAN FILM

Now, in the shape of this book, we have an excellent tool for prepping schoolteachers who are willing to engage cinema into their educational means. The timing is great, given that BFMACS has successfully set in motion a course designed specifically for teachers – a course about audiovisual competence, and how to use it. Ironically, the world pandemic situation only helps along with the spreading of the methodologies described. In order to shortly describe the usage of cinema in education, it’s

Renowned filmmakers and theoreticians all over Europe worked three years in an attempt to find ways to use film in everyday education.

maybe best to start with the three big C’s: Cultural (environment), Creative (art) and Critical (explanation), and their mutual influence in cinema and education. Estonian tendencies can easily be compared to the current trends elsewhere. The bigger EU countries tend to dominate the conversation, but there is nothing to be ashamed of, when it comes to planned (and already executed) activities here in Estonia. There is no golden standard for the course of action in education, because the educational policies of countries differ, but everyone is united by the wish and the vision of film, not only as a creative or political instrument, but as a tool for better education first and foremost. The next step in development is creating a functional network. The environment for educational materials for using film in the curriculum needs to be expanded and constantly refreshed. Internationally there has been some recognition of the Tartu transmedia workgroup and its educational environment, but the long-range and large-scale solutions need to be balanced out by short-term and snappy worksheets that can also be put forward by specialized teachers. All in all, the goals have been defined and there is movement forwards. The Estonian Film Institute is ready and willing to find additional means to develop this field. EF


NEW FILM

The Last Ones

T

he Lapland tundra. Dilapidated shipping containers and construction trailers are piled up in a mining village, a hotbed of tension between reindeer herders and local miners. Rupi, a tough young miner, estranged from his family of reindeer herders, falls in love with his friend’s wife, who has also caught the eye of the owner of the mine, nicknamed The Fisherman. The two men are set on a collision course after The Fisherman seems to have killed the husband and Rupi escapes into the tundra with the wife. What can a young man do at all, under this endless and indifferent sky? Kill, kill, kill? Dance, dance, dance? DIRECTOR VEIKO ÕUNPUU Veiko’s debute Autumn Ball was awarded in Venice Orizzonti in 2007. For his second film, The Temptation of St Tony, he recieved the European Talent Award in

Veiko Õunpuu

2008. The film premiered in Sundance and Rotterdam. In 2008 he has been chosen to be among the 100 most intriguing contemporary film directors in the book 10*10 in Film by Phaidon Publishing. Veiko’s feature Free Range - Ballad on Approving of the World premiered at Berlinale in 2014. The Last Ones was selected to Les Arcs’ Works in Progress and premiered domestically in September 2020.

FILM INFO Original title: Viimased Genre: drama Language: Finnish Director: Veiko Õunpuu Screenwriters: Veiko Õunpuu, Heikki Huttu-Hiltunen, Eero Tammi Cinematographer: Sten Johan Lill E.S.C. Production Designer: Otso Linnalaakso Editors: Wouter van Luijn, Xander Nijsten Sound: Mark Glynne Main cast: Pääru Oja, Laura Birn, Tommi Korpela, Elmer Bäck, Samuli Edelmann, Sulevi Peltola, Emmi Parviainen, Jarkko Lahti Producer: Katrin Kissa Co-producers: Mark Lwoff, Misha Jaari, Ellen Havenith Produced by: Homeless Bob Production (Estonia), Bufo (Finland), PRPL (The Netherlands) Domestic premiere: September 25, 2020 Festivals:Love & Anarchy Film Festival, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 117 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Homeless Bob Production Katrin Kissa +372 5667 7855 kissa@too.ee homelessbob.ee

44

ESTONIAN FILM


FILM INFO

On the Water

O

n the Water, based on Olavi Ruitlane’s book of the same title, focuses on the life of a preadolescent boy Andres. He is a gentle soul growing up in the care of his grandparents in small-town Soviet

Original title: Vee peal Genre: drama, comedy Language: Estonian Director: Peeter Simm Screenwriter: Olavi Ruitlane Cinematographer: Manfred Vainokivi Production Designer: Eugen Tamberg Editor: Kersti Miilen Sound: Horret Kuus, Henri Kuus Main cast: Rasmus Ermel, Marko Matvere, Aarne Soro. Producer: Marju Lepp Co-producer: Manfred Vainokivi Produced by: Filmivabrik Premiere: November 2020, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 106 min / DCP / 16: 9 / 5.1

Peeter Simm

awards at international festivals and national awards ceremonies. He has also directed several short films, documentaries and theatre plays.

CONTACT Filmivabrik Marju Lepp +3725163641 filmivabrik@filmivabrik.ee filmivabrik.ee

Estonia. There are no peers, and his knowledge and friendships are limited to a few men living in his backyard – a former prisoner and two hapless fishermen. His only chance of escape from his grandfather’s strict demands is taking a fishing rod out on the local lake. On the Water is a bit of a brutal tale hidden beneath a comic and adventurous surface that highlights people’s basic needs for understanding, caring, humanity, and love. DIRECTOR PEETER SIMM graduated from VGIK (Moscow State Institute of Cinematography) in 1976. He has directed nine feature films, winning ESTONIAN FILM

45


NEW FILM

FILM INFO

Goodbye, Soviet Union

J

Johannes is born to a single student mom and is raised by his grandparents, while the hippie mom protests against the war in Afghanistan. Strong characters quarrel with each other until mother smuggles herself to work in Finland through KGB and Johannes has to face the life challenges alone. He falls deeply in love with his classmate, Vera, takes risks, gets into fights, and gets

Lauri Randla

Finland. His filmography to date consists of several short films, among them Mausoleum (2016), which has won several international awards: Best Foreign Film at 2016 Toronto Short Film Festival, audience prize from ShortCuts Bucharest in Romania, Best Film at Scanorama festival in Vilnius, London Lift-Off FF – Best Short Film, Discover Film Awards/UK - Best Narrative.

punished… all the while, in the background, the Evil Empire collapses. As the Lenins fall and the Barbie dolls take over, the crocodile Genas and the Moskvitches are forced to step aside, leaving the road to the West wide open!. DIRECTOR LAURI RANDLA has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in film art from Aalto/ELO film school in

46

ESTONIAN FILM

Original title: Hüvasti, NSVL Genre: drama, comedy Language: Estonian, Ingrian, Russian Director: Lauri Randla Screenwriter: Lauri Randla Cinematographer: Elen Lotman E.S.C. Production Designer: Jaana Jüris Editors: Leo Liesvirta, Andres Hallik Composer: Lauri Randla Sound: Karri Niinivaara Main cast: Ülle Kaljuste, Tõnu Oja, Niklas Kouzmitchev, Nika Savolainen, Pääru Oja, Jekaterina Novosjolova, Sten Karpov, Elene Baratašvili, Dima Bespalov, Anne Reemann, Piret Krumm, Viktor Lanberg. Producer: Peeter Urbla Co-producers: Mark Lwoff, Misha Jaari Produced by: Exitfilm (Estonia), Bufo (Finland) Premiere: November 2020, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 91 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Exitfilm Peeter Urbla +372 515 9696 peeter@exitfilm.ee exitfilm.ee facebook.com/huvastinsvl


Kratt

FILM INFO

C

hildren are left to grandma’s without smartphones. Real life seems boring, working feels hard. Luckily, they find instructions for kratt – a magical creature from old Estonian mythology who will do whatever it’s master says. All they have to do now, is to buy a soul from the devil! Life stops being boring in a bloody way. DIRECTOR RASMUS MERIVOO is one of the most unique Estonian filmmakers in recent times. His film school short Alien – Saving Valdis In 11 Chapters

Peeter Rasmus Simm Merivoo

became an instant cult classic because of its bold and original storytelling. After shooting a debut feature Buratino in Russia he moved onto TV to direct a season of popular horror series Süvahavva. In Kratt, his second feature, Rasmus is returning back to his roots – writing and directing.

Original title: Kratt Genre: comedy, fantasy Language: Estonian Director: Rasmus Merivoo Screenwriter: Rasmus Merivoo Cinematographer: Jako Krull Production Designer: Krete Tarkmees Editors: Rasmus Merivoo, Kristin Kalamees Composer: Tauno Aints Sound: Jevgeni Berežovski Main cast: Mari Lill, Ivo Uukkivi, Jan Uuspõld, Nora Merivoo, Harri Merivoo, Paul Purga, Marek Tammets, Mari-Liis Lill, Alo Kurvits Producers: Rain Rannu, Tõnu Hiielaid Produced by: Tallifornia Premiere: November 2020, Youth and Children’s Film Festival Just Film 105 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Tallifornia Tõnu Hiielaid +372 5336 6981 tinamount@tallifornia.com tallifornia.com

ESTONIAN FILM

47


NEW FILM

FILM INFO

Rain

R

ain, the older brother of Ats, a 11-year old kid growing up in a small seaside town, returns to the family home, where their authoritarian father and their mother are on the verge of losing love. Ats is witness to the clash of two men, his father and his brother, two stubborn men from different generations with different views of the world. When father tries to push Rain, who has lost his stable ground, into the boundaries of his world, Rain finds instead hope in Aleksandra, a mysterious woman with a shady past. DIRECTOR JANNO JÜRGENS born in 1985 in Haapsalu, Estonia. He has made different experiments in the short film genre since 2006. Janno graduated from the Baltic Film, Media, Arts and

48

ESTONIAN FILM

Janno Jürgens

Original title: Rain Genre: drama Language: Estonian Director: Janno Jürgens Screenwriters: Janno Jürgens, Anti Naulainen Cinematographer: Erik Põllumaa E.S.C. Production Designer: Matis Mäesalu Editor: Przemysław Chruscielewski Main cast: Indrek Ojari, Rein Oja, Marcus Borkmann, Laine Mägi, Magdalena Popławska. Producer: Kristjan Pütsep Produced by: Alasti Kino Domestic premiere: September 17, 2020 Festivals: Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 2020 96 min / 2K / 1.85:1 / 5.1

Communication School in 2012 as a film director. His short film Distance had its world premiere at Locarno Film Festival in 2012.

CONTACT Alasti Kino Kristjan Pütsep +327 5667 3727 kristjan@alastikino.ee alastikino.ee


O2

FILM INFO

A

ugust 1939, the last days before the outbreak of World War II. Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Third Reich shock the world by signing a military alliance pact. At that very moment in Estonia, a small country neighbouring Russia, the head of the counter-Soviet Intelligence (O2) is murdered. Suspicions of a mole being in their ranks close down the unit and an intelligence officer Feliks Kangur is assigned with catching the traitor. When Germany and the Soviet Union invade Poland, Feliks finds out that the Red Army has kicked off a covert operation to annex Estonia next. Haunted by a tragic love story, Felix has to figure out if there is anything left for him to save… DIRECTOR MARGUS PAJU born in 1983, is a graduate of the Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School . His first full-length feature film The Secret Society of Souptown (2015),

Margus Paju

the highest-grossing Estonian family film at the time, picked up awards at Stockholm, Zurich, Schlingel, Yerevan and many other international festivals. Margus has also written and directed a number of short films, which have been shown at festivals around the world.

Original title: O2 Genre: spy thriller Language: Estonian, Russian, German, French, Finnish Director: Margus Paju Screenwriters: Tiit Aleksejev, Eriikka Etholén-Paju, Tom Abrams, Olle Mirme Cinematographer: Meelis Veeremets E.S.C. Production Designer: Jaagup Roomet Editor: Marion Koppel Composers: Eriks Esenvalds, Richards Zalupe Sound: Vytis Puronas Main cast: Priit Võigemast, Kaspars Znotinš, Agnese Cirule, Elmo Nüganen Producers: Esko Rips, Kristian Taska Co-producers: Jukka Helle, Janis Kalejs, Lukas Trimonis Produced by: Nafta Films (EE), Taska Film (EE), Solar Films (FI), Film Angels (LV), InScript (LT) Domestic premiere: October 6, 2020 100 min / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1 CONTACT Nafta Films Esko Rips +372 525 6323 esko@nafta.ee nafta.ee

ESTONIAN FILM

49


NEW FILM

Undergods

A

n otherworldly journey through a Europe in decline.... Undergods is a collection of darkly humorous, fantasy tales about failed societies and doomed fortune. Two corpse collectors roam the desolate streets of an unknown city chatting humorously about their dreams in which a series of men see their worlds fall apart through a visit from an unexpected stranger. With a distinct, pan European cast, Undergods is a singular, visual feast, blending the particular supernatural flavour of ‘80s anthology films, such as Twilight Zone, the visual flair of ‘70s sci-fi epics, such as Stalker, with a touch of European, art-house sensibility. Undergods journeys through disparate eras and realities fusing failed 20th Century utopias and 21st Century Ikea nightmares in an unsettlingly entertaining debut from director, Chino Moya, set to an original, synth score featuring ‘80s elec-

50

ESTONIAN FILM

FILM INFO tronica. As recent times bring disarray and isolation, this cautionary tale of societal collapse becomes ever more timely.

Chino Moya

DIRECTOR CHINO MOYA Madrid raised London resident, Chino Moya, takes a multidisciplinary approach to his work, combining filmmaking, photography and comic book writing. His short films, music videos and commercials have screened in competition at festivals around the globe winning multiple awards, including a Cannes Lions. Amongst many other notable works, Chino directed St Vincent’s Digital Witness music video which was voted one of the top 10 music videos in 2014 by Rolling Stone and was featured in Times magazine. In addition to his film work, Chino Moya just released the comic book, Flat Filters, and his latest photography book, Monosodium Glutamate, is to be published at the end of the year.

Original title: Undergods Genre: Fantasy Language: English Director: Chino Moya Screenwriter: Chino Moya Cinematographer: David Raedeker Production Designers: Marketa Korinkova, Elo Soode Editors: Walter Fasano, Maya Maffioli, Tommaso Gallone Composer: Wojciech Golczewski Sound: Martin Pavey, David Vranken Main cast: Johan Myers, Geza Röhrig, Michael Gould, Hayley Carmichael, Ned Dennehy, Khalid Abdalla, Eric Godon, Tanya Reynolds, Tadhg Murphy, Jan Bijvoet, Kate Dickie, Sam Louwyck, Adrian Rawlins, Slavko Labovic, Jonathan Case Producer: Sophie Venner Co-producers: Sebastian Schelenz, Goran Djikic, Katrin Kissa, Sean Wheelan Produced by: Z56FILM (UK), Velvet Films (BE), Media Plus (SER), Homeless Bob (EE), Filmgate (SWE) Premiere: August 30, 2020 (Canada) Festivals: Fantasia Film Festival 2020 92 min / DCP / 1.85:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Homeless Bob Production Katrin Kissa info@too.ee homelessbob.ee


FILM INFO

Erna at War

T

he year is 1918. The Great War is raging through Europe while Erna Jensen tends to her ordinary, tranquil life at home in Bramstrup where she lives with her simple-minded son, Kalle. That is until the day when everything changes as the village constable Meier shows up to conscript Kalle for military service for the German Empire of which Southern Jutland, at this time, is a part. Ever since Kalle’s dramatic birth, Erna has promised the Lord that no one should ever be allowed to touch so much as a single hair on the boy’s head and now she has to hand him over to the German war machine. Erna realises that if she is to save Kalle from an uncertain fate in the trenches, she must follow him through thick and thin. As fate would have it she rescues a deserting soldier and the two of them swap clothes and identities. Now disguised as Private Julius Rasmussen, Erna heads towards the front. In her encounter with soldier Anton Seiersen, the blacksmith from Jels, new previously unknown sides are awoken in Erna.’

Henrik Ruben Genz

DIRECTOR HENRIK RUBEN GENZ born in 1959, originally comes from Gram in Southern Jutland. In 1995 he completed his education at The National Film School of Denmark’s fiction directing programme, and ever since has added a long list of feature films, tv-series, and documentaries to his filmography. In 1998 he was nominated for an Oscar and won the Crystal Bear in Berlin for his short film Theis & Nico. Henrik’s debut feature film was the Robert Award nominated children’s film Someone Like Hodder (2003), an adaptation of Bjarne Reuter’s novel. Hereafter a long list followed of significant films and tv-series such as Terribly Happy (2008), which earned the film four Bodil Awards, seven Robert Awards and the Drejer Award of the Year. Additional productions include Chinaman (2005), Excuse Me (2012), Satisfaction 1720 (2016), Word of God (2017) and not least a number of the most popular tv-series such as Nikolaj og Julie (2002), Forsvar (2003), Better Times (2004), The Killing (2007), Lulu & Leon (2009), Borgen (2003), and Bankerot (2014).

Original title: Erna i krig Genre: Drama, war Language: Danish Director: Henrik Ruben Genz Screenwriters: Bo Hr. Hansen, Henrik Ruben Genz Cinematographer: Jørgen Johansson, DFF Production Designer: Jette Lehmann Editor: Anders Skov Composer: Mihkel Zilmer Sound Designers: Yves Bémelmans, Emmanuel de Boissieu Main cast: Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen, Anders W. Berthelsen, Sylvester Byder, Ari Alexander Producers: Birgitte Hald, Nynne Selin Eidnes Co-producers: Esko Rips, Sébastien Delloye Produced by: Nimbus Film (DK), Nafta Films (EE), Entre Chien et Loup (BE) Premiere: October 29, 2020 (Denmark) Festivals: Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 2020 100 min / DCP / 2.39 / 5.1 CONTACT Nafta Films Esko Rips +372 525 6323 esko@nafta.ee nafta.ee SALES TF1 Studio sales@tf1.fr tf1studio.com ESTONIAN FILM

51


NEW FILM

My Dear Corpses

U

nexpectedly evicted from his house, Erki faces a rather difficult task to take care of his lonely mother. He is forced to agree to become a corpse carrier. But the situation is about to get a whole lot worse, when Erki meets his new colleague for whom it is just another day in the field.

DIRECTOR GERMAN GOLUB was born in 1993 in Pärnu, Estonia. He graduated from Tallinn Polytechnic School in 2015 as a television camera operator and from Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School in 2020 with cum laude as a film director. Aside from studies, German has been freelancing for Estonian Public Broadcasting, various Estonian production companies and foreign productions, including Tenet. His filmography

52

ESTONIAN FILM

German Golub

to date consists of several student short films including Sealed (2019) that was filmed in China, Black and White Colours (2019) and My Dear Corpses (2020) which won the Student Academy Award in the category of International Narrative Short Film.

FILM INFO Original title: Mu kallid laibad Genre: tragicomedy Language: Estonian, Russian Director: German Golub Screenwriter: German Golub Cinematographer: Juss Saska Production Designer: Kätlin Loomets Editor: Kaupo Muuli Sound: Siim Škepast Main cast: Ruuben Joosua Palu, Erki Laur Producers: Sander Lebreht, Antero Noor Produced by: Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School (BFM) Premiere: November 2020, PÖFF Shorts 34 min / DCP / 1.85:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Sander Lebreht Phone: +37253305434 SLebreht@gmail.com


Virago

A

man falls off a roof. Another one drowns. Another catches fire. Wherever you look, men are dropping like flies. “May God rest their souls,” sigh the widows as they cross themselves somberly. This is the life and the death of the men in Virago—a village where for centuries no man has lived long enough to see his fortieth birthday. Until today. Inspired by true events and set in rural Estonia where the harsh realities of present day weave with the mystical, this film tells the story of viragos – women who possess both heroic and hostile qualities. DIRECTOR KERLI KIRCH SCHNEIDER born in 1985, is an Estonian filmmaker who is currently completing her Ph.D. in media communication at the University of Miami where she conducts research

FILM INFO on film and teaches various cinema and pop culture related courses. Through the film program at the University of Miami, Kerli made her first experiments in the world of movies — both in terms of screenwriting and directing. She is also part of a Miami female filmmakers group in which she works as 1st AD for a trilogy that focuses on themes of love and sexuality through dark humor. In the summer of 2018, Kerli directed her first professionally produced short film, Virago, for which she wrote the screenplay during her Film Studies at the University of Miami. Kerli is currently working on two feature film scripts. She approaches the themes of hyperreality, destiny, mythology and superstition through the lens of magical realism and dark comedy, usually incorporating strong and mysterious female characters.

Original title: Virago Genre: dark comedy Language: Estonian Director: Kerli Kirch Schneider Screenwriter: Kerli Kirch Schneider Cinematographer: Mart Ratassepp E.S.C. Production Designer: Kaia Tungal Editor: Marion Koppel Main cast: Tiina Tauraite, Juhan Ulfsak, Anneli Rahkema, Hilje Murel Producer: Diana Mikita Produced by: Nafta Films World premiere: October 2019, Festival du nouveau cinema Montreal Festivals: Warsaw IFF, PÖFF Shorts, Palm Springs ISF, Busan ISFF, Raindance FF, Chicago IFF 15 min / DCP / 2K, 2.39:1 / 5.1 & stereo CONTACT Nafta Films Diana Mikita +372 522 9120 diana@nafta.ee nafta.ee FESTIVALS & PROMOTION ShortEst Distributions Peter Murdmaa peter@shortest.eu SALES Interfilm Berlin Management GmbH  Cord Dueppe cord.d@interfilm.de

ESTONIAN FILM

53


NEW FILM

Blue

W

hen two strangers’ paths cross after an accident, the woman hijacks the situation and gets into the man’s car, demanding that he take her away from there. As the man tries to find a solution to the predicament, fragments from the woman’s past start painting a picture of the tragic events that happened to her. DIRECTOR TÕNIS PILL graduated in 2017 from the Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School, specializing in Film Directing. After graduating from film school, Tõnis has refined himself with the help of numerous directing and screenwriting workshops and has also worked as a guest-tutor. He has directed several short films, short

FILM INFO Tõnis Pill

film Blue is his fourth fiction film. His creative handwriting is characterized by realism, an extreme focus on his characters and every story he tells always has a compelling and complex conflict. Tõnis is currently developing his first feature film and when he is not directing, he works as a 1st Assistant Director.

Original title: Sinine Genre: drama Language: Estonian Director: Tõnis Pill Screenwriter: Laura Raud E.S.G. Cinematographer: Mihkel Soe E.S.C. Production Designer: Anna-Liisa Liiver Editor: Moonika Põdersalu Composer: Markus Robam Sound: Aleksandra Koel Main cast: Priit Võigemast, Kristiina-Hortensia Port Producers: Evelin Penttilä, Johanna Maria Paulson Produced by: Stellar Film Domestic premiere: November 2020, PÖFF Shorts 15 min / DCP / 2.4:1/ 5.1 CONTACT Stellar Film Evelin Penttilä +372 5552 3500 evelin@stellar.ee stellar.ee

54

ESTONIAN FILM


County Court

C

ounty Court is a short film that is packed with absurdity and tells a rather conventional story in a rather unconventional way. The film reflects a court drama where a mother and a father, two ex-spouses, fight over the custody of their 5-year old son in court. The whole court process takes place in the middle of a grain field and on that field the courtroom has no boundaries much like the mother and father whose actual goal is to exact vengeance on each other with no regard to the means used. DIRECTOR EEVA MÄGI was born in 1987 in Estonia. In 2015, she obtained a Master’s degree in Documen-

tary Directing from the Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School. Her graduation film Simply A Man has been screened at several festivals. Lembri Uudu, her first independent film after graduation, had its international premiere at DOK Leipzig and has later participated in many festivals, among others PÖFF Shorts, Go Short Nijmegen, Sarajevo Film Festival etc. In March 2017, she participated in the workshop Filming in Cuba with Werner Herzog. In 2018, she was given a young filmmaker’s award by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia. In 2019, she received a DocPoint Tallinn Young Filmmaker Award.

FILM INFO Original title: Maakohus Genre: drama Language: Estonian Director: Eeva Mägi Screenwriter: Eeva Mägi Cinematographer: Sten Johan Lill E.S.C. Production Designer: Anna-Liisa Liiver Editor: Jette-Krõõt Keedus Composer: Tanel Kadalipp Sound: Tanel Kadalipp Main cast: Mari Abel, Tambet Tuisk, Helen Lotman, Meelis Rämmeld Producer: Karolina Veetamm Produced by: Kafka Films To be released: Spring 2021 15 min / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1

CONTACT Kafka Films Karolina Veetamm +372 5196 8064 karolina.kafka@gmail.com

ESTONIAN FILM

55


NEW FILM

The Stork

W

hile smoking on the balcony, citizen Stork is struck by a moment of clarity, in which he realises that he is not a person, but rather a bird. At the same time, a man and a woman are eating lunch. When a cuckoo jumps out of the clock, the man leaves the apartment in a hurry. The woman and the stork meet… DIRECTOR MORTEN TŠINAKOV born on January 26, 1992 in Viljandi. Morten studied animation in Estonian Academy of Arts and made two films in the process. After his studies he has been working in Eesti Joonisfilm. Filmography: This Must Be Love (2014), Pekk (2014), A

FILM INFO Demonstration of Brilliance in Four Acts (2018) DIRECTOR LUCIJA MRZLJAK born on November 26, 1990 in Zagreb. Lucija is a Croatian animation film director and illustrator. She studied animation in Zagreb, Krakow, Prague and Tallinn. After graduating from Estonian Academy of Arts she decided to stay in Tallinn and work in Eesti Joonisfilm studio. Besides animated films Lucija has made illustrations for children’s books and caricatures for political magazines. Filmography: Shuma (2016), Corner (2016), A Demonstration of Brilliance in Four Acts (2018)

Original title: Toonekurg Language: no dialogue Directors: Morten Tšinakov, Lucija Mrzljak Screenwriter: Morten Tšinakov Compositors: Morten Tšinakov, Lucija Mrzljak Animators: Tarmo Vaarmets, Morten Tšinakov, Lucija Mrzljak Production Designers: Morten Tšinakov, Lucija Mrzljak Editors: Morten Tšinakov, Lucija Mrzljak Sound Design: Horret Kuus Technique: drawn animation Producer: Kalev Tamm Produced by: Eesti Joonisfilm To be released: 2021 16 min / DCP / 1.85:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Eesti Joonisfilm +372 677 4228 info@joonisfilm.ee joonisfilm.ee

56

ESTONIAN FILM


To Save a Language

I

ndrek Park, a linguist originally from Estonia, has been working with Native American languages for over ten years. The film sees him recording the language of the Mandan tribe, who live in the prairies of North Dakota, on the banks of the Missouri River. The job involves a lot of responsibility, and he is running out of time – his language guide, the 84-year-old Edwin Benson, is the last native speaker of Mandan. Also, Indrek’s plans with Mandan are much bigger than just recording the language for future generations – it has become his mission to revive Mandan, so that it would be used as a native language again. There are several factors that threaten the success of the historic language project. So far the tribe has been providing ample financial support for the high-cost programme, but due to the falling prices of oil, the sale of which is a major source of livelihood for the tribe, they might not be able to continue funding the initiative. The highest risk factor is Indrek himself. He is tired of living abroad and wishes to move back home to Estonia to start a family. Will he succeed in both the challenging job of saving a language as well as having a satisfying personal life? DIRECTOR LIIVO NIGLAS is an Estonian documentary filmmaker and anthropologist. He runs an independent production company, MP DOC, for anthropological documentary films. He studied documentary film making at Ateliers Varan, Paris, France. He has made

Liivo Niglas

films in Siberia, Africa, Central Asia, North America and Europe. His films have won numerous awards including Prix IUCN at the Vison du Reel in Switzerland, Golden Olive at the Kalamatha International Documentary Film Festival in Greece, Grand Prix at the International Festival of Ethnological Film in Serbia, Basil Wright Prize at the RAI Film Festival in UK, Annual award of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia for the best documentary and The National Estonian Film and Television Award for the best documentary. Selected filmography: The Brigade (2000), Yuri Vella’s World (2003), Adventure High (2004), Making Rain (2007), Fish On! (2008), Itelmen Stories (2010), Journey to the Maggot Feeder (2015), The Land of Love (2016).

FILM INFO Original title: Keelepäästja Theme: disappearing languages Language: English, Estonian, Mandan Director: Liivo Niglas Screenwriter: Liivo Niglas Cinematographer: Liivo Niglas Editor: Kaie-Ene Rääk Sound: Liivo Niglas, Mart Kessel-Otsa, Harmo Kallaste Producer: Kaie-Ene Rääk Co-producer: Liivo Niglas Produced by: F-Seitse, MP DOC Premiere: November 2020 Festivals: Nordische Filmtage Lübeck, Festival International Jean Rouch, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 74 min / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1 CONTACT F-Seitse OÜ Kaie-Ene Rääk +372 56488902 kaie@fseitse.ee facebook.com/fseitse/

ESTONIAN FILM

57


NEW FILM

A Loss of Something Ever Felt

E

eva’s mother Hille has maintained close ties with her drug-addict son, Lauri, who left Estonia for South America. But their last call ended in an argument and it’s been six months since she heard from Lauri. Hille has become desperate. Eeva, long estranged from her brother, reluctantly travels to Bogotá, Colombia, to search for him on the streets. Isolated by language and culture, Eeva begins to imagine her brother’s life as one of the many invisible urban souls. Lurching between hope and panic, Eeva’s dangerous journey suddenly takes an unexpected turn that transforms her chase in to an unforgettable mission of the heart.

58

ESTONIAN FILM

Carlos E. Lesmes

DIRECTOR CARLOS EDUARDO LESMES LÓPEZ is a Colombian film director, born in 1987, currently living and working in Estonia. Graduated as a filmmaker from Universidad Nacional de Colombia in 2010, after two years working in Diorama post-production as an editor and director, Carlos moved to Estonia to get his MA degree from the Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School. After completing the degree he has been an active member of the Estonian film community, being part of different feature films and developing his own film projects. Carlos is interested in science fiction, science, comic books and particle physics, but mostly in how all of this can be tied and used to try and tell stories about the human experience. A Loss of Something Ever Felt is his first full feature documentary film

FILM INFO Original title: Üht kaotust igavesti kandsin Theme: family drama, mental health, social issues, addiction Languages: Estonian, English, Spanish Director: Carlos E. Lesmes Screenwriter: Carlos E. Lesmes Cinematographers: Giulia Ducci, Aivo Rannik, Carlos E. Lesmes, Davood Mousavi Editor: Hendrik Mägar Composer: Ann Reimann Sound designer: Gabriel Solis Producer: Liis Nimik Co-producers: Marcela Lizcano / Viceversa Cine, Davood Mousavi / Little Black Fish, Mauricio Vergara, Carlos E. Lesmes Produced by: Alasti Kino World premiere: Hot Docs 2020 Festivals: DocsMX 2020, Bogotá International Film Festival, East Silver, Artdocfest Riga 82 min / DCP / 1.78:1 / Dolby 5.1 CONTACT Alasti Kino Liis Nimik +372 5661 6905 liis@alastikino.ee alastikino.ee


The Body Fights Back

T

he Body Fights Back is a feature documentary about five people navigating the paradoxes of diet culture. While promises of happiness, desirability and perfection are irresistible, joy and contentment remain out of reach. Personal stories from vastly different backgrounds quickly merge into a shockingly similar experience of battling one’s body. Self-starvation and compulsive exercise bring temporary satisfaction, only to be replaced with binging and purging soon after. Surprisingly, none of it has much to do with food. Featuring exclusive footage from London’s contemporary anti-diet movement and fascinating personal archives, the film offers a unique insight into the complexity of eating disorders, body image struggles and most importantly, the socio-economic realities of health. DIRECTOR MARIAN VÕSUMETS first began her career as a health journalist, then moved on to directing television

Marian Võsumets

documentaries and presenting news for Estonia’s Kanal 2, with a focus on international politics and factual entertainment. Her two most notable documentaries tap into Brexit protests in London and Eurovision fandom in Israel, both aired in 2019. In 2020, Marian was awarded Best Television Reporter at the annual Estonian Film and Television Awards (EFTA) gala in Tallinn. With an intuitive sense for storytelling, she masterfully combines visuals with narrative, drawing attention to meaning in places often overlooked in daily life. She believes and proves that novelty appears where disciplines overlap – in her case history, journalism and filmmaking. The Body Fights Back is her debut feature film.

FILM INFO Original title: The Body Fights Back Theme: mental health, dieting, eating disorders, body image, beauty standards, social issues Language: English Director: Marian Võsumets Screenwriter: Marian Võsumets Cinematographers: Fidelia Regina Randmäe, Norman Tamkivi Editor: Joonas Laiapea Composer: Sven Sosnitski Sound: Indrek Soe Main cast: Imogen Fox, Rory Brown, Hannah Webb, Michaela Gingell, Josephine Morondiya, Tenisha Pascal Producer: Marian Võsumets Produced by: Lola Productions World premiere: November 2020, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 106 min / DCP / 1.85:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Lola Productions Marian Võsumets +372 564 88 277 marian@dietculturefilm.com dietculturefilm.com

ESTONIAN FILM

59


NEW FILM

Mephistopheles

T

his happened a few years ago in Santiago de Compostela, in the world’s oldest hotel. I had presented what I thought was a brilliant idea to Linnar Priimägi at the tea table, when the esteemed professor became irritated and unleashed Mephistopheles from himself. This was quite a fireworks. In the next 15 minutes, I learned the whole truth about myself. Priimägi wondered how the earth could ever carry such a stupid person. After finishing his enlightening diatribe at my address, he relented and said, “Manfred, you have to make a movie about me.” I refused immediately. I may be stupid, but not as stupid to make a film about Priimägi. Unfortunately, things went differently and Mephistopheles achieved his will. I’m not going to retell the content of the film here, which would be as pointless as revealing a punchline before the anecdote is told. Let me just say, that this film is a revenge for all the bitter words I have had to hear at my address. Or, as Goethe writes in Faust, “I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good.” DIRECTOR MANFRED VAINOKIVI is a documentary filmmaker with a unique signature. In 10 years, he has made both experimental as well as more traditional documentaries. His films have screened in competition at DoK Leipzig and IDFA, and earned best documentary titles at home in Estonia.

60

ESTONIAN FILM

FILM INFO Original title: Mephistopheles Theme: portrait Languages: Estonian Director: Manfred Vainokivi Screenwriter: Manfred Vainokovi Cinematographer: Manfred Vainokivi Editor: Kersti Miilen Sound: Horret Kuus, Henri Kuus Producer: Marju Lepp Produced by: Filmivabrik Premiere: November 2020, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 60 min / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1

Manfred Vainokivi

CONTACT Filmivabrik Marju Lepp +3725163641 filmivabrik@filmivabrik.ee filmivabrik.ee


FILM INFO

The Weight of All the Beauty

T

he Weight of All the Beauty is a personal documentary about the director’s father, neighbor and other cowboys from Põdra village who drank themselves to death. These men lived in a village between sea and forest where the only one to share your life with is a Vodka Demon. The only survivor Villi takes us on a journey through the village, where the homes of his friends still stand and tells how Vodka Demon tricked each one of them. But, if everyone else is dead, how is Villi still alive? DIRECTOR EEVA MÄGI is an Estonian filmmaker, born in 1987. In 2015, she obtained a master’s degree in Documentary Directing from the Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School. Simply A Man is her graduation film which has been screened at several festivals. Lembri Uudu is her first independent film after graduation, it had its international premiere at DOK Leipzig and has later participated in many festivals: PÖFF Shorts, Go Short Nijmegen, Sarajevo Film Festival and many others, having collected three Grand Prix prizes on its tour. In March 2017, she participated in Werner Herzog’s workshop. In 2018, she was given the young filmmaker’s award by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia. Her approach to film is rather experimental and surreal, mixing fantasy and fiction with documentary.

Original title: Süda Sõrve sääres Theme: fantasy documentary, social issues Language: Estonian Director: Eeva Mägi Screenwriter: Eeva Mägi Cinematographer: Mattias Veermets Editor: Jette-Krõõt Keedus Composer: Tanel Kadalipp Sound: Tanel Kadalipp Producer: Liis Nimik Produced by: Alasti Kino Domestic premiere: February 2, 2019 DocPoint Tallinn Festivals: Galway Film Fleadh, DOK Leipzig, PÖFF Shorts, Melbourne International Film Festival 24 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1

Eeva Mägi

CONTACT Alasti Kino Liis Nimik Phone: +372 5661 6905 E-mail: liis@alastikino.ee alastikino.ee

ESTONIAN FILM

61


NEW FILM

Soviet Friendsbook

T

he film explores a kaleidoscope of portraits and stories with a common past - presentations of past and present. Back in 1994, Aljona Surzhikova kept a collective diary – a Friends’ Book. That history repeats itself today in Facebook, the manifestation of contemporary online culture. All those people from the old-school analog Friends’ Book are now on Facebook – except for one old friend and classmate: Roman was the strongest boy in the class, and today he serves as a bodyguard for the President of Estonia. Then there is Stas who lives in Cambodia, playing poker and riding motorcycles; and Julia, a Waldorf School teacher in Berlin… Between these portraits we see a memory of 1994: the situation in Estonia, departing Soviet tanks, the two Presidents Lennart Meri and Boris Yeltsin drinking champagne, and school time 1994 / 1998 in VHS archives. DIRECTOR ALJONA SURZHIKOVA is an independent filmmaker, a native of Estonia. She has worked in Europe and Eastern-European countries for the past fifteen years. Aljona’s work is always looking into the understanding of post-Soviet identity, relations between past and present, personality and state. Aljona studied at Tallinn University and in Saint Petersburg State University, graduating with a degree in Film Industry and Television. Her TV work has been shown on the Estonian Public Broadcasting, Kanal 2 (Estonia),

62

ESTONIAN FILM

FILM INFO Original title: Ankeet Theme: portrait, history, human interest Languages: Russian, Estonian Director: Aljona Surzhikova Screenwriter: Aljona Surzhikova Cinematographers: Sergei Trofimov, Ivan Panasjuk, Kullar Viimne Editor: Aljona Surzhikova Sound: Kiparis Dubbing Studio Composer: Anatoli Štšura Producer: Aljona Surzhikova Produced by: Diafilm World Premiere: November 2020, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 90 min / DCP / 16:9 / stereo

Aljona Surzhikova

Kanal Kultura (Russia), TV5 (Russia), LTV (Latvia), and Current Time TV (Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty). Not My Land (2013, 52 min), her first feature-length film project as a director/producer, received the Best Young Filmmaker award from the Estonian Cultural Endowment in 2014. In 2019, she released Stories of Success, a 12-part documentary series about famous Russian-speaking people from Estonia. For this project, Aljona was named Person of the Year by Radio 4.

CONTACT Diafilm Aljona Suržikova +372 5569 3961 aljona@diafilm.ee diafilm.ee SALES Eeter Docs Karlo Funk +372 5648 5966 karlo.funk@einst.ee


FILM ESTONIA 30% CASH REBATE & MORE! OBSESSED WITH INNOVATION FREE WIFI IS A HUMAN RIGHT EXCITING LOCATIONS FOR DIVERSE INTERESTS LESS TALK, MORE ACTION

filmestonia.ee commissioner@filmi.ee

Profile for Eesti Filmi Instituut

Estonian Film 2020 / 3  

The cover image of the new edition of the Estonian Film magazine is from "Goodbye, Soviet Union" by debut director Lauri Randla and the film...

Estonian Film 2020 / 3  

The cover image of the new edition of the Estonian Film magazine is from "Goodbye, Soviet Union" by debut director Lauri Randla and the film...

Advertisement