Estonian Film 2019 / 3

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Marge Liiske Revealing the Industry’s Secrets

Rain Rannu How to Bring Startups to the Big Screen

Black Nights Brings Bright Screens

Ksenia Okhapkina


The Rising Star of the Documentary World

FEATURED FILMS: Immortal I Chasing Unicorns I Your Honor Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway I Scandinavian Silence Truth and Justice I The Old Man Cartoon Movie

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Photos by Karl Anders Vaikla

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

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It Was a Very Good Year



Edith Sepp, CEO of Estonian Film Institute

4 6

ANIMATION Old Man and Barnyard Oddities


NEWS Festivals Honour Your Honor

COVER STORY Ksenia Okhapkina Tale of the Ideology


15 NEWS Two Films from

Estonia Competing for Oscars

16 NEWS Sci-fi Madness


18 DIRECTOR Rain Rannu

Start It Up

22 DOCS A Good Year for Docs 24 IN FOCUS Marge Liiske

Moving Pictures... & People

29 FUNDS Much More Than

a Unique Location

30 NEWS Erna at War Brought

International Stars to Estonia

31 NEWS Kids of the Night


32 EVENT Black Nights, Bright Screens 34 EVENT Industry@Tallinn

& BalticEvent

36 REVIEW Scandinavian Silence 38 REVIEW Truth and Justice 40 REVIEW Jesus Shows You

the Way to the Highway

43 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: I Editor in Chief: Eda Koppel Contributing Editor: Maria Ulfsak (Eesti Ekspress) Contributors: Aurelia Aasa, Filipp Kruusvall, Hannes Aava, Egle Loor Translation: Lili Pilt Linguistic Editing: Paul Emmet Design & Layout: Profimeedia Printed by Reflekt Cover: Ksenia Okhapkina, photo by Riho Västrik ESTONIAN FILM


will go down in the Estonian history of film as the year when our homegrown film had a 25% share of the national market, generating more than 800,000 cinema attendances. It demonstrates that if the government invests in film productions, our filmmakers can deliver and Estonian audiences will watch Estonian movies in cinemas. Thanks to this boost, Estonian films were successful at the international markets and won major prizes at film festivals; our filmmakers can look back on the year with great pride and dignity. The year also saw a very significant development for our cash rebate scheme. Christopher Nolan – one of the finest film directors of modern times – invested his trust in our industry players and our creatives and shot a major part of his new feature film Tenet in Tallinn. One of the key words for 2019 was documentaries. The Baltic co-production The Bridges of Time by Lithuanian director Audrius Stonys won the best documentary prize in Shanghai, Ksenija Ohhapkina’s Immortal won the Best Documentary Grand Prix in Karlovy Vary, Joosep Matjus’s documentary feature The Wind Sculpted Land won the Best Film award at the Tulum World Environmental Film Festival. A new documentary Ott Tänak: The Movie about Estonian racer who has now become world champion in the World Rally Championship (WRC), achieved over 95,000 admissions in local cinemas. Animation also had a number of triumphs. The year started with the third children’s animation feature Lotte and the Lost Dragons by Heiki Ernits and Janno Põldma which had its world premiere at the Berlinale. It continued with many outstanding awards for Sergei Kibus’s Teofrastus around the world and ended with the very first feature animation by Mikk Mägi and Oskar Lehemaa - Old Man Cartoon Movie. More than 80,000 people have seen the film in cinemas. This year, the national epic Truth and Justice, adapted and directed by Tanel Toom, is the candidate for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film. In addition, for the very first time, Estonia is also represented by a documentary feature due to the automatic submission right given by the Karlovy Vary festival win for Ksenia Okhapkina’s Immortal. All in all, at present, Estonia has a very healthy industry with a lot to offer and hopefully the success will continue in 2020 and well beyond. Stay tuned!



OldandMan Barnyard Oddities

Old Man is often in a bad mood, swears a lot, and is a fan of below-the-belt jokes. In real life, he would be more than annoying. On the big screen, he has the ability to make people laugh. By Aurelia Aasa


t’s safe to say that the full-length puppet film, Old Man Cartoon Movie is one of the weirdest films in Estonian cinema history. And one of the most popular ones, as it gained more than 41,000 admissions during the opening week this September, making it a local box-office hit.



The Old Man as a character was born almost a decade ago, when two guys – Peeter Ritso and Mikk Mägi met at the Estonian Academy of Arts and started making short videos featuring the animated character. For several years, the only stage for the Old Man was YouTube, where he quickly became a sensation. Esto-

nians loved his black humour, grumpiness and offensive jokes. Mikk Mägi and Peeter Ritso started developing the full-length film in 2017. Then, young film director Oskar Lehemaa joined the team to help out with the script. Eventually, Mägi and Lehemaa became the directors for the full-length film. Old Man Cartoon Movie is best described as a politically incorrect barn-thriller. The film takes us to the countryside, where Old Man leads a peaceful life, spending most of his time at the barn. His peace is disturbed by the grandkids, or little bastards, as the Old Man kindly refers to them, who come to visit him during the summer holiday. Old

Man wants to teach them all about country life, but the grandkids have other things in mind. Old Man thinks that the city has spoilt them. Furthermore, they do manage to set loose their granddad’s beloved cow. That starts a bizarre chain of events. While trying to find the cow, Old Man and grandchildren meet different forest creatures, find themselves at a hipster festival, and yes, some of them even wind up in bear’s ass. As this journey wasn’t difficult enough, there’s a mysterious Old Milker who wants to kill the cow. The political incorrectness might be surprising to some. On one hand, Old Man Cartoon Movie follows the classic Estonian puppet film tradition. Yet, the absurdist storyline brings a different vibe. In many ways, the film is a poke at modern pop culture as well as the ‘Old Men’ we

The directors of the Old Man Cartoon Movie Oskar Lehemaa and Mikk Mägi.


Photo by Erlend Štaub

Photo by Egert Kesa

Old Man Cartoon Movie is best described as a politically incorrect barn-thriller.

often see around us. The directors themselves say that despite Old Man’s constant swearing and mood swings, he’s a good man who cares about his grandkids. Deep in his heart, he even cares about his animals. His kind-hearted side is just hidden under the tough (country)guy image. So in a way, the film has a political undertext. Th voice is an essential part of the Old Man’s character. Behind the mumbling noise is director Mikk Mägi. Oskar Lehemaa has given his voice to the grandchildren. It’s also quite common that you can hear people in Estonia mimicking Old Man’s voice. Directors themselves say that the voice has become such an integral part of their lives that they often find themselves speaking with the ‘Old Man voice’ even in everyday situations. Mikk Mägi and Oskar Lehemaa have said that they wanted to make a film which would be interesting for them to watch, but according to the authors Old Man has fans among every age group. Kids love it (even though it has a PG-13 rating). And so do middle aged men. Younger viewers just laugh at other things to the grownups. So, in a way, Old Man Cartoon Movie can be seen as a family comedy, just with a very dark twist. The fact is, even if you don’t love it, it’s something you’ve never seen before. EF


NEWS The team of Your Honor at the Estonian premiere.

I prefer to use animals because they’re easier to relate to, it’s not that hard to identify yourself with a fox or a rabbit.

Festivals Honour

Your Honor Director Andres Puustusmaa, whose former films include crime drama Green Cats (2017) and thriller Red Mercury (2010) returns with a black and white feature Your Honor, which features a top-notch cast and is laced with dark humour. By Aurelia Aasa Photos by ACME Film




he film’s international premiere was in Shanghai International Film Festival, followed by Warsaw Film Festival and Rome Film Festival. Your Honor was also shown at the Russian film festival Window to

Europe, where the lead actor Mait Malmsten received the special mention as best actor. The Judge, played by Malmsten is a man who represents rules and honour in the courtroom. His personal life is an absolute mess. Everything comes to a head when he meets the angry brother of a woman who just received a long prison sentence. The brother, played by Märt Avandi starts following the judge around to change his mind about the verdict. Things get out of hand and due to some tragic events, the judge has to flee to Finland. Across the sea, a series of twists lead to a number of comical situations. Director Andres Puustusmaa has been based in Moscow for many years and several of his films, including Rattrap, have been co-produced with international partners. He has also worked with

Your Honor is a black and white comedy thriller directed by Andres Puustusmaa.

several internationally acclaimed actors. Both, Mait Malmsten and Märt Avandi have played in Andres Puustusmaa’s former films. Puustusmaa has always been drawn to the outcast and his films often revolve around the world of

The brother, played by Märt Avandi starts following the judge around to change his mind about the verdict.

crime world and involve ‘challenging’ characters. The topics such as law and honour, which are also present in Your Honor, are also part of his film legacy. According to the distributor, Katre Valgma from ACME, the film touches a universal topic. “Your Honor has very interesting storytelling, a strong cast, and a universal topic – judgement over one another. No matter where the moviegoers come from, each one of us can relate to how it feels to be judged, and how carelessly we often judge.” EF

The Judge, played by Malmsten is a man who represents rules and honour in the courtroom.




Tale of Ideology the

Russian documentary filmmaker Ksenia Okhapkina’s Immortal (co-produced by Estonia and Latvia) looks at the strict order that governs life in a small industrial city in Russia. In her film she asks: how do the mechanisms of political power directly influence the lives of a country’s inhabitants?


By Filipp Kruusvall Photos by Riho Västrik

or the first time in history, Estonia is represented by a documentary feature in the Oscar’s race due to the automatic submission right given by the Karlovy Vary festival win for Immortal.

Ksenia, what is your background, and what has influenced you most as a film director?

My father is a poet, and in my family we had a tradition of not just loving, but reading and analysing the poetry. I have read a lot of poetry, and for me, it’s a special language. I wanted to be a translator and concentrate on literature, and actually, I didn’t watch many films. But then I started to take some photos of some spontaneous things and I got the feeling. I got the experience that I can capture this feeling of something that passes by so quickly, and it’s very poetic. It’s like finding the essence of life in the living process. You can do





Immortal puts together an audiovisual collage of seemingly minor details that enable the viewers to observe a society bound by the political power.

this only by the language, by finding the right formula inside. For me, it is the visual language, for my father it was literature. In Immortal I also wanted to grasp the essence, the moment of choice for the people, although it looks so casual. It’s not only about the tools you are using for filmmaking like a camera and sound and directing. There are also the words you use to build the essence of reality. The poetry is very personal, but in cinema it becomes collective. And it’s real magic for me how the new reality happens on the screen. When I start a new film, I try to explore something that I do not know and something I don’t know how to deal with. I feel totally lacking in any power when I start the film because I really have only questions. I don’t have answers. Immortal is not just an anthropological overview of the hard life of mining industry workers from a city in the polar circle. You have a much



broader intellectual and poetic concept. What were you searching for in Immortal?

The main idea of the film, which is quite intellectual, came from the very slight but concrete feeling that something is happening in the Post-Soviet Space. When you arrive in the countries which were in the Soviet Union, you immediately feel that atmosphere. In Tallinn, it has almost disappeared, but in the suburbs, you can get the same feeling. I was travelling around Russia and the former Soviet territories, and I wanted to get the formula to understand these irrational feelings of exU.S.S.R and what it consists of. When I saw how people are living in the far northern territories in Russia, I decided I wanted to make a film in such a place. Because there must be surreal things happening there, as this place is definitely not made for living. Apatity is a totally artificial town, there was no settlement in this place before, because of the inhospitable conditions. It was a project of Stalin’s industrialization. It’s a dangerous way of existence when artificial ideas are implemented in real life. I wanted to understand what kind of thought makes this world exist in such a surreal way. Because probably there might be some inner logic of how to explain it. People live in the place, which is not made for living because immortality is promised to them. It might sound crazy from the start, but it’s how it really works. It was interesting for me to make a film which starts not from my impression of the real-life but from some idea.

How does this promise of becoming immortal work and how is the ideology manipulating people?

If you live in Apatity, in this catastrophic ecological situation and harsh environment, you are supposed to die at quite an early age. In the cemetery, you can witness that people live 50-60 years the most. There is an idea that although you will die, people will remember you and the memory of you will live forever. Something is taken out from the people, and something artificial put back in its place. I didn’t want to show situations where people are directly forced to do something. I chose the episodes when people, at least seemingly, have the appearance of free choice. Boys attending military-patriotic club are choosing maybe one of their best options. Mostly their parents spend all the time at the factory, or they have some problems with alcohol. There are some children of the policemen or criminals who were killed, and the teacher in this club is sometimes more important for them than their own father. They treat this club like a family, and they get a feeling of safety there. But at the same time their instructor is quite rude to them, he says totally disrespectful things that might destroy the mental state of a more sensitive boy.

It’s a dangerous way of existence when artificial ideas are implemented in real life. I think it’s the harshest form of manipulation when some very elementary human values like the wounds of the family are taken away from them, and something artificial is given back. This is how it works. First of all, they will not give their life for the government, and its strange ideas, but instead for this guy who was like a father to them. If you ask how this idea works, for example, visually, I remember when I came there, I got the feeling of fences just catching you. You got stuck in the endless walls, and you can’t choose your way actually because your direction of movement is already selected. I felt trapped. It’s a very Russian thing to see fences, fences, fences, all around. Especially in the places where there are a lot of people, government tries to


COVER STORY In her film Ksenia Okhapkina asks: how do the mechanisms of political power directly influence the lives of a country’s inhabitants?

somehow organize this human flood to control people. You appear in the same situation where you don’t choose the direction. Is it coming directly from the communist ideology?

I had a strange and exciting experience today. I visited the Patarei fortification complex and old prison on the seaside, in the heart of Tallinn. There’s an exhibition called Communism is Prison. I wouldn’t imagine seeing something like this in Russia, because in Russia nobody talks about the victims of the Soviet regime. But here I saw this formula: communism as a prison. My parents were very anti-communist and Soviet dissidents. One moment when I started to read a little bit of history, I said to my mother. Come on, your parents were the same peasants who came to a big city during the Revolution. We would never be able to make any culture and enjoy all these opportunities without the social benefits the Revolution created. Communism wasn’t initially a bad idea, that’s why so many people followed it. But behind that, there’s a very elaborate and smart manipulation and some economic interests. This factory in Apatity is one of the biggest chemical industries in the whole of Europe. You can see their economic interest very easily, and it was also the same for the Soviet Union. Someone gets the profit, but puts in front of it an ideological idea, like communism or any other-ism. It’s just a way to explain to people that you are taking something away from them and they get something instead from it. Actually, it can happen in any country. There is always something people can be manipulated with, and there are still people who are in a low position. They need something external to live a bit better and to survive, and it can always be abused. It feels natural now that the so-called Homo Sovieticus is easily manipulated by the state and is very obedient, but a hundred years ago there was a revolution in Russia. What does it show about Russian people?

In Russia, there have always been big problems with freedom and human rights. Even nowadays we have some opposition, and there are some protests, but they look quite weak because people go on the streets only at weekends. They don’t make a strike, they don’t stop working. When parliament passes another crazy law, citizens don’t go to the Kremlin and say we don’t want it. Which would be quite logical as officially there’s democracy in Russia. If you look at our history, we never had the opportunity to speak out openly without the consequence of execution or being imprisoned, or something, some other punishment. It was different in Western Europe, but in Russia, it used to be the reality that if you just open your mouth you might get killed.



That’s why many people have these prisoner and slave psychologies. My goal was to show in this film the impact of this inner state on people’s actions in real life. No government is interested in taking any action before people say no we won’t live like this anymore. In Apatity, there’s actually a choice for everyone, just not go to the bus stop and work in the toxic industry that kills them. That’s why I filmed the bus stop, because the choice is already made there. Actually, it’s the bus stop that kills those people, not the industry. Because if they did not go to the bus in the morning, the industry would change. If they didn’t send their children to these schools, the educational system would change. Actually, people can decide the reality. But it’s not easy if you are being put in the box from your birth. And even for your apartment, you need to pay credit and it is another bowl you are trapped in. It’s the world where you feel that you always owe something to someone. And it’s hard to find this psychic power to say no, I will not continue or go on like this. So this was actually how we found the language for the film. We found these actual situations in life where people make decisions.

crew there, as the position of the locals is very nationalistic. Especially if you want to show some official side of the town. Even I had to prove that I’m a trustworthy person there. When I met Almaz, the head of the patriotic club, I was invited to the mountains with the group of boys and their instructors. They played out a quite realistic battle in the mountains, and they had professional training how to shoot, how to encircle the enemy, and how to bring down wounded from the terrain. I had to do all the hiking with them to shoot the material I needed, and after I spent some time with them, I was accepted, and they trusted me. But there was also a special expedition where we brought the cameraman to drink vodka together with them, to prove that he was a real man. So it would be quite dangerous to shoot there with an international crew. Producer Riho Västrik was also there once, and our driver thought that he might be from Finland. The driver looked like someone who just came out of prison, and his behaviour became quite dangerous. So I had to use my best skills to draw his attention away and calm the situation down. So the best way for foreigners was to keep silent and not betray they were an alien there. I have this intuition how to behave with such guys, and I can feel the danger before it comes. It’s my professional responsibility not to put my crew in danger and warn them before it gets serious. If you are alone, it’s easier to escape, but with the whole team and heavy equipment you cannot run away, you need to think little

After my first visit to the Apatity, I quickly realised that it will be complicated to bring an international crew there, as the position of the locals is very nationalistic.

Was it dangerous for you or the crew to be shooting in Apatity? Did you feel any threat or limitations from the administration or local people?

Photo by Piret Räni

After my first visit to the Apatity, I quickly realised that it will be complicated to bring an international

RIHO VÄSTRIK, PRODUCER: I was on the jury at an environmental film festival in St. Petersburg in 2012. I liked a poetical short documentary about the Karelians called People. It won an award and I had to write the jury commentary and hand over the award. The director was Ksenia Okhapkina, who was there straight out of film school. We met again a year later in Moscow at Artdocfest where Ksenia was pitching her new project. It was her 24th birthday. After I gave her some tips she asked me to become the film’s co-producer. That’s her style – she didn’t leave anything to chance, she was proactive. And that’s more or less how our cooperation has been.

She’s always ready to grab the reins and lead the process, making me have to explain to her again that her job is to be creative and caring and it’s up to other people to create the conditions she needs for that. I’m astounded by the depth of problems that such a young director is able to deal with in her obstinate quest to realise her ideas, and by the way that she sees and hears the world. She’s very demanding of her DOP’s and sound crew because her work is audiovisual. Ksenia’s films are like the score for a large-scale orchestral piece – she’s never at peace until the very last note or pause has been polished to perfection. ESTONIAN FILM


COVER STORY think that I promised people to make a film about Soviet culture, and I made it. Of course, it’s not an anthropological or observational film. It is a very selective view on some thematic episodes of human life that really decides the reality.

Photos by KVIFF

How was your experience of filmmaking with Estonian producer Riho Västrik?

further ahead. I became anxious many times because I had to think about avoiding any mistakes and keeping my colleagues safe, but finally, I think everything worked out. Did you also find warm and welcoming people there? The famous Russian hospitality?

All the people were actually welcoming to us. But they are Northern people living in terrible conditions and are forced to do a lot of things. They have a very strong character, and they immediately feel if something is wrong or they don’t like this or that. Their existence doesn’t depend on making this film happen or not. Working in the factory is important for their survival, but to be filmed or not, it is optional for them. So, my goal was always to create a comfortable situation for them during the shooting. I did everything to avoid the locals feeling that my crew is somehow looking at them from above, or judging them, experimenting or indoctrinating some ideas into them. I wanted my team to understand this unusual way of being, and being critical at the same time of reality. Being very selective but compassionate at the same time. But where did you live in Apatity? How long did you stay there, and how did you present yourself to the locals?

I rented a flat, so I lived in the same type of building as most of the locals. Because if you want to say something about the environment there, you need to experience it yourself. I said to people that I am making a film about Soviet culture, without mentioning any philosophy behind it. I think that some people I filmed actually understood what this film is about. Again, other people did not perceive what kind of subjects I meant to show. But anyway, I



For the first time in history, Estonia is represented by a documentary feature in the Oscar’s race due to the automatic submission right given by the Karlovy Vary festival win for Ksenia Okhapkina’s Immortal.

He was a totally comfortable producer to work with. He trusted me and gave me the freedom and encouraged me to concentrate on my work, even when he was struggling with the financial and production side. He took the risks and allowed me to focus on creating an art documentary and art form. Riho became like a father to me. Before the production, I had to spend quite a lot of time in Apatity researching, which became very useful later. And I’m very thankful to Riho for all his patience and the conditions he created for me. The original music for Immortal was written by Estonian composers Robert Jürjendal and Arian Levin. How important was it to find the right score for the film?

Robert wrote music for my previous film, Come Back Free, and it was excellent. He is a very sensitive musician, and I was waiting to work with him again. I gave him the freedom to bring in his own vision. Robert created a basic atmosphere, music that represented a cold structure derived from the stars. But we also have contrasting style elements and side-episodes. There are more surreal and more philosophical night episodes, and more realistic day episodes. I felt that I needed for contrast, a melody, which would stay on the edge of this kind of positive representation of reality and the gloomy irrational and wild nature of the night episodes. As I also have a music education, I knew that I needed a melody in C major. I wanted to have this kind of edge between the irony and compassion, some theme which would highlight the hopes of people living there. Riho recommended me Arian Levin, and he did a perfect job. Estonia has such a fantastic culture of music. Actually, music features in 70% of the running time of the film. But you cannot identify it always as music because it works in a special way. EF


Truth and Justice


Films From Estonia Competing for Oscars A special committee led by the Estonian Film Institute (EFI) has voted to submit the national epic Truth and Justice, adapted and directed by Tanel Toom, as the candidate for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film In addition, for the first time, Estonia is also represented by a documentary feature due to the automatic submission right given by the Karlovy Vary festival win for Ksenia Okhapkina’s Immortal. By EFI


o doubt, the selection process was characterised by the consideration of three feature films produced in the special programme of Estonia 100,” said Edith Sepp, Head of EFI. “It should be noted, though, that being part of the programme didn’t give any film an advantage. Rather, it was symbolic, in a way, that the voice of the people was indirectly responsible for choosing which film should be representing Estonia. Meaning, that one of the most influential arguments was domestic box office success.” The committee voted for the film produced by Allfilm which was also as a full feature debut for director Tanel Toom. By the end of

July, Truth and Justice had tallied 265,866 cinemagoers, which makes it the most watched theatrically released film in Estonia after the country regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. “It’s a great honour to be cho-

Ksenia Okhapkina’s Immortal is a poetic cinematic essay that takes the viewers to a small industrial city in Russia.


sen to represent Estonia with a film based on a masterpiece by the great writer Anton Hansen Tammsaare. It’s a recognition to all of the people involved and their effort of bringing the story to life,” said Toom. Regarding the positive aspects of the film, the committee mentioned a well-adapted screenplay that retains the tension throughout, but also a beautiful visual style, characters of biblical stature, and a solid ensemble cast. “We liked that the film was emotionally charged and it wasn’t being downplayed into a farce with a jokey style or irony,” the committee concluded. The other Estonian film in the Oscars-race is a documentary feature Immortal by Ksenia Okhapkina, a joint production between Estonia and Latvia. In July, Immortal won the Grand Prix for the Best Documentary at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival which gives the film a right to be submitted for consideration for Oscars without a vote by a national committee. You can find out more about Okhapkina’s film from the cover story of this issue of Estonian Film. EF ESTONIAN FILM




Madness THE BIG CRUEL STRUCTURES AND THE SMALL “US” By Maria Ulfsak Director Miguel Llansó is a big fan of experimental-punk-weird music and films. He studied philosophy and cinema, he is also associate professor of directing and scriptwriting at the Baltic Film and Media School. Miguel, what was the main impulse for you to make this film? What made you want to do it? I was thinking about how and who my personal hero would be: Jesus? Superman? Che Guevara? Mohammed? Nah. All of them are nice and brave but a little bit too strict for my understanding. The World



is full of “strict” people. They “know”. Their ideas are pretty exaggerated and they think that what works for one, works for the other. They create laws out of everything and accomplish enormous achievements. This is beautiful, but I wish the new hero was someone closer to the Big Lebowski. I mean, big ambitions always bring big disasters. But the Dude... I don’t think he will kill anyone. Yeah, people complain about lazy and unambitious anti-heroes, but I haven’t seen any starting a new war or putting bombs here and there. Only laughter “bombs”. But what pushed me to make this film was the idea of going back to the Nile Falls, discovering new bunkers in Estonia and Latvia, travelling to the Spanish desert where Leone’s films were shot, cast some kung-fu guys in Addis Ababa and make new friends all over. But also to chase

Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway is a political sci-fi satire co-produced by Estonia, Ethiopia, Romania, Latvia and Spain. By Maria Ulfsak

this spirit of “Hey, guys. Things are more or less OK. I mean; be nice and don’t give too many lessons in life.” Unfortunately, I totally failed trying the last sentence in real life. But I’m trying once again. Sorry. What is your relationship to Ethiopia - it is rather an unusual country to co-produce a film with? Ethiopia gave me a job when Spain was sinking in pain. And it also gave me lots of friends and incredible landscapes to reinvent multiple worlds. I went to work there in 2008 and I lived there for almost three years. In my free time, I researched the incredible life of Wami Biratu, a 95 year old marathon runner. I still go very often to Ethiopia. I have to reach the South Omar cave system and Bale mountains and I should meet some musicians regularly and see with my own eyes what’s going on in


t is Madrid-born Miguel Llansó’s second feature film that premiered at Neuchatel IFF where it won the Imagine the Future award for best set design, followed by an audience award at Fantasia in Montreal a few weeks later. According to one of the producers Liis Nimik, the film has travelled to 20 festivals worldwide during its first four months. Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway is about CIA Agents Palmer and Gagano who are tasked with the mission of destroying a dangerous computer virus called “Soviet Union”. They enter the system using VR but the mission turns into a trap; the virus is far more complex than they ever expected and linked to the darkest spheres of power. The film was shot in four countries (Estonia, Ethiopia, Latvia, Spain) and produced by Liis Nimik, Meseret Argaw, Miguel Llansó, Kristjan Pütsep, Guna Stahovska, Daniel Taye Workou, Andy Starke and Cristian Nicolescu. The experimental project described as “Matrix on acid” had a budget of 400,000 euros and producing it was a big challenge, says Nimik. “There are more and more countries in Europe where author filmmakers do not have access anymore to national funding. So to prove the continuous development of his creative

Addis Ababa, if they have finished a new tram line or how many brand new lanes has the highway to Adama. I also have to eat REGULARLY injera. Do you consider your film psychedelia, science fiction, comedy, a thriller or something else when you have to describe it? My film is a social drama because it talks about a tragic hero in front of a system and machinery that are impossible to understand. We try to make sense of our life, but here we are, unable to understand most of the things and overall, unable to understand the power and how he plays with us. When Trump tries to buy Greenland, he’s playing with us in a way we don’t understand but that affects us. He has studied the deep mind in all of us because he worked for TV many years and in the

Miguel Llansó

turbulence Miguel started to shoot his film minute by minute with the help of his friends, using the first few scenes to raise money from crowdfunding and slowly gaining the trust of the investors and funds, including Estonian ones, on the way. But I think eventually everyone is happy, we did something kind of impossible.” According to Nimik, it is difficult to swim in the opposite direction to the ever repetitive high concept stories. “Miguel had a pretty crazy, out of the box script, which required some trust in his sense of humour, imagination, ability to use existing locations and non-actors. If the idea doesn’t match all the common formulas, does it immediately mean that the film belongs to trash-cinema or on the contrary, will open new worlds to us? I think it’s important to remember the importance of the spirit of an author, which can do so much more than simply an excellently written story. We should not let the author as such to become extinct,” Nimik added. EF

TV environment they really know HOW WE ARE. We think we have a lot of power in this wild world but then tell me why are you going to open Pornhub before finishing reading this? The fascists and intolerants know how to trigger our worst instincts. They can make us be worse people, full of fears, cruelty and survival and predatory instinct. That’s why my film is not like surreal and sci-fi but it’s a social drama: all these big cruel structures and the small “us”.

MIGUEL LLANSÓ FILMOGRAPHY Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway (2019) Crumbs (2015) The Second Best (2013) Where Is My Dog? (2011) ESTONIAN FILM


Photo by Scanpix/ Laila Kaasik




Rain Rannu is a start-up entrepreneur, who has just premiered his second feature film, Chasing Unicorns. The film follows a journey from Estonia to Silicon Valley and offers a humorous spin on the start-up world. By Aurelia Aasa Photos by Egert Kamenik and Scanpix


hasing Unicorns is based on real-life experiences. How did the story come to life?

Rain Rannu before the screening of Chasing Unicorns

When I had the subject and structure in place, I met different entrepreneurs in smaller and larger groups – I gathered their stories and details that later made it into the film. Most of the colourful details in this film come from real life. The same goes for the characters. They resemble the typical characters who move through the start-up world with some slight embellishments for the film. The whole scriptwriting phase was interactive, like a start-up. We had many versions that bounced back and forth between different people in the startup world and elsewhere. We got feedback and new stories, which we wrote in, and then bounced the text around again. That’s how we did it. Our editing period was similar. During the last six months, we’ve had about twenty small screenings for start-up people, filmmakers and regular viewers. We used the feedback to polish the film and make improvements. Many well-known Estonians pop up in the film, including our former prime minister. How did

you choose the people for the roles? Did you just invite old friends to be part of the project?

It was different with different people. Our former Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas’s role was actually written for our former President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves. We were filming in the office for a start-up in the Telliskivi Creative City in Tallinn when I happened to see Toomas Hendrik Ilves having lunch in the café downstairs. We tried to get him to play in the film right then and there. But, unfortunately, he was only in Estonia for a few days and he didn’t have time. The second logical choice was Taavi Rõivas because they’re both very technology friendly. The film’s producer (Tõnu Hiielaid) ended up in the film because he was playing against the actors at the casting sessions. The role turned out to fit him well. So we thought, hey, why not! Chasing Unicorns is your second film. You come from the start-up world. Why did you start directing films?

The path to making Chasing Unicorns was a long, three-year process that started right after our last film, which was called Chasing Ponies. We took the last film as a test, trying it out and seeing what we ESTONIAN FILM



come up with. Making this film showed us that filmmaking is no longer a hobby but rather the field that we want to work in seriously. A couple of years back, the Estonian Film Institute had a project called FilmFly. Did this bring film closer to you ?

It was a study trip to the UK for Estonian filmmakers. It helped because it showed us how the financing and distribution model works in the UK. I think it will be of more practical help with my next film. The first step in distributing Chasing Unicorns was focused on the Estonian cinema-goer. The international distribution will come later. With my next film, I’d like to make it the other way around – reaching a wider, global audience first. In that sense, it was very enlightening to see how they do things in the UK film market. As an entrepreneur, do you think it’s worth investing in film?

Any field is worth investing in, but my main job is investing in technology companies. Typically, our numbers show that we see about a thousand projects per year and invest in about ten of them. That means that one in a hundred gets support. It tends to be the same with films. So, yes, it’s worthwhile to invest in films but



Scenes from Rain Rannu’s feature Chasing Unicorns that was filmed in 2018 in Tallinn and California.

definitely not all of them. Films are made different ways too. Some films can’t be made without state support. Some films shouldn’t have state support at all. And a large number of films are in the middle, where state support is helpful and necessary but they need to have but they need to have additional income from the audience. So, which films are worth investing in? What’s the criteria?

Our production company Tallifornia has a hypothesis that a film is worth investment if it has a wider audience than just Estonia. Whether we like it or not, our 1.3 million people is not enough. In order for a film to make it here, it means that it either has a very low budget or be very commercial, and neither of those options is interesting for my partners and me. We like Tallifornia to make interesting, quirky films with an auteur vision that are also fast-paced and audience-oriented. At the same time, they’re not mainstream films and have more of an indie vibe. Films that have big enough audience in the world if we figure out how to reach it. I have a feeling that you follow the same model when it comes to your own films. I would say that both of your films are audience-oriented, indie films.

Absolutely. On the one hand, I try to make authentic films, where I don’t make compromises in the content and style. At the same time, it’s very important to me that the story and the film are clear and for the wider audience. I want people who spend an hour and a half in the cinema to come out having had a good experience.

Since Chasing Unicorns is based on real stories, we had the idea to record them as interviews and put them together with the film material. We plan to make learning materials for school kids that have clips from the films and interviews with ten or more people from the start-up world talking about how it really was, and what’s real and what’s not. We’re making the movie and accompanying educational material available for free to all the schools to be used as a learning material.

Success is not guaranteed but if you don’t do anything, you will definitely not succeed. break through but not with copies of Hollywood. The films that will finally become our breakthroughs will be made for the global public, but they will be original and the type of films they’d never make in Hollywood but rather in a place like Estonia.

Both of your films, Chasing Unicorns and Chasing Ponies focus on characters who push themselves to make it to the top. Just the bets are different. Chasing Ponies is about book sellers, Chasing Unicorns about start-up entrepreneurs. Is this how you see Estonia?

That’s the part of Estonia I know the best and that’s why I make films about it. My Estonia is open and global, where people are self-reliant and ambitious, eager to see and be part of the larger world. And our breakthroughs are increasingly starting to happen on our own terms. It’s no longer true that the grass is greener in Silicon Valley and Estonia is the boondocks. Yes, the models that were once developed in Silicon Valley are now being applied all over the world, including Estonia. At the same time, Estonia has unique aspects to give and we do things our own way. We don’t just copy what happens in Silicon Valley. I have a feeling that what’s happening in Estonian film is similar to what happened in our startup world in the last decade. Our films will


TOP Favourite gadget? Self-riding bicycle

Favourite film directors? Quentin Tarantino, Adam McKay, Sean Baker, Ruben Östlund, Rasmus Merivoo Favourite start-ups? All Estonian start-ups

Estonians are known to be hardworking. Does hard work really pay off or is it just a myth?

Rain Rannu, a successful start-up entrepreneur, at the premiere of his second feature film, Chasing Unicorns.

Elon Musk, who we cite a lot in our film, has said that no one has changed the world by working from nine to five. To reach your goal, you need a small group of dedicated people who work selflessly towards the goal no matter what time it is. But that’s not the only way to guarantee success. I think that, first of all, you have to do the right thing. Second, you have to try a lot of times. Both in the start-up world as well as in filmmaking, your first attempt is rarely a global success.. We hear of overnight success stories, but if we look behind the curtain, we see that they were achieved with 10-20 years of hard work and a lot of failures. If we look at successful European directors, people like Ruben Östlund or Yorgos Lanthimos, we see that they didn’t just make one film that was an immediate success. I think that, as filmmakers, it’s important that we have room to experiment to reach our goal. I would recommend that young filmmakers also experiment, try and fail. Success is not guaranteed but if you don’t do anything, you will definitely not succeed. Photo by Egert Kamenik

Tallifornia has also started producing start-up themed learning materials for schools. How did this project come to life?

What have you learned from the film industry?

I have learned a lot and I hope to keep learning. At the moment, there are very interesting times in the Estonian. When Christopher Nolan came here to film, it reminded me a lot of when Skype came out. After that, there were start-ups springing up everywhere. And some of them will definitely become even bigger than Skype. Both the Nolan project as well as Skype gave us a new understanding of what’s possible. We started to believe in ourselves. I believe we will birth the new Nolans – maybe in five, ten or twenty years, but they’re coming. EF




A Good Year for Docs 2019 has been an unprecedented success for Estonian documentaries. Ksenia Okhapkina’s Immortal won Grand Prix for Best Documentary Film at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, and Estonian docs had more than 100,000 domestic cinema admissions. By Filipp Kruusvall


saw a breakthrough both for World Rally Championship racer Ott Tänak and a documentary Ott Tänak. The Movie. The young and talented Tänak became one of the most admired drivers of the motor-sports world. The documentary that depicts his dramatic and curvy path to become one of the best racers in the world was a real record-breaker in Estonian cinemas with an incredible 95,000 admissions. It has been on the screens for almost six months and can now be seen online at VOD platform Karlovy Vary winner Immortal is a visually impressive and ultimately cine-



matic film that explores the themes of ideology, an oppressive system and imperceptible lack of freedom in the Russian mining town of Apatity. Immortal continues its triumphal march and has been selected for Sarajevo, Viennale, Bosphorus Film Festival and many other festivals to come. It was selected by the IDFA Best of Fests section as well. Immortal was awarded Grand Prix at Artdocfest/Riga and is the winner of the International Competition of the 26th edition of the Astra Film Festival. Immortal is also submitted for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and it’s the first time that Esto-

nia will be represented by a documentary feature. The Estonian premiere of Immortal will be in November at the Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn. PÖFF is one of the biggest film festivals in Northern Europe and this year it has three Estonian documentaries in the Baltic Film Competition programme. It includes the world premiere of Prazdnik, a new title by the director of Anthill, Vladimir Loginov, and cinematographer Max Golomidov. It’s a story about a beauty contest and Ukrainian-themed ethnographic fair in the suburbs of Tallinn. The event is full of enchanting absurdity and life in all its vividness, variety, and unpredictability. It’s a thrilling combination of distinctive black-and-white camera work from Max Golomidov and a reincarnation of Nikolai Gogol’s story The Fair at Sorochyntsi. The third selected Estonian documentary in the PÖFF programme is In Bed with a Writer. Director of the film Manfred Vainokivi was previously at the IDFA Competition for Mid-Length Docu-

In Bed With a Writer

The Circle

Ott Tänak. The Movie

Estonian docs had more than 100,000 domestic cinema admissions

My Father, the Spy


mentaries with his historical reconstruction Stealing Socialism. His new title In Bed with a Writer is a sensitive, honest and delicately staged story of middle-aged Estonian writer Peeter Sauter. A melancholic outsider, he is longing for love and feels a kinship with Charles Bukowski. The world premiere of In Bed with a Writer was at Dok Leipzig where it was selected for the International competition. The 23rd Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival had the world premiere of The Circle in the Between the Seas section. The director of the film

Margit Lillak, over four years, observed the establishment of an eco-community in the centre of Estonia. Twelve adults and six children began to live beyond the traditional social order. It’s a unique journey full of enthusiasm and illusions, idyllic rural life and dramatic conflicts. The ideals of an environmentally friendly and socially sustainable community are challenged by a love triangle and the struggle for power. My Father, the Spy, directed by Estonian director Jaak Kilmi and Gints Grube (co-director and producer) from Latvia,

premiered at prestigious Sheffield Doc­ Fest in June. The short documentaries can’t go unmentioned either. Aljona Surzhikova’s very personal and tragic story Waiting for a Miracle has been in the HotDocs short competition. It’s also been selected for Fike Évora, Asiana, PLONS International Short Documentary Film Festivals and Riga International Film Festival. Waiting for Miracle received The Special Mention from The Silver Eye Award 2019. Waiting for a Miracle is also selected for the Black Nights film festival short films competition. The short documentary The Weight of All the Beauty has won every possible prize from Estonia. Director Eeva Mägi got the best young documentary filmmaker award at DocPoint Tallinn and the best Estonian documentary prize at Pärnu film festival. Now it has also been selected for the Galway Film Festival and Dok Leipzig international short film programme. EF ESTONIAN FILM





Moving Pictures... & People Maria Ulfsak interviewed Marge Liiske, Head of Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event. Photos by Virge Viertek


arge, tell me a little about your background – the film circles knew you as the former director of the Estonian Film Foundation, then as the head of Baltic Event, and now at the helm of the whole PÖFF (Black Night Film Festival) Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event programme. What was your path to the film world?

My path to the film world was not intentional, but rather I just moved through life towards the places where opportunity, passion and curiosity took me. It all started in Riga where I was studying French language and literature. Our French professor brought French classics on 16mm for us to watch together every week. That was my absolute Carné, Godard, Bressson and Truffaut period – I can’t count the number of times I’ve now seen Pierrot le Fou, Breathless, Mouchette, Jules and Jim and so on. After that, I started doing simultaneous translations into Russian or Latvian for French films at cinemas in Riga. It was mostly guerilla-style, in peripheral cinemas, with old film strips with a worn soundtrack and not always the chance to pre-watch the films so you often saw them for the first time at the screening and did what you could. It took insane amounts of courage for a second-year student, but I told myself that at least I understood more than the average viewer and I was doing my best. After that, I became an audience member at Riga’s particularly progressive Arsenals Film Festival (in 1988, filmmakers like Vera Chytilova, Jos Stelling, Raoul Ruiz, Miloš Forman or Chen Kaige didn’t exactly screen often at other cinemas) – and I was sold on the world of film. The following year, I was already the organizer of that festival (and many other nouveau cinema and music events). I did my thesis in 1991 on the semiotics in Godard’s Prenom Carmen, followed

by the work at the French Cultural Center, studies in cultural policy and management in Paris, work at the Estonian Film Foundation. And I’m still stuck to those moving pictures today. PÖFF is giant and Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event also encompasses a lot of events. Please explain why it was created in Tallinn and what are its primary goals.

PÖFF truly has grown, especially since it gained A-class festival status, and so has the industry side of the festival. Every successful festival needs an industry programme; it’s just not possible to have one nowadays without one. Looking back in time a little, the PÖFF film industry platform was created by Riina Sildos, who organized the first showcase of Baltic films (Works in Progress and Screenings) and called it Baltic Event. In 2005, they held the first Co-Production Market and, in 2010, PÖFF started it’s conference programme Industry@Tallinn. From 2016, we’ve been working under a joint platform as Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event as both programmes have a strong brand and are well known to people all over the world. Our main goal is to promote the audiovisual industry in the region by bringing strong professionals to Tallinn from all around the world, encouraging communication and the exchange of knowledge and ideas. Last year, we had nearly 550 guests from 49 different countries, which made for a great mix! We want to bring people together from different parts of the world, try to help good projects get made, promote education for youth and join the dialogue on the future of not only the film industry but the audiovisual one at large. In other words, from the general to the individual and vice versa. ESTONIAN FILM


IN FOCUS Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event also includes Creative Gate and Talent Labs. What do those programmes include and who they are targeted towards?

It’s hard to grasp everything that happens in Tallinn at one glance so we have divided our events into different structural blocks: trainings, workshops and project development are Talent Labs, Creative Gate is a development centre for creative industry, the film project market is our Market and the conference programme is Conferences & Talks. Since 2012, the Industry programme has included Music Meets Film, which works with soundtracks. In 2017, we added events for film actors, costume and production designers. And this year we will add events for photographers, films by artists and we will try to bring a lot of different talent agencies to Tallinn to allow our professionals to meet them and exchange contacts and info. Under Talent Labs, we offer development and training opportunities for projects and professionals in the form of workshops and master classes. The Market contains a co-production market, a presentation of works in progress and short films. And the Conference programme includes the European Film Forum, organized in cooperation with the European Commission, panel discussions, and the TV Beats Forum dedicated to television production. Our goal is to create a system where every film professional can find something informative and useful. In addition to the film industry, will the Tallinn programme also emphasize TV projects, which seems to be a growing trend at all the largest film markets in the world?

In 2017, the PÖFF TV series programme TV Beats featured the gala premieres of two episodes from the German TV series Babylon-Berlin (dir. Tom Tykwer, Henk Handloegten, Achim von Borries), which ended up being very popular. With the increasing number of connections between the film and television industries, the 2018 Industry programme also featured its first TV industry conference day called TV Beats Forum. This year, the TV Beats Forum is a two-day event that includes interesting presentations, case studies, workshops and other events centered around the television and drama series industry. The goal, of course, being to promote the regional TV industry (and here I mean the region at large - in addition to the Baltic countries, we are directed towards all the Baltic Sea countries, including the Nordic countries, Russia and Ukraine). And, who knows, maybe we will soon see the first drama series co-production market in Tallinn. Which parts of the busy Industry programme do you consider the most important? What would you name or stress as the strongest “sales points” that attract the international industry to Tallinn?

We are one of the largest year-end film events in the world, taking place place at a time when people have worked so hard on projects since January to get them



SUCCESS STORIES THAT GOT STARTED IN TALLINN 7 “There have been a lot of them during our 15 years of activity so I can in no way name them all. I will give a few examples from the last few years. The 2015 Co-Production Market included the project Directions (dir. Stephan Komandarev, Bulgaria), which premiered in the 2017 Cannes Un Certain Regard programme and won the Director’s prize there. The 2019 Cannes Un Certain Regard programme also included a 2017 market project - Homeward (dir. Nariman Alijev, Ukraine). The winner of our 2018 Works in Progress programme Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (dir. J.-P. Valkeapää, Finland) screened in the 2019 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight programme. And the most recent news, the winner of the 2017 script competition Script Pool, The Sky is Pink (dir. Shonali Bose, India) just recently premiered at the Toronto IFF. It would take a few pages to list all our projects that have been to Berlin, Karlovy Vary, Toronto and other festivals, and we were only giving a little help on their way to success made entirely by themselves.” 7 “I’m also very happy when a project starts in the script development programme or Co-Production Market and later moves through the Works in Progress and on to screen in a PÖFF competition programme - we must remember that Tallinn is an A-category festival just like Berlin or Cannes, and screening your film in competition here is a big success. An example of a film that went through that process recently was As I Fall (Magnus Meyer Arnesen, Norway): 2016 Co-Production Market, 2017 Works in Progress, 2018 PÖFF Debut Film Competition Programme.” 7 “And all the films that have been wildly successful with audiences, sold for cinema and TV release in dozens of countries or screened at the many other festivals around the world. We are very happy and thankful for all of those projects and their choice of starting their journey in Tallinn.”

to get them made, sold and distributed. They need a chance to catch their breath until the following February when the Berlinale market starts the ball rolling all over again. So even though our goal is for successful cooperation and contracts to be signed in Tallinn (or the groundwork to be laid for those contracts to later be signed in Berlin or Cannes), we are equally enthusiastic about giving professionals a chance for personal and human communication, which is the basis for all of the future work that they do. If you don’t find common ground with your partner on a personal level, the result can be catastrophic. And we can still offer that with both our day time and evening events where we bring together the guests of the festival and industry programmes to create an even bigger synergy between the professionals. It’s not unusual for a filmmaker who took part in the industry programme with a project to screen it at PÖFF later, or for a festival guest screening a film at the festival to like it here so much that they want to come and develop their next project with us. We really want people to leave with new information and interesting cooperation projects just as much as with new contacts and a good mood, which will help them make new projects and successful films that they can enthusiastically bring back to Tallinn. There


IN FOCUS I don’t actually like to be a so-called leader and prefer to work on a horizontal level with equal partners. Photo by Aron Urb

people, you sometimes have to do everything. I suppose it’s pathological that I like to watch films in my free time as well, but also to talk to good friends and read. Adrenaline-fueled hobbies tend to stay in my past. Life is tense enough that I prefer avoiding stress in my free time.

Time at festivals seems to go more and more to meetings, panels and other such events, leaving very little time to watch films. When you do get the chance, what kind of films do you like to watch?

I like directors whose films give me a chance to see a unique, identifiable style and a fascinating world. Even the best don’t always shoot a ten but here’s a list of the directors whose work I try to keep up with - Lars von Trier, Andrei Zvjagintsev, Yorgos Lanthimos, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmush, Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Woody Allen, Christopher Nolan, Thomas Vinterberg, Ruben Östlund, Sergei Loznitsa, Park Chan Wook, Kim Ki-duk, Asghar Farhadi, Nuri Bilge Ceylan... The list definitely goes on and many of them are already classics. It’s too bad that Béla Tarr doesn’t make films anymore and that Aki Kaurismäki and Jean-Luc Godard’s last films were made years ago, or they would definitely be on my watch list as well. Thousands of films screen every year, bringing exciting, new directors into the limelight. I’ve had a positive experience with our Nordic neighbours recently with films by Grimur Hakonarson, Benedikt Erlingsson, Juho Kuosmanen, Ali Abbasi, and, most recently, Mae el-Toukhy, as well as Russians Ivan Tverdovski, Kantemir Balagov, and Israel’s Nadav Lapid - in other words, the sun would set before I can finish the list of all the films that have surprised me or shown me something new. The job at the head of a large organization can be very stressful. How do you relax and get away from work? What do you like to do in your free time?

Our organization isn’t necessarily that big but maybe that is what makes it stressful. With a small number of



Maciej Szymanowicz, Policy Officer, MEDIA Support Programmemes; Jörgen Grent Director for “Resources” In DGT (Directorate General for Translation) and Marge Liiske.

What kind of a leader are you?

It’s very important to me that the people I work with feel good. I’m the same way as a leader and as a person: democratic, respectful, patient. A leader’s job is to put together a team of people who work well together. If that´s not the case, the leader must have made a mistake - either with the description of the assignment and expected results or by choosing someone who doesn’t fit the assignment, so there’s no point in getting upset with an employee when you should really be looking in the mirror. Fortunately, people working in our field aren’t doing it because they have nowhere else to go. Our project-based colleagues join our team out of interest and calling more than obligation, which makes it easy for our team to work well together. Of my negative sides, I would say that I’m a hopeless perfectionist and always seeking clarity, making it difficult for me to tolerate routine activities. This often tends to mean that deadlines for responses and submissions get moved around and I’m not too happy about that. I don’t actually like to be a so-called leader and prefer to work on a horizontal level with equal partners. The classical superior-subordinate relationship makes me feel uncomfortable because I don’t like being commanding and forceful and I try to avoid conflict at all cost. I like it when my colleagues know more than me about their field and are able to handle their assignments independently. This makes it my job to set our overall goals and coordinate our activities, which result in the events you can all enjoy in Tallinn from November 25-29. EF Photo by Erlend Štaub

really can be no better argument for visiting our cold, dark, muddy November than a quality film industry programme, professional contacts and our vibrant, wintry Tallinn.

Marge at the Industry@ Tallinn & BE award ceremony.

Photo by Hannele Majaniemi

FUNDS Finnish hit series All the Sins commissioned its opening season post-production services from Estonia. On the set of Erna at War.

a Unique


Photo by Karl Andres Vaikla

Much More Than

During a time where people have proved to be the biggest asset, the Estonian film industry has shown itself to be a professional and reliable partner in big international projects. By Nele Paves


ilm Estonia’s cash rebate programme, that took off three years ago, is testament to a growing interest in Estonia as a film region. This can also be seen in the statistics, this year, Film Estonia has accepted just as many applications as all previous years put together. Estonia has become a valuable partner, a place to bring bigger projects to, and stay for longer shooting periods. Diversity is one of the reasons that attracts international film projects. The first big international production to use Tallinn and its various locations was Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film Tenet. Estonian manor houses proved to be the perfect fit for Antti Jokinen’s historical drama Helene. Henrik Ruben Genzi went to shoot his epic feature Erna at War in Tartu and Southern Estonia. What makes Estonia much more

than just a location are the qualified people that give a seal of quality to the experience. International production companies value the skills, work ethic and imagination of Estonian professionals, as much as their quick thinking and smart solutions. A wide range of different Estonian filmmakers took part in the 2019 big productions, from gaffers to production designers. Film Estonia’s cash rebate has cultivated a profitable area to include production designers in international projects. Both the Finns, with their feature Helene, and the Danes, with Erna at War, have made use of Estonians’ artistic talent - art directors Jaagup Roomet and Matis Mäesalu, costume designers Eugen Tamberg and Pille Küngas, make-up artist Kaire Hen-

Zaida Bergroth’s Maria’s Paradise is an Estonian-Finnish co-production set in 1920s Finland and shot almost entirely in Estonia.

drikson and composer Mihkel Zilmer are all part of the films’ key crews. The opportunities offered by the cash rebate can also be used exclusively in the final phase of production, and a growing number of projects are beginning to use Estonian professionals in post-production. One such success story is the Finnish hit series All the Sins, that commissioned its opening season post-production services from Estonia (editor Tambet Tasuja, VFX Andres Kluge). Fruitful collaboration and professionalism is evident, as the Estonian team will also continue working on the show’s second season. Film Estonia cash rebate is a production incentive supporting the incoming production of feature films, feature documentaries, animation films, animation series, high-end TV-drama and the post-production of all beforementioned works. An application can be made for international production services or co-production to receive a cash rebate up to 30% on eligible production costs. EF ESTONIAN FILM



Truth and Justice

Erna at War

Brought International Stars to Estonia

The largest city in Southern Estonia, Tartu, and its surroundings were the shooting locations for the Danish, Belgian, Estonian co-production Erna at War (Erna i krig) in the August and September of 2019, bringing a top notch crew and well-known filmmakers to Estonia. By Maria Ulfsak Photos by Karl Anders Vaikla


he shooting period in Southern Estonia lasted 18 days and subsequent shooting took place for eight days in Belgium and two days in Denmark. The film will be completed in the Autumn of 2020. The overall budget of the project is 5 million euros with an Estonian contribution of 1.4 million euros. Ruben Genz’s (Oscar nominee with his 2000 short film Theis and Nico) film stars the acclaimed Danish actors Trine Dyrholm (Queen of Hearts) and Ulrich Thomsen (In a Better World). Erna at War tells the story of a brave woman who lived in Denmark’s Jutland during the First World War. Her quest to protect her son puts her on the difficult journey from Denmark, through Germany, to the front in France. The film’s screenwriters are Henrik Ruben Genz and Bo Hr. Hansen. Estonian co-producer Margus Õunapuu



says he was particularly drawn to the project from the beginning because of its strong script. “It’s a very good script – the genre might be described as an intimate, art house war drama. Young, 15-year-old Estonian talent Aksel Ojari plays in a supporting role and has a whopping 22 shooting days. Also, most of the shooting crew will also work on the shoot in Belgium and Denmark,” Õunapuu told Estonian Film. Erma at War’s production designer is Jette Lehmann who was also the production designer for Lars von Trier’s film Melancholy, for which she received a European Film Award. The Estonian set designer is also award-winning Matis Mäesalu. The film’s main production company, Nimbus Film, is one of the most progressive and successful production companies in Scandinavia with over 50 feature films under its belt. The head producers of Erna at War are Birgitte Hald and Nynne

Selin Eidnes, the Estonian co-producers are Esko Rips and Margus Õunapuu from Nafta Films and the Belgian co-producer is Sébastien Delloye of Entre Chien et Loup. Erna at War has received support from the Danish Film Institute, TV2 Denmark, FilmFyn, TV4, Estonian Film Institute’s minority co-production grant and Film Estonia cash rebate incentive, Wallimage and Creative Europe MEDIA, among other source. One of the partners for Erna at War is the Tartu Film Fund, which has the goal of bringing both Estonian and international film projects and investments to Tartu to help enliven the local economic climate and promote tourism. One of the priorities of the Tartu Centre for Creative Industries is promoting the film industry and the long-term goal of building a film sound stage in Tartu. EF

Evelin Võigemast (37) has roles in two Estonian films that will screen in the Black Nights Film Festival Estonian Film Competition - The Man Who Looks Like Me and The End of the Chain. Evelin is one of the most popular actresses in Estonia.

Kids Night By Maria Ulfsak Photos by Krõõt Tarkmeel

of the

Priit Pääsuke, director of The End of the Chain that premiered two years ago in Karlovy Vary IFF, is working on his second feature, a youth comedy called Kids of the Night. The shooting period took place in Tallinn from July till September 2019 and the film will reach cinemas in 2020. By Maria Ulfsak


ids of the Night is the second feature film for producer Mari­anne Ostrat and the second collaboration with director Priit Pääsuke after The End of the Chain. “It’s a light-hearted, amusing and uplifting youth comedy about three sisters, who go through a series of events and mishaps during one summer night in Tallinn that shapes them as women. I love the drive, humour and youthful energy in this script and project - it’s definitely the most audience-friendly film I have produced so far. Girls and women are central to Kids of The Night, but at its core the film is about navigating life and relationships, and growing up through this process,” said Ostrat. According to the producer, the first spark of inspiration for Kids of the Night came from 1980’s American teenage comedies. Since Kids of the Night takes place during one summer night, the majority of the shoot took place at night. “Summers are short in Estonia and therefore the shooting period

was pretty intense. My main concern was how well the crew will survive and how to support them best with an emotionally and psychologically healthy working environment. But working mostly at night, when everybody else is asleep, was also magical and created a very special atmosphere. 50% of the cast and crew of Kids of the Night are women, and there was a wonderful feeling of sisterhood, camaraderie and mutual support amongst the fe-

Young stars of Kids on the Night: Miika Pihlak (Raigo) ja Alice Siil (Jane).

male cast and crew members on the set. I believe eventually the whole crew and project benefited from this balance - including the men,” added Ostrat. The screenplay of Kids of the Night was written by Ewert Kiwi and co-written by Mart Raun, who is also the cinematographer of the film. The main roles are played by Grete Konksi, Alice Siil, Piret Krumm, Mart Müürisepp, Jaune Kimmel, Amanda Hermiine Künnapas, Peeter Oja and Laine Mägi. The project received 60,000 euros from the Estonian Film Institute and 60,000 euros from the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, and there are several additional supporters, such as High Voltage Tallinn, involved in the production. ACME will distribute the film in the Baltics. EF




Black Nights, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival aka PÖFF is entering its 23rd edition with a series of acknowledgements that have warmed the hearts of team members: first the honorary recognition from the Foreign Ministry of Japan for the sustained promotion of Japanese cinema. In addition, PÖFF was highlighted as the key cultural event that has put Tallinn on the cultural map of Europe, resulting in the city being picked as one of the 50 most creative cities according to the European Commission’s analysis. By Hannes Aava


ut accepting honours aside, the Black Nights team has a busy year behind them, lobbying to be included in the restoration project of the Soviet-era cultural palace Linnahall with the hope of getting a screening hub for the ceremonial screenings of the festival, and putting together a record-breaking programme in terms of premieres and attending filmmakers. The Official Selection – Competition, the festival’s premier competition, will in-



clude 21 films from established creative talents, many of whom have been regulars in the programmes of some of the top festivals in the world. The selection includes Coming Home Again by the winner of the Berlin Silver Bear – Best Director (for Smoke, 1995) and San Sebastian’s Golden Shell (A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, 2007) Wayne Wang. Also Gutterbee, the second feature by Ulrich Thomsen who starred in several of Thomas Vinterberg’s best-known films, and When the Moon Was Full, the latest striking film by Irani-

an director Narges Abyar, who won the Best Director award at Black Nights in 2016 with her film, later selected as Iran’s Academy Award candidate in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The First Feature competition will present the feature debut of talented emerging artistic voices from four continents, presenting nine world premieres in the selection. PÖFF has also upgraded Rebels With A Cause which showcases experimental film-making and bold artistic statements from all over the world, pushing the boundaries of film. The programme will have a jury of international professionals selecting their favourite rebel in the programme. FROM HOT SERIES TO RENOWNED MASTERS

The Lifetime Achievement Award of the festival will be presented to Russian auteur Andrei Konchalovsky. His colourful career spans over six decades and includes films ranging from festivals’ favourite author films to Hollywood blockbusters and a fantasy series. Koncha­ lovsky has been a regular in the Official

Photo by Ahto Sooaru

The Opening Ceremony of Black Nights Film Festival 2018.

Photo by Erlend Štaub

Bright Screens

Director Narges Abyar (on the left) returns to the festival after winning the Best Director award in 2016.

Selections of Cannes and Venice. At Black Nights he will be presenting his latest film Sin, a biopic of the Renaissance artist Michelangelo. Another special screening is Robert Eggers’ horror masterpiece The Lighthouse that features stellar roles by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe. It will most likely be one of the few chances to see the film on the big screen in Estonia, and one biggest screens of them all – the ISense in Coca-Cola Plaza multiplex cinema. The TV Beats, screening new hot series, has also seen significant expansion, showcasing seven series. Among them, we find a special screening of Call Centre, the new Russian series created by the directing duo Aleksey Chupov and Natasha Merkulova. They return to the festival after last year’s The Man Who Surprised Everyone, that had a stellar run on the global festival circuit following its addition to the Official Selection in Venice. The programme also includes the world premieres of two Estonian series, The Traitor funded by the telco Elisa and Burning Land, a creation of the Estonian National Broadcasting.


Every year, Black Nights selects a country or region of focus, putting a spotlight on its cinematic output and culture. In 2019 this region is Arabia, and 2019 will see 15 feature films (11 narrative and 4 documentaries) covering the last 10 years of Arab filmmaking inside of the Arab countries and the diaspora, screening films from Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and UAE. Among the films, we find Elia Suleiman’s contemporary classic The Time That Remains, Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu, and Maryam Touzani’s Adam is the fresh hit that will open the festival. 2019 will also see a historic moment as Black Nights adds a third side-festival to the Tartu Love Film Festival and the Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival. The festival is called KinoFF and it will be screening mostly Russian and Slavic cinema in Eastern Estonia. The festival’s first edition is taking place in Narva (from the 15th until the 17th of November) and Kohtla-Järve (from the 22nd until the 24th of November). EF ESTONIAN FILM


Photo by Black Night Film Festival

TALENT EVENT Baltic Event Co-Production Market is a meeting-place for feature films in development looking for co-producers, financiers and sales agents.

Photo by Saara Mildeberg

Industry@Tallinn @Baltic Event has plenty of networking opportunities.


& Baltic Event One of the largest film events in North-East Europe, the Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event takes place November 25 – 29, offering a quality film industry programme bringing together a pool of professionals from over 50 countries. By Egle Loor




scriptwriters and supporting them to enhance their scripts to maximise the chances of getting them produced. The 2019 event discovers new voices and talents from all over the world. In addition, scripts for TV and drama series are also invited to take part in the initiative. Baltic Event Co-Production Market celebrates its 18th edition by welcoming promising debutants as well as industry heavyweights, with stories ranging from raw personal traumas to mind-bending Photo by Erlend Štaub

his year’s main focus is on Ireland from where several projects will be presented in the market programmes. Tallinn is also presenting a spotlight on Argentina since the country just joined Eurimages. As usual, the summit’s five-day programme has a lot to offer. The new series programme TV Beats, taking place for the second consecutive year, provides a comprehensive overview of industry trends and offers a range of masterclasses for local producers and screenwriters. This year’s program includes a report on the latest global drama trends, providing useful production know-how on international co-productions through case studies on HBO’s Chernobyl and The Feed by Amazon, as well as successful Finnish-Estonian co-produced crime drama series All the Sins. Storytelling initiative Script Pool Tallinn holds its third edition with the aim of gathering talented

Winners celebrating their succces at Industry@ Tallinn and Baltic Event Award Night 2018.

thrillers, and presents 18 projects from around the globe including three from the Baltic States. Music Meets Film taking place for the 8th time brings together industry professionals sharing their insights on current trends in film scoring and how the film music industry operates through talks, mentorship sessions and open panels. Black Night Stars and Black Catwalk, taking place for the third year, will focus on helping professional actors and costume and fashion designers find their way on to the international scene to showcase their talent. During the summit, European Film Forum Tallinn 2019: Industry (R) Evolution: Debating Tech, Streaming, and Future Talent for European Cinema takes place with executive-level debates, case studies, and showcases on the most pressing topics for the European film, television, and content industry. The event tackles questions such as the latest opportunities and threats of Artificial Intelligence, how European film tech startups are making a dent in content curation & personalization, how to achieve gender diversity, and help in managing festivals and film productions more effectively, etc. Innovation is also tackled by the Demystifying VR workshop for young audiovisual professionals. Check out the full programme of Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event and ticket information on the website EF

25 - 29 NOV, 2019


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Difficult to Speak, Difficult to Remain Silent Martti Helde, in his debut feature In the Crossroads and his theatre production of The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, has proved himself a visual storyteller. Meticulous attention to visuals is also the main draw of his latest work Scandinavian Silence, shot in black and white and with mostly only two actors.


here’s not much in terms of story or action – the movie runs for a modest 75 minutes, less than half of Truth and Justice, premiered at roughly the same time –, but the plot is not so easy to summarise. A man (Reimo Sagor) walks on the side of a wintery road until a passing car picks him up. It becomes immediately apparent that the man and the woman driving (Rea Lest) share a common past, but who they are exactly, what happened, or where they are heading to, will only become clear over time, through scarce dialogue and cryptic allusions. The straightforward title betrays the motifs of the film both in terms of style and substance. The northern feel is emphasized through the snowy forests and fields, given



ample time to marvel at during long drone shots. Although Helde doesn’t boil the tension up to a genre-thriller, it would be easy to imagine the film as one of the many Scandinavian noirs, so popular during the past decade. The black and white visuals, at the same time, conjure a timeless feel for the film, shying away from clear specifics in terms of time and space. Silence and how difficult it might be to break, seem to be what’s on the author’s mind. Words and sounds – with the fittingly minimalist and gentle score composed by Mick Pedaja – are measured well. In its gentle way the film tries to articulate what its protagonists aren’t able to and what always remains between the words chosen through pain. Almost the entirety of Scandinavian Silence takes place in a sin-

Scandinavian Silence

Ink Big! The critics have done their job

By Andrei Liimets First published in Postimees gle car, bringing to mind Steven Knight’s thriller Locke, starring Tom Hardy in a mesmerizing solo role. It’s probably not much of a spoiler to say that Helde’s film pro-

vides multiple versions of the same journey. First one character gets to speak, then the other, then both of them. Thesis, antithesis, finally synthesis. A minimum of dialogue and a constrained space do not provide the actors with much to express themselves – they mostly have to rely on facial expressions, scant

body language and subtle reactions. Luckily both of the leads are perfectly cast. There aren’t many that could aspire to star status in terms of the small scale of the Estonian film industry, but Reimo Sagor and Rea Lest could have a valid claim. Known mostly from the theatre stage, Sagor made his breakthrough on the big screen with Liina Trishkina-Vanhatalo’s Take It or Leave It, gathering praise from multiple film festivals. He is a perfect mixture of a certain crudeness and inability to express himself, while also hinting at a plethora of emotions underneath. Rea Lest, also with a background in theatre, exploded onto the film scene in Rainer Sarnet’s November as well as multiple roles in The Manslayer / The Virgin / The Shadow by Sulev Keedus. In February she was chosen for the Shooting Stars programme at the Berlinale, the launchpad for such renowned

actors as Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Alicia Vikander. Lest is reminiscent of the American film star Kristen Stewart, mostly in terms of her physical appearance as well as a certain cautiousness. With her slightly panicky looks and nervy gestures betraying infernal conflicts, Lest just might be the stronger actress.

Helde developed the film with a budget of 400,000 euros, modest even by the local standards. Due to the intentionally minimalist concept, the relative cheapness never shows. Only the dialogue becomes a bit difficult on the ear, with not even the strength of the two leads able to save it from becoming mechanical, unnatural, even theatrical at times considering the overall constraint of the film. The script was written by Helde and Nathaniel Price and as often happens with Estonian films, some of the monologues tend to be overlong, as well as the silences between them. At times it begs the question: do people really talk in such a way, even if they have difficulty speaking?

Scandinavian Silence is a stylish black and white psychological drama directed by Martti Helde.

Textual sparseness causes the rhythm of the film to become so unhurried, that considering the overall loudness of many modern films, the attention may be excused for starting to wander a bit. This might be more of a note to the viewer, not the author. Scandinavian Silence is wrapped in a mystique which is difficult to verbalize, emphasized by the aforementioned inability or unwillingness to articlate and explain every-thing to the moviegoer. Although the aerial shots by DoPs Erik Põllumaa and Sten-Johan Lill start to repeat themselves a bit, they also provide the film with a bewitching aura. Scandinavian Silence excels not as a linear realistic narrative, but rather as a visual poem about a journey, the trauma that binds people and the difficulties in finding a shared language to express it. It is entirely possible some viewers might find it all a bit too meandering and vacuous, but given a calm and open mind, it might be as simple to drown in the film and find oneself there long after the end of the screening. With Helde being only 31 years old, it’s worth remembering that the directors behind almost all of the best Estonian films from the past years are in their thirties. Even though here in the cold and gloomy north we might often be unable to find the right words, our language of film, both now and in the future, is in very capable hands. EF

Helde’s film provides multiple versions of the same journey.




Truth, Justice & an Outsider’s Affection for Estonia As a poet, words are the main way I process my experiences. When I visit a new country, bookshops are among my first stops. Even if all I can find are English translations, the poetry and fiction of a place help me to get under its skin and feel the rhythm of its heartbeat.


hen I spent six weeks in Estonia, conducting research for my PhD on digital government, I found much to love – frozen waterfalls, sunset walks in Kadriorg park, how buckwheat is a powerful winter grain given its low glycemic index, and the wonderful acidic sweetness of sea buckthorn soda. Serendipitously, my visit coincided with the release of Truth and Justice directed by Tanel Toom, a film dramatization of A. H. Tammsaare’s similarly titled five-part series of novels. The film broke multi-



ple Estonian box office records. All Estonians study the series at some point in their education, usually after the age of 13 when they can start grappling with the novels’ weighty themes. Tammsaare’s work is justifiably seen as the quintessential Estonian novel – though it is also a philosophical and cultural treatise. It follows the story of Andres, a man whose married life on a new farm, in an area called Robber’s Rise, begins full of hope and optimism but is gradually battered down and involves increasingly questionable personal decisions.

* The author is a Singa­porean poet and policymaker.

Ink Big! The critics have done their job

Truth and Justice By Aaron Maniam* First published in Eesti Päevaleht

The landscape seemed not just to come alive, but to be a character in its own right.

I felt utterly spent after the film. Along with several others in the cinema, I simply stared at the screen, bereft of words as I ignored the rolling credits and pondered what I had seen. Andres had all the makings of a Greek tragic hero, complete with a tragic flaw – an unbending belief in “truth and justice” that made him easy prey for manipulation by his neighbour Pearu. But his story also had all the features of a Shakespearean tragedy – including the same relentless malevolence that whispers to Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet and King Lear, invisible yet actively shaping events, whether in the form of the three witches or something, unnamed, “rotten … in the state of Denmark”. Andres also reminded me of Thomas Hardy’s antiheroes, all rolled into one: like Thomas Henchard, Clym Yeobright and Jude Fawley, he is a “fettered god … of the earth”, trying his best to make ends meet despite choices cruelly circumscribed by poor luck. I was also struck by the role of the film’s landscape: shot and por-

trayed with loving, exquisite detail. The sweep and scale of history, as well as the inexorable passage of time, came vividly alive in panning shots interspersed throughout the film, each several minutes long. At several points the landscape seemed not just to come alive, but to be a character in its own right, driving the storyline and characters without speech, but with nonetheless steady and deliberate force. The winter scenes were particularly powerful, with endless ice and furious snowstorms capturing the harsh conditions against which Andres and his fellow characters’ lives are played out. These scenes brought to mind the echoing sorrow of Evelyn Waugh’s novella “Ethan Frome” – equally tragic and set against a similarly icy, bitter natural world. Some might think that I mention these examples of world literature because I think Tammsaare’s masterpiece can only be evaluated

Truth and Justice follows the story of Andres, who gets married and starts a new life in a farm called Robbers Rise.

against an Anglophone canon. Nothing could be less true. The inadequacies are mine rather than his – my prior exposure has been mostly to literature of the English-speaking world, which has become the primary lens through which I view other great works. Imperfect as this approach may be, it has meant one thing: I can recognize greatness when I see it, and I have little doubt that Truth and Justice ranks right up

The epic Truth and Justice includes several tragic love stories.

there with the best of the greats. In 2 hours 45 minutes, it taught me a great deal about the subtlety and nuances of the Estonian worldview. In particular, I was humbled to see the origin of the phrase I had already heard quoted by my research interviewees as an explanation for the success of Estonian e-governance: “Work hard, and love will come”. I hope to learn more about this phrase and its deep underpinning narratives on subsequent visits, even as I learn the many other uses of sea buckthorn in a place of which I grow more fond, every day. EF ESTONIAN FILM



Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway Spain’s Miguel Llansó pays homage to the afrofuturism of Nollywood cinema with his extraordinary science-fiction satire on capitalism and the fear of artificial intelligence.


t’s the year 2035 and Tallinn has become a neon grey megacity which rarely sees the sun. Now controlled by artificial intelligence (the supercomputer Psychobook), the former capital of Estonia is attacked by the computer virus “Soviet Union”. In order to stop the creator of the virus – a man going by the name of General Stalin – the CIA assign the dreaded Operation Jungle mission to its best agents: Lieutenant Palmer Eldritch and his sidekick DT Ga-



gano. With no introduction to this science-fiction world, no explanation of how it was that artificial intelligence came to power, and no clarification on what this computer virus ultimately means for human beings, Miguel Llansó’s second feature film, presented in competition at the 19th Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival, opens onto a world of chaos. Staying ever true to his own particular style, the Estonia-based Spanish filmmaker invites intrepid audiences of Jesus Shows You the

Ink Big! The critics have done their job

Way to the Highway to dive into a narrative abyss leaving their parachutes behind. Indeed, from the very beginning of this frantic film, the action unfolds in the epicentre of a bizarre dystopian story which we will learn more about as the movie progresses. Both Llansó’s first (Crumbs) and second films are futurist road movies which begin with the image of a nigh-on anonymous hero – played, on both occasions, by the iconic Ethiopian actor Daniel Tadesse Gagano – who’s about to embark on a suicide mission. Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway – Llansó’s first English-language film – opens in a version of Tallinn which looks a lot like Blade Run-

Kung Fu masters introducing Stalin to the leader of Betta Ethiopia, Batfro.

ner’s Los Angeles. In this megacity, we grow familiar with the operational centre of the CIA, the apartment of DT Gagano (Tadesse) and his wife Malin (Gerda-Annette Allikas), the cabaret where she works and the gym where she practices kickboxing while her

Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway By Carlota Moseguí First published in Cineuropa

husband saves the world as a secret agent. But when Operation Jungle spins out of control and Tadesse’s mind falls prey to a virtual reality programme along the lines of the Wachowski sisters’ the Matrix, the director transfers the story to a hypothetical Ethiopia of the future. By delocalising the plot, Llansó reveals the afrofuturism that characterises his films, and this film in particular. The Madrid-born director, screenwriter and producer eschews traditional science-fiction whose superheroes and baddies are invariably played by Caucasian actors. Works such as his first feature Crumbs, as well as the present film and his earlier short film launched in Locarno, Chigger Ale, not only help to break down racist prejudice within the fantasy genre; they also pay homage to the Nollywood industry, which is promoted by the geographical delocalisation in the

Malin taking care of her husband, agent Gagano who is in coma.

This film helps to break down racist prejudice within the fantasy genre.

Reverend Roy convincing his followers to take the substance.

film, and highlight the attributes of the afro hero. Over the course of Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway, Tadesse turns into a sort of Ulysses who fights to escape the virtual reality programme in which his mind has become trapped so as to return to Itaca and meet the beautiful Penelope. But while he remains trapped in that strange place by the name of Betta Ethiopia, he will cross paths with imaginary characters inspired by the iconography of Nollywood B movies. Standing tall among these is the corrupt prime minister of Betta Ethiopia, Batfro (Solomon Tashe), who will soon become Tadesse’s worst enemy. And so, in order to escape the Matrix and find his wife, Tadesse must face this Afro Batman, a power-fixated and drug-obsessed kung-fu expert who’s making a secret deal with General Stalin. EF ESTONIAN FILM



Chasing Unicorns


hasing Unicorns follows a young startup entrepreneur Õie and a serial failure Tõnu on their crazy ride from small town Estonia to Silicon Valley — and back.

DIRECTOR RAIN RANNU is an Estonian technology entrepreneur, investor and filmmaker. He has written and directed the independent road-movie Chasing Ponies (2016) and the first Estonian narrative virtual reality short Beqaa VR (2018). Together with producer Tõnu Hiielaid, Rain is a founder of the indie movie company Tallifornia, focusing on fast-paced and fun author-driven movies for the international audiences.

FILM INFO Rain Rannu

Original title: Ükssarvik Genre: road-movie, comedy, drama Languages: English, Estonian Director: Rain Rannu Screenwriter: Rain Rannu Cinematographer: Ants Tammik Production Designer: Katrin Sipelgas Editors: Rain Rannu, Moonika Põdersalu Composer: Janek Murd Sound: Markus Andreas Main cast: Liisa Pulk, Henrik Kalmet, Johann Urb, Rogelio Douglas Jr. Producers: Rain Rannu, Tõnu Hiielaid Co-producer: Aet Laigu Produced by: Tallifornia Domestic premiere: September 13, 2019 108 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / Dolby 5.1 CONTACT Tallifornia E-mail:




Your Honor


he Judge (Mait Malmsten) is a man who represents strict rules and laws in the courtroom. However, his own personal life is an absolute mess. After the judge makes a decision to give a long prison sentence to a woman, the woman’s brother (Märt Avandi) starts following the judge to change his mind about the verdict. The judge stays adamant. The verdict is final. A conflict takes place between the men, resulting in the judge suddenly becoming a criminal himself. Unable to confess his crime, the judge escapes to Finland, where a series of comedic twists and turns lead him to a number of strange people and comical situations.

FILM INFO DIRECTOR ANDRES PUUSTUSMAA born on July 19, 1971 in Tallinn, graduated from the Tallinn State Conservatoire’s Department of Performing Arts in 1994. He then worked as an actor at the Estonian Drama Theatre until 2002. In 2002, Puustusmaa went on to study at the Higher Scriptwriting and Film Directing Course in Moscow. After graduation, he worked as a director at Lenfilm and Mosfilm. Since 2004, Andres Puustusmaa has been a lecturer in film and television at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. Selected filmography: 1814 (2007), Rat Trap (2011), Red Mercury (2011), Green Cats (2018), Your Honor (2019).

Original title: Kohtunik Genre: comedy, drama, crime Languages: Estonian, Finnish Director: Andres Puustusmaa Screenwriter: Andres Puustusmaa Cinematographer: Andrey Kulpin Editor: Andreas Lenk Composer: Priit Pajusaar Sound: Indrek Soe Main cast: Mait Malmsten, Märt Avandi Producer: Katerina Monastryskaya Produced by: Leo Production International premiere: June 2019, Shanghai IFF Festivals: Window to Europe, Warsaw IFF, Rome IFF 95 min / DCP / Scope / 5.1 CONTACT ACME Film Katre Valgma +372 53 023 005




Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway


pecial Agent DT Gagano dreams of leaving the CIA to open a business with his wife Malin. The night he’s about to present his resignation letter, a strange cyber virus attacks the agency’s operating system effectively sidetracking his plans. Traveling into virtual reality dimensions, Gagano and his partner will infiltrate the system to erad-

icate the virus. Things however, will not go as planned when the virus takes over the system and starts creating games to compete against itself, leaving the entire world’s stability in jeopardy. Are Gagano and the CIA peons in these sinister games? While the virus capabilities start reaching out into the real world, developing obscure and complex political plots, Gagano, trapped in the virtual reality must find a way to guarantee his escape and his survival only to discover that nothing is what it seems. DIRECTOR MIGUEL LLANSÓ born in Madrid, 1979. A big fan of experimental-punk-weird music and films, he

Miguel Llansó

studied philosophy and cinema before leaving on his many adventures, like Jean Rouch or Werner Herzog. For him, filmmaking is friendship, risk, provocation, subversion and freedom. Miguel has mainly filmed in Ethiopia, his second home. Where is my dog? and Chigger Ale - both made in collaboration with his friends Yohannes Feleke and Israel Seoane - premiered at Rotterdam International Film Festival and Locarno and screened at more than 50 international film festivals. Also Sundance, Milano, Brussels, Rio de Janeiro, Odense and many other film festivals have shown selections of his works. Crumbs (2015) - a post apocalyptic Afro-Futuristic adventure in Ethiopia - was Miguel’s feature film debut, premiering at Rotterdam IFF and screened at more than 100 film festivals worldwide. Crumbs is represented by New Europe Film Sales and was released theatrically in the U.S. and Spain. Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway (2019) is Miguel’s second feature film.

Original title: Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway / Jeesus näitab teed kiirteele Genre: sci-fi, thriller Language: English Director: Miguel Llansó Screenwriter: Miguel Llansó Cinematographers: Israel Seoane, Erik Põllumaa E.S.C., Michal Babinec Production Designer: Anna-Liisa Liiver VFX Design: Paddy Eason Editor: Velasco Broca Sound: Artis Dukalskis Main cast: Daniel Tadesse Gagano, Agustín Mateo, Guillermo Llansó, Gerda-Anette Allikas, Lauri Lagle, Iveta Pole, Solomon Tashe, Carlo Pironti, Rene Köster Producers: Meseret Argaw, Miguel Llansó, Kristjan Pütsep, Guna Stahovska, Daniel Taye Workou, Andy Starke, Cristian Nicolescu Produced by: Lanzadera Films (ES), Alasti Kino (EE), Mojo Raiser Production (LV), Rook Films (UK), Birabiro Films (Ethiopia) World premiere: July 7, 2019 Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival Festivals and awards: Fantasia FF Audience award, Monterrey FF, Helsinki IFF, Sitges FF, Chicago IFF, Trieste Science+Fiction Festival, Leeds IFF, Tallinn Black Nights FF, Gijon IFF 82 min / 2K / 1.85:1 / 5.1 Contact Lanzadera Films Sergio Uguet de Resayre Phone: +132 3251 0167 E-mail: ESTONIAN FILM



Maria’s Paradise 1920

’s. The charismatic preacher Maria Åkerblom and her devout followers are driven out of a small town and move to Helsinki, where the orphan teenager Salome is happy to be Maria’s new personal servant. Maria is soon captured and sentenced to prison for her crimes. Meanwhile, the tough street girl Malin joins the sect and forms a tight bond with Salome, but also challenges her views. After a daring escape, the ever more paranoid and dangerous Maria rejoins her followers. Salome is now torn between the new freedom she has found with Malin, and Maria’s violent, all-consuming love.

DIRECTOR ZAIDA BERGROTH is a Finnish film director, born in 1977. Her focus is often on wild family stories and complex, extreme characters. Her themes include the relationships between mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters. Drama films with a twist, psychological stories with larger-than-life genre elements.

FILM INFO Original title: Marian paratiisi / Maria paradiis Genre: suspense, drama Language: Finnish Director: Zaida Bergroth Screenwriters: Anna Viitala, Jan Forsström Cinematographer: Hena Blomberg Production Designer: Jaagup Roomet Editor: Samu Heikkilä Composers: Timo Kaukolampi, Tuomo Puranen Sound: Micke Nyström Main cast: Pihla Viitala, Satu Tuuli Karhu, Saga Sarkola, Tommi Korpela, Elina Knihtilä, Rein Oja Producers: Daniel Kuitunen, Kaisla Viitala Co-producers: Evelin Penttilä, Liisa Penttilä-Asikainen Produced by: Elokuvayhtiö Komeetta (Finland), Stellar Film (Estonia), Kaiho Republic (Finland) Domestic release: October 4, 2019, Finland Festivals: Toronto IFF 110 min / DCP / 2.35:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Elokuvayhtiö Komeetta Daniel Kuitunen Phone: +358 40 777 2880 E-mail:




Scandinavian Silence


film with three parts, two characters and one obsession: to prevent the past from taking over.

DIRECTOR MARTTI HELDE is a highly valued young author for his daring ideas and innovative approach to the form and film language. His creative handwriting is characterized by tying together complex and diverse mediums; as well as Helde’s passion to play with dramaturgy and form. Martti finished a BA degree in Film Directing at the Baltic Film and Media School. After film school Martti turned his interest towards the

Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (Higher Drama School) to acquire a Master’s degree in Stage Directing. Helde has also refined himself in screenwriting, dramaturgy and directing actors via completing various workshops in Berlin, Ankara, Los Angeles and London. His first feature length period drama In the Crosswind (2014) received a wide resonance in international media after premiering in Toronto IFF and its theatrical release in France (ARP Selection). To this day Martti Helde’s In the Crosswind has been screened in film festivals across the globe and won numerous awards.

Original title: Skandinaavia vaikus Genre: drama Languages: Estonian Director: Martti Helde Screenwriters: Nathaniel Price, Martti Helde Cinematographers: Erik Põllumaa E.S.C., Sten-Johan Lill E.S.C. Production Designer: Anneli Arusaar Editor: Jaak Ollino Jr. Composer: Mick Pedaja Sound: Matis Rei Main cast: Rea Lest, Reimo Sagor Producer: Elina Litvinova Co-producers: Laurent Petin, Michele Halbserstadt, Frederic de Goldschmidt Produced by: Three Brothers (Estonia), ARP Selection (France), Media International (Belgium) Domestic premiere: March 28, 2019 Festivals: Shanghai IFF, Karlovy Vary, HIFF – Love & Anarchy, European FF Palic, Cairo IFF, Thessaloniki IFF, CinEast FF, Alexandre Trauner ART/Film Festival, Nordic Film Days Lübeck, Riga IFF, Tallinn Black Nights FF, Goa IFF, Estonian Film Days in Berlin 75 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / Dolby Digital CONTACT Three Brothers Elina Litvinova Phone: +372 5691 3377 E-mail: SALES Three Brothers Elina Litvinova Phone: +372 5691 3377 E-mail: ARP Selection Eric Vicente




Truth and Justice


stonia, 1870. Young and staunch Andres along with his wife Krõõt arrive at a farm bought on a loan to establish their new life. Desolate and neglected between the marshes, Robber’s Rise must be transformed into a place that will take care of the family. All they have to do is to break the resistance of the barren land, make his neighbour cooperate, and raise an heir – a son to inherit his father’s life’s work. But when nature refuses to bend, the neighbour turns out to be a roughneck rival, and Krõõt keeps giving birth to daughters, Andres struggles to find the right way. In his desperate search for truth and justice – from the court, the tavern and the Bible, he sacrifices his family, his friends and eventually himself. The beautiful dream of prosperous and nurturing Robber’s Rise gives way to an obsession, resulting in none of the things Andres wanted and everything he was afraid of.



FILM INFO Tanel Toom

DIRECTOR TANEL TOOM is an Oscar-nominated director and a Directing Fiction graduate of the National Film and Television School, UK. He has directed 10 short films and around 50 commercials. His shorts have been to over 35 international festivals (including San Sebastian, Warsaw and Venice Film Festival) and won numerous awards, including Best Foreign Film at the 37th Student Academy Awards for his short film The Confession. The same film was also nominated for an Oscar in the Best Live Action Short category at the 83rd Academy Awards. Tanel has a passion for stories that speak to the hearts as well as the mind; he likes to impact the audience, whether with fear, laughter or bittersweet pain. He loves to play with atmosphere and emotion, and is in love with his actors, always wanting to make them shine.

Original title: Tõde ja õigus Genre: drama Language: Estonian Director: Tanel Toom Screenwriter: Tanel Toom Cinematographer: Rein Kotov E.S.C. Production Designer: Jaagup Roomet Editor: Tambet Tasuja Composer: Mihkel Zilmer Sound: Matis Rei Main cast: Priit Loog, Priit Võigemast, Maiken Schmidt, Simeoni Sundja, Ester Kuntu Producer: Ivo Felt Co-producers: Armin Karu, Madis Tüür Produced by: Allfilm Domestic premiere: February 20, 2019 Festivals: Busan IFF 149 min / DCP / 2.39:1 /5.1 CONTACT Allfilm Ivo Felt Phone: +372 672 9070 E-mail:




he film, set in a Far-North industrial town in Russia, reveals the mechanism that entices human beings to voluntarily become a resource to be used by the state. Can a person ever be free in a society, where intricate and obscure structures take control of their mind-set from an early age? The film looks at the making of a Russian citizen from a fresh angle. The director’s subtle but demanding look reveals “the system” at work in the most benign-looking situations, in any moment of the everyday. What happens to people’s free will and self-determination in such conditions? DIRECTOR KSENIA OKHAPKINA graduated from St. Petersburg State University of Film and TV in 2012. Since 2014, Ksenia is working with Estonian company

Ksenia Okhapkina

Vesilind. Her first documentary produced in Vesilind - Come Back Free - won a jury special prize at IDFA 2016. Immortal, released in 2019 won the best documentary prize at Karlovy Vary. She has shown her commitment to the composition and the meaningfulness of a single frame and her ability to capture “the poetic in profane”.

Original title: Surematu Theme: social issues Language: Russian Director: Ksenia Okhapkina Screenwriter: Ksenia Okhapkina Cinematographers: Aleksandr Demjanenko, Artem Ignatov Editors: Ksenia Okhapkina, Stijn Deconinck Composers: Robert Jürjendal, Arian Levin Sound: Aleksand Dudarev Producer: Riho Västrik Co-producer: Uldis Cekulis Produced by: Vesilind (Estonia), VFS Films (Latvia) International premiere: July 2019, Karlovy Vary IFF Festivals and awards: Karlovy Vary IFF – Grand Prix for Best Documentary, Sarajevo FF, IDFA 60 min / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1 CONTACT Vesilind Riho Västrik Phone: +372 507 8067 E-mail:




In Bed with a Writer


he film’s protagonist Peeter is a known and recognised writer in his home country. He has published 25 books. He has received eight national awards. The people have nicknamed him the Filth Writer. Peeter does not care about recognition, he drinks, parties, and often makes statements, which upset people. As a rule, Peeter writes about his bawdy life and unhappy relationships with women. After divorce, Peeter hasn’t written in over a year. No woman, no fights, nothing to write about. Peeter’s favourite writer and role model Bukowski did not write for seven years. In his depression, Peeter comes up with the hare-brained idea of trying different roles: he learns striptease, offers to model for a racist photographer, dabs in masochism, tries to get in bed with artists and writers,



sleeps on his parents’ graves - basically, tests the limits with all sorts of imbecilities in order to escape the numbness. The result is a unique absurdity walking the line between dark humour and tragedy, occasionally crossing it. 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. Selected filmography: Long Live the Scandals (2018), Red Cabaret (2016), Family Lies (2016), Swan Lake (2015), Stealing Socialism (2014), Beggar Writers` House (2012), Baskin (2012)

FILM INFO Original title: Kirjanikuga voodis Theme: artist’s life, portrait Language: Estonian Director: Manfred Vainokivi Screenwriters: Manfred Vainokivi, Peeter Sauter Cinematographer: Manfred Vainokivi Editor: Kersti Miilen Sound: Horret Kuus Producer: Marju Lepp Produced by: Filmivabrik World premiere: October 29, 2019, DokLeipzig Festivals: Tallinn Black Night Film Festival 63 min / DCP / 16:9/ 5.1 CONTACT Filmivabrik Marju Lepp Phone:+3725163641 E-mail:



he town of Maardu in Estonia organises an annual Ukrainianthemed festival, called ‘Sorochinsky Fair’ after the short story by Nikolai Gogol. More than 15,000 people come every year. This is the largest Ukrainian fair outside of Ukraine, and it has even been entered into the Ukrainian Book of Records. The film is structured like a work of literature, being made up of a number of interconnected stories. The full variety of the fair and beauty contest is presented from different angles and viewpoints: that of the festival organisers, the actor playing Gogol, the instructor from the local beauty school, the visitors, and the filmmaker, who puts on an improvised casting session for the contest participants. The film then culminates in the beauty contest itself. This festival presents life in all its vividness, variety, and unpredictability, with the beauty contest as its central motif. The protagonists of Gogol’s works are transported into the modern day in all their enchanting absurdity, and they fit in pretty well. Children dancing to adults’ cult pop songs, girls putting on exotic dresses in their efforts to win Miss Maardu, men playing the role of beauty experts, an actor in a Gogol outfit conversing with phrases from a memorised speech, modern-day versions of folk songs and costumes from Ukraine and the Baltic states. Efforts to preserve the symbols of national culture can sometimes lead to strange results. Prazdnik (festival) is a collage of incidents and

FILM INFO viewpoints, observed with engagement and curiosity. DIRECTOR VLADIMIR LOGINOV was born in 1976 in Tallinn, Estonia. He graduated from the International University of Social Sciences in Sociology. Gained additional experience in TV productions, news and advertising. Vladimir’s filmography consists of both short and feature length films. Vladimir’s previous feature documentary Anthill, produced by Elina Litvinova, premiered at Visions du Réel IDFF in Switzerland, 2015. Further selections included Ji.hlava IDFF, ArtDoc Fest, Let’s Cee IFF and DocPoint Helsinki among others.

Vladimir Loginov

Original title: Prazdnik Theme: social issues Language: Russian Director: Vladimir Loginov Screenwriter: Vladimir Loginov Cinematographer: Max Golomidov Editor: Vladimir Loginov Sound: Dmitry Natalevich Producers: Volia Chajkouskaya, Vladimir Loginov Produced by: Volia Films, Anthill Films Domestic premiere: Tallinn Black Nights FF 67 min / DCP / 2.35:1 / mono CONTACT Volia Films Volia Chajkouskaya Phone: +372 5781 1727 E-mail:




The Circle


he film follows a group of adults and their children who in the summer of 2014, decide to leave their customary life arrangement and start the first eco-conscious community in Estonia. Combining their savings, they buy an old manor, 3750 square meters of half-decayed buildings along with 33 hectares of agricultural land. Before them, the manor accommodated a nursing home. Five families move in – 12 adults and 6 children. Their experiment was inspired by the spreading movement of eco-communities, in order to try out in a smaller constellation a new life arrangement that concentrates on non-violent harmonic relationships, co-operation, nature conservancy, permaculture and small human footprint. First, you have to demolish the mainstream society model starting from nuclear family and education to general consumption. The documentary by Margit Lillak



FILM INFO follows the dramatic developments in the community in the five year period, from honeymoon to collapse. DIRECTOR MARGIT LILLAK graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts majoring in Scenography (1999) and after that, worked in the animation studio Multifilm. In 2002, she received her MA degree from Royal Holloway College majoring in Screenwriting. After that, her co-operation with the production company Allfilm started. Margit has made several short documentaries, such as Beebilõust (2009), Ars Longa (2008) and Pastacas (2009). The latter was awarded Grand Prix in EstDocs film festival in Toronto (2010). In 2012, Margit made her first full length documentary 40+2 Weeks, focusing on her own pregnancy and preparations for home birth. The Circle is her second full length documentary.

Original title: Südamering Theme: environment, social issues Languages: Estonian, English Director: Margit Lillak Screenwriter: Margit Lillak Cinematographer: Mihkel Soe E.S.C., Margit Lillak, Paavo Eensalu Editors: Jaak Ollino Jr., Helis Hirve Composer: Sten Sheripov Sound: Harmo Kallaste Producer: Johanna Trass Produced by: Allfilm World premiere: October 2019, Jihlava International Documentary FF 94 min / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1 CONTACT Allfilm Johanna Trass Phone: +372 528 4974 E-mail:

A Year Full of Drama


young woman takes on an audacious human experiment while trying to find her place in the world and struggling with the past of her family. Estonia is crazy about theatre. In October 2017 there’s an announcement for a paid position to find someone who has never been to the theatre before. The task – to watch and review every Estonian theatre production of 2018. 21-year old Alissija is hired for the job. Coming from the periphery and a Russianspeaking family, she knows nothing about performing arts, actors, nor has ever been to any of the theatre houses. Putting the main character through 224 shows in 365 days, A Year Full of Drama serves as a true coming of age story, testing the human limit of consuming culture and asking whether art has the power to change a life.

DIRECTOR MARTA PULK was born in 1988 in the midst of the Estonian Singing Revolution and the fall of the Soviet Union. She earned her MA in filmmaking from the Baltic Film and Media School. Marta’s films feature a strong visual handwriting and relentless interest towards the human spirit and what makes us fight. Her films often spotlight a strong societal theme. Marta’s short films have screened in Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, Zagrebdox, Doc Buenos Aires, Bogoshorts, Queens World Film Festival etc and competed for the Silver Eye award. In 2018 her film Vida Alegre that was shot in the Peruvian Amazon under the mentorship of Werner Herzog, was chosen for distribution by Black Factory Cinema. A Year Full of Drama is her first documentary feature.

FILM INFO Original title: Aasta täis draamat Theme: social issues Languages: Estonian, Russian Director: Marta Pulk Idea by: Henrik Kalmet, Paavo Piik, Paul Piik Cinematographer: Aivo Rannik Editor: Hendrik Mägar Composer: Jakob Juhkam Sound: Tanel Kadalipp Main cast: Alissija-Elisabet Jevtjukova Producer: Paul Piik Produced by: Ettevaatlik Sten, Kinoteater Domestic premiere: October 24, 2019 106 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Kinoteater Paul Piik Phone: +372 5691 5665 E-mail:




My Father the Spy


s a young Soviet student in 1978, Ieva could not have predicted that a holiday visit to her father, Imants Lešinskis, then working at the United Nations in New York City, would irreversibly split her life in two. Entangled in a murky game she would be unable to quit, Ieva is forced to leave her former life behind, never to see her mother or her homeland of Latvia again. Pulling back the curtain on the shady behind-the-scenes world of the Cold War, this film tells a daughter’s dramatic story of her double-agent father, exploring their relationship against the backdrop of events which have their roots over four decades ago. In order to find herself and understand the game she was part of, Ieva sets out on a journey to the past, confronting family secrets, lies and betrayal. DIRECTOR JAAK KILMI born in 1973, graduated from the Department of Culture of Tallinn University, majoring in Film Directing. He has (co-)directed and produced a string of successful short films, numerous documentary films and two feature films. His films have been awarded internationally and have enjoyed successful theatrical runs in Estonia. Selected filmography: Disco & Atomic War (2009), Paper Town (2014), Out of Fashion (2015), The Dissidents (2017) DIRECTOR GINTS GRUBE is a Philosophy and Political Science graduate. He has a diverse work experi-



ence in the field of media. Since founding one of the leading film companies in Latvia, Mistrus Media, in 2000, he has been involved in producing such documentaries as Escaping Riga (dir. Davis Simanis, 2014), To Be Continued (dir. Ivars Seleckis, 2018) and fiction films The Chronicles of Melanie (dir. Viesturs Kairiss, 2016), The Mover (Davis Simanis, 2018). Selected filmography: Sounds Under the Sun (2010), Larger Than Life (2014), My Father the Banker (2013), Lustrum (2018)

FILM INFO Original title: Mu spioonist isa Theme: history Languages: English, Latvian Directors: Jaak Kilmi, Gints Grube Screenwriters: Gints Grube, Jaak Kilmi Cinematographer: Aigars Sermukss Editor: Armands Zacs Composer: Janek Murd Sound: Lukas Ujcik Producers: Gints Grube, Jörg Bundschuh, Julietta Sichel, Jaak Kilmi Produced by: Mistrus Media (Latvia), Kick Film (Germany), 8Heads Productions (Czech Republic), Pimik (Estonia) World premiere: Sheffield Doc Fest Festivals: Riga International Film Festival, Ji.hlava IDFF, HotDocs, Nordic Film Days Lübeck, Cineuropa Santiago de Compostela, EIDF, Manaki Brothers FF 83 min / DCP / 16:9 / stereo CONTACT Pimik Jaak Kilmi Phone: +372 564 0354 E-mail: SALES Syndicado Film Sales E-mail:

Bad Hair



nsecure and balding Leo, 35, has closed himself in his apartment. A mysterious hair growth liquid arrives at his doorstep and Leo uses it to fix up his looks. The liquid causes a series of grotesque metamorphoses with Leo’s hair and skin, culminating with hairs sprouting out of his eyeballs. Leo tries desperately to get bodily changes under control as the events of the evening quickly turn into chaos. DIRECTOR OSKAR LEHEMAA was born in 1988 in Pärnu, Estonia. Growing up in a dull small town, watching action flicks and making silly short films was the perfect escape from reality. Today these passions have become a career, as Oskar

Oskar Lehemaa

infuses his works with a love for genre, from comedy to gory horror. Regardless of the project or genre, there seems to be a common thread – a pinch of humor is always added.

Original title: Karv Genre: horror Language: no dialogue Director: Oskar Lehemaa Screenwriter: Oskar Lehemaa Cinematographer: Ivar Taim Production Designer: Triin Valvas Editors: Sander-Kalle Somma, Oskar Lehemaa Composer: Paul Oja Sound: Aleksandra Koel, Markus Andreas Main cast: Sten Karpov Producer: Evelin Penttilä Produced by: Stellar Film Domestic premiere: April 26, 2019 Haapsalu Horror & Fantasy FF (Winner of Silver Melies) Festivals: Fantasia FF - Audience Choice, Fantastic Fest - Short Fuse, Best Picture 15 min / DCP / 1.85:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Stellar Film Evelin Penttilä Phone: +372 5552 3500 E-mail: SALES Origine Films, France Chen Ming






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 programme 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: Festival du nouveau cinéma Montreal Festivals: Warsaw Film Festival 15 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 & stereo CONTACT

Nafta Films Diana Mikita Phone: +372 522 9120 E-mail: SALES Interfilm Berlin Management GmbH Cord Dueppe E-mail:



New Beginnings


mover helps a woman to move in with her boyfriend. For the woman, who is searching her place in life, neither this, the next, nor the one after that will be the last time to move. DIRECTOR TANNO MEE born in 1983, graduated from the Baltic Film and Media School BA programme of Film and Video Directing in 2008 with a short film House of Memories. In 2010 Tanno premiered a short documentary Being

Normal, commissioned by the Estonian Public Broadcasting, and in 2014 another documentary Allan Leida, Leida Allan, co-directed with Liis Nimik. Tanno’s latest short film, a sensitive and nuanced drama Helen’s Birthday has screened at 13 film festivals (Lübeck, Scanorama, Helsinki IFF, PÖFF Shorts), won the Baltic Competition at 2Annas Riga IFF, was theatrically released in Estonia and nominated for the Estonian Film and TV Award. With his new short film New Beginnings, Tanno is exploring the genre of romantic comedy.

FILM INFO Original title: Uued algused Genre: romantic comedy Language: Estonian Director: Tanno Mee Screenwriter: Tanno Mee Cinematographer: Mart Raun Production Designer: Reet Brandt Editor: Martin Männik Composer: Liisa Hirsch Sound: Harmo Kallaste Main cast: Riina Maidre, Janek Joost Producer: Marianne Ostrat Produced by: Alexandra Film World premiere: Nordic Film Days Lübeck 15 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT

Alexandra Film Marianne Ostrat Phone: +372 523 3577 E-mail:




Old Man Cartoon Movie


ur protagonist, the Old Man, is visited on his farm by grandkids who have been dropped off for the summer. Determined to make his progeny see the simple beauty of country living, he ends up working them like slaves, only to have the little bastards accidentally set loose his prized and thoroughly abused cow. Now the Old Man and his grandkids have just 24 hours to find the rogue bovine, before her unmilked udder explodes and unleashes lactopalypse, or before the mysterious Old Milker lethally disarms her. On their epic journey, our heroes must face festival hippies, forest creeps, sawmill workers and other dangers commonly found in the Estonian countryside.

DIRECTOR OSKAR LEHEMAA is an Estonian film director. He was born in 1988, in Pärnu. He earned his Audiovisual Media BA from the Baltic Film and Media School. For the last ten years he has been working as a director for commercials, film and television. DIRECTOR MIKK MÄGI is an Estonian animator and director. Mikk was born in 1987, in Tallinn. He started his animation studies in the Estonian Academy of Arts in 2010. He founded the animation studio BOP!.

FILM INFO Original title: Vanamehe film Genre: comedy Language: Estonian Directors: Mikk Mägi, Oskar Lehemaa Screenwriters: Mikk Mägi, Oskar Lehemaa, Peeter Ritso Cinematographer: Urmas Jõemees Animators: Egert Kesa, Olga Stalev, Triin Sarapik-Kivi, Sander Joon Production Designers: Triin Paumer, Sven-Tõnis Puskar, Anu-Laura Tuttelberg, Sander Põldsaar Editor: Oskar Lehemaa Composers: Sten-Olle Moldau, Lauri Kadalipp Sound: Tanel Kadalipp, Ekke Västrik, Anna-Maria Jams, Dimitry Natalevich, Siim Škepast Main cast: Mikk Mägi, Oskar Lehemaa, Jan Uuspõld, Indrek Ojari, Kristjan Lüüs, Märt Avandi, Mart Kukk Technique: stop-motion animation Producers: Erik Heinsalu, Mikk Mägi Co-producers: Tanel Tatter, Veiko Esken Produced by: BOP Animation, Apollo Film Productions Domestic premiere: September 24, 2019 84 min / DCP / 1.85:1 / 5.1 CONTACT BOP Animation Phone: +372 5378 3028 E-mail:



Toomas Beneath the Valley of the Wild Wolves


fter losing a well-paid engineering job, Toomas, a young hot wolf, gets cornered into working as a gigolo to support his family. He is keeping it a secret from his pregnant wife Viivi. Viivi also has a secret: she is attending a female empowerment seminar involving male slaves. When Toomas gets a role in a sexploitation movie it becomes harder to keep his new profession a secret. DIRECTOR CHINTIS LUNDGREN is an Estonian-born animator currently living in Croatia. Self-taught, Lundgren’s

body of work includes an assortment of quirky music videos, PSAs and short films featuring a light, absurdist tone along with distinct anthropomorphic characters. In 2011, Lundgren created her own animation studio called Chintis Lundgreni Animatsioonistuudio and later co-founded Adriatic Animation, an animation studio based in Croatia. Her award-winning shorts Manivald (2017) and Life with Herman H. Rott (2015) have screened at numerous international festivals including Sundance, Annecy, Animafest Zagreb, Hiroshima and Ottawa.

FILM INFO Original title: Toomas teispool metsikute huntide orgu Language: English Director: Chintis Lundgren Screenwriters: Chintis Lundgren, Draško Ivezic Animator: Chintis Lundgren Production Designer: Chintis Lundgren Editors: Chintis Lundgren, Draško Ivezic Composer: Terence Dunn Technique: drawn animation Producer: Chintis Lundgren Co-producers: Draško Ivezic, Emmanuel-Alain Raynal, Pierre Baussaron Produced by: Chintis Lundgreni Animatsioonistuudio (Estonia), Adriatic Animation (Croatia), Miyu Productions (France) World premiere: Annecy IAFF 2019 Festivals: Toronto IFF, Ottawa IAF, Dok Leipzig 18 min / DCP / 1.85:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Chintis Lundgreni Animatsioonistuudio Phone: +372 5193 0739 E-mail: SALES

Miyu Distribution E-mail:




Winter in the Rainforest


n one of the shadowy corners of the world there is a place where all impossible dreams and fantasies seem to come true. In a rainforest among the lush nature there live fragile animals made of china. In the wild rivers, the weird white stone creatures come to life: birds with legs like human fingers are hunting fish with wings, segmented spiders who are catching miniature dancers to their webs… This is a surreal world with no logic: the time passes here oddly, it is inhabited by mysterious creatures, the nature is exotic but familiar at the same time, the sounds of nature create mixed feelings is it really a rainforest or rather a northern pine forest...? Winter in the Rainforest is a surreal animated film set in a tropical rainforest, mixed with Mexican nature, ceramic surreal creatures, Estonian music, the sounds of the rainforest and northern nature.

DIRECTOR ANU-LAURA TUTTELBERG graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts in 2013 with a MA degree in Animation. She made her first animated puppet film, Fly Mill, as her graduation film. Fly Mill has screened at numerous festivals around the world and won nearly 20 prizes. Her first film after graduation, a short animated film On The Other Side Of The Woods premiered in June 2014 at Annecy International Animation Festival and has won three First Prizes and a Best Debut prize at festivals. She has made set designs for short stop motion animations such as The Lemonade Tale (2013) and a puppet film Tik-Tak (2014) in Nukufilm studio in Estonia and It’s About Time (2014) in Atomart studio in Latvia.

FILM INFO Original title: Talv vihmametsas Language: no dialogue Director: Anu Laura Tuttelberg Screenwriter: Anu Laura Tuttelberg Cinematographer: Anu Laura Tuttelberg Animators: Anu Laura Tuttelberg, Olga Stalev Production Designer: Anu Laura Tuttelberg Editor: Silvija Vilkaite Composer: Maarja Nuut Sound: Olga Bulygo Technique: stop-motion animation Producers: Andrus Raudsalu, Andres Mänd, Kerdi Oengo, Anu Laura Tuttelberg Co-producers: Daniel Irabien Peniche, Agne Adomene Produced by: Nukufilm (Estonia), Estudio Carabas (Mexico), Art Shot VSI (Lithuania) World premiere: May 2019, Animafest Zagreb Festivals: Annecy IAFF, Cartoon Club, Galway Film Fleadh, GIFF, Fantoche, PIAFF, Nordic Film Days Lübeck, Leeds IFF, LIAF 9 min / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1 CONTACT Nukufilm Phone: +372 615 5323 E-mail: Sales Miyu Distribution E-mail:





rpheus can enchant everyone with his music, including animals and plants. His song can even rescue his beloved Euredice from the underworld. But there is one condition - until Orpheus reaches the land of the living, he cannot turn around to see if his love is truly following him.

FILM INFO DIRECTOR PRIIT TENDER was born in 1971 in Tallinn, Estonia. He is an Estonian animator – the director, designer and writer of many animated short films. His author films are driven by surreal imagery, black humor and dark existential journeys. Priit’s films have won prizes and nominations from the most important short and animation film festivals, including Annecy, Ottawa, Hiroshima, Dresden, Fredrikstad, Utrecht.

Original title: Orpheus Languages: no dialogue Director: Priit Tender Screenwriter: Priit Tender Compositor: Priit Tender Animators: Ülle Metsur, Tarmo Vaarmets, Maiken Silla, Dag-Ole Solaas, Priit Tender Production Designer: Priit Tender Editor: Priit Tender Composer: Kadri Voorand Sound: Horret Kuus Technique: drawn animation Producer: Kalev Tamm Produced by: Eesti Joonisfilm World premiere: June 2019, Annecy IAFF Festivals: Galway Film Fleadh, Fredrikstad Animation Festival, Ottawa International Animation Festival, International Short Film Festival Berlin 13 min / DCP / 1.85:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Eesti Joonisfilm Phone: +372 677 4228 E-mail:




About Love



ne of the million different possible versions of love stories. It is about a man constantly seeking the ideal companion. At one point he realizes that he does not know how his ideal woman looks like. Like it often happens in real life. Interpretation: Man and Woman have been married for years. Everything is insufferably usual and a smothery routine... Something has to change. DIRECTORS GIRLIN-BASSOVSKAJA are a directing duo - Jelena Girlin and Mari-Liis Karula (alias Bassovskaja). Girlin was born in 1979 in Tallinn, Estonia. She Graduated from the Estonian Academy


of Arts in 2001 as a Stage Designer. Bassovskaja was born in 1977. She has graduated the Estonian Academy of Arts and the University of Tartu. Filmography: The Table (2004), The Dress (2007), Miriam’s Colors (2008), Oranus (2009) and Papa (2014)

Original title: Armastusest Language: no dialogue Directors: Jelena Girlin, Mari-Liis Bassovskaja Screenwriters: Jelena Girlin, Mari-Liis Bassovskaja Cinematographer: Raivo Möllits Animator: Marili Sokk Production Designers: Jelena Girlin, Mari-Liis Bassovskaja Editors: Jelena Girlin, Mari-Liis Bassovskaja Composer: Pärt Uusberg Sound: Horret Kuus Technique: puppet animation Producers: Kerdi Oengo, Andres Mänd Produced by: Nukufilm To be released: Autumn 2019 10 min / DCP / 1.85:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Nukufilm Phone: +372 615 5322 E-mail:




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