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

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2/2020

INTERVIEWS REVIEWS NEWS

Raggie

from Book to the Big Screen

Eeter Docs

Focuses on Estonian Documentaries

Elina Litvinova

Producer on the Move

Liis Nimik

Bold Choices and Experimental Projects FEATURED FILMS: A Loss of Something Ever Felt I Raggie Where the Heart Is I The Circle I Fred Jüssi. The Beauty of Being


FOREWORD

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he simple truth today is that we just don’t know what the future holds. Nobody at the moment knows what the short and long-term outcomes for society after this outbreak will be - for our industry, for our culture, for our economy. Developing resilience to a virus, not fear, is part of our “new normal”, and we must adapt accordingly. Despite present circumstances, our films had a very good start to the year. In the first couple of months Estonian films recorded 300,000 admissions in our cinemas. Apart from feature and documentary premieres, the star performer was children’s animation Raggie. In just a few weeks it recorded 100,000 admissions, before cinemas were closed. However, children have switched to VoD and continue watching the film. The festival year started with an Estonian short by Oskar Lehemaa, Bad Hair, competing at Sundance Film Festival. And we are very happy that prestigious HotDocs chose two Estonian films for their programmes - The World Showcase will premiere the film by Carlos E. Lesmes, A Loss of Something Ever Felt, produced by Liis Nimik, and The Changing Face of Europe will screen Ksenia Okhapkina’s documentary Immortal, produced by Riho Västrik. Liis Nimik is the cover star of the current issue of Estonian Film – she is a filmmaker to watch out for with her bold artistic choices and integrity. For the same reasons, it is well worth paying attention to Elina Litvinova, part of the European Film Promotion’s programme Producers on the Move at the changed Cannes Film Festival market edition. You can read an interview with her in this magazine. Last year Estonia saw the emergence of independent producers who only use private funding. As you can find out from our magazine, Tanel Tatter and Veiko Esken from Apollo Film Productions are producing films without state aid, and doing it very successfully. In changing times, the Estonian Film Institute (EFI) introduces some new initiatives in this issue, including our articles about heritage films. This section will take a deeper look at our film industry’s heritage and history, and helps us to understand where Estonian films come from, and how we have developed our film culture over the years. This year, EFI is also looking more into supporting scriptwriting and film development, and encouraging online premieres and initiatives. We seek to expand our distribution options via international platforms, increase their prominence on bigger platforms, and embed Estonian films with our new potential viewers around the world. Stay tuned! Edith Sepp, CEO of Estonian Film Institute

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NEWS Christmas in the Jungle in Production

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NEWS A Changed Reality Means Changed Opportunities COVER STORY Liis Nimik A Woman for All Sesons

12 SALES Eeter Docs Works with Docs 16 PRODUCER Elina Litvinova

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Producer on the Move

18 ANIMATION Raggie

Animating a Legend

24 FUNDS How to Find Money in Estonia 26 EVENT Coping with the New Rules 30 IN FOCUS Apollo Film Production

and Their Latest Feature Where the Heart Is

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34 CLASSICS The Last Relic 40 REVIEW The Circle 42 REVIEW Fred Jüssi.

The Beauty of Being

44 NEW FILMS The Overview

of the Latest Estonian Films

Estonian Film is published three times per year by Estonian Film Institute

Estonian Film Institute Uus 3, 10111, Tallinn, Estonia Phone: +372 627 6060 I E-mail: film@filmi.ee I filmi.ee Editor in Chief: Eda Koppel Contributing Editor: Maria Ulfsak (Eesti Ekspress) Contributors: Aurelia Aasa, Hannes Aava Translation: Lili Pilt Linguistic Editing: Paul Emmet Design & Layout: Profimeedia Printed by Reflekt Cover: Liis Nimik, photo by Virge Viertek ESTONIAN FILM

ISSN-2585-674X

Hopeful About the Future

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NEWS

CHRISTMA in the Jungle The new Latvian-Estonian co-produc­tion children’s film Christmas in the Jungle was shot in 2019. The film’s main producer is Robert Vinovskis from Locomotive Productions and the Estonian producer is Evelin Penttilä from Stellar Film. Christmas in the Jungle is a Christmas film, so the premiere is planned for December 4, 2020. 4

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ith a budget of 901,474 euros, the film was partially shot in Indonesia. According to producer Evelin Penttilä, shooting in such an exotic place was difficult, especially creatively, but visually it paid off. “We can’t say that our two scouting trips helped us to really get to know the place where we would shoot. But we did very well, and

By Maria Ulfsak Photos by Andrejs Strokins

the cooperation between the local Indonesian crew and our Latvian-Estonian crew was very heart warming. The children playing the leading roles were brave and withstood the heat, long shooting days, and tiresome drives between the hotel and shooting location without any whining or complaining. A complete dream team. What made the process difficult was that we wanted to include a third production partner from Slovenia, but the


Director Jaak Kilmi (in the middle) with the main actors of Christmas in the Jungle.

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funding deadlines were moved to our disadvantage so we had to keep the film a Latvian-Estonian co-production,” said Penttilä. The Baltic distributor for the film is Acme Film. The main target group for Christmas in the Jungle is 5-14 year old children, so it’s a true children’s film that families can watch together. Therefore the producers are currently planning to dub the film into three languages – Latvian, Estonian and Russian. The distributor is also considering a Lithuanian version. As negotiations are still ongoing regarding international sales, the film’s original version is going to be in Latvian, Indonesian and English, and every market can dub it into their own language as they wish. The film is directed by Jaak Kilmi from Estonia, the screenwriter is Lote Eglite

from Latvia, the cinematographer is Aigars Sermukšs from Latvia, and the production designer is Katrin Sipelgas from Estonia. The main character is 10-yearold Paula. Moving from Latvia to exotic Indonesia has proven to be quite a challenge for her family. Nobody has either the time or the mood to rehearse for the annual family Christmas play Paula has been waiting for all year long. Luckily, 12-year-old Akhim, a local boy, offers her a ray of hope by telling Paula about a special Shaman living in the jungle, someone who has the superpower of bringing Christmas everywhere. He looks like Santa Claus, and that’s proba-

Most of the shooting of the film took place in exotic Indonesia.

bly who he is, because all sorts of spirits and wizards are known to live in the jungle. Even the recent uproar over lost tourists and rumours of cannibalism don’t stop the two kids from deciding to venture into the jungle. After overcoming countless obstacles, the kids reach their destination. But the legendary man turns out to be a recluse from North who can’t

stand little children. Nevertheless, the kids’ unwavering will, boldness, and perseverance, make miracles happen. Christmas in the Jungle is the second cooperation between director Jaak Kilmi and producer Evelin Penttilä. They are working on another children’s film together, The Sleeping Beast, which they started developing earlier and is set to shoot this summer. “My cooperation with Jaak started as we developed The Sleeping Beast, and Christmas in the Jungle came very quickly on its heels. During my career as a producer, I’ve worked more with first-time directors, so what I like about working with Jaak is that he is very experienced as a filmmaker. This means he has the creative confidence that makes him a very clear and concrete partner for a producer. Experience also gives a director the courage to sometimes use clichés, or to say that he actually really likes making children’s films, which is not a very popular mindset among Estonian directors. Experience means that we both have more freedom to focus on our work and we get in each other’s way less. We both value films that carry a life-affirming message. Working with Jaak has been a very positive experience for me. I hope that we get to make more films together in the future because I believe that Jaak has a lot to give the world as an author and a director,” Penttilä added. EF ESTONIAN FILM

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Illustration Istock

NEWS

A CHANGED REALITY MEANS CHANGED OPPORTUNITIES The CEO of the Estonian Film Institute, Edith Sepp, gives an overview of how Covid-19 has affected Estonian filmmakers, and the opportunities that must be seized in spite of the difficult situation.

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e find ourselves in a completely new and unprecedented situation. All of the truths we used to accept no longer apply and things that used to seem impossible became the new normal overnight. The main thing that has changed in this situation is that anything is possible. None of us could have imagined that the March, April and May of 2020 would turn out like this, and that our entertainment and cultural establishments would have to close their doors. As far as we know, there isn’t a single country in Europe where films are being shot or people can go to the cinema. In Estonia, we also saw a quick end to the cinema distribution for the animation film Raggie, which has definitely been among those to feel the loss the gravest among Estonian films. The problem is just as big for films that were supposed to premiere in the spring but now have been postponed. Feature films that lost their premieres are Janno Jürgens’s debut feature Rain, the Estonian-Finnish co-production Goodbye Soviet Union – also a debut for director Lauri Randla – and Veiko Õunpuu’s new film The Last Ones, made in cooperation between Estonia and Finland. All of these premieres have been pushed to autumn 2020. Many documentary films also had their premieres postponed. There are also large Estonian films that had to cut short their preparation and production work, most of which are co-productions with other countries. Of the larger projects, Ilmar Raag had to stop production on his feature film Erik Stoneheart. The film’s producer is Riina Sildos from the production company Amrion, and it is a co-production between Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg. The production company Allfilm also had to push their second shooting period for Ove Musting’s debut film Kalev. This large sports-themed film is an Estonian-Latvian co-production. Kadri Kõusaar’s new film Dead Woman was set to film in Jordan but also had to postpone their shoot. The producer of the film is Aet Laigu from the company Meteoriit, and it is a co-production between Estonia, Sweden, Finland and France. Taska Film and Nafta Films have stopped pre-production on their large

historical detective film Melchior the Apothecary directed by Elmo Nüganen, who made the war drama 1944 (2015), and the long-time most watched Estonian film Names in Marble (2002). Hopefully they’ll be able to start shooting in the second half of the summer. Many films also had their post-production periods interrupted. One of them is the Estonian-Finnish-Latvian-Lithuanian co-produced, historical spy film O2. The film’s director is Margus Paju and the head producers are Esko Rips of Nafta Films and Kristian Taska of Taska Film. Priit Pääsuke’s film Kids of the Night (produced by Marianne Ostrat, Alexandra Film) and Rasmus Merivoo’s Kratt (produced by Rain Rannu and Tõnu Hiielaid, Tallifornia) also had their post-production cut short. The worldwide film industry, particularly the distribution side, is moving to new platforms. And many festivals, markets and training programs are thus moving online. The virtual world is our second opportunity. Estonia is well known for our use of new technological solutions and our courageous start-ups. Since cinemas are closed, and we don’t know when they will open, we are starting to experiment with web-based premieres of films. The first brave step in Estonia was taken by the short film compilation Fresh Blood: Best Intentions, which premiered online at the end of April. Films that had their distribution period interrupted are also moving online. We are all waiting to find out how the Estonian audiences will adapt to the new situation and start enjoying films from their home screens. This year’s popular Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival HÕFF took place virtually from May 8-10 where they screened 20 horror, sci-fi and fantasy films from around the world. Many other festivals that were planned for the second half of the year are adapting and preparing for the potential of having to take place online. The continuation of production on Estonian films is a vital issue for us. After the crisis, the international economic model of film production will be changed for an unknown amount of time, and foreign investments may be cut off but we still need to keep producing films. Thus far, Estonian films have

been made with the financial help of other European film funds and those opportunities probably won’t be restored immediately after the crisis. There are two aspects to consider here. First of all, it doesn’t matter where the funding for a film comes from – home or abroad. Estonian filmmakers have managed to attract a lot of large foreign investments into Estonia in a very short amount of time, which has taken focus away from the importance of Estonia’s own investment into our industry. According to filmmakers, the goal is for Estonian private investors to contribute more to film production in today’s circumstances. In the current crisis, most European countries have realized the importance of film as an industry and an integral part of cultural life. Measures to alleviate the situation in the film industry have been or are being developed by most European countries. The goal of the Estonian Film Institute today is to ensure the resilience of the field, and to consider the long-term creative, financial and cultural challenges we will face. Most of these problems the industry faces affect the most vulnerable sectors, such as freelance creators and workers, and small and medium sized companies that are active in film production, service, and marketing, but also film festivals, cinemas and small distributors. Even though these are tense times, we have to focus on finding solutions and responding proactively to the changes. With our overview of the situation at hand, we have compiled a list of the mitigation and compensation measures directed at different target groups in the industry, and focused on the challenges and possible new developments in the film industry caused by the emergency situation. The current global crisis will have a profound effect on the whole world. Today, of course, the priority of society is to care for people’s health, and to cope with the complex and constantly changing situation we face. But the effect of the virus on the film industry has been devastating and affects our entire ecosystem, from the creation of the films to the festivals, cinemas, as well as the creators and technical workers. It’s a fact that our filmmakers have a lot to offer in this new situation – we just have to give them the opportunity, and to believe in them. EF ESTONIAN FILM

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COVER STORY

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Woman FOR ALL easons

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Liis Nimik is an editor, documentary film director and producer. Among other projects, she is the co-producer on Miguel Llansó’s acclaimed film from last year, Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway (2019), and the producer of Carlos Lesmes’s documentary film A Loss of Something Ever Felt (2020). The latter is set to premiere at this year’s HotDocs IDFF if the corona outbreak subsides and festival organizers can determine new dates. The domestic release is planned for October 2020. By Maria Ulfsak Photos by Virge Viertek

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iis, let’s start from the beginning with your background. How and why did you end up in film – didn’t you actually study economics after high school?

After university, I worked in some company where I realized one day that I couldn’t keep going; that my job was to make higher and higher profits for the Finnish owners. It wasn’t that they were Finnish, it was the principle of the matter – the objective of your life is to earn a profit for someone else. I started searching for the thing that could give life deeper meaning, tried painting , kept looking for my very own form of expression. One day, I ended up with a small camera so I filmed my grandmother and grandfather with it. When I started editing the material, there was a click. I

couldn’t sleep for three days and nights because I was so excited by the opportunities for bending reality found in editing. I showed the film to some friends, the response was warm, then Baltic Film and Media School (BFM) was opened, and that was that. You studied editing at BFM and quickly became one of the most renowned creative editors in Estonia whose so-to-say specialty is arthouse feature films. Tell us a little about why and how that came about.

That excitement just never went away. The more time passes, the more I understand editing. You have to go inside a film and understand the world of it through and through. The director has to help you, but not by telling you some-

thing outright. The director has to take you into his or her world the same way they would an actor. And then, it all starts to flow, my hand works on its own and I don’t have to think any more. An interesting director leaves room for the unknown. When I worked with Veiko Õunpuu on his two feature films – Free Range / Ballad on Approving of the World (2013) and Roukli (2015), we sometimes talked for five hours and edited for two during the day, but that made the editing much more precise. Martti Helde’s In the Crosswind (2014) was a completely different kind of experiment where we first had to edit it on paper. Cinematographer Erik Põllumaa, director Martti Helde and I, had our own little editing manifest where we worked ESTONIAN FILM

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out what would be the underlying rhythm for a film with practically zero cuts, on the thing that would evoke the emotion. I didn’t know until the premiere if the film worked on an audience or not, it had such an unstoppable flow to it. The last film I edited was Lauri Lagle’s Portugal (2018), which was thematically already a big meeting with the unknown and that made the process very interesting. You also work as a producer and director of documentaries so you do a lot of different things. Why? And how do they fit together – do they get in each other’s way or complement each other?

I guess I do all that so I don’t become too professional in any one area. And, yes, sometimes they get in each other’s way. Especially

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when one project starts to move along better than others, something inevitably has to wait for its time. Editing has one drawback, which is that it shackles you to one small room for a time period. And sometimes you have to get out, go outside, drive somewhere far away and breathe in the smell of fresh rain. More than ten years ago, friends and I started the production company Alasti Kino because it seemed easier to produce some things on our own instead of turning to bigger producers. I’ve understood that it’s easier for the industry if you choose one role but I’ve allowed myself the freedom of not doing that. I’m a filmmaker and I try to use the full extent of my arsenal of knowledge, experience and talent, which sometimes puts me in one role and at other times another. There was a time

Photo by Erik Põllumaa

Photo by Andres Kunnus

COVER STORY

Liis Nimik working on her recent projects as editor, producer or anything else that filmmaking requires.

when I was worried that people were expecting me to make a decision already – but I let go of that anxiety a long time ago. One of last year’s international successes was Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway where you were one of the producers. This is a crazy, experimental film co-produced between five countries from Ethiopia to Romania. What did you learn as a producer through putting together and developing such an insane project?

I was just one of 15 producers, but I


chance that Carlos and I had some sort of meeting that same day and Carlos told me about the situation. My heart said that it could make for a strong story because it involved delving into the complete unknown, a journey that only had two possible conclusions. Three weeks later, Eeva and Carlos were in Bogotá, scouring dangerous, drug-laden slums where everyone seemed to know Lauri. But the story finally ended up being so much more complex and deep than we ever could have imagined. Please tell the readers of Estonian Film a little more about director Carlos Lesmes’s background – this is his debut film and the wider public doesn’t know him yet.

If you want to do the impossible, you just have to get started. was truly part of this film from the moment of its birth all the way through to its premiere. The biggest thing I learned is how explosive free, uncompromised creativity coupled with a passion for filmmaking can be. If you want to do the impossible, you just have to get started. Don’t wait ten years until someone gives you money or approves your script. Make even one minute of the film. And then make the next three. The most important parts of a film are its spirit and original impulse, all the rest will follow. But if you wait or let money make you adapt to the rules of the system, then nothing outside of the box can come of it. Though I actually lack any ambition to produce feature films. My heart belongs to documentaries. The new film you produced, Carlos Lesmes’s full length documentary debut A Loss of Something Ever Felt is also quite international in Estonian terms – the director

comes from Colombia and the film takes us to the other side of the world. It was also just accepted to the prestigious HotDocs festival. How did this story find you?

The film’s main character, Eeva, had a drug addicted brother named Lauri who had been missing for six months in 2017. Lauri was always regularly in touch with his mother but one day that connection was broken. His last phone call came from Bogotá, Colombia. During the ensuing six months, it became clear to Eeva and Lauri’s mother that no institution will help you if your drug addicted family member disappears on the other side of the globe. They had nothing left but to turn to Carlos, the only Colombian living in Estonia who Eeva knew, and ask him for help. It was completely by

Director Carlos Lesmes on the set of his full length documentary debut A Loss of Something Ever Felt. The film - produced by Estonia and co-produced by Sweden and Colombia - is selected to HotDocs 2020.

Carlos came to Estonia eight years ago to study directing at BFM. His first film I saw was a documentary dedicated to his murdered brother. In that film, he says that he came to Estonia, the coldest place he could find, to freeze his pain. His family never found out how or why his brother lost his life. I don’t remember how we became friends exactly but that film probably had a lot to do with it. It’s very honest, candid, painful – a kind of organized chaos that I’d never seen before. Carlos is a wonderful person, he has a lot of friends in Estonia. As a filmmaker, he’s extremely intuitive, a creator who trusts chaos. I believe that these years spent in Estonia didn’t freeze him like he hoped but rather defrosted him as a person. After working on A Loss of Something Ever Felt together for three years, I can safely say that we know each other through and through because we’ve traveled through half the world developing the film – from one workshop to another. This has been true quality time where we talked about all of the most fundamental questions of life, from hopelessness to hopefulness. No one else could have told this story. It was and is Carlos’s story. The story is emotionally very difficult. What were the main tasks of a producer on such ESTONIAN FILM

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COVER STORY I consider it very important that people making choices remember the existence of independent and free filmmakers. when they came back from Colombia, Eeva and Carlos were both completely spent emotionally. But when we looked through the material, it became clear that there was a film in there. After a short period of recuperation, we started traveling around development forums like Ex Oriente, Baltic Sea Docs and Seattle Works in Progress. These helped compensate for the nonexistent development phase. They allowed us to digest our own emotions and find that necessary, sole point of focus for the film. Since the process ran backwards, I became the co-screenwriter on the film and we had the opportunity to really go in depth in our discussions. The next project for Liis is finishing her own documentary, which she has been working on for five years. It is filmed on 16-mm and takes a look at nature and people.

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a film? In addition to the finance plan, I’m assuming that there were a lot of emotions and anticipation around the fact that you didn’t know what was going to happen…?

The uncertainty was difficult for everyone involved in the process of making this film. And more from the angle of what would happen if we actually find him, not of what happens if we don’t. The process started backwards in a way. Since Eeva’s family was so worried, we couldn’t wait with the trip to Bogotá, which meant that we filmed the material without any kind of development period. The streets of some parts of Bogotá are dangerous and they often had to film with phones so as not to attract attention or endanger themselves. Later,

Filmmakers in Poland, Hungary and many other Eastern European countries lament that it’s hard for them – that a so-called state program has emerged and funding is given to national projects with certain ideologies, and so on. How is it for a filmmaker in Estonia with a clear inclination towards arthouse and experimental projects and who probably isn’t going to be making any popular comedies any time soon - how is it for you and your closest friends and like-minded colleagues?

If the autonomous and independent filmmaker disappears, then film becomes an ideological tool, no matter who is behind it. It can come from nationality, greed, whatever. At the moment, there are a lot of

films in Estonia that are made because the author needs to make it. But it’s also clear that all of those authors are having a hard time because the film market is turning upside down. I consider it very important that people making choices remember the existence of independent and free filmmakers. When you have a choice between consuming the product of a large corporation or a film by a person who went and risked his life in a crisis hot spot – then I think your decision should support the latter. The last time I was at a documentary film festival and watched ten documentaries in a row, I realized that documentary films have an unbelievable ability to deal with the same issues that the media approaches through a prism of fear using a language of love. And that language of love would not exist if the filmmakers weren’t free to choose their own theme and focus. What are your future plans? What projects are you working on and how much can you reveal about them at the moment?

Next, I’m going to finish my own documentary, which I’ve been working on for five years. It is filmed on 16-mm and takes a look at nature and people. To many of us, the essence of nature has receded into either an intellectual concept or a land of lonely tree huggers and esoteric oddballs. But there are actually a lot of regular people living in and around Estonian forests who are 100% in touch with that certain something. And I’m trying to make a film about that contact – how it smells, what it feels like, how time moves inside it. Time will tell what will come out of it. EF


SALES

EETER DOCS WORKS WITH DOCS A new distribution company is the first in the Baltics that only works with documentary films. By Maria Ulfsak Photos by Virge Viertek

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t the beginning of 2020, former Head of Production at the Estonian Film Foundation, Karlo Funk, and director of photography with a documentary acquisition background, Sergei Trofimov, created Eeter Docs to work only with documentary film distribution and primarily on the international arena. Please tell me more about the goals for Eeter Docs and why you saw the need for a new distribution company right now? What is your main course of action and plans for the future?

Karlo: In many ways, Estonian documentary films are at an interesting threshold at the moment. Thus far, documentary production has been fairly independent of TV funding, which has placed limits on filmmakers but also given them a certain sense of freedom. Documentaries used to deal with Estonian culture and history but now they are looking at new themes. Filmmakers are looking outside of the

country and finding a universal dimension to local problems. It seems to me that our films have more international potential now. And that made me think about what could be done to give our documentaries access to all possible channels from festivals to TV channels. Often our documentarians have a hard time finding sales agents and it’s not a question of the films but more about knowing the film arena. At the moment, documentaries are actively looking at our immediate vicinity, such as the inexhaustible topics of Russia and our local minorities, and cooperating more. The documentary about rally driver Ott Tänak: The Movie was in

the TOP 10 for admissions last year and this January’s Fred Jüssi. The Beauty of Being has audience numbers comparable to a feature film. And at the same time, the films haven’t had to adapt or make compromises. We don’t see ourselves as only a sales company but also a promotional platform and partner to documentary producers. Among other things, we’re also looking for a new business model. Sergei: I feel a sense of mission in our new initiative. I worked for four years in acquisition in different organizations and I can see that there are niche channels where the public is very interested in how people are living in countries like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. We all know and are happy to talk abroad about how transparent the film financing is in Estonia and how our filmmakers are producing more films per capita than the other countries that regained their independence 30 years ago. And our audiences go to the cinema. But one piece of the puzzle has been missing so far. I’m talking about distribution abroad. Now it’s a question of whether our stories are interesting enough for a foreign audience or if we have to take a look at world trends and try to make new documentaries to meet them. Do you plan to work with doc series also, which seems to be a rising trend at the moment?

Karlo: We do, indeed, have a few ideas that might evolve into mini-series. When it comes to series, the role of TV financing is very important and it seems that Estonian channels focus mostly on the local audience, which comes with certain limitations. We probably wouldn’t just buy and sell TV formats, but series with a strong idea and cinematic approach have a lot of potential. Sergei: Times are complicated and interesting right now. It’s clear that the classical TV channels are putting less and less money into production. It’s easier and cheaper to buy ready-made shows or films. Different VoD platforms aren’t yet strong enough to spend money on production in every country that they enter. At the same time, having worked with documentary series for the last 15 years, I can say that interest is growing. I think it’s more a question of how to share,

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Films come from the environment that surrounds us and I think we know what the strengths there are. re-edit or convey our stories in different formats to make them understandable and accessible to different audiences in Estonia and elsewhere. What films and filmmakers are in your portfolio at the moment?

At the moment, we’ve been looking around close to home. Jaan Tootsen’s Fred Jüssi. The Beauty of Being premiered in January and I think it gives a very unique look at the relationship between man and nature, even if it’s not a grandiose nature documentary. Margit Lillak’s The Circle is about life in a commune. It’s almost like a classical relationship drama that reflects uncompromising attempts at finding alternatives to our current mode of life and shows what those alternatives might look like. Marta Pulk’s A Year Full of Drama is kind of like an experiment based on an idea, but it’s also a coming-of-age look at a girl discovering the world of theatre and creativity. We are also working with last year’s Ott Tänak: The Movie, which had record numbers at the cinema, and there are several new documentaries – about female soldiers in Ukraine or the Russian generation in Estonia – that are still being made. Do you have a specific type of documentary that you want to work with?

Karlo: Films come from the environment that surrounds us and I think we know what the strengths there are. We won’t exclude any approach or topic. There are authors and teams we are keeping an eye on. At the same time, there haven’t been any documentaries recently that have tried to intervene in a socially important topic through striking imagery and stories. In our small country, many processes are more transparent and people are easier to access than elsewhere, but our conflicts and themes are also more simplistic. Sergei: We are the first company in the Baltic countries that deals only with distributing documentary films. Most acquisitions managers and buyers are very busy people who get hundreds of offers a

day. But their goals are very simple – they have to keep buying films and shows. It’s a question of who is selling better and how. Who’s ready to offer films that fit certain themes or changing needs. It seems to me, personally, that Estonian documentaries are doing very well and audience numbers are good at the same time as topics have become braver, more international, fresher. How would you characterize the state of Estonian documentaries at the moment?

Karlo: Exactly, the situation in documentaries is great and I dare say that the films being made in the upcoming year have just as much potential as recent ones. Our neighbours in Finland traditionally make very strong films. And the arena is much more diverse than in feature films. There are more varying approaches, authors and short documentaries, which rarely make it abroad, and also have a very definite place. But also, as we both know from our acquisitions positions, festivals and television can have quite different perspective to what documentary is or will be. Also, some of our themes

may lack the resonance abroad and would simply not travel. As we can predict from the past few months, there will be a shift in themes of documentaries as well as ways of distributiong them. Please give a little insider tip to our readers – who are the names in Estonian documentary to keep an eye on?

Karlo: Films with creative producers Kiur Aarma (Rodeo) or Riho Västrik (Immortal) involved are starting to develop their own style and focus. Though maybe the most interesting stories being told are by directors who have moved to Estonia and see our life from a different viewpoint. There are many documentaries that look at the local Russian culture – its identity and contradictions. EF

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PRODUCER

Producer on the Move

Elina Litvinova (32) is a Latvian-born film producer working in Estonia. She was selected for this year’s Producers on the Move programme, which brings together Europe’s most promising emerging producers to promote them internationally. With the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 event will not take place in Cannes, but virtually in a re-worked digital format. The new programme will run over a period of five days, starting on May 11th and lasting until May 15th. By Maria Ulfsak Photo by Virge Viertek

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Martti Helde’s Scandinavian Silence (2019) is screening at festivals all over the world. The film had its international premiere at Shanghai International Film Festival.

Characters from Triin Ruumet’s upcoming film Dark Paradise. Photos by Ken Mürk

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lina, congratulations! What are your plans for this year’s Producers on the Move programme? What are your hopes and expectations?

I heard the news about being selected for the Producers on the Move programme during the emergency situation, after I had just returned home from Indonesia in a rescue airplane and with a police escort. All of the articles and posts I read in the media were about the global crisis and uncertainty about the future. Which meant that my gratitude was that much bigger to have the opportunity during this changing moment, to present myself and especially my projects on an international arena – in a programme focused on producers. But I am also interested in finding out whether, and how, others in the industry will position themselves, and alter their strategies in response to the global changes in the economy and society. I hope that this crisis will bring some healthy changes to the industry and more intriguing stories will emerge. What projects are you working on right now?

I’ve been actively working on the international distribution of Martti Helde’s Scandinavian Silence (2019). The film is screening at festivals all over the world, had cinema distribution in Norway, and will soon also reach screens in France and Belgium. Martti’s new film Thule is in the development stage. I am also finishing Vladimir Loginov’s new documentary film that has observed the very unique atmosphere of the Tallinn Hippodrome for the last five years. I’m preparing young

and talented director Rebeka Rummel’s short film Drifting Apart, which revolves around the theme of trust. And last, but certainly not least, I’m working, of course, on Triin Ruumet’s Dark Paradise. Please tell us more about Triin Ruumet’s new project. The Days That Confused (2016) was a hit in Estonia and internationally, and everyone is waiting for her new film. How far are you in development?

Ruumet’s new film, Dark Paradise, is a poignant tale that borders between tragedy and black comedy, about 27-year-old Karmen who discovers that her recently buried, loving father was actually living in debt, and their whole life was one big lie. The film is constructed as a kaleidoscopic story with many characters that revolves simultaneously between the two worlds of Karmen and her half-brother Viktor. On the one hand, it’s a family drama, but on the other, it’s a young person’s downward spiral. At the heart of the film is a nihilistic search for love and intimacy. Dark Paradise is my first cooperation with Triin and we’ve been working on it since 2017. Triin’s boldness, sense of atmosphere, and view of people’s lives are striking. At the same time, her personal approach gives the film a lovely sensitivity that will speak to viewers with different backgrounds; including young people who don’t have very many films made for them. At the moment, we are financing the project so we can film next year. The development period was funded by the Estonian Film Institute, the Estonian Cultural Endowment, and MEDIA, and the project was received very warmly by the sales agents at the prestigious Les Arcs Co-Production Market in France.

Your filmography so far – such as producing Martti Helde’s Scandinavian Silence, and Loginov’s Anthill, or your work as line producer on Veiko Õunpuu’s The Last Ones, and Antti Jokinen’s Helene – shows that your profile focuses on demanding auteur films. How do you position yourself in the market, and what do you see as your role in the future?

For me, it is primary that I make and choose films that have a moral responsibility and aesthetic form. I don’t know how to just produce and do something only because it follows some sort of formal or industry demands. I understood that very clearly when I studied at a world-class film school in England and then decided to return to Estonia. I realized that it is (still) possible in Estonia and Europe to create films with an unconventional form, with directors who don’t work in the mainstream bureaucratic world of entertainment, and who also perceive film as an artform and part of our culture. The harder it is to make films like that, the more important becomes my responsibility as a producer to stand for those authors’ voices. Because they dare to create films that leave a unique mark, ones with dreamlike atmospheres and sensibilities that reach underneath people’s skin. EF ESTONIAN FILM

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ANIMATION

g n i t a m i An Legend a ul Raggie is Quirky and cheerf ored charone of the most ad literature. acters in Estonian riped The rag doll in a st the light of costume first saw ok written day in 1962 in a bo ustrated by by Eno Raud and ill authors had Edgar Valter. Both aking Raggie an equal role in m an children’s the icon of Estoni today. literature that it is stor

otos by Laura Ne By Aurelia Aasa Ph

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or generations, Raggie has been a symbol of childhood. It’s a story of growing up, told through the eyes of little Ruby, whose older brother Mark sews her a rag doll who comes to life and becomes Ruby’s most beloved companion. Now, this legacy lives on in Raggie, an animated feature released in February 2020. Raggie quickly became one of the mostwatched films in Estonian history, hitting the 100,000 admissions mark within a week. Director Meelis Arulepp and producer Kristel Tõldsepp from A Film Estonia share their views on working with iconic characters, criticism, and international co-productions in the animation field.

gie. At the same time, it seems that making children’s films has become increasingly difficult as there are many elements and different opinions to consider. How do you see the situation? Does it make you feel a sense of responsibility?

Kristel: I believe you can’t overthink it. Of course, when it comes to children’s films, there are some things to consider. For

example, with Raggie we made sure that children were wearing helmets when they rode their bikes. But we also got feedback asking why they didn’t have seatbelts on in the taxi or why the water was left running when they were brushing their teeth. Here, for example, we had to leave the water running because Raggie needed to fall into the sink and we had to have a reason for it to be full of water… There’s also a scene in the film that takes us up on a roof – we didn’t take it out

Raggie is one of the core texts in children’s literature in Estonia. How was the idea for the film born?

Kristel: It’s actually a simple story. In 2013, we made the short film The Great Painter. Like Raggie, it was based on Edgar Valter’s illustrations. The film had roughly 4,000 admissions, which is a remarkable number for a short film in Estonia. After that, the local cinema chain Forum Cinemas had a game for its audience, asking which Edgar Valter book should make it to the big screen next. Roughly 90 percent of people voted for Raggie. That’s how the idea was born. In Estonia, there has been a wave of children’s films: Morten and the Spider Queen, the Lotte franchise, Phantom Owl Forest, and now Rag-

ESTONIAN FILM

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TALENT ANIMATION

Children are much smarter than we think and they can grasp the difference between film and reality. because we didn’t think that it would make children start climbing on roofs. I feel we shouldn’t underestimate children. Children are much smarter than we think and they can grasp the difference between film and reality. Of course there’s a responsibility, for example, in the language you use. But at the same time, it’s an animated film and you need movement and playfulness. I also hope that parents talk to their children and if something seems difficult to understand, or complicated, they discuss it together. The biggest topic of conversation after Raggie has been the brother-sister relationship. We’ve heard that kids are discussing it in kindergartens. One of the most heart-warming feedback moments was when our friend’s son said, “I also want to sew a doll for my little sister.” How did you juggle the content – decide which parts of the original story to include, which to leave out?

Meelis: We played with the story a lot. In

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the beginning, the script was quite different. We started working directly from the book and put more emphasis on the story of how Raggie is made. We scripted long, cinematic scenes where Mark was sewing the doll and stabbed his finger with the needle to show that the doll was born through pain. It was literally the story of breathing life into an inanimate object. But, unlike the book, we wanted to make sure from the beginning that it’s clear that Raggie is only alive in Ruby’s eyes. For that reason, we had to give up the story of Raggie’s creation. We see it in the film but in fast motion. At its core, Raggie is about a brother-sister relationship and the path of growing up. We also tried to make the story work for both children and grownups. The truth is that you can’t always predict the moments or quotes that really come to life on the screen, but we thought about both sides to make sure that it would be an engaging, family film.

Kristel: All of our decisions were very practical. The end goal was to make an engaging children’s film that’s 70-75 minutes long. In the beginning, we wanted to include all the elements we knew and loved from the book, but that would have made the film two hours long. So we played with the elements and details. We had thirteen different script versions before reaching the final one. Although Raggie quickly became popular and much watched, it was also challenged by some mixed reviews. For a creator it’s always difficult to stay neutral in that type of situation. How did you balance the criticism emotionally?

Kristel: When we started work on Raggie, we knew the response would be across-the-board. Our childhood dreams are often lighter than reality. Raggie is a book that has shaped many childhoods. Everyone has their own idea of Raggie


and his story. People remember the emotions they first felt when reading the book. It’s always complicated to take something so personal and make it into a film. No matter how much love is put into the film, you can’t ever meet everyone’s ideals and expectations. With Raggie, it seems that some people just started looking for mistakes. But if we look back on it, the commotion around the film actually ended up being a good thing. Estonians tend to be very reserved, and if we hadn’t had those two negative reviews in the beginning, they would never have sent us so many positive, touching messages. People wrote us e-mails and found us on social media to tell us how much the film touched them. I believe that this kind of overwhelming positivity was a reaction to the negative reviews. So, in a way, the criticism paved the way for dialogue. Surprisingly, the gender of Raggie has been the main point of controversy. When Eno Raud wrote the book in Estonian, Raggie was genderless. The gender question has become a hot topic in recent years. Does it matter to you whether Raggie is a boy or girl?

While working on the film, you were also in contact with the relatives of Eno Raud (1928- 1996), the author of Raggie.

Kristel: It went very smoothly. We got in contact with Aino Pervik, the widow and heir of Eno Raud. She said right away that the film is a separate work and she doesn’t feel the need to be connected to the project at all times. I offered her the opportunity to read the script but she distanced herself. We actually wrote the script in English as we had an international team, but after finishing the script we asked Mihkel Raud, the son of Eno Raud and Aino Pervik, to translate the dialogues back to Estonian and put them into a local context. He did a very good job. The film is co-directed by Karsten Kiilerich from Denmark. How was the collaboration?

writing experience, he helped us with the structure of the film a lot. We were the ones with the cultural background of the story, who knew which elements we definitely needed to keep to help the film resonate with Estonian audiences. In the end, it was perfect that Karsten didn’t have any sentimental bonds with the book from his childhood, because he could look at the story from a fresh perspective. But when we first sent him the English translation of the book, we were pleased to hear that he liked the story. Although Raggie dates back to Soviet Estonia, you don’t necessarily need a personal back story to feel empathy for the characters. It works as a modern children’s book even without knowing any of the context or the origin of the story. Meelis: Exactly, It’s a timeless and universal story.

Meelis: Karsten was also one of the script-writers, so the structure of the story was clear to him from the very beginning. When we started directing the film, he stepped aside for a while, but we still shared a kind of synergy and had an active collaboration. Kristel: As Karsten has such extensive script-

Kristel: Absolutely not. Before the topic came up, I didn’t overanalyse the gender aspect. Raggie is a doll and we needed to find a voice. For practical reasons, we even considered making a digital, so-to-say, genderless voice. However, the generated sound didn’t have any human passion and it lost its character. We loved the acting of the Estonian actor-comedian Ott Sepp. He gave so much to the story and to the character. Meelis: Coming back to the original book… While writing the book, Eno Raud didn’t think about whether Raggie is a boy or girl. As there’s no gender in the Estonian language, it wasn’t even an issue. The topic first arose when the book needed to be translated to other languages: Russian, English, etc. Then he needed to make a decision and the beloved rag doll became a boy.

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ANIMATION You worked with quite a small team of animators?

Kristel: We had three Estonian animators who were working full-time, and two part-time animators from abroad. It’s quite crazy to think that we managed to make Raggie in one year with such a small technical team. Meelis: That was a crazy period…. Kristel: At the same time, the technical competence has evolved tremendously in the past ten years and it’s possible to make high-quality films with smaller budgets. It would have been impossible to make Raggie ten years ago. It would have required a larger team and budget, and we wouldn’t have been able to fund it as an international co-production without losing the position of main producer. How close are the illustrations in the film to Edgar Valter’s original illustrations?

Meelis: We tried to keep it as close to the original as possible. One thing we did change were the eyes. Raggie and the other characters had little black dots as eyes. We changed them. But in general, it’s all the same – the clothes, the backgrounds… Kristel: Edgar Valter had the habit of redrawing all of his characters. Party because of changing times and partly because of new technical possibilities. So with each new reprint of the book his style changed a little, and so did the characters. So there are several different versions of Raggie. Our film is based on the book that was published in 1969. So while working on finding the right visual aesthetics, you had your nose in the book all the time?

Meelis: Exactly. We took all the books and went through the illustrations over and over again. It’s quite tricky because Raggie is a little different on each picture in the book. It’s okay for an artist working on book illustrations.

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You can change the eyes or mouth a little, and move little details here or there. Differences and nuances give the pictures playfulness and character. But in the animation we needed consistency. It was crucial for us to find one right version of the characters. One of the characters we did change a little was the grandmother. We decided to make her more portly, to make her a warm-hearted, giving character. The hair and costumes are all the same though. In total, it took us a year to find the right visual language for Raggie. It was a very exciting process! This is the second film by A Film Estonia that is based on Edgar Valter’s illustrations. Is there anything specific in his drawing style that captures you?

Meelis: Definitely, he was a genius. One of his abilities that few artists possess is the positivity of his work. His creations

are light-hearted, delicate and heartwarming. Besides the emotionality of his work, he also had remarkable technical skills. As artists or animators, many of us have found ourselves in the situation where we can’t visualize our ideas the way we imagine them. He was able to put his ideas down on paper in a genuine and intricate way. He was remarkable at visualizing his ideas. Kristel: He was undoubtedly one of the most brilliant illustrators of our time, and not only in Estonia but in the world. Due to the times and regime, his work couldn’t find its way to the wider world, but he was a one-of-a-kind talent. Actually, when we started planning The Great Painter in 1997, Meelis was exchanging letters with Edgar Valter. When we final-


Examples of Edgar Valter’s (1929- 2006) brilliant illustrations.

ly started making the film, Edgar Valter was no longer with us, but we had his personal endorsement for making the film prior to starting the project. Meelis: He often added little sketches at the bottom of his letters, all drawn with his personal, elegant pencil line. At the end of one letter, there was a little devil – the symbol of time – marking that he had the will to do more, to write more, but time was running out. When it comes to international live action projects, it’s clear how the shooting process works. How is the international collaboration in the animation sphere? Everyone is working from home, in their own little offices?

Kristel: When working on Raggie, we had preproduction meetings that were kind of like non-stop Skype sessions. (Both laugh.) We were in digital contact 24/7. We prefer to work in one space in Estonia, as filmmaking is group work and dependent on synergy, but it’s theoretically possible to work through an online connection. Looking at the situation right now, ani-

Looking at the bigger picture, it’s great to see Estonian animation getting more and more diverse in recent years. mation is one field of filmmaking where production is not at a standstill. It’s definitely more complicated this way, but, coming back to the developments in animation programs, it’s possible to get a lot done at home these days. Raggie was the first full-length feature for A Film Estonia. Looking back on the process, what did you learn and would you change anything?

Kristel: We put a lot of energy into all of our projects – full-length or short. The most difficult thing about Raggie was keeping the energy concentrated in one place for such a long time. There were moments when we wished we could start a new project and focus on something else for a while. Meelis: I see a very large developmental leap in myself. Since I had worked on shorts before, I didn’t doubt in myself or question whether I was the right person for the job. But it was still challenging. On the one hand, it meant giving maximum energy and devotion to one thing. On the other, I had to deal with very complicated issues, like how to find a balance in the movement of the characters to make it

look believable but not live action. Every stage taught me something. A Film Estonia has quite an international portfolio. You have done many co-productions and lots of commercial work. How do you see yourself in the Estonian animation field and how do think Estonian animation is doing as a whole?

Kristel: We have always kept our focus on the audience. With our independent films where we weren’t service providers, our main goal was always to reach the audience. This has been quite a clear direction for us. At the same time, we put our heart into whatever work we do. There are no films in our portfolio that we don’t like or hold dear. Looking at the bigger picture, it’s great to see Estonian animation getting more and more diverse in recent years. We have everything – children’s films, animated features for adults, shorts. I believe there’s something for everyone and that they all complement each other. Just like we need author-driven films, we also need children’s films and other formats. I truly hope that this kind of diversity will continue to thrive. EF ESTONIAN FILM

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FUNDS

How to Find Money in Estonia If you want to make your film with Estonian partners, these are the film funds, ready to finance your project. By EFI

ESTONIAN FILM INSTITUTE PROGRAMMES FOR FILM PRODUCTION MAJORITY CO-PRODUCTION • Financing for an Estonian co-producer the maximum subsidy is € 700,000. • Subsidy of up to 70% of the Estonian part of the budget. • 50% of the subsidy must be spent in Estonia. • Two application deadlines: April 30, 2019 and December 3, 2019. MINORITY CO-PRODUCTION Budget 2020: € 500,000 • For producers from all over the world. Participation of an Estonian co-producer is necessary. Bilateral treaty not necessary. • Maximum subsidy for an Estonian co-producer: feature film and feature animation € 200,000; documentary € 60,000. • Subsidy of up to 70% of the Estonian part of the budget. • 100% of the subsidy must be spent in Estonia. • Estonian creative and production related participation in a project should meet the requirements of minority co-production grading table. • Two deadlines per year, decision in 30 days.

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FILM ESTONIA CASH REBATE 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 previously mentioned works. An application can be made for international production service or co-production to receive a cash rebate up to 30% on eligible production costs. • • • • • •

Support intensity - 20%-30% of eligible costs Deadlines - open call Applicant - company registered in Estonia Recipient - foreign company Decision – in 30 days Auditing and payment – in 40 days

The scheme is open for: • feature films with a budget of at least € 1 million; minimum local spend € 200,000

• feature documentary with a budget of at least € 200,000; minimum local spend € 70,000 • animation with a budget of at least € 250,000; minimum local spend € 70,000 • animation series with a budget of at least € 500,000; minimum local spend € 70,000 • high-end TV-drama with a budget of at least € 200,000 per single episode; minimum local spend € 70,000 • post-production; minimum local spend € 30,000 Previously supported films include: Checkered Ninja (Denmark), Maria’s Paradise (Finland), Firebird (UK), Helene (Finland), Tenet (USA) CONTACT: Nele Paves, Film Commissioner nele@filmi.ee filmestonia.eu


Bibi Blocksberg

Shooting of Erna at War

Helene Photo by Andres Teiss

Photo by Karl-Andres Vaikla

REGIONAL FILM FUNDS TALLINN

TARTU FILM FUND Type of fund: regional, incentive / cash rebate. • • •

• •

Budget 2020: € 150,000 Support intensity: up to 20% Objective: production of an audio visual work in Tartu area (South of Estonia) Support for the production of feature films, animations, tv-series, documentaries, short films. Participation of an Estonian production company is necessary. No deadlines.

Recently supported films: The Secret Society of Souptown (Estonia), When You Least Expect It (Estonia), Erna at War (Denmark) CONTACT: Kristiina Reidolv info@tartufilmfund.ee tartufilmfund.ee VIRU FILM FUND Type of fund: regional, incentive / cash rebate • Budget 2020: € 200,000 • Support intensity: up to 40% • Objective: production of an audio visual work in the Eastern region of Estonia. • Support for the production of feature films, documentaries, tv-series, music videos. • No deadlines, applications are accep­ ted from February 10 to October 31. Recently supported films: Eternal Road (Finland), Mihkel (Iceland), Mother (Estonia) CONTACT: Piia Tamm piia.tamm@ivek.ee vff.ee

IDAVIRUMAA

TARTU

SAAREMAA

FILM FUND OF ESTONIAN ISLANDS Type of fund: regional, incentive / cash rebate • Budget 2020: € 15,000 • Support intensity: According to the project • Objective: production of an audio visual work on the island of Saaremaa. • Support for the production of feature films, animations, tv-series, docs, short films and film education. • Participation of an Estonian production company is necessary. • No deadlines. CONTACT: Saaremaa Development Centre +372 452 0570 filmifond@sasak.ee www.minusaaremaa.ee/en/film-fund- of-estonian-islands

Travel fast. With an area of just 45,227 km2 all corners of the country are only a couple of hours away There’s space. Estonia is one of Europe’s least crowded countries It’s green. 52 per cent of the country is forest,

THE CULTURAL ENDOWMENT OF ESTONIA Public agency that supports culture, including audiovisual art, and sport. MAJORITY CO-PRODUCTION Financing for an Estonian co-producer the maximum subsidy is € 120,000. MINORITY CO- PRODUCTION • Participation of Estonian co-producer is necessary. • Financing for an Estonian co-producer the maximum subsidy is € 60,000. • There are four application deadlines: February 20, May 20, August 20 and November 20.

making it one of Europe’s greenest countries Endless summer light. Due to its northern location, Estonia experiences the summertime “White Nights” phenomena, when the sun sets late and the night is dusk at most.

Lots of islands. 2,222 islands and islets Period-friendly architecture. Medieval old towns, 1000 castles and manors dating back as far as the 13th century. Architecture from Stalinist Classicism and Soviet Modernism. ESTONIAN FILM

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Photo by Aron Urb

EVENT

The director of Black Nights FF Tiina Lokk plans to give a second try to building a major film promotion and screening infrastructure online.

COPING WITH THE NEW RULES Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) is preparing for the 24th edition and a possible virtual future. By Hannes Aava

T

he collective anxiety of the global film industry does not go unfelt at the (virtual) offices of the festival. They say that every problem is an opportunity in disguise, but are these the

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opportunities we really would like to have in an industry that, to a large extent, celebrates culture via a physical get together? At the same time, it is hard to argue the fact that, amidst the layoffs and general uncertainty, there is a stronger sense of solidarity growing in an industry that is often regarded as highly competitive and self-aggrandising. A great example of swift creative action is the My Darling Quarantine Short Film Festival, devised by Venice programmer Enrico Vannucci and hosted by Talking Shorts online magazine to

raise support for Doctors Without Borders movement and the cancelled film events. SEVERAL POSSIBLE SCENARIOS

The team of Black Nights has been following the recent global events unfold and is preparing for several possible scenarios. The festival’s first event of the year – the Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival (HÕFF) has been moved fully online, screening around 80% of its planned programme and holding various events online such as panel discussions


CREATING AN ONLINE PLATFORM

But the show must go on, in some form or another, and on it will go! Plans are being made for the festival’s biggest ever virtual endeavour – creating an online platform that would combine features of the festival’s audience- and industry-directed branches. If realised in full scope, this would offer a virtual environment for filmmakers to enter their projects for pitching early script phases, through to

The fifth edition of European Film Forum Tallinn session in 2019. It is currently unsure whether the next one can take place in the same format.

Photo by Lilli Tölp

for the industry and public, the festival’s opening ceremony is combined with a costume competition, and virtual Q&A’s with the filmmakers. This adds a whole new dimension to the already far-reaching partnership with the telecommunication provider, VOD platform host and content creator Elisa, who is helping the festival with the platform for screenings, among other things. In a new endeavour, HÕFF will host its first ever industry panel, where the European Genre Forum – a joint genre film project development programme of Black Nights, Amsterdam’s Imagine Film Festival from Amsterdam, and Fantastic Zagreb – promoters and other genre industry players, and the talent whose films are screening at HÕFF, will share insight into the biggest issues that have been faced, and will be faced, during and after the lockdown. Parallel to organising HÕFF, the PÖFF team have been busy watching film submissions and making preparations for the main festival, while quarantining in home offices. Somewhat surprisingly, the festival has already received more submissions than ever before. However, the world of cinema has currently been put, to a large extent, on pause, and everyone needs to operate with multiple scenarios in mind. Can we organise physical screenings in November? Can we organise world premieres and hold international competition programmes? Can industry and film guests travel to Tallinn? These are some of the more obvious questions among the hundreds that are haunting the festival organisers at the moment.

Summit in November By Egle Loor Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event continues preparations for the summit in November It is clear that film industry professionals, including film event organisers, have faced a number of challenges in recent months. Most of the industry professionals are currently rearranging their plans and looking for ways to get the film industry working again. The team behind Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event is also tackling the challenges and looking into opportunities to host one of the largest film industry events in NorthEast Europe, at the end of November. According to Marge Liiske, Head of Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event, the film world has been turned upside down, and after the first shock everyone is eager to find new ways to continue with their productions. “The same applies to film industry events, where festivals and summits explore options how to combine online and offline, or how to shift all the speeches, presentations and networking to online-channels only. Luckily, Industry@Tallinn& Baltic Event is over half a year away and it gives us breathing room and the opportunity to prepare. We are looking into setting up the best possible online platform together with Black Nights Film Festival,” she comments. Liiske predicts that the autumn of 2020 might be a very active period for the film industry. “Everyone has been in hibernation this spring, and it most likely continues for the next few months. Autumn is a time for new beginnings, and while many events are postponed

to the second half of 2020, Industry@ Tallinn & Baltic Event hopes to emphasise this new start by being present both online and offline.” She adds, that the first initiatives for organising large-scale film industry events via online channels were given a try around 15 years ago, but in those days professionals still preferred to fly in and meet face to face. Online-events did not have much success then. Now, when the current crisis is touching each and every one of us, online-events will be the most reasonable and expected way. “We could also see it as an opportunity. It could allow more film industry professionals to participate in the event. People, who are not able to travel, due to health concerns or tight schedules, could attend the event online.” Last year 74 projects were presented during the Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event. The presentations have always involved showing the projects to a larger audience as well as one-to-one meetings. “When all goes as planned, filmmakers will have a web-based environment to submit the projects in various stages up to market screenings, and also for making it available to distributors and buyers online. Also, a oneto-one meeting can be arranged on web platforms,” Liiske says. “The ultimately changed world hasn’t left any area untouched, the film industry also has to accommodate new ways of meeting, networking and pitching projects,” she comments. “We hope to announce the calls for projects at the Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event in June.” EF

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Photo by Markus Sein

EVENT

The legendary parade of Haapsalu is among the events that are have been moved online this year.

Photo by Aron Urb

But the show must go on, in some form or another, and on it will go!

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terested in promoting their talent and output. Back then, the project called Black Market Online was too ambitious for “Among the problems with going online with a festival is the one concerning the premieres of competition films. We a small Eastern European might not see picture like this anymore: the Hindu-Japafilm festival and it was nese-Estonian crew of the 2019 Grand Prix-winning film dropped after multiple atKontora, that had its world premiere at Black Nights.” tempts to draw internaworks in progress screenings, market tional and domestic funding failed. screenings, etc., until the very final phase - screening the films publicly to the audiA LOT OF POSSIBILITIES ence, while also making it available to poBut 2020 seems to have laid the foundatential buyers and distributors. tions to go after the idea and think even The idea is actually an old one at bigger. The new platform would not Black Nights, that originates far back to just add the virtual environment to fathe days when the film industry didn’t cilitate the industry life cycle of the even know what Cinando and Reelport film, and offer the opportunity to hold were. Neither did Black Nights director virtual public screenings and a VOD Tiina Lokk and her team, who came up platform, but also cater to the growing with an idea to launch a virtual platform needs of the newest initiative launched for the film industry to showcase proin Tallinn, called the Creative Gate; an jects and complete films, and host virtueducational and promotional platform al promotion pavilions for countries infor the region’s talent engaged in the ESTONIAN FILM

audiovisual sector. It would thus also serve as a permanent virtual promotion platform for Estonian films and projects, and provide this opportunity to other countries as well. In addition to promoting audiovisual talent and output, the platform will benefit the creative industry’s service sector and locations industry. Additional beneficiaries are tourism operators promoting the country’s highlights, offering potential relief after the corona-ravaged economic hardships, creating a chance for film-induced tourism; as film is known to boost locations as tourism attractions. The world will probably take some time to open up for tourism again. So when it does, adding a cool film festival or the shooting locations of Andrei Tarkovski’s Stalker, or Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, among the list of reasons for a visit, will definitely not hurt when the competitive tourism sector blooms again. EF


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IN FOCUS

Love is

All Around The romantic historical drama Where the Heart Is takes us to the Estonian countryside in the 1940s. It’s the fourth film in the legendary Estonian film series, all based on writer Oskar Luts’s novels. Where the Heart Is (titled Winter for Estonian audiences) was released 50 years after Spring (1969), one of the cornerstones of Estonian cinema, saw daylight. Spring was followed by Summer (1976) and Autumn (1990), all directed by Arvo Kruusement.

By Aurelia Aasa Photos by Robert Lang

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W

here the Heart Is, a feature debut for director Ergo Kuld, not only brings the franchise to an end, but also brings some of the most beloved Estonian film characters back to the screen. This new historical rom-com is now being handled by Eyewell and is ready to take on an international audience. Estonian Film speaks to Veiko Esken and Tanel Tatter from Apollo Film Productions, a cinema chain-owned production studio that has released several box-office hits in recent years and also one of the forces behind Where the Heart Is.


How did Oskar Luts’s least known novel, Winter become the film Where the Heart Is?

Tanel: What would be the honest answer? Veiko and I are two, among the few in Estonia, who have actually read the book. (He laughs.) And, to be honest, neither of us was very enthusiastic about it to begin with. We gave each other empty looks over what we should do with this agricultural textbook. But once the screenwriter Martin Algus had written the first film version, there was no longer any question about it. We were sure it was going to be good. Veiko: I felt similar emotions. At first, reading the book was more scary than it

was encouraging. Not that it’s a bad book, but it’s definitely very complicated material for a film – there are no central elements that could carry a film. Martin Algus decided to make some radical changes. He decided that some of the key characters from the previous films would be dead, and others would be ‘reborn’. Kiir, the iconic ‘butt of the jokes’ character known to all Estonians, for example, had been dead for twenty years in the book, but Martin Algus turned the situation around, brought him back to life and gave him a son who doesn’t even exist in the book. These kinds of changes made the script something completely different and loved by the audiences, as the cinema admissions proved. You don’t always have to stick to a book one hundred percent, and I think you can really make some brave changes if the end result improves because of them. The actors are important for Estonian audiences because we’ve known some of them for over fifty years. In some ways, Where the Heart Is became a reunion story.

Tanel: Our goal was to bring together as many of the former actors as possible. That might sound like a marketing ploy, but when a project may give you the

Veiko Esken (on the right) and Tanel Tatter from Apollo Film Productions.

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Photo by Erlend Štaub

IN FOCUS

The team of Where the Heart Is at the domestic premiere of the film.

chance to work with the heroes of your childhood, show me a producer who wouldn’t take advantage of that. We were lucky to have these people come and work with us. It was a big honour. Especially as many of them aren’t professional actors. It wasn’t easy to inspire them to want to undertake this journey again. You have produced many popular comedies – last year’s big hit was The Old Man Cartoon Movie, for example. What do you think is the key to good audience numbers and success?

Tanel: Well, we also had some mediocre achievements, but you don’t start working on a film unless you read it and believe in it yourself. It all starts with you. Of course, we compare films and results because we have to justify the funding. As we only operate with private capital, the system is ‘take it, but put it back’. We have a lot to consider, and we have to put a lot of emphasis on distribution and marketing. At the same time, we don’t have any definite formula for success. As we were writing the script for The Old Man Cartoon Movie, it kept getting more and more brutal. My vision was to rule out the outright cursing, because the film would speak for itself. But we didn’t censor any of the general madness.

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If we’ d start producing to a formula, then the work would become numb and product-based. If we’d start producing to a formula, then the work would become numb and product-based. But it is important for us to get the best artistic result possible. Where the Heart Is had three producers – you two and Kristian Taska. What was the cooperation between the three of you like?

Tanel: We are all on set producers. When the paperwork and other stuff is done, we go to the set. We are literally hands-on. We are not office producers. Since our budgets are very small, we have to fill all the empty slots ourselves – from the art department to whatever else. And then we go back to the paperwork. By the way, I’ve noticed that you get a better sense for the project when you work like this – you know exactly what is coming, and you lack the fear and doubt

because you’ve done the hard work and can feel the film physically. Maybe your dedication and love, as well as respect, for your work is bigger that way too. Veiko: This style of working creates a camaraderie in the film crew, which is very important for a low budget film. What does Where the Heart Is have to say about Estonians to a foreign audience?

Tanel: I think it can be seen as a historical film. Most countries in Europe were occupied during World War II, just by different countries. This means the themes are familiar to many people and there aren’t so many distinctions in our histories, the central themes were the same. Veiko: The feedback we have gotten from the Eyewell representatives is that they see this as a clean beautiful love story taking place in a complicated context. Which is what it can be to foreign viewers. A foreign viewer does not have to see the previous trilogy behind the story and they won’t feel the nostalgia for the characters. It was funny – when we first sent the description to our Eyewell representative, he asked us if we were making a joke about Estonians, that the title of the film is Winter and the poster shows an idyllic summer landscape. Without background info, that might seem surprising.


Many of the characters of Where the Heart Is are well known to the Esto­ nian audiences from the previous film trilogy - Spring, Summer and Autumn.

At the same time, the story and characters are captivating without having any background knowledge. With Where the Heart Is, the main theme is a four-sided – or even five-sided – love story.

APOLLO FILM PRODUCTION’S FILMOGRAPHY

How much are you looking to foreign markets in the future?

Being a producer isn’t just a job or a lifestyle – once you fall in love with it, you can’t really get away any more.

Veiko: Where the Heart Is was our first cooperation with Kristian Taska. That gave the project new life and we got to see how he does things – he already has a big portfolio under his belt. We’re just boys compared to that, so we got to jog at his heels and learn from him – it was a good experience. Tanel: Yes, and we have other skills that are more beneficial once the film is finished – we know what to do with it and

where to go with the marketing. That’s our strong suit.

Where the Heart Is / Talve / 2019 / produced by Apollo Film Productions, Taska Film, Kassikuld The Old Man Cartoon Movie / Vanamehe film / 2019 / produced by BOP! Animation and Apollo Film Productions Men / Mehed / 2019 / produced by Apollo Film Productions and Zolba Productions Funny Family / Lõbus perekond / 2018 / produced by Apollo Film Productions, Berg Sound and Zolba Productions

How hard is it to produce films with private capital in a country the size of Estonia?

Tanel: Our experience shows that films with under 85,000–90,000 admissions take a long time to earn their investment back. That’s the number that we aim for with the size of the budgets we have. It’s the absolute minimum, and it means you definitely also have to find some sponsors. Veiko: It’s good to see countryside cinemas starting to work. It brings us a lot of joy because there is a very heartwarming public. But the average ticket prices are lower in small towns and countryside, which makes our life more difficult. So the more admissions we have, the faster it all balances out. EF

Photo by Erlend Štaub

Tanel: We’re feeling around. Our desks are full at the moment and we have a lot to learn. The historical film Melchior is a cooperation between Nafta, Taska Film, Apollo and foreign co-producers, and it is going to be a tough one. But in the group where we work, we have cinema distribution in three countries and there are new cinemas being built all the time. That gives us the courage to keep making films because we have a place to show them. We’ll talk to the Latvians and Lithuanians and see how things go. At the moment, we see a big market in Estonia – we have actors, directors, and audiences. Once we prove ourselves here, there’ll be more reason to move on.

Tanel Tatter and Veiko Esken

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CLASSICS

Our Relic IS FREEDOM The Last Relic is one of the most well-known and beloved Estonian films. At least to Estonians. For the centenary of Estonian film in 2012, The Last Relic was voted the best quips and songs in a film. In March 2020 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the legendary film. By Maria Ulfsak Photos by Estonian Film Institute & Film Archive of the National Archives of Estonia

W

hy do Estonians love The Last Relic so much if – let’s be honest – it’s artistically not exactly an immortal masterpiece of cinematic art? To understand that, we need to take a look at how the film came to be and its historical context. There are many reasons behind the undying love people feel for this film – first of all, this is a historical adventure film by genre.

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And that genre is generally popular, engaging, and easy to understand. Secondly, the songs in The Last Relic had a very enchanting effect, as did the witty dialogue – and both found their way into the lexicon of the masses, and we still use them in conversation to this day. And thirdly, the most important aspect of the film in hindsight is its covert nature – it was a national-romantic film about one nation’s desire for freedom, released in a country under Soviet occupation at the time. Plus, the film also had a dimension of Christian allegory that few were clever enough to find – the main characters are the lovely Agnes, whose name refers to a saint in Christian culture who was often depicted as the lamb of God, and daggered warrior

Gabriel, who we can compare to the Archangel Gabriel. LOVE STORY OF THE CENTURY

But let’s start at the beginning. In 1893, writer Eduard Bornhöhe wrote a rather Russo-centric novel called Prince Gabriel or The Last Days of the Pirita Monastery, which tells the story of the peasant uprising during the Livonian War (15581583). The main characters of this source material are Prince Gabriel, who fights on the Estonian side against the Germans and Swedes, and German noblewoman Agnes von Mönnikhusen. Love sparks between the two. In 1965, the Tallinnfilm editorial board met. The State Committee for Cinematography had commissioned a historical romance adventure film that could be


The Last Relic 50

l An Estonian film that premiered in 1970 l Length: 86 minutes l Made by the studio Tallinnfilm l Filmed on location in Estonia and Latvia l Directed by Grigori Kromanov, produced by Raimund Felt, screenplay written by ArvoValton-Vallikivi, starring Aleksandr Goloborodko and Ingrida Andrina l In its first year in cinemas, The Last Relic had at least 772Â 000 admissions in Estonia. In the whole Soviet Union the film had 44.9 million viewers in 1970 l The Last Relic was the first digitally restored film in Estonia, which premiered in its restored version in 2002 ESTONIAN FILM

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CLASSICS

THE FILM’S DIRECTOR, GRIGORI KROMANOV, HAS WRITTEN: “The keen viewer understands right away that Agnes and Gabriel have to fall in love and that there have to be various obstacles to overcome on their path to love. The world is always full of evil and insidious forces that separate lovers. One such force is the monastic power represented by the Mother Superior. Another evil force is the chief bandit Ivo. The events develop rapidly. Let’s hope they continue to bait the viewer’s interest. The film’s tonality is largely also determined by the behindthe-scenes songs that comment on the events taking place.” 2

watched all over the Soviet Union. They decided to commission the screenplay from Arvo Valton-Vallikivi, who was studying dramaturgy in Moscow and for whom this was his first screenplay. It was decided that Valton should avoid the “currently unacceptable primitive concepts and outdated emotions found in the novel”. The backdrop was that Tallinnfilm had not fulfilled its budget, their previous films were not successful and they needed something to draw the people into the cinemas. In other words: a studio thus far dedicated to serious, social-realistic art had now decided to make a popular, light-hearted adventure film.1 Polishing the screen­ play took many years. In March of 1969, shooting of this colour film started in the film pavilion in Riga. Only a few motifs and the central love story were left of Bornhöhe’s novel. The era was the same – Livonia in the 16th

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century – but the film certainly was not aiming for historical accuracy. A heritage of genre films was practically non-existent in Estonia, so the film was made based on trial and error and examples from abroad (the main reference mentioned is the 1952 French adventure comedy Fanfan la Tulipe from director Christian-Jacque). At the heart of The Last Relic is a mysterious chest – the relic holding consecrated ashes. Young, ridiculously arrogant but sincere nitwit Hans von Risbieter inherits it. But the monastery desires the relic for itself. Risbieter is willing to give it to the monastery only if he gets the lovely Agnes, a close relative of the Mother Superior, as his bride in return. But Agnes’s path crosses that of free man Gabriel, who bravely stands up for freedom and justice, and it is clear that only a love story can ensue.

Tuuli Jõesaar. Kolm aastat kannatusi. Kuidas Lennart Meri taktikepi all valmis “Viimne reliikvia” (“Three Years of Suffering. How Lennart Meri’s Conducted the Making of The Last Relic”). Eesti Päevaleht, March 20, 2020. 2 Õie Orav, Tallinnfilm I. Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, 2003, p. 470. 1


THE MAIN ACTORS

The actors confirmed for both main roles were guest actors – heartbreaker Gabriel is played by Aleksandr Goloborodko, a Ukrainian actor working in Russia whose career took off thanks to The Last Relic; and a long casting search led to the sexy blond Agnes being played by Latvian actress Ingrīda Andriņa. Estonian actors found their way into the smaller roles – Raivo Trass, whom you might know from the Oscar nominated film Tangerines (2013), Eve Kivi, who was a wellknown film star in the Soviet Union, and Peeter Jakobi who many might recognize from the hugely popular Finnish adventure horror film Rare Exports (2010). By the way, a key role in the making and formation of The Last Relic was played by editor Lennart Meri, who later became the President of Estonia from 1992-2001. Film historian Lauri Kärk also

confirms the relevance of his role in the film on many levels: The pipe post and carrier pigeons of the monk-eavesdroppers in The Last Relic were the work of editor Lennart Meri. Of course, he wasn’t yet the President of the Republic of Estonia, but his political wit needed to be expressed somehow!3

A heritage of genre films was practically non-existent in Estonia in the end of 1960s, so the film was made based on trial and error and examples from abroad.

MUSIC OF FREEDOM

The songs we hear in The Last Relic also play a very important role in the film – the melodies were written in just under a week by composer Uno Naissoo, helped in the musical creation by his young son Tõnu Naissoo. The lyrics to the songs are very popular in Estonia to this day. The Estonian versions were recorded by Peeter Tooma, but the international, or Russian, versions were sung by Georg Ots – the renowned Estonian opera soloist who was adored

throughout the Soviet Union, Finland and elsewhere. “The idea of freedom was written into the songs by the young and promising poet Paul-Eerik Rummo, who based his lyrics on the Estonian translation of Teitaro Suzuki’s book Introduction to Zen Buddhism,” journalist Paavo Kangur has discovered. He quotes the author of the lyrics, Paul-Eerik Rummo: “Everyone understood that they were making a pseudo-historical adventure film with an anti-regime message in the subtext. Grisha (the director’s nickname – ed.) may have liked the deep moral conflict that prevailed in the film: can you kill and burn in the name of freedom?”4 Rummo

Lauri Kärk, “Viimne reliikvia” ja “Valgus Koordis”: žanrifilmist žanrifilmini II (“The Last Relic and Light in Koord: From Genre Film to Genre Film II”). Teater. Muusika. Kino, February 2010, p. 107. 4 Paavo Kangur, Otsige Agnest maa alt ja maa pealt… (“Searching for Agnes Far and Wide”). Eesti naine, April 2020, p. 48 3

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CLASSICS WORKING ON THE SET: director Grigori Kromanov (on the left), Agnes (Latvian actress Ingrida Andrina) and Gabriel (Ukrainan actor Aleksandr Goloborodko).

has also alluded to his lyrics being influenced by the Prague Spring events of 1968. At the same time, it should be mentioned that the filmmakers definitely did not want to make an outright political or problematic film. Film historian Lauri Kärk confirms this: As a rule, no one was voluntarily a dissident back then as this could potentially have made them political prisoners. At some point, as they were living their lives, they all found themselves face-toface with the KGB. The makers of The Last Relic wanted to make a genre film that had nothing to do with a hidden dissident message. If they had, the repercussions would not have been limited to taking away the bonuses of a dozen filmmakers in the crew, but essentially could have paralyzed all further activities of Tallinnfilm. 5 AN INSTANT HIT

The Last Relic was received very positively by audiences. The film premiered 50 years ago in March and had 772,000 admissions in Estonia – which meant that half of our population went to watch The Last Relic in cinemas. The film reminded us of something foreign; it was

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new, fresh, exciting, and despite the lack of Estonian actors, it was in Estonian! For the first distribution period, a total of 2,400 prints were made of the film. Russian dubbed version screened in the Soviet Union cinema network the following year where more than 40 million people saw it. No other Estonian film can boast of such high admission numbers. The film was supposedly sold to 63 foreign countries – at least that’s what Sovexport, the Soviet film exporter, claimed. Criticism of the film at the time was neither overly mild nor highly critical. Nowadays, we see it as juicy kitsch and smirk at its camp value or enjoy its retro-adventure spirit – or look for its so-called other layer that talks about the Estonian indelible desire for freedom. But the critics in Soviet Estonia were not happy with its deviations from historical accuracy and the story it

was based on. The film was unusually light in genre and thus treated with caution. Critic Valdeko Tobro, for example, criticized the film because Gabriel had no worthy opponent to fight and thus rise to new heights, and he’s also unhappy that the film doesn’t sufficiently follow the technical rules of adventure films. But the critic does admit that it has a certain charm that “captures the viewer and forces you to forget the small mistakes. This is the film’s other layer, the attitude of the authors towards what they depict, which you can enjoy greatly from beginning to end,” Tobro wrote in 1970. 6 But film critic Anne-Malle Hallik admitted that “in general, we must say that it is just as hard to make a good, stylish adventure film as it is a film in a more ‘serious’ genre. Tallinnfilm’s first attempt gives us hope that the studio has capacity for growth.” 7 EF

Lauri Kärk, “Viimne reliikvia” ja “Valgus Koordis”: žanrifilmist žanrifilmini II (“The Last Relic and Light in Koord: From Genre Film to Genre Film II”). Teater. Muusika. Kino, February 2010, p. 110. 6 Valdeko Tobro, Seiklusfilm ja tema püünised (“Adventure Films and its Traps”). Noorte Hääl, March 29, 1970. 7 Anne-Malle Hallik, Mõtteid “Viimset reliikviat” vaadates (“Thoughts on Watching The Last Relic”). Rahva Hääl, April 5, 1970. 5


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REVIEW

The Pain

of Communal Life Estonian feature films are doing well and so are local documentaries. Just recently, many thousands of pairs of eyes had reason to rejoice. Barely had Joosep Matjus’s The Wind Sculp­ ted Land broken all audience records for documentaries then, six months later, Tarvo Mölder’s Ott Tänak: The Movie did it again. The new decade also had an impressive start with great success at the box office for the exceptional Fred Jüssi. The Beauty of Being, as well as DocPoint Tallinn opener The Circle.

M

argit Lillak’s more than five years of work portrays a group of people attempting to break out from mainstream consumer society to find a more sustainable way of life. To do this, they move into an old manor house in need of repair outside of the bustle of the city and start an eco-community. Even though a dozen or so characters slip past the camera, the main focus quickly goes to the unwinding love triangle that threatens to tear the whole initiative apart.

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Ink Big! The critics have done their job

The closest soulmate for The Circle on the domestic film landscape is definitely Jaan Tootsen’s The New World, which also followed a community trying to live outside established norms for several years. Whereas the New World Society found themselves fighting the city government, Lillak’s film largely excludes the outside world. As topics like climate change and the clear cutting of forests are hot right now, sustainability or eco-living are attractive subjects. But The Circle gives little advice on the possibility of a green-

The Circle By Andrei Liimets First published in Rahvusringhäälingu Kultuuriportaal


Margit Lillak’s new film The Circle portrays a group of people attempting to break out from mainstream consumer society to find a more sustainable way of life.

er lifestyle and looks instead more at matters of the heart. As a reflection of how a community functions, The Circle gets extremely immediate, at times downright uncomfortably personal. The idealistic and happy phase of the shared life gets relatively little time on the big screen. The camera captures intrigue and distress, fights and indignation, tears and screaming. Many of the more loose and bright moments revolve around the children roaming amongst their parents, such as their particularly memorable yearning for everything to do with school, like rules and discipline. Lillak is walking a thin line where the focus on three strong-natured characters threatens to give the whole film a tabloid flair and bury the more important themes under this interpersonal drama. It’s easy to imagine this as a multi-part reality series. But the approach of the film becomes justified and explained by a thought expressed in the second half of the film – how can we expect whole countries and societies to change if even a small group of fairly likeminded people are una-

jectivity – how do you show the people you’ve come to know and love honestly in their good times as well as bad. Lillak has kept her balance in such a complicated situation. The Circle shows its characters with empathy and care despite their personal eccentricities, while also avoiding romanticizing them. The New World made you want to immediately climb on a bicycle and join their community. In contrast, the dramatics of the final moments in The Circle briefly make downtown Tallinn seem like an idyllic oasis. But this is not a warning. More of a sobering reminder of the burden of being a person and the complexity of finding a common language. And of how the only way to manage changing the world around you is, and will remain, managing your own self. EF

ble to discuss things calmly, solve their relationship problems, forgive, recon­cile, and accept compromises in the interest of coexisting. You constantly want to know more about the characters and events. Many scenes, such as the depiction of ritual procedures and methods of finding reconciliation need more context to really work. Nevertheless, editors Jaak Ollino Jr. and Helis Hirve have done a tremendous job – finding and molding the essence from hundreds of hours of material filmed over five years is a laborious challenge. It’s a miracle that while some of the stitching in the numerous themes and characters is still visible, The Circle manages to be as smooth and captivating as it is. Spending so much time with your subject is both a great opportunity and a dangerous path for a documentary filmmaker. On one hand, it creates the trust and proximity that removes barriers and allows the camera near moments that self-awareness might not otherwise show to the public. But on the other hand, it demands enormous professional ethics in terms of decisions made and obESTONIAN FILM

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REVIEW

The

The

Man Nature Jaan Tootsen’s documentary film Fred Jüssi. The Beauty of Being is very enjoyable to watch. While it focuses on nature man Fred Jüssi and his extraordinary sensibility, it also expresses something that is somehow inexpressible. The whole cosmos is hidden in this film. Tootsen’s film is a portrait of a man, but it’s also a meditation on the themes of nature, time and reality.

I

n the film named after him, Fred Jüssi seems like some sort of animist ascetic or even mystic – in the best sense of the word. He is a man who has come to understand something very important. And, fortunately, this understanding was captured allowing this mysterious something to be shared with other people. The lovely diversity of Estoni-

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Ink Big! The critics have done their job

an nature is revealed in astonishing clarity in the combination of image and sound. Time slows down, silence becomes eloquent. The communication between the director and the protagonist gives vital pause to our depressing era of climate change and the clear cutting of forests. The technology of filmmaking allows us to get very close to things that might remain hidden during a simple stroll through the woods. Honestly, you don’t need any professional knowledge to enjoy this film. It gives the viewer everything they need. The documentary genre carries a certain paradox with it. On the one hand, it is something that aspires to capturing reality. Documentaries aren’t made up and should be direct, neutral and observational. (Some would say that they try to show things “just as they are”.) There are always exceptions – a good example is German director Werner Herzog – but

The Beauty of Being By Juhan Raud First published in Postimees


filmmakers mostly keep their intervention to a minimum in traditional documentaries. On the other hand, film is always a synthetic medium – every work is born from the cooperation between the decisions made by different people and even the most neutral, distant or objective viewpoint is predicated on different (creative) decisions. So you could say that every documentary film not only reflects, but also creates reality. A documentary film exists both inside and outside the system at once. And, yet, this paradox empowers the film at hand. We are presented with something that has already been, an echo of the past. And we also give it a new context and, therefore, new meaning. The film places internal wisdom sideby-side with the external world and it turns out that the two are one and the same. The line between subject and object fades away. At first, it may seem like the

named character in the film sort of remains in the background, but Fred Jüssi’s words, thoughts and personality undoubtedly provide the structure for the film. The whole film has the feel of Asian philosophy – Jüssi’s words in the middle of the film are especially moving when he talks about the relationship between man and the cosmos around him (“which is so very awe-inspiring to us”), saying that it is not at all divisive, but rather continuous. None of us are separated from nature: Like a drop of water during the spring thaw – or after it rains – that hangs from a tree branch. You take a closer look and see a whole landscape inside it. You see an upside down forest or meadow in there. What exactly is it trying to show you in that tiny world? The meaning is in that drop and I’m also a drop just like it. This is Fred Jüssi’s very lovely description of Indra’s net. If I remember correctly, that’s a model that depicts the whole universe as one large net with a diamond at each joint and each diamond reflecting all the others – so every­ thing is connected. Those diamonds may be replaced with dew drops. Buddhist texts often contain the metaphor that one drop of water can contain the whole universe. Towards the beginning of the film, Jüssi also says that he “has no goals or principles” but more of a “direction” to be trusted – in other words, it doesn’t pay to rush about. Of course, such an attitude may seem dubious in our neoliberal world where everyone has to work themselves to death in order to feel valuable. And yet, this direction of being productive without producing is very inspiring. Jüssi’s thoughts on silence and the importance of purposelessness as well as the progress of the world are also very appealing. They could easily just as well have been formulated by Taoist thinkers like Zhuangzi or Winne the Pooh. In a certain sense, Tootsen’s new documentary film is like a memory landscape that gently but

The film places internal wisdom side-by-side with the external world and it turns out that the two are one and the same.

Fred Jüssi in his favourite environment the forest.

all the more clearly reminds us why it’s important to stand up for nature. Using the technological medium of cinema, the forest reaches the viewer in an amplified form – and there’s inevitably something melancholic about that. It’s like the cinema is projecting borrowed light on the viewer, a little like the moon. That’s why you should go see Tootsen’s and Jüssi’s film in the cinema – that’s where the image and sound really start to work. And as you step out of the cinema hall, you just might find yourself still back in that forest. EF

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NEW FILM

Raggie

FILM INFO Original title: Sipsik Languages: Estonian, English, Danish, Russian Directors: Meelis Arulepp, Karsten Kiilerich Screenwriters: Karsten Kiilerich, Aina Järvine Production Designer: Meelis Arulepp Animators: A Film Estonia Composers: Ewert Sundja, Liina Sumera Sound: Horret Kuus Technique: 3D animation Producer: Kristel Tõldsepp Co-producer: Anders Mastrup Produced by: A Film Estonia, A. Film Production (Denmark) Domestic premiere: February 19, 2020

R

uby is turning six and her life is in balance – she has an older brother Mark, who is her best friend and always has time to play with her. Then summer is over and Mark has to go back to school. He won´t have time for her sister anymore. Ruby is devastated. Mark decides to make Ruby a new companion: a doll - Raggie. In a wonderful magical moment, Raggie comes to life, at least in Ruby´s perception. Now she has eyes for her new friend only and Ruby spends all her days with Raggie. This changes the relationship between brother and sister, and causes problems in the family. Raggie feels guilty for dividing the brother and sister. He decides to leave the family hoping that this will bring the siblings back together. Not known to Raggie though, Ruby is heartbroken once again. When Mark realizes that Ruby will go through fire and ice in order to find her doll, he agrees to join her on the rescue mission. Together they manage to save Raggie and Mark finally accepts his sister´s vivid imagination. Ruby and Mark are reunited and now Ruby has two best friends in her life. DIRECTOR MEELIS ARULEPP has worked as an animator in various animation studios since 1987, he started working in A.Film Denmark in 1990 and in 1994 he co-founded the studio in Tallinn – A Film Estonia. Meelis has worked as the creative head of the studio since then. Meelis’ filmography includes over 30 feature films, where he has been directing

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74 min / DCP / 1.85:1 / 5.1 animator, designer, storyboarder or supervisor. Meelis has co-directed 8 short films and over 300 commercials. He is also well known book illustrator and caricaturist. DIRECTOR KARSTEN KIILERICH founded A.Film in 1988 with four other partners. Karsten Kiilerich has experience in all branches of animation, ranging from feature-films, shorts and TV-series. He has worked as an animator, scriptwriter, director, concept-developer and creative producer. In addition, Karsten Kiilerich has won several international film prizes and was nominated for an Oscar in 1999 with When Life Departs.

CONTACT A Film Estonia Kristel Tõldsepp +372 516 0399 kristel@afilm.ee afilm.ee


FILM INFO

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here the Heart Is is the last chapter in a series of films based on the beloved stories of Estonian author Oskar Luts. We have reached the year 1942. After the Reds retreat, the German regime has taken over Estonia. Despite the change of power, human nature remains the same - they love, celebrate, quarrel and reconcile. The film was released exactly 50 years after the premiere of Spring (1969), giving the Paunvere saga a dignified and bright ending.

Ergo Kuld

as a freelance filmmaker, since 2007 he has been the chairman of the board of Kassikuld. Ergo Kuld has been involved in about 20 different TV series in Estonia, in most cases as a producer, director, cinematographer, musical designer and editor at the same time. Where the Heart Is is his first full-length feature film.

Photo by Erlend Štaub

Where the Heart Is

Original title: Talve Genre: Romantic comedy / heimatfilm Language: Estonian Director: Ergo Kuld Screenwriter: Martin Algus Cinematographer: Ergo Kuld Production Designer: Eva-Kristina Mill Editor: Ergo Kuld Composer: Mick Pedaja Sound: Lauri Laagus Main cast: Franz Malmsten, Henessi Schmidt, Karl Robert Saaremäe, Riina Hein, Margus Lepa, Saara Nüganen, Märt Koik Producers: Kristian Taska, Tanel Tatter, Veiko Esken Produced by: Taska Film, Kassikuld, Apollo Film Productions Domestic premiere:  February 7, 2020 91 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Apollo Film Productions Veiko Esken +372 56 652 386 veiko.esken@apollo.ee facebook.com/talvefilm/

DIRECTOR ERGO KULD Cinematographer and director Ergo Kuld was born on August 23, 1976 in Tallinn. In 1994 he graduated from Kullamaa Secondary School, in 1998–2000 he studied photography at Tallinn Communication School and in 2000–2004 at Tallinn University as a cinematographer of audiovisual works. In 2002 he started working ESTONIAN FILM

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FILM INFO

Rain

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ain, the older brother of Ats, a 11year old kid growing up in a small seaside town, returns to the family home, where their authoritarian father and their mother are on the verge of losing love. Ats is witnessing the clash of two men, his father and his brother, two stubborn men from different generations with different views of the world. When father tries to push Rain into the boundaries of his world, he finds instead hope in Aleksandra, a mysterious woman with a shady past. DIRECTOR JANNO JÜRGENS born in 1985 in Haapsalu, Estonia. He has made different experiments in the short film genre since 2006. Janno graduated from the Baltic Film and Media School in 2012 as a film director. His short film Dis-

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Janno Jürgens

Original title: Rain Genre: drama Language: Estonian Director: Janno Jürgens Screenwriters: Janno Jürgens, Anti Naulainen Cinematographer: Erik Põllumaa E.S.C. Production Designer: Matis Mäesalu Editor: Przemysław Chruscielewski Sound Designer: Artis Dukalskis Main cast: Indrek Ojari, Rein Oja, Marcus Borkmann, Magdalena Popławska Producer: Kristjan Pütsep Produced by: Alasti Kino To be released: Autumn 2020 96 min / 2K / 1.85:1 / 5.1

tance had its world premiere at Locarno Film Festival in 2012.

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


FILM INFO

Goodbye, Soviet Union

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ohannes is born into an Ingrian-Finnish family in the Estonian Soviet Republic. When his mother leaves for Finland, and he’s left to be raised by his grandparents, Johannes is forced to face life on his own. He falls deeply in love with his classmate, Vera, takes risks, gets into fights, and gets punished… all the while, in the background, the Evil Empire collapses. As the Lenins fall and

Lauri Randla

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

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

the Barbie dolls take over, the crocodile Genas and the Moskvitches are forced to step aside, leaving the road to the West wide open! Lauri Randla’s Goodbye, Soviet Union is a comedy about the adventures of the eccentric Tarkkinen family in the last days of the Soviet Union. DIRECTOR LAURI RANDLA has a Bachelor and Master’s degree in Film Art from Aalto/ELO film school in

ESTONIAN FILM

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The Last Ones

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

Veiko Õunpuu

second film, The Temptation of St Tony, he recieved the European Talent Award in 2008. The film premiered in Sundance and Rotterdam. In 2008 he has been chosen to be among the 100 most intriguing contemporary film directors in the book 10*10 in Film by Phaidon Publishing. Veiko’s feature Free Range - Ballad on Approving of the World premiered at Berlinale in 2014. The Last Ones has been selected to Les Arcs’ Works in Progress and will be released in 2020.

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

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A Loss of Something Ever Felt

FILM INFO

Carlos E. Lesmes

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

Photo by Helen Takkin

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

Original title: Üht kaotust igavesti kandsin Theme: family drama, mental health, missing people, human interest, human rights Languages: Estonian, English, Spanish Director: Carlos E. Lesmes Screenwriter: Carlos E. Lesmes Cinematographers: Giulia Ducci, Aivo Rannik, Carlos Eduardo Lesmes López, Davood Mousavi Editor: Hendrik Mägar Composer: Ann Reimann Sound designer: Gabriel Solis Producer: Liis Nimik Co-producers: Marcela Lizcano / Viceversa Cine, Davood Mousavi /Little Black Fish, Mauricio Vergara, Carlos E. Lesmes Produced by: Alasti Kino World premiere: Hot Docs 2020 82 min / DCP / 16:9 / Dolby 5.1 CONTACT Alasti Kino Liis Nimik +372 5661 6905 liis@alastikino.ee alastikino.ee

ESTONIAN FILM

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The Circle

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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.

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FILM INFO The documentary by Margit Lillak follows the dramatic developments in a community in the period of five years, from honeymoon to collapse. DIRECTOR MARGIT LILLAK graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts majoring in Scenography (1999) and worked in the animation studio Multifilm after that. In 2002, she received her MA degree from Royal Holloway College majoring in Screenwriting. After that, her co-operation with 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 Cinematographers: 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, Ji.hlava International Documentary FF Festivals: DocPoint Tallinn 2020, DocPoint Helsinki 2020, One World International Human Rights Documentary FF 2020, Millennium Documentary FF 2020, Millennium Docs Against Gravity documentary FF 94 min / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1 CONTACT Allfilm Johanna Trass +372 528 4974 johanna@allfilm.ee allfilm.ee


Fred Jüssi. The Beauty of Being

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red Jüssi has built his life at the crossroads between nature and culture. He is a true philosopher of the outdoors who has given deep consideration to the fundamental questions of being human. In this day and age, there is a lot of talk about success and hard work. This

FILM INFO Original title: Fred Jüssi. Olemise ilu Theme: nature, environment, portrait Language: Estonian Director: Jaan Tootsen Screenwriter: Jaan Tootsen Cinematographer: Joosep Matjus Editor: Katri Rannastu Sound: Horret Kuus, Külli Tüli, Fred Jüssi Producer: Kristian Taska Produced by: Taska Film Domestic premiere: January 15, 2020 62 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1

Jaan Tootsen

film is about fruitful idling. It is a praise of dolce far niente. A hymn for living slowly. Meandering along nature’s secret trails, gazing at clouds passing by, for hours on end, and falling into the sweet embrace of smoke rising from a campfire, we leave the city noise and economic growth far, far behind. As Fred Jüssi puts it: sometimes you just have to be sinfully slothful, and all by yourself.

DIRECTOR JAAN TOOTSEN is an Estonian filmmaker and a radio podcast director of Night University. He has studied in the Estonian Humanitarian Institute and graduated from Tallinn University. He has won numerous prizes for his film New World, among which was the first prize for audio-visual works from the Estonian Cultural Endowment Fund, and he has also received the Young Cultural Figure Award of the Cultural Foundation of the President of Estonia. He has produced more than 600 radio shows and has directed 7 documentaries, and 2 more documentaries are in production. He is also the author-director of the series of minidocs One Story for the Estonian Public Broadcasting. Fred Jüssi. The Beauty of Being is his third feature film.

CONTACT Taska Film Kristian Taska +372 520 3000 film@taska.ee taska.ee facebook.com/fredjussifilm

ESTONIAN FILM

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NEW FILM

Virago

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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 is an Estonian filmmaker, born in 1985, who is currently completing her Ph.D. in Media Communication at the University of Miami, where she conducts research

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

Original title: Virago Genre: dark comedy Language: Estonian  Director: Kerli Kirch Schneider  Screenwriter: Kerli Kirch Schneider Cinematographer: Mart Ratassepp E.S.C. Production Designer: Kaia Tungal  Editor: Marion Koppel  Main cast: Tiina Tauraite, Juhan Ulfsak, Anneli Rahkema, Hilje Murel  Producer: Diana Mikita  Produced by: Nafta Films   World premiere: October 2019, Festival du nouveau cinéma Montreal Festivals: Warsaw IFF, PÖFF Shorts, Cottbus FF, Trieste FF, Cork FF 15 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 & stereo  CONTACT Nafta Films  Diana Mikita +372 522 9120 diana@nafta.ee nafta.ee SALES interfilm Berlin Management GmbH  Cord Dueppe cord.d@interfilm.de

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Karl and Carla

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dystopia taking a humorous look into the near future, where the over-regulation of society will lead to unexpected consequences in everyday human relationships. Karl and Carla are young, successful people. They are nice, confident, stylish. The flowers of life, meeting one evening in the MeetingPlace Lounge. After a quick acquaintance, they decide to spend the night at her apartment. They enter a written contract that gives them the right to perform a sexual intercourse that night, stating the precise ways for it. Regrettably, Karl starts to like Carla… But then it all turns out to be a social advertisement commissioned by the Institute of Happiness. And in professional communication, there is no place at all

for any deeper human connection or liking. The commercial will have to be remade. Yet the people behind the curtains will still live just like their nature guides them. And humans can’t resist their nature. DIRECTOR ANDRES KEIL born in 1974, is an Estonian filmmaker with a background in documentaries. Working for Finland (2006) looked at the work of Estonians in Finland before the economic crisis of 2008, Folk juu! (2012) explored the Viljandi Folk Music Festival, To Whom the Pulse Clock is Beaten (2014) followed the lives of amateur athletes and Katk (2016) talked about fentanyl addiction in Estonia. Keil has also contributed as a screenwriter, photographer and actor.

FILM INFO Original title: Karl ja Carla Genre: sci-fi, comedy Language: Estonian Director: Andres Keil Screenwriter: Andres Keil Cinematographer: Madis Reimund Production Designer: Katrin Sipelgas Editor: Martin Männik Main cast: Elina Purde, Sten Karpov, Rasmus Kaljujärv, Eva Koldits Producer: Jaak Kilmi Produced by: Pimik To be released: 2020 20 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Pimik jaak.kilmi@gmail.com, andres.keil@gmail.com

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Soviet Friendsbook

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

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FILM INFO Original title: Ankeet Theme: portrait, history, human interest Languages: Russian, Estonian Director: Aljona Surzhikova Screenwriter: Aljona Surzhikova Cinematographers: Sergei Trofimov, Ivan Panasjuk, Kullar Viimne Editor: Aljona Surzhikova Sound: Dmitri Natalevich Producer: Aljona Surzhikova Produced by: Diafilm Domestic premiere: Autumn 2020 90 min / DCP / 16:9 / stereo

Aljona Surzhikova

degree in Film Industry and Television. Her TV work has been shown on the Estonian Public Broadcasting, Kanal2 (Estonia), Kanal Kultura (Russia), TV5 (Russia), LTV (Latvia), and Current Time TV (Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty). Not My Land (2013, 52 min), her first feature-length film project as a director/producer, received the Best Young Filmmaker award from the Estonian Cultural Endowment in 2014. In 2019, she released Stories of Success, a 12-part documentary series about famous Russian-speaking people from Estonia. For this project, Aljona was named Person of the Year by Radio 4.

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


A Year Full of Drama

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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 Russian-speaking 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 a 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 at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, Zagrebdox, Doc Buenos Aires, Bogoshorts, Queens World Film Festival among others 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 full-length documentary feature.

FILM INFO Original title: Aasta täis draamat Theme: social issues Languages: Estonian, Russian Director: Marta Pulk Idea by: Henrik Kalmet, Paavo 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 108 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Kinoteater Paul Piik +372 5691 5665 paul@kinoteater.ee ayearfullofdrama.com

ESTONIAN FILM

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The Tortoise and the Hare

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story of a mother and son and the race against a turtle where you always lose.

DIRECTOR ÜLO PIKKOV (1976) is an internationally renowned filmmaker, producer and film scholar. Pikkov studied animation at the Turku Arts Academy in Finland and since 1996

has directed several award-winning animation films (Empty Space, Tik-Tak, Body Memory, Dialogos). He has published articles on film and written fiction books for children and adults. Pikkov is the author of Animasophy, Theoretical Writings on the Animated Film (2010). In 2018, Pikkov completed his PhD at the Estonian Academy of Arts with thesis Anti-Animation: Textures of Eastern European Animated Film.

FILM INFO Original title: Kilpkonn ja jänes Language: no dialogue Director: Ülo Pikkov Screenwriter: Ülo Pikkov Cinematographer: Ülo Pikkov Production Designer: Ülo Pikkov Animator: Raivo Möllits Editor: Ülo Pikkov Composer: Andrea Martignoni Sound: Andrea Martignoni, Michał Krajczok Technique: live action and 3D Producer: Ülo Pikkov Produced by: Silmviburlane Domestic premiere: January 29, 2020, DocPoint Tallinn Festivals: Tampere FF 2020 9 min / DCP / 16:9  / 5.1 CONTACT Silmviburlane Ülo Pikkov +372 5648 4693 ylo@silmviburlane.ee silmviburlane.ee

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Blue

FILM INFO

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

Tõnis Pill

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

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

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County Court

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

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

FILM INFO Original title: Maakohus Genre: drama Language: Estonian Director: Eeva Mägi Screenwriter: Eeva Mägi Cinematographer: Sten Johan Lill E.S.C. Production Designer: Anna-Liisa Liiver Editor: Jette-Krõõt Keedus Composer: Tanel Kadalipp Sound: Tanel Kadalipp Main cast: Mari Abel, Tambet Tuisk, Helen Lotman, Meelis Rämmeld Producer: Karolina Veetamm Produced by: Kafka Films To be released: 2020 15 min / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1 CONTACT Kafka Films Karolina Veetamm +372 5196 8064 karolina.kafka@gmail.com

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Cosmonaut

FILM INFO

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n old Cosmonaut lives the same kind of life now in his flat in a concrete panel apartment building as he did in his youth in a space station. As before, he still carries out heroic missions and misses his close relatives, who he left behind on his home planet. His close relatives see the situation altogether differently. Is this old man capable of coming to grips with the norms that apply in society? A cosmonaut will always be a cosmonaut. To the very end. DIRECTOR KASPAR JANCIS born on May 8, 1975 in Tallinn. Since childhood, he has been interested in drawing comic strips and writing stories and made his first animated film during his school years. He has been part of the creative core of several rock groups, written song lyrics and melodies. He enrolled at the Tallinn Pedagogical University in 1996. In 1997 he transferred to the Turku Arts and Media School in Finland to study anima-

Kaspar Jancis

tion under the guidance of Priit Pärn. With his films, Kaspar has won several awards including Cartoon d’Or in 2010. Filmography: Weitzenberg street (2003), Frank and Wendy (2005), Marathon (2006), The Very Last Cigarette (2007), Crocodile (2009), Villa Antropoff (2011), Piano (2015), Captain Morten and the Spider Queen (2018)

Original title: Kosmonaut Language: no dialogue Director: Kaspar Jancis Screenwriter: Kaspar Jancis Compositors: Anu Unnuk, Ere Tött Animator: Tarmo Vaarmets Production Designer: Kaspar Jancis Editor: Kaspar Jancis Composer: Kaspar Jancis Sound: Horret Kuus Technique: drawn animation Producer: Kalev Tamm Produced by: Eesti Joonisfilm Domestic premiere: November 5, 2019 Festivals: Animateka, ANIMA Brussels; Annecy 12 min / DCP / 1.85:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Eesti Joonisfilm +372 677 4228 info@joonisfilm.ee / joonisfilm.ee

ESTONIAN FILM

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NEW FILM

Old Man Cartoon Movie

T

he protagonist, the Old Man, is visited in 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 graduated his Audiovisual Media BA in 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 Producers: Erik Heinsalu, Mikk Mägi Co-producers: Tanel Tatter, Veiko Esken Produced by: BOP Animation, Apollo Film Productions Domestic premiere: September 24,  2019 Festivals: ANIMA Brussels  84 min / DCP / 1.85:1 / 5.1 CONTACT BOP Animation +372 5378 3028 bop@bop.ee bop.ee

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ESTONIAN FILM


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

Photos by Karl Anders Vaikla

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

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


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

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Estonian Film 2020 / 2  

The cover star of the new edition of the Estonian Film magazine is the producer-director-editor Liis Nimik. She produced the documentary fil...

Estonian Film 2020 / 2  

The cover star of the new edition of the Estonian Film magazine is the producer-director-editor Liis Nimik. She produced the documentary fil...

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