Estonian Film 2023/1

Page 1

Marianna Kaat

on One Truth in Russia

Hendrik Mägar

The Master of Good Interruptions

www.filmi.ee NEWS INTERVIEWS REVIEWS 1/2023
Meet the New Commissioners Liis Nimik: Man is not the Crown of Nature
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In April, the Estonian Film Institute (EFI) had a major change on the commissioner level. The long serving head of production Piret Tibbo-Hudgins moved on, and so did the documentary expert Filipp Kruusvall. I would like to express my immense gratitude to the enormous work Piret has done for Estonian film over the last ten years – the impact of her creative input and absolute dedication will be felt on Estonian film productions for years to come. Filipp has helped to make Estonian documentaries more visible on the international market and our documentaries now shine brighter than ever. The good news is that they both will stay connected with the film industry.

The new experts at EFI are Maria Ulfsak who will start as the feature film commissioner, and Viola Salu who will work with development support and production support for documentaries. Viola will also act as the head of film production. You can read more about our new commissioners on pages 6 and 10.

Speaking of documentaries, in the present issue we introduce many of them, and start with a very experienced documentary filmmaker Marianna Kaat, who has been shooting films about Russia for many years. Her recent film The Last Relic has its world premiere in the International Spectrum Competition at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto. The film is a stark look at the absurdity of life in Russia, where some people dream of restoring the glory of the imperial state.

Liis Nimik’s film Sundial was selected for the International Mid-Length Competition, and also for The Changing Faces of Europe programme at Hot Docs. The film raises the question of whether and how a person should learn to live in harmony with nature.

Last but not least, Hot Docs screens already internationally acclaimed documentary Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, which won the Best Directing Award for Anna Hints in the World Cinema Documentary section at Sundance. Hints holds the flag for Estonian documentaries very high and tells an intimate story about women who come together in the protective darkness of a smoke sauna and share their deepest secrets. Estonian documentaries are at their peak, and their visibility is created by the women who provide very diverse perceptions of Estonian culture.

Also the Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) will be present in Cannes with the programme PÖFF Goes to Cannes. Don’t miss out on what is cooking at this year’s Black Nights in November.

Stay tuned to Estonian films!

FOREWORD Content

NEWS One-dimensional Man

in Production

Meet Our New

EVENT Estonian Film & TV Awards

Meet Our New Expert

STORY Marianna

&

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

Contributors: Andrei Liimets, Filipp Kruusvall, Peep Pedmanson

Translation: Tristan Priimägi, Maris Karjatse

Linguistic Editing: Paul Emmet

Design & Layout: Profimeedia

Printed by Reflekt

Cover: Marianna Kaat

Photo by Erlend Štaub, MUAH by Erle Taklai

ESTONIAN FILM 3
New People, New Films ISSN-2585-674X
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NEWS
Expert Viola Salu
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NEWS
Maria Ulfsak
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Liis Nimik Time & Chance
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EVENT Tallinn Black Night Film Festival – Daring, Caring
Youthful
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COVER
Kaat In Full Colour:
Russia’s Invasion
NEWS Lioness in Production
IN FOCUS Hendrik Mägar The Master of Good Interruptions
DIRECTOR Priit Tender Surreal Glance at the Past. Or Perhaps the Future? 38 EVENT Amazing 8. Arts of Survival 42 FUNDS How to Find Money in Estonia 44 EVENT Awards in the Field of Film 46 EVENT EFM – Baltic Countries in Focus 48 REVIEW Kalev 50 REVIEW Erik Stoneheart 52 REVIEW Stairway to Heaven 55 NEW FILMS The Overview of the Latest Estonian Films 12 22
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The Roots of
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Photos by Liisi Põllumaa, Erlend Štaub, Virge Viertek
Photo by Virge Viertek

No Cho

Andres Puustusmaa’s new drama One-dimensional Man is produced by Katerina Monastyrskaya, from Leo Films (Estonia) and co-produced by Roberts Vinovskis from Studio Locomotive (Latvia). The film is in post-production at the moment. One-dimensional Man has a budget of approximately 500 000 euros.

The film is about Raul, who is raised and shaped by his father Viktor, a Soviet-era Estonian militia officer. Raul grows up influenced by the violent and pathological attitude of his despotic father. He follows in Viktor’s footsteps, and being a committed com-

munist joins a spy ring. But unlike his father, he doesn’t achieve great success or high rank.

One day Raul learns that his superior has been uncovered and jailed. This means Raul should disappear as soon as possible. But the same day he is involved in a brutal fight on the street. The victim

ESTONIAN FILM 4 NEWS
Kateryna Monastyrskaya

is a young Chinese woman. While trying to help her, Raul accidently kills one of the attackers. He takes the woman home and takes care of her. Next morning Raul is ready to leave. But the woman begs him not to leave her alone and to take her with him. The police is following them and Raul’s plan now is to reach China…

The script is written by Andres Puustusmaa himself. The story takes place in two periods, modern day Estonia and Soviet Estonia from the 80s-90s. According to the director, the main question of the story is when do we lose freedom of choice. “There is no choice, only the illusion of choice. The widespread availability of television, radio, and nowadays internet, leads to the fact, that an insane amount of repeated information is

poured into the people’s head every day. Thanks to repetition, a person seems to be programmed: he hears this or that message so often, be it a product promotion or political propaganda, that he considers his actions to be an act of goodwill. Thus, the “one-dimensional men” do not fully realize that they are far from democratic reality,” says Puustusmaa

The main producer Katerina Monastyrskaya told Estonian Film that at the moment the film is in the middle of post-production - colour-grading and sound design are already in process. “Shootings were very intense, due to the limited quantity of days and the main actors’ heavy schedules. But however, the whole material was shot, and in the planned period. We intend to have it com-

pleted by the end of May,” says Monastyrskaya.

The cinematographer of One-dimensional Man is Mait Mäekivi. The main roles are played by Juhan Ulfsak, who recently starred in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, and Yang Ge, a Chinese actress, singer and blogger, who has been a part of the Gogol Center theater, founded by the famous Russian stage and film director Kirill Serebrennikov. Also Mait Malmsten is starring (Kalev, Stairway to Heaven, O2).

The production of One-dimensional Man has been supported by the Estonian Film Institute, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Estonian Public Broadcasting and Studio Locomotive from the Latvian side. EF

ESTONIAN FILM 5
ice
The main roles in the film are played by Juhan Ulfsak (on the right) and Mait Malmsten.
The widespread availability of television, radio, and nowadays internet, leads to the fact, that an insane amount of repeated information is poured into the people’s head every day.
Director Andres Puustusmaa working on the set.
NEWS

ViolaSalu

Meet Our New Expert

Please tell our readers a bit about your background and previous work experience?

I was born and grew up on an island of Saaremaa where I lived until it was time to go to a university. I studied languages at the Estonian Institute of Humanities (EHI), a newly founded institution, an amazing place to meet creative co-students and mingle with inspiring lecturers. At the same time I took up a job at the first Estonian private television channel Kanal 2, a few months after it was founded.

Growing up in a small place I always dreamt of travelling. In 2000 I went to London for a couple of weeks but ended up spending five years in that wonderful city. I graduated from London Guildhall University (now London Metropolitan University) in Communications and Language Studies.

My next stop was Luxembourg and the European Parliament where I worked as a translator for two years.

I moved back to Estonia in 2007 joining the Estonian Public Broadcaster’s (ERR) acquisition department. This is where I entered the amazing world of documentaries. Connecting with filmmakers, watching documentaries and negotiating deals was nothing short of a dream job. During the last five years with ERR I was the head of ETV2 and the project manager of an Estonian documentary strand Estonian Stories (Eesti lood).

Viola Salu started in EFI as the Head of Production, with the specialization in the field of documentaries.

You have been involved in the world of documentaries for quite a while now. What is it about documentaries that fascinates you?

Documentaries are special because they tell stories of real people and contain real emotions. Clever storytelling enables filmmakers to create the most intriguing, entertaining and heartbreaking worlds.

What are for you personally the most beloved documentaries or who are your favourite directors?

I am fond of documentaries that tell strong character-based stories where filmmakers have unique access to protagonists. Sean McAllister’s A Syrian Love Story is an example of a great documentary in which footage filmed by the director may not be perfect but the story is very powerful because of its raw intimacy and staying with the characters for an extended period. Another great example is Alexander Nanau’s Toto and His Sisters.

Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia for the Light tells a tragic story in a beautifully poetic way as does Petra Costa in her film Elena. These films create beautiful dreamy worlds while peeling off the layers of hidden secrets revealing the past.

I also love documentaries which combine genres, challenge viewers’ minds and sometimes mislead us deliberately before revealing the message. Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell is one of those wonderful films.

How would you describe the state of documentary filmmaking in Estonia these days?

I am excited that Estonian documentaries are enjoying unprecedented international success at the moment. Smoke Sauna Sisterhood by Anna Hints just won the directing award in the World Cinema Documentary section at Sundance and has been sold to over 20 territories. A number of Estonian films are at prestigious festivals HotDocs and CPH:DOX this year.

I believe there are several factors contributing to the success of Estonian docs. Filmmakers are building up experience by being able to make film, the documentary workshop Ice and Fire Docs has been supporting creative talent since 2019 and EFI’s well curated support in documentary filmmaking.

The Estonian documentary community is hardworking and dedicated. If we are able to increase the investment of resources including talent programs and of course funding, more internationally acclaimed documentaries will emerge from Estonia.

What are your hopes for your new job in Estonian Film Institute?

I am looking forward to working with the EFI team and the filmmaking community. We are all partners working for the same goal - to have engagingly told original stories emerge from Estonia captivating audiences in Estonia and beyond. EF

ESTONIAN FILM 7

EFTA

On the 14th of April 2023, the Estonian Film and TV awards gala took place, where this year's EFTA award recipients were announced.

The feature Kalev (directed by Ove Musting and produced by Piller Rünk & Maria Avdjushko) was the biggest winner of the evening - it won altogether six awards, including the Best Film and the Best Director awards. A total of 31 awards were handed out, of which 16 were in the film categories and 15 in the TV categories.

The Best Short Film award went to Dear Travellers (producers: Johanna Maria Paulson, Evelin Penttilä; director Madli Lääne; Maarja

production company: Stellar Film). The Documentary Film award went to Machina Faust (produc er: Kaupo Kruusiauk; director: Kaupo Kruusiauk; produc tion company: Flo Film).

Aidi Vallik

(The Sleeping Beast) was declared the Best Screenwriter, and the prize for the Best Animated Film went to

EVENT
Ove Musting

Dog-Apartment (producer: Kerdi Oengo; director: Priit Tender; production company: Nukufilm). The Best Film Composer is Mihkel Zilmer and the Best Sound Director is Matis Rei - both received awards for their work in the movie Kalev.

Maarja Johanna Mägi won the Best Actress EFTA for her work in the film Melchior the Apothecary. The Ghost. Mait Malmsten (Kalev) was declared the Best Actor. The Production Design award went to Matis Mäesalu (Melchior the Apothecary. The Ghost), that film also won the prize for the Best

Make-up Artist that went to Gristina Pahmann. The EFTA for the Best Costume Designer went to Mare Raidma for creating period costumes in the sports drama Kalev. The Best Cinematographer award went to Max Golomidov for the documentary Hippodrome, and Andris Grants (The Sleeping Beast) was announced the Best Film Editor.

The Achievement in Filmmaking award went to Ave Kuik - a legendary set costumer who was thanked by many of her students and colleagues. EF

ESTONIAN FILM 9
The proud team of Kalev (below on the left). The sports drama based on real events won six awards altogether. Jaak Kilmi Mare Raidma Ave Kuik Gristina Pahmann
NEWS

Maria

Meet

Our New Expert

Ulfsak

What is your your background and previous work experience?

I graduated from the University of Tartu, majoring in Journalism and Communications. Already during university, I was invited to work as a culture journalist in a large national newspaper, and that’s where I first started writing about movies. I soon felt that I wanted to continue my studies, so I did my Master’s degree in Film and TV Studies at the University of Warwick in UK.

I actually worked as a film journalist in the same newspaper for a total of 19 years, with breaks for studies and two maternity leaves. For the last eight years I have also been the programmer for the Baltic Event Works in Progress for the PÖFF Industry side. My job was to find projects from the Baltic States and Finland for our showcase that would be interesting for international film professionals visiting the Industry events here in Tallinn. And for more than ten years I have also been the editor of this very magazine. So basically almost everything I have done in my professional life has somehow been related to film.

But why did you want to work more specifically with film, and not, for example, visual arts?

To be honest, visual arts would have been option B for me. But maybe cinema is something that runs somehow organically in my blood. My father was a film actor. When I was little, I used to hang out with him on the sets or in the sound recording studios. We also had a shelf in the hall at home, where my father kept film scripts that were sent to him to read, and his theatre play scripts. And as I was a lonely and an extremely bored little human being, I secretly snatched them from the shelf and read them. So I have the habit of reading scripts and plays, and the interest in watching and analyzing films and maybe arts in general, that somehow probably came with me from childhood.

How would you assess the current state of Estonian film industry?

We lack only one thing - additional financial resources for cash rebate, film production, and for the quick completion of the long awaited studio complex. We have plenty of talent and good filmmakers - both directors and from the techni-

cal side, and that’s the most important thing. It is also good that the market share of Estonian films is about 20% of the domestic film market and that we are able produce very diverse things - the level of documentaries is high, and there are also a lot of exciting things going on in our animation.

I personally am also very much looking forward to the some of the upcoming features, because there are many exciting projects in the production and postproduction at the moment.

What are your plans and goals in your new position?

Since the world and also the film industry have had to live through so much turbulence in recent years, I am not planning any revolutionary steps right away. My predecessor, Piret TibboHudgins, has done an excellent job, and my task is to try to maintain the same level of professionalism, openness and kindness.

One of the goals is definitely, in addition to the Estonian films that work very well on the local market, to gain more momentum for our features that would also fly high internationally. EF

ESTONIAN FILM 11
Maria Ulfsak is the new feature film commissioner at the Estonian Film Institute.
DIRECTOR

Time &

Liis Nimik is an editor, documentary film director and producer, whose fulllength documentary debut Sundial has burst out of the gates. The film had its world premiere in Nyon, at Visions du Réel, in mid-length competition.

Next, North American premiere at Hot Docs, Toronto – the largest North American documentary film festival.

imultaneously, CPH:DOX had international premiere of Lynx Man – a documentary by the Finnish director Juha Suonpää, co-produced by Nimik. Lynx Man ended up winning Special mention in Nordic:Dox competition program.

Liis, how did you find the protagonists and locations of Sundial?

When my grandmother passed away, I felt that a certain mode of existence left together with her. She came from the poorest social class, but lived like she was one of the richest, in great indifference in the most positive sense of the word. With her departure, I had an intense feeling that I will be missing her way of life that is lost for our family now. Out of that, a thought was born to go and see if there are still people living in the similar manner – existence in the middle of nature, heating the stove every day, keeping a gar-

den; practicing peace in the widest sense of the word. Together with the producer Edina Csüllög and screenwriter Anti Naulainen, we drove through all of Estonia and when we had a recognition upon arrival to someone’s house, we picked them to be our protagonists. We filmed mainly in Setomaa and Võromaa (South Estonia) but also the island of Saaremaa (West Estonia). I have roots on both sides, no idea if that was coincidental or not.

From the technical side, there is special tenderness and warmth in the picture. Why did you decide to shoot it on 16mm film?

When discussing the theme of the film, we talked a lot about balance, chaos, and order. It seemed unlikely that it could be shot digitally, because digital format already comes with a certain sense of order. It felt like we have to capture the half-tones and atmosphere in the way that digital equipment can’t. In the philosophical sense, if nothing else. In the first shooting period

ESTONIAN FILM 13
Chance

we used two cameras simultaneously, to have a point of comparison. As soon as we got the first roll of film back from developing, it became clear that the digital camera would stay behind from then on.

One recurring motive in Sundial is fire, domestic warmth. What does it mean for you?

This motive is very important. Domestic warmth in the middle of nature means that you need to care for it and maintain it on a daily basis, in order to keep the house warm. Every day, whether you want to or not. You have to bring wood and put in in the fireplace, guard the flame. You need to take care of the fire much like you need to care for your inner flame of life. Making Sundial, we discovered that there is a sense of submission in this daily routine. Strangely enough, it gives a person access to his or her inner fire – the inspiration.

Sundial seems to ask if people should relearn the ways of coexisting with nature, and how to do it best. What was the initial task for you as a filmmaker when you started on this film?

Yes, for me, Sundial is a story of reconciliation with the fact that man is not the crown of nature. We tried to capture what happens, when a man reduces itself to the same level with a leaf, a bug, or a bird. Animistic philosophy is present in many people’s worldview, without them even acknowledging it consciously. We all are drawn to the countryside in the summer, to the sea and hay, and this drive is very strong. It is a strong, shared value that has been extensively covered in literature but not so much at all in cinema. I wanted to capture this feeling on film. During shooting, all my protagonists started to practice a new instrument, or realize themselves in some other way creatively. It was an extra level that the film gained during the shooting period. One of the largest goals we had from the beginning was universality – this feeling must be similarly experienced by anyone, a local, and someone who has never set foot here.

Time is one of the things working magic in Sundial. This film takes time, and is reminiscent of the works of our grandmasters of documentary, like Peep Puks, or Andres Sööt. This kind of approach feels very fresh in today’s modern world. How relevant is the concept of time flowing differently for you in this movie?

The special flow of time is partly caused by using 16mm film stock. When the film rolls, it totally alters your sense of time. I had no idea about this before working with film. You get a very strong sense of presence, everyone in the room has their receptors on maximum sensitivity. It creates a different atmosphere altogether. You start to notice small events; moments that become big if given time. Me and the cinematographer Erik Põllumaa had a strict set of rules about how we want to make this film: we choose our frame carefully, set up the camera and then wait for the right moment to run it. Sometimes we waited for the whole day and ended up shooting only one take. Sometimes this take had a beginning, the middle, and the end, without us interfering with the flow of the scene in any way. I had two co-directors on this film –time and chance. We gave them space to play.

ESTONIAN FILM 14
Liis Nimik says that Sundial is a story of reconciliation with the fact that man is not the crown of nature. Sundial
DIRECTOR
Sundial

You made Sundial for almost seven years. What was your intent when starting out, and when did you feel that you have enough material for the film, to tell the story you wanted to tell?

At first, everything spun around heating the stove but during the process I understood that there is no point romanticizing that, we need to delve deeper. The long production period was also caused by the recognition

Nimik’s fulllength documentary debut is shot on 16mm film.

that our budget restricts us from executing the plan we had on paper. There was some film stock still left, but we simply didn’t know what more to shoot, for the film to come together. This situation grew into a crisis that lasted for quite a long time. Then the next crisis hit – corona. It coincided with the peak event of my life so far, becoming a mother. Both of these things expanded my universe enough for me to come to an understanding that I already have the film. I edited the film in my head for a long time, while nursing the baby. One day I drove to the office and just finished it. A oneyear sound editing period followed, and all that time I was looking for the right title for the film. When that was locked too, everything fell into place, and I saw that for all this time, I had been making a film about the sun in the widest sense, without even knowing it. It would have been a completely different film if I had finished it in a couple of years.

15
I am most drawn to themes and stories that cannot be expressed any other way than in film language .
Sundial

Recently you launched a new production company called Klara Films. Why a new company, and what kind of label will Klara Films be?

The years of pandemic and the experience of becoming a mother are quite big and powerful processes that taught me that it is necessary to live and work on your own terms, and in your own tempo. Time felt right to begin with it now. Klara Films’ focus is and will forever be on creative documentaries. I am most drawn to themes and stories that cannot be expressed any other way than in film language. These are the themes I would love to tackle, either as a director or a producer. To go deep and make profound, uncompromising author cinema that transcends the cultural barriers.

You are also the Estonian co-producer of Lynx Man, the Finnish documentary by Juha Suonpää. How was the film received? Do you plan to continue with international co-productions?

Lynx Man was received very well, it was given a special mention for its ethereal sound and the new kind of depiction of humanity’s relationship with nature. Sound was fully done in Estonia, the world-famous Estonian band Puuluup provided original score and sound designer Tanel Kadalipp was responsible for the rest of the sound. It was a very smooth co-production. We laughed about it with the Finnish producer Pasi Hakko that we might have a very warped idea of a co-production now –everything is so simple! But I would like to get more practice with it.

You have another film in the works as a producer, Eva Sepping’s The Wanderers, about three Siberian Estonian women. What kind of a project is this?

For almost a decade, Eva Sepping visited Siberia and met with Estonian families there. During her travels, she found three women – Linda, Miili and Masha. They are all from different generations and this film is a de-

is

about Hannu’s journey towards finding a connection with the Eurasian lynx.

colonizing view of Russia – what is the life of small nations like there, and how does their national culture survive in those conditions. Eva has shot the story in a very delicate manner and assembled it just as delicately, together with the editor Kersti Miilen. The shooting period occurred before the Ukrainian war, so some adjustments had to be made in the film, but on a wider scale, the stories of these three women from different times provide an exploration of migration, and holding on to your identity. EF

DIRECTOR 16
Lynx Man a film Liis Nimik Photos by Liisi Põllumaa

Daring, Caring & Youthful

Tallinn

Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF)

is Northern Europe’s most significant and only A-class film event. In 2023, the festival will take place one week earlier than usual – 3–19 November. The festival’s industry strand, Industry@ Tallinn & Baltic Event, will run from 13–17 November.

By the upcoming 27th edition, PÖFF has blazed the trail for Nordic film festivals into the A-category world. The festival represents itself as “The Wildest Film Festival in Northern Europe”, but with its easy-going formalities,

daring attitude, and eternally young collective - why not worldwide? By now, the festival has five competitive sections: Official Selection, First Feature, Rebels with a Cause, Baltic Competition and freshly introduced Critics’ Picks. The submissions are open until 24 August 2023.

FANTASTIC BLACK NIGHTS OF 2023

For the first time at Marché du Film, PÖFF participates in Fantastic 7 – an initiative connecting seven top-notch genre film festivals. Each festival presents one project from their industry programme in the fantasy genre. PÖFF showcases Restore Point, a Czech film by Robert Hloz.

The head of Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event, Marge Liiske, says: “We are honoured to be invited among seven utterly fantastic festivals, and happy to present a promising film that got the sales deal with XYZ films. We hope to

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Festival Director, Tiina Lokk with PÖFF symbol − the wolf statue.
EVENT
Photo by Aron Urb

continue this experience, and our future plans foresee involving projects from the European Genre Forum - the only genre film projects training program in Europe run in joint forces by us, Amsterdam Imagine Fantastic Film Festival, and Fantastic Zagreb Film Festival.”

PÖFF’s participation in the fantasy genre initiative is not accidental - fantasy/horror stories are an eternal part of the dark Estonian winters, and have a well-deserved place in Estonian film. Just before Cannes, the satellite festival of PÖFF – Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival (HÕFF), wrapped up its 18th edition. HÕFF is a part of Méliès International Festivals Federation (MIFF), and coincides with Walpurgis Night, a traditional pagan holiday in Northern Europe, adding a fantastic ambience to the event. The head of HÕFF, Helmut Jänes, is a true-head horror, fantasy, and Sci-Fi fan who also curates the Midnight Shivers programme at PÖFF. “Through the decades, people have been wishing to escape from reality. Fantasy is the oldest film genre, and maybe that’s why the uncertain borders of reality have a special place in our heads,” said Jänes.

Slovenia, and North Macedonia. Festival director Tiina Lokk explains the choice: “In Estonia and overall Northern Europe, Balkan cinema has been rather undiscovered. To give historical schooling, we also show films from the Yugoslavian Black Wave from the 60s-70s, besides contemporary cinema”.

NEXT FOCUS: SERBIA WITH FRIENDS

Each PÖFF has its own focus country that is substantially represented in all the competitions, side programmes, and industry sections. This year, the approach is quite new: the focus is on Serbia and its trusted partners: Croatia,

Miroljub Vučković, the Head of International Relations & Promotion at Film Center Serbia, says: “In addition to being the only south-eastern European country selected for the Cannes programme, it’s a nice acknowledgement from Tallinn to present Serbia as PÖFF focus country in 2023.” The mentioned selected title is Lost Country - the second feature by Vladimir Perisic, competing in the Semaine de la Critique programme at Cannes. Vučković adds: “The co-produc-

tion of Lost Country is multilateral. Co-production is our destiny, credo and reality, but also intentional choice. The focus countries share a common destiny, and even in turbulent times, filmmakers find a way to work together”.

BLACK NIGHTS GOES TO CANNES

The selected projects include up-andcoming fiction projects worldwide, from the Baltics to South America. The program curator Triin Tramberg explains: “This is our third year PÖFF Goes to Cannes, and this selection is becoming more like the face of our Works In Progress in November. Presenting fresh regional and international titles together with projects that participated in our market during the development phase, we feel there is something for each taste”.

ESTONIAN FILM 19
Photo by Erlend Štaub The organisers of ITBE 2022 edition. From the left: Janeli Sundja, Elo Laura Aaspõllu, Marge Liiske and Sigrid Saaremets. HÕFF 2023 visuals created by using 3D, AI, synthesis and collage. Author Paul Lepasson (httpsinstagram.comoeh.exe).

The five projects included are Autumn by Antonio Sequeira, Broken by Facundo Escudero Salinas, Five and a Half Love Stories in an Apartment in Vilnius by Tomas Vengris, One-Dimensional Man by Andres Puustusmaa and Two Sisters by Lukasz Karwowski.

NEW COMPETITION LINE FOR THE YOUNGEST FILMMAKERS AT JUST FILM

For the first time at PÖFF, young people worldwide are welcome to submit their films to the #youngfilmmaker international competition programme at Just Film Festival, the sub-festival of Tallinn Black Nights dedicated exclusively for youth and children’s films. The #youngfilmmaker was introduced in 2021 aiming to bring short films by Estonian young people to the big screen. Accompanied by a massive success, Just Film opens the door to all young film enthusiasts around the world aged 7–19 years. Just Film programme director Mikk Granström: “Just Film is a global meeting place for young filmmakers and a world-class youth film festival. You always have to dream and think big. Thus, we are taking the #youngfilmmaker programme to the international arena, for

school children all over the world to apply to an A-category youth festival and be part of our events.” Moreover the first-ever Just Film Industry Days (14.–15.11.2023) with talks, workshops and works in progress for children and youth projects will take place during the Industry@Tallinn and Baltic Event. One of the most significant and constantly growing events in Northern Europe for the audiovisual sector, welcoming film professionals to Tallinn for five days full of meetings, projects presentations, masterclasses and workshops, conferences, talent labs and networking opportunities. In 2022, the summit hosted 760 guests from 48 countries, and presented 69 projects.

As always, ITBE takes a close look at the hottest topics and trends in the film industry. In 2023, the main focus will be AI

and its impact. In addition to the co-production and co-financing markets for projects and engaging panel discussions with leading experts, the conference programme includes TV Beats Forum focusing on the series market, and Industry Innovation Forum Tallinn replacing the annual European Film Forum.

Emerging film professionals are invited to join the revamped Black Nights Discovery Campus. It is launching a set of masterclasses for young DOPs, whilst the Music Meets Film takes the form of a training program for composers. The programme also includes designated workshops and masterclasses for emerging actors (Black Nights Stars), for up-andcoming directors, scriptwriters and producers (Script Pool), and Black Room exploring the visual language of cinema. EF

ESTONIAN FILM 20
Beware of the youngest film crowd! Photo by Liis Reiman
EVENT
Just Film is a global meeting place for young filmmakers and a world-class youth film festival. You always have to dream and think big.

Be

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The Roots of Russia’s Invasion COLOR

Estonian director Marianna Kaat has finished her new documentary, The Last Relic, an intense examination of why and how Russia went to war.

Filmed over four years in the pro vincial city of Yekaterinburg, The Last Relic is a stark cine matic portrait of the absurdity of life in Russia, where the bulk of the population dreams of restoring imperial glory and a handful of open-minded people desperately resist Putin’s relentless march towards a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

You have a lot of experience in making documentaries in Russia. How has film makers’ access to Russia changed since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine?

Russia has always been a fertile ground for making documentaries. It’s a country that is full of powerful characters and ominous po litical events. Although freedom of action for filmmakers has always been restricted, the start of the war in Ukraine was a turning point – from then on, neither Russian nor foreign filmmakers could make independent documentaries in Russia or carry out investigative journalism. The Wall Street Journal’s reporter Evan Gershkovich’s recent arrest on spying charges in Yekaterinburg really underlined that: independent coverage from Russia is now a thing of the past.

It’s hard to get reliable information about what is happening inside Russia now, and it gets harder the further you get away from Moscow. My new documentary, The Last Relic, could be one of the last real takes from the inside of Russia until there is a fundamental change in the way the country is governed.

Filmed in the provincial city of Yekaterinburg, The Last Relic is a stark cinematic portrait of the absurdity of life in Russia.

What are you focusing on in The Last Relic?

It’s about the confrontation between a small group of opposition activists and the Putin regime. It takes place in the fourth-largest city in Russia, one of its leading cultural and industrial centers, Yekaterinburg. There is Igor, a 21-year-old student who tries to unite the scattered opposition. Through his journey, we meet a cast of characters who each have their own unique perspectives on the future of Russia. From retired schoolteacher Galina to unemployed Rafael, who dreams of an immediate revolution, to a former priest, Victor, who finds himself in court after attending an opposition rally. Each represents a different facet of Russian society.

We’re showing the process of the gradual disappearance of democratic freedoms in Russian society, the destruction of the last remnants of pluralism. We see the church processions, Cossack parades, cadet training sessions, all of them labeled with the name of the last Russian Tsar, who was murdered in Yekaterinburg, and the way all of that was gradually developed into an exaltation of Putin and his authoritarian regime.

Why did you choose Yekaterinburg, which is situated 1800 kilometers from Moscow, as the setting for your story?

I saw that Yekaterinburg works as a metaphor for the whole country, it allowed me to paint a picture of the whole of Putin’s Russia.

ESTONIAN FILM 22 COVER STORY
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COVER STORY

Yekaterinburg is a city full of contrasts. On the one hand, it has modern buildings with perfectly pristine glass facades that reflect the bell towers of the churches. It’s also a city with a history that includes the execution of the last emperor of Russia, Tsar Nicholas II, who is now celebrated by a powerful Orthodox Church that wants to reinstate the monarchy with the support of President Putin. The streets still carry the names of Bolsheviks, and the city has various factions of a scattered opposition. This opposition includes old communists, middle-aged activists pleading for a new revolution, and young students dreaming of a state that secures human values and personal freedom. The city’s history and its current state make it a fascinating place to explore in a documentary film.

There doesn’t appear to be much hope for the opposition in Russia. Yes, but the opposition is no less heroic for resisting this overwhelming tyrannical onslaught. We got to see a motley group of activists being confronted with the grim absurdities of resistance – detentions at demonstrations and kangaroo court hearings with unavoidable convictions. Igor, the young student and political activist, tries to unify them all: communists, democrats, anti-globalists, vegans, anyone fighting for different points of view. Beyond a few idealistic schoolchildren and several Stalinists, however, he finds little support. The impoverished population has already lost its will to seek any alternative, and a repressive state apparatus brings all remaining attempts at opposition to heel.

When did your project start, and when did you film in Yekaterinburg?

In 2015, I started producing a film with Moscow-based

director Svetlana Stasenko about the well-known Russian opposition figure Yevgeny Roizman, who was mayor of Yekaterinburg at the time. We started filming him, but after two trips to Yekaterinburg, I realized that the story we had planned was not enough for a full-length film that would be of any interest beyond Russia.

Over that time, Yekaterinburg completely captivated me as a city, and it seemed to me that it had the potential for an entirely different documentary story. So, I started shooting The Last Relic in 2016 when I had no

Marianna Kaat saw that Yekaterinburg, situated 1800 kilometres from Moscow, could be a metaphor for the whole country that allows to paint a picture of Putin’s Russia.

idea what was in store for Russia in the coming years. Nevertheless, I was able to follow the escalating displays of patriotism and religious fervor, including the country’s increasing militarization, which eventually led to the tragic and awful turning point on February 24, 2022, when Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

What are the peculiarities of filming in Russia? What do you need to know, or what skills do you need to be able to film there?

I received my higher education and a degree in art history while studying in Russia, in St. Petersburg. At that time, it was an educational center for students from all over the USSR, and as is customary, I formed very strong friendships during those student years. Through those friendships, I know how difficult it has been and how difficult it now is to shoot films in Russia.

My knowledge of the Russian language is also an important factor, of course, as it was the language of communication for citizens throughout the former USSR.

When you’re shooting in Russia, firstly, if you want to get really intimate access, knowledge of the Russian language is essential. Secondly, you have to

understand how the state and its power structures function, and how they became much more powerful during Putin’s reign.

Thirdly, you need an ability to negotiate with people of all ranks. In Russia, there is no point in referring to laws; you have to know how to overcome particular obstacles or get around them. Over the course of four years, I made many trips to Yekaterinburg, and with each visit it became increasingly challenging to negotiate shoots. I felt a growing sense of distrust and suspicion.

The Last Relic opens with the last faint rays of hope still shining and ends five years later with all hopes irredeemably dashed.

but it has not changed the essence of Russia. This country is mysterious, seductive, and scary, and it will be for many years to come. The monster I was trying to dissect is a hard beast to handle – Russia, for now, is best described through the lens of the Theatre of the Absurd.

But I believe that through the voices of the characters in the film, audiences can better understand the complexities of this enigmatic country and the appalling consistency of Putin’s regime. We have to be realistic about it. EF

The Last Relic is incredibly well shot, the visuals are of a very high cinematic quality thanks to Polish cinematographer Kacper Czubak. Why was his involvement in the project essential, and what contribution did he make?

I have a great love for Polish documentary cinema, and it has always been a dream of mine to make a film with a Polish cinematographer. I held auditions for possible candidates and found the exact style I had been dreaming of on Kacper’s website. We quickly agreed on a trial trip to Yekaterinburg, but of course, there was no way I could know in advance how we would work together. After all, the role of a cinematographer in documentary filmmaking is very specific.

During filming, the director and cinematographer must understand each other not just from a word or two but from a nod or a hint. You also need a good working and personal relationship on long trips when you are together from the crack of dawn at breakfast to dinner late in the evening. I was very lucky – Kacper has an incredible talent and readiness to visualize a director’s dreams, and I also gained a close friend.

Coming back to Russia, it seems that you are not very optimistic about its future?

The Last Relic opens with the last faint rays of hope still shining. It ends five years later with all hopes irredeemably dashed at a Victory Parade rehearsal on the eve of war. We can also clearly see in the film how the number of people with romantic dreams of a glorious imperial past is increasing, how their feelings are growing deeper.

War in Ukraine has changed the course of history,

Marianna Kaat

Award-winning director and producer Marianna Kaat is one of the most successful Estonian documentary filmmakers, and a renowned expert in subjects of Eastern Europe and Russia. Her passion for exploring the life of that region through the lens of creative non-fiction film has resulted in a unique filmography both as a director and a producer, that includes several distinguished documentaries about Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and Russia.

Her experience and extensive knowledge make her a respected figure in the film industry and an Associate Professor at Tallinn University Baltic Film, Media and Arts School.

She graduated her PhD studies from St. Petersburg’s State Theatre Arts Academy in Russia and worked as an acquisition executive at Estonian Public Broadcasting. In 1998 she founded the independent production company Baltic Film Production. Since then, she has produced and directed TV series and feature documentaries for local and international film markets. Her works have been screened at prestigious festivals worldwide, including IDFA, Karlovy Vary IFF, Toronto IFF, Full Frame IFF, and BFI London FF.

As a director, her filmography includes numerous award-winning feature documentaries such as Pit No. 8, A Working Title: Wunderkind and 14 Cases, among others. Kaat is an experienced producer and has worked with world-renowned directors such as Vitaly Mansky, Yuri Khashchavatski, and Renato Borrayo Serrano.

In addition to her work at the University, Marianna Kaat has been a guest tutor at various workshops for producers, film schools, and universities outside Estonia. She is also one of the founders of the Estonian Documentary Guild and a Member of the Board of the Estonian Association of Audiovisual Authors.

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Lioness

This spring, director Liina Trishkina-Vanhatalo (Take It or Leave It) started the production of her new feature Lioness. The budget of the film is 1.5 million euros and the producer is Ivo Felt (Estonia).

The film is an Estonian-German-Latvian co-production, co-producers being Sebastian Weyland (Heimathafen Films, Germany), and Guntis Trekteris (Ego Media, Latvia).

Lioness is a drama-thriller about a difficult mother and daughter relationship. Helena is a 48-year-old paramedic –a strong and capable woman who has no difficulty handling the practical details of everyday life. Due to her work, Helena is well aware of what goes on behind closed doors and in the dark shadows of the night. But the fact that she herself has

emotionally abandoned her daughter Stefi a long time ago, remains invisible to her. In the autumn, the smart but lonely 15-year-old Stefi actualizes every mother’s worst nightmare. The girl stops going to school, and becomes a member of a violent gang at the instigation of her new and charming girlfriend Mariann. When Stefi ends up in hospital after an overdose, a desperate, crazy plan forms in Helena’s mind…

According to producer Ivo Felt, the filming has been going well so far. He comments: “I’m really happy about the actresses – Katariina Unt is a well-

known star in Estonia, and it seems that she is going to give another brilliant performance in this film. But also Teele Piibemann in the role of 15-year-old Stefi is simply great. We are currently shooting in studio, which houses the interior of a home. Latvian production designer Laura Dišlere has designed excellent sets for the film. The feature was initially meant to be a social drama –about a complicated mother-daughter relationship, and it was convincing enough already in this form - the subject of a parent who has lost connection with her child is certainly touching and

ESTONIAN FILM 26 NEWS
Stills from the film

easily comprehensible for most of us, and yet intriguing enough. But things became really exciting when we decided to shift the genre – after some rewriting it became a psychological thriller. I have never done anything like that, and therefore things cannot get any more exciting!”

For Ivo Felt, this is the second feature film in collaboration with Liina Trishkina-Vanhatalo. According to the producer, Trishkina-Vanhatalo, who has also written the script, has an extremely sharp intuition for mapping subject matter which deeply touches the audience.

Felt adds: “Liina has thought through absolutely every detail, whether it be related to the story development, direction, actors’ performance, or technical issues. Before entering the filming phase, she has a very clear idea about the film she wants to get, and guarantees it with very exhaustive preparatory work. Before filming Lioness we made an exceptionally large number of rehearsals with the actors. And it has really paid off, since the filming period is financially restricted. Also, Liina’s working experience as an editor should guarantee us that the post-production

phase won’t bring us any unexpected surprises.”

The director of photography of Lioness is Erik Põllumaa (Estonia). The production designer is Laura Dišlere (Latvia), and the costume designer is Liis Plato (Estonia). The editor is Moonika Põdersalu (Estonia), and the composer for the film will soon be selected from Germany.

The main roles of the film are played by Katariina Unt and Teele Piibemann. In supporting roles the viewers will see Ivo Uukkivi, Joonas Mikk, and Margo Teder.

Lioness will premiere in 2024. EF

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Photo by Vahur Puik Katariina Unt as Helena.
Lioness is a drama-thriller about a difficult mother and daughter relationship.
Director Liina TrishkinaVanhatalo working on the set. Teele Piibemann as Stefi.

IN FOCUS

The

Master of Good Interruptions

Hendrik Mägar is one of the most engaged and awarded film editors in Estonia. He is a two-time EFTA award winner in the Best Film Editor category. At the moment he’s being praised for his masterful work on Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, the Sundancewinning documentary directed by Anna Hints.

When discussing films, people usually talk about directing, acting, perhaps the cinematography and the music as well. Editing rarely gets talked about. Why do you think that is?

I guess it’s a compliment to my field! In some sense our objective is to remain invisible. We work in cuts, which essentially are interruptions. Through multiple well-chosen interruptions we build a story with its own focus and flow. If no one notices these interruptions and reacts positively to the film, then it implies we have done our job well. To analyse editing in more specific terms, you need to be acquainted with the field. For example, music is part of everyday life, so people can

pin down when it works or when it doesn’t. With editing, it took my own mother ten years to figure out what it is that her son went to study.

If you’d need to pick a film to explain what good editing is, which film would you choose?

Recently I have been more into documentaries. As I´m an emotional viewer I take editing and storytelling as a whole, so there are different aspects that make the viewing experience enjoyable. Wild Wild Country managed to carve out a compelling and tenacious narrative from a huge amount of archival footage. Icarus is another good example of documentary filmmaking, where you start with a concept that is overturned during the process, so you must react to real life events as they

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Photos by Virge Viertek

are so much greater or more serious than the initial idea. And Honeyland is a very intimate film that blurs the line between documentary and fiction.

How did you end up becoming an editor?

I guess there’s some element of chance involved. I went to study film straight out of high school at a time they preferred people in their mid 20s who had some life experience under their belts. I had developed an interest in film while in high school. I borrowed my dad’s Mini DV camera, so we filmed rather random things with my friends – just joking around, skateboarding and such. I was left with the material, so I started editing it at home. I was certain I didn’t want a nine-to-five life, no other subjects really fascinated me, so film school became the only option I wanted to take entrance exams for. I later learned I barely managed to get over the line!

I was very lucky to join a very strong course. I was the youngest there, and in front of the class we had Jüri Sillart (legendary Estonian film director, cinematographer, and founder of the Baltic Film- and Media School – ed.), speaking in metaphors most of the time. It was a huge leap from high school, and it dawned on me I was the dumbest person in the room and would need to learn to swim very fast.

I think it took me until about the third year to really understand what it was I had come to study. Having been in a formal sciences class, I had thought about editing as something more technical – that films would be more prepared before, and editing is pretty much just providing the final touch. Only later did I

understand it is basically creative writing, only with other means.

Is there a type of personality that’s especially well-suited to become an editor?

Sensitivity is a trait that runs through all editors. In life, they are very often the observant types who notice things, but don’t put themselves in the spotlight while in company. You must be able to access both the emotional as well as the analytical side.

Your work has been noticed though! The guy who barely managed to get into film school has become the recipient of not one, but two Estonian Film and Television awards. You strike me as a modest type, how important are these kinds of accolades to you?

They are important, absolutely! The process of making a film is very long, you tend to drown in it, exhaust yourself emotionally. I don’t work for the accolades, but they motivate you to keep on moving forward. Of course, once in the spotlight, I feel incredibly uncomfortable. Then again, life has taught me that a person grows and develops through discomfort. I knowingly try to put myself in these types of situations to not become too

comfortable. The work of an editor involves being a chameleon. It’s the art of adapting. In the end you work for and with your director. They all have different personalities and working methods.

I think your filmography also illustrates the aim of not getting stuck in your comfort zone. You’ve worked through a range of genres, rotating between documentaries and fiction. Has this been by choice or coincidence?

Chance does play a role, but mostly it’s been by choice. I’ve tried to work with different directors to understand better what works for me. This goes back to film school, where we had more directors than people from other fields. For every film the directors would direct, everyone else would get to make two. I always tried to make one with someone I was already comfortable with, and one with someone I hadn’t worked with before. I tried to transcend my own fears of someone being more intellectual or more adventurous than me. I tried to exercise something new each time.

When does a film usually reach your desk? Are you there for the planning or do they bring you the material so it’s like: here you go, put this together! It varies. I appreciate it if I’m approached

ESTONIAN FILM 30
IN FOCUS
Sensitivity is a trait that runs through all editors. In life, they are very often the observant types who notice things.

before the fiction film shoot to give my opinions on the script. But I do not attend the film sets to keep my eyes fresh for once the material is all together. Smoke Sauna Sisterhood was an exception - I joined the crew in the middle of the editing process to offer a fresh approach for storytelling and visual style.

Cuts have become more and more rapid in films. Do you have a rhythm or style you are striving for, or do you try to pin down the style of the director?

The tempos have become rapid, and more and more music is used. These are manipulative means to draw attention through intensity from among the droves of visual media. I am a very rhythm-based editor. I used to play drums and my foot keeps tapping under the table all along. I try to find the right kind of language and tempo for each film.

Films deal with people and their experiences. I try to get to the essence of

what the character feels, what it’s like to become merged with that feeling. But establishing a style in documentary editing is always a challenge. Fiction films are usually prepared with certain goals in mind. Documentaries on the other hand may need to react to real life events and therefore might include more of the unexpected.

How much has the development of technology changed your work?

The biggest change is that it’s cheap to film something. Production is still expensive, of course, but just filming material is easy. Cameras have become so sensitive you can even film without proper lighting. So much more material ends up in the editing room than did 20 years ago. Often many vantage points are covered in a scene, and it’s left up to the editor to decide what works best.

Has there been an especially difficult problem you’ve been able to solve while editing?

Problem-solving and crashing your head against a wall are half of the process! But then you arrive at a eureka-moment. A Loss of Something Ever Felt (directed by Carlos Eduardo Lesmes Lopéz) was especially challenging because there was very little material. The shooting process was mostly a reaction to real life events with no preparation time. We had to portray many moments that did happen, but where we only had sound, or no camera was involved. We tried to find the right means to still get the feeling across to the audience.

Is there a working process you prefer – either putting together the first

edit yourself, or going through everything by consensus?

I choose the methods based on the director, but editing is teamwork and that suits me very well. Things worked out ideally with Driving Mum (directed by Hilmar Oddsson). For the first two weeks we watched the entire material together with the director, took notes, discussed the visual language, debated what works, what doesn’t, what is funny, what is cliché. During those first weeks we only roughly cut together 2-3 key scenes to understand the style that the director prefers. After that I worked alone for six weeks to put together the first cut of the film. Then we discussed everything again.

I enjoy working together when the other person feels comfortable while editing. I also know it might be quite an endurance test for a director because most of the practical work is mine, and once we decide on a scene, it might take me 40 minutes to put it together, while the other person doesn’t really have anything to do. Of course, some directors have experience as editors as well, and find it easier to change spots and show me their vision right in edit instead of trying to verbalize it. On average I spend 50% of the time editing alone and the same amount together with a director in the same room.

Is there a film of yours that is especially meaningful to you?

All of them are! The process is so long that each film defines some period or an age for me. I have been able to get so many important experiences through working with other people’s stories. Every project gives you the opportunity to experience something new that you might never get in touch with otherwise.

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Smoke Sauna Sisterhood Driving Mum

IN FOCUS

How much do you sense, while going through the raw material, if the film might end up a hit?

You do get that sense if there is something unique and compelling. There are two things I keep looking for when I get offered a project, whether from the background materials or from the footage: a universal element that wider audiences can identify with, and a unique angle that makes a film special.

Did you foresee how well Smoke Sauna Sisterhood would be received?

I dared to dream, but not hope. It was June, I had finished two feature films in a row and was ready to start my vacation when the producer called. They had a decent 90 minute cut of the film but were looking for a new approach.

What I saw on the screen had all the elements I was looking for. It was universal, it was unique, it was honest, it was raw. I thought to myself: fuck, I was going to take the summer off! Now I worked through it all because this material was so special.

The original cut had a structure already but had lost some of the organic feel. It didn’t realize all its potential, but all the elements were there. To use an analogy: all the instruments were there, but they didn’t form a band yet.

You have achieved pretty much everything you can in Estonia. What do you dream of now?

In some sense, I’ve come full circle in terms of the things I dreamed about when I was younger. After making my first film I thought I would quit, never make another film. It was such a difficult process, constant confusion. Now this confusion has become a friend, it doesn’t put me down as a person. I’ve actually reached a period of putting together new plans. I try to find new opportunities for myself on an international level – to keep on working with new people. I have also recently partnered up with my fellow editor Jaak Ollino Jun. Together we run the creative film editing service Flowy.

What’s the advice you would give to young editors?

Take your time before you start cutting. Watch your footage and take notes without rushing. You can have the first impression only once, and this is critical knowledge, because you’re taking on the

audience’s perspective to make decisions. If you have a lot of material and don’t know where to start the editing process, you don’t have to start from the beginning of the film. Take a couple of key scenes that will definitely be in the film and start from those. You can deal with the beginning of the film much later in the process.

Finally, hold your horses while adding music in the early stages of editing, especially for problem solving purposes. Music is such a strong element that takes over the viewers’ attention and therefore makes any crappy edit “work”. EF

Hendrik Mägar

Graduated from Tallinn University Baltic Film, Media and Arts School in 2015 with Master of Fine Arts degree.

Selected Filmograpy:

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (director Anna Hints, documentary, 2023)

Driving Mum (director Hilmar Oddsson, fiction, 2022)

Brotherhood of Lions (directors Mikk Jürjens, Kaur Kokk, Madis Reimund, documentary, 2022)

A Loss of Something Ever Felt (director Carlos E. Lesmes, documentary, 2020)

Christmas in the Jungle (director Jaak Kilmi, fiction, 2020)

A Year Full of Drama (director Marta Pulk, documentary, 2019)

The Bank TV-series, 2018), Portugal (director Lauri Lagle, fiction, 2018)

The Days that Confused (director Triin Ruumet, fiction, 2016)

Zero Point (director Mihkel Ulk, TV-series, fiction, 2016)

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Hendrik Mägar is a two time EFTA winner - for the feature The Days That Confused (2016) and for the documentary A Loss of Something Ever Felt (2020).
ESTONIAN FILM 34
DIRECTOR

GlanceSurreal

at the Past Or Perhaps the Future?

Peep Pedmanson interviews animation director Priit Tender whose new puppet animation Dog-Apartment is doing very well internationally and was also nominated for Best Animation Film at the Estonian Film and Television Awards.

Priit, your last film Dog-Apartment is flying really high! Congratulations! Thank you! The dog has really unleashed itself and run free.

The film has been masterfully animated. Would you please talk about the working process?

The animating of a puppet film is a result of teamwork. The process begins working with the storyboard together in order to understand what specific characters should do and express in the film. The puppet master will then make the puppets accordingly. When the puppet cannot be easily controlled, and does not have plasticity, then not even a virtuoso animator will be able to create high-quality animation. Besides, every perspective used during the animating includes so many technical aspects that all need to be collectively discussed, with the director, animator, and cinematographer. Animation supervisor Märt Kivi has played an important part in the whole process. And our immense gratitude goes out to animators Egert Kesa, Marili Sokk, Nina Ovsova, and Lucille Braconnier.

What also plays an extraordinarily important role in this film is light.

Light art is cameraman Ragnar Neljandi’s creative contribution to the film. I proposed several references to him (Béla Tarr, the series Chernobyl) in order to explain what kind of pictorial aesthetics I imagined for this film. And Ragnar designed a light solution according to all that. The light design of a puppet animation won’t essentially differ from that of a feature film – and yet, smaller proportions, and frame-by-frame filming add numerous extra nuances, and all this requires a true professional in the field.

The source of the initial inspiration for the film is the poem “To Be a Dog-Apartment” by Estonian poet Andres Ehin. While the poem evoked your fantasy it otherwise has not reached the film. You have followed a separate path in your creation?

It’s true that when constructing the screenplay I have gone down my own path, but in my opinion, this should not minimize the importance of the initial impulse I got from the surreal poem by Andres Ehin. The poem has supported me during the creation of the film’s world;

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ESTONIAN FILM

many characters and images have been born as a result of Ehin’s wordplay, for instance a barking apartment or a rooster that is simultaneously an axe.

You have mentioned that in the process of designing the visual environment of the animation you were inspired by the desolate areas in Mid-Estonia. In the story of the protagonist we can also sense the conflict between the past and the present. The mood and atmosphere of the whole animation is certainly familiar to those who grew up in a former Soviet Union country. And yet, the film receives awards also in the West. How is the film perceived outside of Eastern Europe? Besides the fact that the audience would (probably) recognize Serge Gainsbourg in the physiognomy of the dancer. Is there anything in the audience’s reactions that has surprised you?

Indeed, it has been really interesting to follow the reactions of the spectators with various cultural backgrounds. The Western European audience can see some kind of a dystopian future world in this film, and the Eastern European audience on the contrary relates to the communist past, as well as the images of lost dreams. In the West, the relationships between the film characters are often described as toxic. And sometimes a spectator may have a deeply personal issue realised by the film; for instance there was a middle-aged Russian lady in Bulgaria who start crying during the screening.

Toxicity is a nice and fashionable word that can cover everything. Can you name the prototype for the character of ex-cellist/butcher?

The design of the butcher was borrowed from a Soviet-time puppet with the purpose of creating disturbing associations with childhood. And yet every spectator has the right to find visual parallels with well-known people in the field of culture.

Indeed, this is the mass-produced baby puppet from out of the past, the one that often lost its legs and arms. You have grown it up for the animation. But how will the younger generation understand and interpret the film? Since they lack the experience of the past ancestors.

I am positively surprised that the younger generation

Dog-Apartment is a masterfully crafted puppet animation about a decayed male ballet dancer and his barking apartment.

has welcomed the film, despite the fact that it is a very classical, even old-fashioned puppet animation. Probably the retrospective qualities of the film also make it seem contemporary. Generally, the audience reacts to the protagonist’s suffering, no matter the age of the spectator. Storytelling as such works with every age.

In Tampere Film Festival the film received the Best Animation Award. The jury has commented that the film contains “a clever critique of capitalism while managing to bring a quality of lightness”. Please explain the context of this statement.

I have not asked the jury for a more specific explanation, though – I guess I succeeded in criticizing capitalism the way that was both somehow clever and yet light. It is a well-known fact that artists whose work embodies criticism towards capitalism live most successfully in the very same system. And the Tampere award also included the financial part.

This story becomes the protagonist’s farewell to his former life. Please tell us what will happen to the dancing man tomorrow?

Well, I think that after having seen a good film, the audience should leave the cinema hall with questions rather than answers. Questions that will haunt them for a long time. Even I have no idea what will become of the next day’s journey to get the sausages. I hope everything will be ok.

This answer leads us to the next question. For me, Estonian animation can be characterized by the following things: firstly, a design that

ESTONIAN FILM 36
I am positively surprised that the younger generation has welcomed the film, despite the fact that it is a very classical, even old-fashioned puppet animation.
DIRECTOR

combines humour and alienation; and secondly, storytelling by a strong author’s position, whereas the audience serves not as a lifeless object but as a dialogue partner; and thirdly, of course that “something” that cannot be put into words, something that is imbued in us by the fogs of local moorlands. Would you like to add anything smart to this list?

Constructivism. The creative process of making an animation is based on combining various elements. This applies also to the most insane animated films – even these require a rational and constructivist approach. We are rather mad scientists than artists who cut off their ears.

You have practised this mad science in the biggest puppet animation studio in Estonia, in the biggest animated cartoon studio in Estonia, as well as led the department of animation at the Estonian Academy of Arts. You must be the right person to answer the question: what is the present status of our domestic animation? Including its pluses and minuses.

I’d rather argue whether I am the right person to answer this. I am like a fish swimming in water called Estonian animation. And the fish can describe water only after it has been lifted up from it. And then of

The director Priit Tender has already presented the film at more than 20 international film festivals where it has won several awards.

course it won’t have much time to contemplate these questions.

You have founded the first animation festival in Estonia. Animist Tallinn will take place for the third time in August 2023. What is trending in the animation field in general? Why should the audience visit the festival and see something that they won’t see elsewhere?

While organizing the animation festival, my personal interest was to expand the field as well as to find a common ground between animation and anthropology. We have achieved great synergy and I have gathered ideas for building the festival programme and organizing professional lectures and workshops. In my opinion, Animist is the only animation festival where animators and anthropologists meet; and this is not a coincidental meeting but a planned and enriching one. In addition, the audience will see very good animation films in a beautiful cinema hall and the foreign guests can enjoy the absolutely wonderful old city of Tallinn in August.

And the classical final question: what’s next? You have an animated documentary in development, is there anything else?

I just returned from Kenya. I had a really great time. And I am thinking about moving to Africa. EF

37

Amazin arts of survival

Andrey Paounov Jaan Tootsen Maria Aua Eva Kübar Viesturs Kairišs Ülo Pikkov
EVENT

has selected eight filmmakers to capture Southern Estonia on the topic of “Arts of Survival”, the artistic concept of European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024.

The jury, consisting of film professionals, selected eight authors that will present Tartu and Southern Estonia in artistically exciting ways. The international directors will bring an external perspective, while Estonian filmmakers offer a portrayal from a person operating within the culture, storing what is considered necessary internally. The collection of films will be released to audiences in the spring of 2024.

Among the selected filmmakers are the award-winning Latvian film and theatre director Viesturs Kairišs (production company Nafta Film, producers Esko Rips, Olga Hartšuk) who takes a look at a lonely island Piirissaar, an Estonian island located in Lake Peipus on the very border of Estonia and Russia. The film by Bulgarian director Andrey Paounov (production company Vesilind, producer Riho Västrik) is about the self-assembled machines of local fishermen at lake Peipus, karakats. The film of animator Ülo Pikkov’s family is shared (production company Silmviburlane, producer Ülo Pikkov) through the fate of his Pechory great-grandmother, and Jaan Tootsen (production company Aadam ja pojad, producer Anneli Ahven) brings to life the memories and stories of his childhood in Southern Estonia. The story by Eva Kübar (production company Mcqueen, producer Alvar Reinumägi) centres on

the German Hilda Ha, who lives an offgrid life in Võru County with her young child, in the forest, without electricity and running water. The short film by Maria Aua (production company Vesilind, producer Riho Västrik) focuses on Tartu and its enrichingly boring non-places, i.e. strange wastelands, empty squares and rundown buildings. The main characters of the film by the Swedish-Danish director Carl Olsson (production company Allfilm, producer Ivo Felt) are the residents of an apartment building in Annelinn, and the diversity of their identities and dreams is explored through the building’s architecture. The film by Latvian filmmaker Andris Gauja (production company Film Tower, producer Margus Õunapuu) is about astronomers with their telescopes and slime mould explorers with their microscopes finding the beauty of curiosity.

The programme of Tartu 2024 Arts of Survival Documentaries is an unprecedented event for Estonian film, says Filipp Kruusvall, a documentary film expert and a member of the selection committee.

ESTONIAN FILM 39
Carl Olsson
8
Andris Gauja Photos by Argo Ingver, Mana Kaasik, and Karoliina Kreintal

“Within the next year eight exciting and special short documentary films by recognized Estonian and foreign directors will be created. The Estonian Film Institute’s cooperation with the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 has provided decent funding for film production and attracted real world names in documentary filmmaking to Southern Estonia,” said Filipp Kruusvall. “In today’s world, the topic of finding survival strategies is important and intriguing, and looking at the selected film project teams, we can safely say that there is something to look forward to at the premieres in 2024,” he added.

The short films would be works of their own but, at the same time, would form a single cultural code – the collection of short documentaries “Arts of Survival”. As a part of the release, Arts of Survival Documentaries opens a traveling “Doc Box” which will arrive at locations in Southern Estonia associated with the films. The selected films will be introduced and the opportunity to participate in a raffle will take place, an Arts of Survival stay in the spring of 2024 at the island Piirissaar located in Lake Peipus on the very border of Estonia and Russia, also featuring in Kairišs’ film. Audiences can also sign up for the raffle on the program’s website tartudok2024.ee. EF

Arts of Survival Documentaries

is a part of the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 main programme. The Arts of Survival is the artistic concept of the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024. Arts of survival are the knowledge, skills, and values that will help us lead a good life in the future. These are the knowledge, skills, and values which we endorse, cherish, share with, and learn from Europe. The four most important Arts of survival featured in the Tartu 2024 programme are uniqueness, sustainability, awareness, and co-creation. Arts of Survival Documentaries is a part of the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024’s main programme and embodies the values of the Arts of Survival concept

that is its thematic touchpoint. The stories these documentaries tell will reveal the people, both extraordinary and ordinary, and the locales that are important for the existence of a place. The project will collect eight short documentaries that are the result of collaborations between Estonian directors and their international peers. Expressing the uniqueness and diversity of the region of Southern Estonia, the films will be screened in cinemas, on television, and in small villages throughout Estonia — and viewers who are more comfortable in evening gowns and suits will be able to enjoy these films at some of Europe’s most prestigious film festivals.

40
Photo by Henry Griin
EVENT
Photo by Heikki Leis

Andrey Paounov

Viesturs Kairišs Maria Aua

Carl Olsson

Andris Gauja

Jaan Tootsen

Eva Kübar

Ülo Pikkov

European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 film cassette premiere in May 2024. tartudok2024.ee tartudok2024 #tartudok2024 Discover the films:

How to Find Money in Estonia

ESTONIAN FILM INSTITUTE PROGRAMMES FOR FILM PRODUCTION

MAJORITY CO-PRODUCTION

Budget 2023: € 5,500,000

• Financing for an Estonian co-producer the maximum subsidy is € 800,000

• Subsidy of up to 70% of the budget

• 50% of the subsidy must be spent in Estonia

• Two application deadlines: April 18 and November 28, 2023

MINORITY CO-PRODUCTION

Budget 2023: € 600,000

• 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 application deadlines: March 14 and September 19, 2023

• Decision in 40 days

FILM ESTONIA CASH REBATE

Budget 2023: € 4,000,000

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 per series

• high-end TV-drama with a budget of at least € 200,000 per single episode; minimum local spend € 70,000 per series

• post-production; minimum local spend € 30,000

Recently supported films include: Tenet (GB/US), Memory of Water (FI), The Burial (GB), Kill the Child (US), Besa 2 (RS)

CONTACT:

Nele Paves, Film Commissioner nele@filmi.ee filmestonia.eu

42 ESTONIAN FILM
If you want to make your film with Estonian partners, these are the film funds ready to finance your project.
FUNDS

REGIONAL FILM FUNDS

TARTU FILM FUND

Type of fund: regional, incentive / cash rebate

• Budget 2023: € 180,000

• Support intensity: up to 30%

• Objective: production of an audiovisual work in Tartu and the region of South-Estonia

• Support for the production of feature films, animations, tv-series, documentaries, short films

• Participation of an Estonian production company is necessary

• Two application deadlines: April 30 and October 30, 2023

Recently supported films: Omerta 6/12 (FI/EE), Erna at War (EE/DK/BE /EE), Dawn of War (EE/FI/LV/LT), Where the Heart Is (EE), Melchior the Apothecary (EE/LV/LT/DE) Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (EE/FR/IS)

CONTACT: fund@tartufilmfund.ee tartufilmfund.ee

PÄRNU COUNTY FILM FUND

Type of fund: regional incentive / cash rebate

• Budget 2023: € 40,000

• Support intensity: up to 25%

• Objective: production of an audiovisual work in the Pärnu County (except Pärnu and Kihnu municipality)

• Support for the production of feature films, animations, documentaries, short films

• Participation of an Estonian production company is necessary

• No deadlines

CONTACT: Association of Local Authorities of Pärnu County pol@pol.parnumaa.ee parnumaa.ee/en/film-fund

VIRU FILM FUND

Type of fund: regional, incentive / cash rebate

• Budget 2023: € 170,000

• Support intensity: up to 40%

• Objective: production of an audiovisual work in the Eastern region of Estonia.

• Support for the production of feature films, documentaries, TV-series, short films, music videos

• Participation of an Estonian production company is necessary

• No deadlines, applications are accepted from February 10 to October 31

Recently supported films: Melchior the Apothecary (EE/LV/LT/DE), Omerta 6/12 (FI/EE), Dawn of War (EE/FI/LV/LT), Eternal Road (FI/SE/EE), Mihkel (IS/NO/EE), Mother (EE), Erik Stoneheart (EE/LU/LT/FI/LV/UA)

CONTACT: Piia Tamm piia.tamm@ivek.ee vff.ee

FILM FUND OF ESTONIAN ISLANDS

Type of fund: regional, incentive / cash rebate

• Budget 2023: € 27,705

• Support intensity: According to the project

• Objective: production of an audiovisual work on the islands of Saare County

• Support for the production of feature films, animations, tv-series, documentaries, short films and film education

• Participation of an Estonian production company is necessary

• No deadlines

Supported films: Melchior the Apothecary (EE/LV/DE), The Vacationers (EE)

CONTACT: Saaremaa Development Centre +372 452 0570 / filmifond@sasak.ee minusaaremaa.ee/en/projects/ film-fund-estonian-islands

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 € 200,000.

MINORITY CO- PRODUCTION

• Participation of Estonian co-producer is necessary

• Financing for an Estonian co-producer the maximum subsidy is € 100,000

• There are four application deadlines: February 20, May 20, August 20 and November 20

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 % of the country is forest,

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.

43 ESTONIAN FILM
IDAVIRUMAA TARTU TALLINN SAAREMAA PÄRNU COUNTY PÄRNU

Awards in the Field of Film

The Estonian award season was relaunched with the ceremony of giving out the oldest-running Estonian film award at the beginning of 2023 – the Neitsi Maali award by the Estonian Film Journalists’ Association. This year, the award went to the documentary Machina Faust, directed by Kaupo Kruusiauk, that introduces Maria Faust, a talented musician, composer and saxophonist. The documentary closely observes the birth of three musical compositions by Faust, and contemplates the ways how the protagonist’s personal experience reflects in her artistic work.

Andrei Liimets, chairman of the Es tonian Film Journalists’ Association, comments: “This year’s competition was extremely tense and the argu ments were wild. But finally this sig nificant, innovative documentary won – a film that instead of giving a shiny image it gives us the sincere, hardcore portrait of a creative in dividual who matters right here and right now. Another remarka ble fact is that if during the past ten years only feature films col lected the award, then now for the second year film journal ists give increasing recogni tion to documentary films”.

ESTONIAN FILM 44
Kaupo Kruusiauk
EVENT
Jaak Kilmi Maria Avdjuško

The Cultural Endowment of Estonia also presented its annual awards in February 2023. The laureate of the audio-visual award was given to director Jaak Kilmi for his feature film The Sleeping Beast. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Ly Pulk for her invaluable contribution to the field of Estonian film. Ly Pulk has worked as a director and an assistant director in Eesti Telefilm, Tallinnfilm film studio, and other film production companies. She has also worked as a study consultant in the Baltic Film, Media and Arts School for many years.

Writer and screenwriter Aidi Vallik received the Annual Award for her vivid, socio-critical screenplay for the feature The Sleeping Beast. For the best debut feature film, the award went to director Ove Musting and his feature Kalev Rein Kotov received awards for his cine -

matographer’s work in Kalev and Two Hours to Happiness, and for editing work in Kalev. The Best Actor Award went to Mait Malmsten for the role of basketball coach Jaak Salumets in Kalev. Rainer Sarnet got the award for his elegant directing in the documentary The Diary of Vaino Vahing

Director Kaupo Kruusiauk and musician Maria Faust received a shared award – for the immediate screen chemistry in the documentary Machina Faust. The Best Animated Film Award of the year went to Dog-Apartment, directed by Priit Tender. Director Maria Avdjuško received the award for her sensitive documentary portraits of cultural history The Lost Father, Comma and Unt’s Hour Cameraman and lecturer Mait Mäekivi got a special award for educating the young generations of cinematographers. EF

MORE AWARDS

Estonian filmmakers are also doing well in neighbouring countries, for instance when the Jussi Awards were given out in Finland then our filmmakers were nominated in several categories. Meelis Veeremets was nominated for his camerawork in J.-P. Valkeapää’s Hit Big in the category of Best Cinematography Award. Kaire Hendrikson was nominated for her work in the same project in the category of Best Makeup Design. Also, costume designer Eugen Tamberg was nominated for an Edda Award bestowed annually by the Icelandic Film and Television Academy, for his work in the film A Letter from Helga. The film is a co-production between Iceland, the Netherlands, and Estonia and is directed by Ása Helga Hjörleifsdóttir.

ESTONIAN FILM 45
“This year’s competition was extremely tense and the arguments were wild.”
Rainer Sarnet and Kaarel Kuurmaa Rein Kotov Aidi Vallik
Ove Musting
Ly Pulk

EFM BALTIC COUNTRIES IN FOCUS

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were the Countries in Focus at Berlinale’s EFM 2023. This important global showcase enabled us to present our vibrant region from a variety of perspectives. Furthermore, it provided many opportunities for everyone to network with Baltic producers, distributors, investors, and creators. We loved being in the spotlight.

THE PROGRAMME INCLUDED:

Baltic Producers’ Spotlight

Twelve upcoming Baltic producers were presented at the EFM Industry Sessions

EFM Opening Reception

The traditional Opening Reception of EFM was co-hosted by the Baltic Countries.

Baltic Lunch at Co-Production Market

Lunch hosted by the Baltics to network with the Co-Production Market participants.

Baltic Producers’ Lunch at EFM

The event created a more relaxed atmosphere to talk to Estonian producers.

Baltic Producers’ Happy Hour

The Lithuanian Film Centre together with Baltic Film & Creative Tech Cluster, The Film Producers’ Association of Latvia, and Estonian Film Industry Cluster invited everyone network with the Baltic producers.

Fund Meetings at the Berlinale Co-Production Market

The event offered a great chance to learn more about co-production opportunities with the Baltics.

TALENT
The head of Estonian Film Institute Edith Sepp is happy about the successful Baltic Focus at Berlinale.
EVENT

Baltic Doc: Rough Cut Presentations

Six upcoming documentaries from the Baltics were presented at the MGB Cinema Hall.

Baltics Series Market Showcase

Within the framework of the Berlinale Series Market, the Baltic countries’ strengths in serial content was highlighted. EF

S Estonian producers Marianne Ostrat (2nd row on the left) with Lena Vurma from Germany, Oda Kruse and Gary Granner from Norway (first row).

W Estonian film pepole at the opening reception of the EFM. FROM LEFT: Mirjam Mikk, Eda Koppel, Marge Liiske, Erlend Štaub, Nele Paves, Edith Sepp, Piret Tibbo-Hudgins and Eveli Raja.

W Johanna Maria Paulson and Volia Chajkouskaya were among Baltic upcoming producers presented at EFM. V The Baltic Producers’ Happy Hour was wildly popular. Helen Lõhmus, Karin Reinberg and Varun Trikha presented their upcoming documentaries.
47

KALEV Larger Than Life

First let me explain that I am far from being a basketball fan – personally, I have experienced a basketball game probably less than ten times in a sports arena, the same thing with watching a game on TV. Things that go on in the world of basketball have never really touched me; and my relationship with feature films made in the genre of sports, namely about basketball, has been rather a confusing one – I still absolutely love the film Space Jam by Looney Tunes featuring the legendary Michael Jordan; however, the feature High Flying Bird (directed by Steven Soderbergh) talking about a basketball agent left me completely indifferent. Thus, I had no expectations whatsoever when I started to watch Kalev (directed by Ove Musting).

Fortunately, the director of the

Ink Big!

The critics have done their job

film does not presuppose that the spectators of this film should be born with a basketball in their hands. And as a proper sports film, the director has removed the unnecessary and annoying “only for the fans” spirit while at the same time putting the sports as such shamelessly on a pedestal. Already in the very first minutes of the film basketball is introduced – and we are talking about basketball that is larger than life, something that we don’t normally see. This is the sport that even those not so familiar with the subject want to experience and breathe in.

Let me bring some examples. The character of Aivar Kuusmaa (played by Reimo Sagor) looks like a young, blonde, cool Greek god. When flying off the handle, he puts on his headphones and listens to heavy metal music, keeping it cool. Mait Malmsten plays the role of

ESTONIAN FILM 48
REVIEW
First published in ERR inspired by a true story THERE`S MUCH MORE AT STAKE THAN VICTORY

Jaak Salumets, who at first glance seems to be an anti-hero with a very short fuse; however, underneath the cold surface a passionate and really likeable individual will show up during the hour and a half. These frontmen of Estonian basketball have been delineated in the present film to the maximum, they become even almost caricatures; though not in the negative, but rather in an empowering sense.

Such an approach to a sports feature is typical of Hollywood films – fast cut editing, an effective and swiftly moving screenplay, not to mention the sex appeal of the protagonists, emphasized to the silliest degree. Well, the Estonian national basketball team Kalev indeed had the effect of a gust of fresh air directly from the West in the early 1990s. The guys played basketball in Nike Air Jordan sneakers, there were cheerleaders and a team mascot; and there was a black player in the team, George Jackson. And director Ove Musting has nailed down the exact spirit really well.

The Kalev basketball team was indeed like a foreign body in Soviet Estonia back at that time; journalists kept trying to pull the rug from under their feet, and even local people expressed their contempt, but the fact is that the team was always supported by an audience. People should not have liked them (or at least, this liking should not have been publicly declared!), but this immorally enchanting basketball team completely wrapped the people around

On the Big Screen

its little finger. In its own strange way, the Kalev team could be compared to a McDonald’s burger or a pair of Levi’s jeans: something exotic and beyond reach, and yet, one could go and see these guys with your own eyes.

basketball-dream one can imagine that it also led us to the independence of our republic.

The Kalev team won the championship of the Soviet Union when the whole Soviet regime was about to collapse.

One cannot also ignore the fact that Musting has juxtaposed the story of endless basketball playing – more than half of the feature depicts the guys playing basketball – with the story of Estonia about to regain its independence. These two levels fit perfectly together: the Kalev team won the championship of the Soviet Union when the whole Soviet regime was about to collapse, thus symbolically becoming part of the so-called singing revolution in Estonia. This is no longer just basketball, but a revolutionary act, an unexpected kick in the ass to a degrading system. It is questionable whether their victory really played such a big part in history, but within this

The film offers even more possibilities for dreaming. The role of Gert Kullamäe, played by Mihkel Kuusk, who doesn’t even get off the substitutes bench, serves well as a symbol for all those who have made an effort, to suffer, or to sweat for their dream. Kullamäe became one of the most significant Estonian basketball players despite remaining on the bench during the crucial match. And however frustrating or draining it may have been for him, it certainly played an important role in everything. It took a huge risk from the film director to make the protagonist of a basketball film someone who won’t even get a chance to play – but this bold decision was totally worth it.

Come to think of it, then talking about Kalev as a sports film won’t paint the whole picture either. It’s rather a heroic story – we take one episode from our recent history, pump it up, decorate it with colourful feathers and show the rest of the world that we have nothing to be ashamed of, we are, too, cool and proud! And this is exactly what one should do. Perhaps instead of hipsters eating local grains on a foggy moor, we should present excerpts from Kalev for some marketing campaign introducing Estonia? I am confident that this would work much better, as it is so far undoubtedly the best domestic feature film of the year. EF

ESTONIAN FILM 49
Such an approach to a sports feature is typical of Hollywood films – fast cut editing, an effective and swiftly moving screenplay.

WarmHearted Film About a StoneHearted Boy T

rauma awareness has improved considerably in the past years. At least, that’s how it seems when you look how the media spotlight moves to the corners that have remained largely in shadows until now: from domestic abuse to mental health problems. These topics are hard to tackle, even for grown-ups, not to mention kids, for whom the experience of grief and loss is even harder to process, and it is up to the adults to figure out how to discuss such matters with them.

Screenwriters Livia Ulman and Andris Feldmanis, and director Ilmar Raag have taken on the complex task of doing just that. Children’s films tend to have a reputation for being overly sincere and simplistic – stories about a world that is still untouched by

The critics have done their job

mundane adult problems; about a brighter, lighter, more noble life. Erik Stoneheart could be called a children’s film as well, but the makers have much more on their mind than your average brightly-coloured adventure.

Talking about genre, the beginning of the film contains even traces of horror. The film’s title character Erik (Herman Avandi) and his parents arrive at their new family home – a mansion that resembles a bleakish castle, inherited from grand-aunt Brunhilde who was interested in occultism. Instead of ghosts they encounter another family living at the far end of the house – a schoolteacher father, and his daughter Maria (Florin Gussak) who doesn’t exactly give Erik a warm welcome.

Maria sets the film’s central journey in motion when the kids

start looking for the girl’s mother. She vanished on a science expedition, captured by Somalian pirates. So a small motorboat heads out to sea and the journey to Africa commences. But instead of the faraway continent, the kids end up

ESTONIAN FILM 50
REVIEW
Ink Big!
First published in Postimees

in the mysterious In-BetweenWorld – a place where life and death meet.

Ships and pirates in the worlds of children have set sail a few times before in Estonian cinema – Peeter Simm’s 1982 adventure Arabella, Pirate’s Daughter and Captain Morten and the Spider Queen by Kaspar Jancis come to mind. Captain Morten and Erik Stoneheart are both international co-productions with some of Estonia’s all-time highest film budgets.

Technically, the kids’ journey is impressive. There is an abundance of visual effects at play, uncommon for an Estonian production – talking paintings, cloud masses covering the sky, the world turning to ashes. In an unusual move, two cinematographers were employed – Tuomo Hutri and feature film debutante Ivar Taim both contributing to the high-quality visual style, emphasized by the great work of production designer Kari Kankaanpää, and costume designer Anu Lensment. The InBetween-World looks like a very convincing post-apocalyptic place.

Unfortunately, Captain Mor-

ten also serves as a cautionary example, because despite its ambitious artistic execution, the story remained uninteresting for kids, and the box office was a shipwreck.

Erik Stoneheart will most likely not experience the same fate, but its tonality is just as risqué. Mostly dark and threatening, especially on the pirate ship where the bulk of the story takes place; the premiere was witness to a few walkouts and lots of tears during the final act. The authors were most probably well-aware of their choices and the possible consequences.

Erik Stoneheart doesn’t try to steer clear of the more serious topics, it addresses them head on.

Today, when children’s suicide attempts are breaking new records, with Estonia near the top of the list, there is no reason to believe that the situation can be resolved by talking to kids in the language of shiny rainbows and pink ponies. Erik Stoneheart gets its title from the character’s belief that nothing can hurt him. This is not an expression of strength, but isolation, due to a lack of intimacy and understanding.

The children find themselves from the In-BetweenWorld – a place where life and death meet.

Ilmar Raag, a film director with a strong social conscience, is known for addressing young audiences. Mainly slightly older ones, like in The Class about bullying, or the road movie I Will Not Come Back. The standards will not be lowered here due to the “children’s film” tag though, and as always, Raag refrains from giving a black and white interpretation of good and evil, much like in his previous films.

The central symbol of Erik Stoneheart’s fantasy world is a mirror that forces everyone to look right back at themselves and reality. To deal with a problem, one has to acknowledge and address it first, regardless of age. Similar to Jaak Kilmi’s The Sleeping Beast, Erik Stoneheart seems to be driven forward by its desire to tell stories for children without simplifying the world around them, or avoiding difficult questions. Beyond the dark tones beats a warm heart that believes in speaking to children as equals; and believes that empathy can perform the real miracle that helps us out from the darkest corners. EF

ESTONIAN FILM 51

Pedalling the Past

In the words of Andrey Tarkovsky, the base fabric of cinema is time, much like sound in music, colour in painting, character in performing arts. In Stairway to Heaven, the third feature by Mart Kivastik, time is very visibly in the lead role.

The characters have wrestled with the consequences of lost time in all Kivastik’s movies, but never as obviously as in Stairway to Heaven, in the shape of Ulf (Uu to his friends), played by Mait Malmsten, and his childhood nostalgia, drenched in 1970s glaring heat. Something like a parallel reality opens up in the middle of autumn in modern-day

Ink Big!

The critics have done their job

Tartu. In his bourgeois comfort zone, Ulf has lost all contact with that other reality, although it has always been there. Whenever his childhood friend Doctor (Taavi Teplenkov) asks Ulf, if he can recall one incident or the other, the answer is always: “I don’t remember”. An obvious lie, probably brought on by fear of gazing into the past and facing the harsh truths that might stare right back

Stairway to Heaven

First published in Sirp

from the crevices of time. But we know what they say about those who don’t remember the past. They live without the future.

ESTONIAN FILM 52
REVIEW

All this fancy philosophising can be broadly labelled as “midlife crisis” – a label that will certainly be used by many viewers, and rightly so. Fortunately, here, this is not an unfortunate case of pitching simplistic youth against depressive middle-age. Ulf doesn’t want to wallow in nostalgia because he thinks that, quite to the contrary of the usual meaning of the word, the past doesn’t contain anything desirable for him. During the jumps back in time we encounter a young Ulf (Timoteus Sammul) who is a spitting image of his older self. He is an aimless soul, drifting around without any tangible dreams. He gets excited about Jawa motorcycles, jeans, and bubblegum, just like his peers, but doesn’t really engage with life much. When Doctor (young version played by Rasmus Ermel) implies that they should start taking things seriously because they are already in the tenth grade, Ulf states that he’d rather continue kicking the football around. The main difference with grown-up Ulf is that he has given

Stairway to Heaven takes place in 1970ies and 2020ies. Mait Malmsten plays Ulf, a man who finds a way to timetravel.

up any semblance of exploration as an adult, and basically just come to a standstill. So, it seems to be his biggest fear to just admit, how little has changed during these past decades, besides appearances. Geographically, this situation is characterised by the fact that Ulf lives only a stone’s throw away from his childhood home: Day Street has given way to Night Street.

But let us return to time – as does Kivastik, repeatedly, both in images and words. The film begins at the deathbed of Georg (Raivo Trass), a painter, Ulf’s role model and lifelong friend, and his declaration that time doesn’t exist, it’s our own invention. The past, the present, the future – it’s all one and the same continuum where we simultaneously exist. To navigate and move through this timescape, he tells Ulf a brilliantly primitive trick: let go of the bike handlebar, and just ride.

Say no more. The main visual of the film features an ecstatic Malmsten on a bike, no hands. A beautiful allegory that is perhaps exploited too much by Kivastik, especially in the end, where he gives it an unnecessary metaphysical twist, as if it were Nolan’s Interstellar.

Much to his family’s surprise, Ulf begins to take strange bike trips around town, and around time that doesn’t really exist, as we established. At times, I felt that Stairway to Heaven should have started with a Jackass-style warning not to try this cycling style at home. Please don’t. Especially not on the steep banks of Emajõgi River, or Tartu’s main highways. Who will scrape those middle-aged men chasing after lost youth off the streets later? These trips bring visions of 1970s Tartu in all its eternal summer glory. Without a mega-budget, it must have been real

ESTONIAN FILM 53

pain to find and capture locations that still more or less match the period. The time to do this sort of period piece in a natural setting is quickly running out, and respect to Kivastik for freeze-framing this moment on film for eternity. Stairway to Heaven is like Tartu’s version of Tenet

In the middle of all this timespace there are also people from the past and the future, connected by bridges of time. Suitably for a novel, there is an abundance of characters and not all of them have been granted enough of that most valuable resource – time. This is one of the main concerns here. Stairway to Heaven feels like a Wes Anderson or a Woody Allen film where there’s a celebrity behind every walk-on. The most memorable cameos are by Tõnu Oja as an ailing hippie who hasn’t changed a bit, and Ivo Uukkivi as young Georg, who first introduces Ulf to the shapely forms of a female body. Raivo Trass’ last role as

an old and tired Georg is especially moving. The film is dedicated to him, and becomes his send-off, literally. Other members of the cast have good moments too.

The film has no big dramatic turns or incidents, and there doesn’t have to be. The flashbacks work like a memory that doesn’t save the most significant historical events, but the happenings in between. Seemingly random occurrences that have left a trace, nonetheless.

According to the writer-director Kivastik, writing books and plays is for him a substitute to cinema, when there is no other choice. The same with Stairway to Heaven, that couldn’t wait to become a film and was born as a book first. The result is a bit like a donkey caught between two haystacks, and this conflicting duality becomes quite apparent now and then. You can fit less into a film than into a book, and squeezing you own free thoughts into the rig-

id frames of a movie can be quite painful. And the pain is felt by the film too, not just the author. Kivastik is a bit like an Estonian version of McDonagh: one has Ireland, the other Tartu, and both are rather writers in a filmmaker’s skin. McDonagh has shot all his films based on original screenplays. One can only guess if Stairway to Heaven would have become even better if it had been made straight to movie.

Undoubtedly, Stairway to Heaven is Kivastik’s best film to date. And the most ambitious, at least where time-space is concerned. The film works, and quite well too. It is of course up to the viewer’s willingness to watch an-

other melancholic story about the self-searching journey of a well-off middle-aged white guy. Malmsten has breathed life into this tired trope, and Ulf is easy to empathise with. Timoteus Sammul in his acting debut also triumphs as young Ulf. Without him, the film would fall flat on its face, much like old Ulf mounting a bike for the first time in a few decades. For the first time, Kivastik has the masterful Rein Kotov as his DOP, who also has a big part to play in the film’s success. The visual contrast between the past and the present is vivid. The expressionist images of Ulf’s father’s (Hannes Hermaküla) vague face in the mirror, or the shadow of his mother (Külli Teetamm) reflecting on a cupboard while playing piano are nice keepsakes from memory lane. In any case, Kivastik has rapidly moved a few steps up the stairway to heaven with this one. Hopefully he doesn’t run out of steam and plans to take a few steps more. EF

ESTONIAN FILM 54
Undoubtedly, Stairway to Heaven is Kivastik’s best film to date. And the most ambitious, at least where time-space is concerned.
Ulf is a middle aged man who wants to know where did all the years go, and all the happiness.
REVIEW

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood

In the darkness of smoke sauna, women share their innermost secrets and intimate experiences. Through a sense of communion, women wash off the shame trapped in their bodies and regain their strength.

DIRECTOR ANNA HINTS

Anna Hints is an Estonian film director with a background in contemporary art and experimental folk music. Having deep roots in the distinct culture of South Estonia, Anna’s second home is in India. As an active dumpster diver, Anna’s short documentary For Tomorrow Paradise Arrives (2021) initiated public discussion and growth of new grassroot movements

against food waste in Estonia. Anna’s first feature documentary Smoke Sauna Sisterhood premiered at Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Documentary Competition program in January 2023. Anna’s next short fiction is Weight of Light (2023) that depicts the life of female rag pickers in Delhi. Anna is a singer in the electronicfolk trio EETER that was nominated in the Best Film Music category at the Estonian Film and TV Awards 2018. EETER collaborated with Icelandic composer Edvard Egilsson for the original score of Smoke Sauna Sisterhood Anna is currently finishing her Master’s Degree at the Department of Drama of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre.

FILM INFO

Original title: Savvusanna sõsarad

Theme: women, healing, nature, heritage

Languages: Estonian, Seto, Võro

Director: Anna Hints

Screenwriter: Anna Hints

Cinematographer: Ants Tammik

Editors: Hendrik Mägar, Tushar Prakash, Qutaiba Barhamji, Martin Männik, Anna Hints

Composers: Eðvarð Egilsson & Eeter

Producer: Marianne Ostrat

Co-producers: Juliette Cazanave, Hlín Jóhannesdóttir, Eero Talvistu †

Produced by: Alexandra Film (EE), Kepler 22 Productions (FR), Ursus Parvus (IS)

World Premiere: Sundance Film Festival, January 2023

Festivals: CPH:DOX, Stockfish FF, Hong Kong IFF, SFFILM, Alexander Valley FF, Hot Docs, Millenium Docs Against Gravity, DocsBarcelona

Awards: Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary (Sundance 2023)

89 min / DCP / Flat 1.85 / 5.1

CONTACT

Alexandra Film • Marianne Ostrat +372 523 3577

marianne@alexandrafilm.ee alexandrafilm.ee

SALES

Autlook Filmsales • Salma Abdalla welcome@autlookfilms.com autlookfilms.com

ESTONIAN FILM 56
NEW FILM

Sundial

In the unstoppable circle of life, everyone has their task - plants and mushrooms, insects and animals... This diverse orchestra always finds its balance, rhythm and tone. Recognizing the distinctiveness of being human, this film looks at what are our possibilities to take part of that co-creation of nature. For nearly seven years of exploring the periphery countryside of Estonia, this journey brings to the foreground the daily rhythms of ordinary people, composing an analogue gospel of a microcosm, which has consciously or unconsciously rejected the central, arrogant doctrine of human exceptionality. What are the conditions for humans to participate in the humble orchestra of earth?

DIRECTOR LIIS NIMIK

is a documentary filmmaker, fiction editor and lecturer. She has edited four feature films and worked together with

the renowned director Veiko Õunpuu on two feature films - Free Range (2013) and Roukli (2015). She has also edited the widely distributed festival hit In the Crosswind (2014), being also one of the authors of the original idea. The recent documentary films she produced - Lembri Uudu (2017), The Weight of All the Beauty (2019) and A Loss of Something Ever Felt (2020) have all been international festival successes, having being premiered, shown and awarded in festivals like DocLeipzig, Sarajevo, HotDocs, Melbourne IFF, Jihlava and Black Nights. The Weight of all the Beauty participated in the Oscar competition for short docs in 2021. Liis believes chance, curiosity and humor are the three most important components of life and keeps researching film through this perspective. Sundial is her debut feature documentary as a director.

FILM INFO

Original title: Päikeseaeg

Theme: creative documentary, mythology

Language: Estonian

Director: Liis Nimik

Screenwriters: Liis Nimik, Anti Naulainen

Cinematographer: Erik Põllumaa E.S.C.

Editor: Liis Nimik

Sound: Israel Bañuelos, M.P.S.E.

Producers: Edina Csüllög, Liis Nimik

Produced by: Klara Films

World Premiere: Visions du Réel

International Film Festival Nyon, 2023

Festivals: Hot Docs Canadian Documentary Film Festival.

65 min / 16mm / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1

CONTACT

Klara Films

Liis Nimik

Phone: +372 5661 6905

E-mail: liis@klarafilms.ee

www.facebook.com/

sundialdocumentary/

ESTONIAN FILM 57

The Last Relic

Aspirited 20-year-old Left Block activist navigates Russia’s opaque political machine as he fights for change beside opposition groups and activists. Filmed over four years in the provincial city of Yekaterinburg, The Last Relic is a stark cinematic portrait of the absurdity of life in Russia where the majority dreams of restoring imperial glory and a handful of dissidents resist Putin’s relentless march towards a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

DIRECTOR MARIANNA KAAT

Award-winning director and producer

Marianna Kaat has produced and directed documentary series and TV shows for various broadcasters. Her main professional interest stays with the production of creative non-fiction films with strong focus on East-European subjects. Among others, her documentary credits include:

14 Cases (2017), Pit No 8 (2011), The Last

Phantoms (2006). The most successful ducumentary Pit No 8 was filmed in Eastern Ukraine Donetsk region before Russian full-scale invasion and has been screened at more than forty festivals and won a big number of awards. Marianna is also Associate Professor at Tallinn University for Baltic Film, Media and Arts School, where she teaches documentary history and practice.

FILM INFO

Original title: Viimane reliikvia

Theme: human rights, putinism

Language: Russian

Director: Marianna Kaat

Screenwriter: Marianna Kaat

Cinematographer: Kacper Czubak P.S.C.

Editor: Jesper Osmund, DFK

Composer: Lauri-Dag Tüür

Sound: Israel Bañuelos, M.P.S.E.

Producer: Marianna Kaat

Co-producers: Mette Cheng

Munthe-Kaas, Tobin Auber

Produced by: Baltic Film Production (EE), Ten Thousand Images (NO)

World Premiere: Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, 2023 106 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1

CONTACT

Baltic Film Production

Marianna Kaat +372 502 7509 info@bfp.ee bfp.ee

SALES

Rise and Shine World Sales

Diana Karklin

diana.karklin@riseandshine-berlin.de riseandshine-berlin.com

ESTONIAN FILM 58
Marianna Kaat
NEW FILM

Last Sentinel

Set in the future on a war-ravaged Earth, four soldiers man Sentinel – a remote military base in a vast ocean that separates two warring continents. They await the relief or the enemy, whichever comes first. But as the empty weeks turn to months, a paranoia descends testing relationships to breaking point.

Whilst their tour of duty ended 3 months ago, the relief crew still hasn’t shown up. Alone and uncertain as to their fate, the simmering tension amongst the crew only escalates when a mysterious boat drifts into range – is it the help they have been waiting so long for, or something far more sinister?

DIRECTOR TANEL TOOM

was born on 1982 in Tallinn, Estonia, Tanel first studied filmmaking at the Tallinn University, graduating with a BA in 2005.

His fourth short film The Second Coming premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2008. The same year, he decided to continue his studies at the National Film and TV School in England. He graduated from the NFTS with a MA in 2010. His diploma film The Confession won the Student Academy Award® for Honorary Foreign Film and a year later was nominated for an Oscar® for Best Live Action Short Film. His first feature film Truth and Justice premiered in 2019, breaking all the box office records in Estonia and became the most watched film in the country. It was Estonia’s submission for the 2020 Academy Awards, making it to the shortlist in Best International Film category. The film was praised for its performances and visuals and won the Best International Motion Picture at the Satellite Awards 2020. Tanel was chosen by Variety as one of the “10 Europeans to Watch”, in 2020.

FILM INFO

Original title: Last Sentinel

Genre: sci-fi thriller

Language: English

Director: Tanel Toom

Screenwriter: Malachi Smyth

Cinematographer: Mart Ratassepp E.S.C.

Production Designer: Kaia Tungal

Editor: Tambet Tasuja

Composer: Gert Wilden Jr.

Sound: Matis Rei

Main cast: Kate Bosworth, Thomas Kretschmann, Lucien Laviscount, Martin McCann

Producers: Ben Pullen, Ivo Felt, Jörg Bundschuh, Pippa Cross, Matt Wilkinson

Produced by: Allfilm (EE), Kick Film (DE), Sentinel Entertainment (GB)

US and Domestic Premiere: March 2023

112 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1

CONTACT

Allfilm

Ivo Felt ivo@allfilm.ee allfilm.ee

SALES

Altitude Film Sales +44 20 7478 7612 info@altitudefilment.com altitudefilment.com

ESTONIAN FILM 59

Stairway to Heaven

Ulf has reached the point in his life where little is left of the future and whether he regrets his past or accepts it, there is no changing the course. Everyday life has become so mundane that it’s difficult to tell one day from the next. Time seems not to exist anymore. When an old friend and a lifelong mentor reveals the secret to time travel on his deathbed, Ulf decides to try it out – and spends ever longer periods in the complicated, but idyllic world of his teenage years.

DIRECTOR MART KIVASTIK

is a writer, scriptwriter and director. After graduating from the University of Tartu in 1989, Mart Kivastik has been working as a freelancer. He has written plays, screenplays, short stories and novels, also articles on literature, theatre and film. His first book was published in 1993. The novel Vietnamese Recipe was published in 2012 and was awarded the prize Best

Travel Book of the Year. Starting from 1997, his plays have been staged in various Estonian theatres and abroad. Film credits as a scriptwriter include full-length films Firewater, Taarka, Vasha, and a number of short films. He has written and directed two feature films – A Friend of Mine (2011, Exitfilm) and When You Least Expect It (2016, Kopli Kinokompanii).

FILM INFO

Original title: Taevatrepp

Genre: drama

Language: Estonian

Director: Mart Kivastik

Screenwriter: Mart Kivastik

Cinematographer: Rein Kotov E.S.C.

Production Designer: Pille Jänes

Editor: Rein Kotov

Sound: Horret Kuus

Main cast: Mait Malmsten

Producers: Marju Lepp, Manfred Vainokivi

Produced by: Filmivabrik

Domestic Premiere: March 2023

107 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1

CONTACT

Filmivabrik

Marju Lepp

+372 516 3641

marju@filmivabrik.ee

filmivabrik.ee

ESTONIAN FILM 60
NEW FILM
Rein Kotov and Mart Kivastik

Kalev

It is the summer of 1990. Soviet Union is on the verge of collapse and small Baltic nations struggle to regain independence. Society is divided, there is fear and turmoil on the streets as the Soviet Union`s basketball championship is about to begin. Estonian team Kalev has to make a difficult decision. Independence seemingly within reach, a rising tide of public opinion opposes the national team’s participation. As professional athletes they make an unpopular choice. Suddenly, the stakes are getting higher…..

DIRECTOR OVE MUSTING

graduated from the Tallinn Pedagogical University with a BA in Audiovisual Arts. He has created award-winning short features and ads, music videos, TV shows and multicam live broadcasts. He is also a founding member of the band called Winny Puhh.

Kalev is Ove`s first feature film.

Awards: EFTA 2023 winner for Best Feature Film (Kalev), Best Director (Kalev), Cultural Endowement Award 2022 (Kalev) EFTA winner/Special Programme 2019, EFTA TV Director of the Year 2017, PR Gold Baltic Best, PR Gold Golden Egg, Cannes Lion PR finalist TVC 2017.

FILM INFO

Original title: Kalev

Genre: drama

Languages: Estonian, Russian, English

Director: Ove Musting

Screenwriters: Mehis Pihla, Ove Musting, Martin Algus

Cinematographer: Rein Kotov E.S.C.

Production Designer: Tiiu-Ann Pello

Editors: Rein Kotov, Jaak Ollino jn.

Composer: Mihkel Zilmer

Sound: Matis Rei

Main cast: Mait Malmsten, Reimo Sagor, Priit Võigemast, Mihkel Kuusk

Producers: Pille Rünk, Maria Avdjushko

Produced by: Allfilm (EE), Ugri Film (EE)

International Premiere: Warsaw International Film Festival, October 2022

Festivals: Tallinn Black Nights FF, AFI

Showcase, Palm Springs IFF, Europa!

Europa FF, Chicago European Union FF, Singapore FF

Awards: The Estonian official entry for the Academy Award for the Best International Feature Film

95 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1

CONTACT

Allfilm • Pille Rünk

+372 508 2999

pille@allfilm.ee allfilm.ee

SALES

Level K • Tine Klint tine.klint@levelk.dk  levelk.dk

ESTONIAN FILM 61
Ove Musting

Erik Stoneheart

Erik (11) is convinced he has a stone for a heart. That’s why he doesn’t mind that his parents have no time for him or that he has no real friends. When his family moves to a villa they inherited from aunt Brunhilda, he discovers another family living there – Maria (11) and her dad whom Erik’s parents want to kick out. When the family gets an eviction notice, Maria activates her secret plan to bring back her missing mother to save them. Together they end up on a fantastical journey to the In-BetweenWorld and Erik learns how hard it really is to wear a heart of stone.

DIRECTOR ILMAR RAAG

born in 1968, is the writer and director of the most successful film ever made in Estonia – Class (2007), which was sold to 91 countries, was the Estonian candidate for Oscar nomination, won 25 awards from 70 festivals, and developed into a successful multi-awarded TV-series. Ilmar’s filmography include Une Estonienne à Paris

(Locarno FF, Estonia-France-Belgium, 2012), Kertu. Love Is Blind (Warszaw FF, 2013) and I Won’t Come Back (Tribeca FF, Nora Ephron Jury Special Mention, Estonia-Russia-Finland-Kazakhstan, 2014). Ilmar has an MA in Screenwriting from Ohio University and worked as a professor of Liberal Arts in Tartu University. Ilmar is also an acclaimed columnist in the biggest dailies, lecturer and a requested media consultant.

FILM INFO

Original title: Erik Kivisüda

Genre: fantasy adventure

Language: Estonian

Director: Ilmar Raag

Screenwriters: Andris Feldmanis, Livia Ulman

Cinematographers: Tuomo Hutri F.S.C., Ivar Taim E.S.C.

Production Designer: Kari Kankaanpää

Editor: Felix Sorger

Composers: Kipras Masanauskas, Renars Kaupers (title song)

Sound: Vladimir Golovnitski

Main cast: Herman Avandi, Florin Gussak, Juhan Ulfsak, Laura PetersonAardam, Renars Kaupers, Jules Werner, Norbert Rutili, Nickel Bösenberg

Producers: Riina Sildos, Paul Thiltges, Adrien Chef

Co-producers: Uljana Kim, Vitaliy Sheremetiev, Roberts Vinovskis, Aleksi Bardy, Helen Vinogradov

Produced by: Amrion Production (EE), Paul Thiltges Distributions (LU), Uljana Kim Studios (LT), Esse Production House (UA), Locomotive Studios (LV), Helsinki-filmi Oy (FI)

World premiere: International Young Audience Film Festival ALE Kino!, October 2022

Festivals: CinEast Film Festival, Youth and Children’s Film Festival Just Film

105 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1

CONTACT

Amrion Production

Riina Sildos

+372 504 8985

riina.sildos@amrion.ee amrion.ee

SALES

Pink Parrot Media

Tania Pinto da Cunha

+34 62 945 9075

tania@pinkparrotmedia.ca

pinkparrotmedia.ca

ESTONIAN FILM 62 NEW FILM

Drifting Apart

When Vera goes to the Soviet astronauts’ holiday resort to treat her astronaut husband Alexei, the summer idyll gets shattered by the suspicion about her husband, the suspicion which invades Vera’s soul secretly. Drifting Apart is a story of fragile trust, the breaking of which may be invisible.

DIRECTOR REBEKA RUMMEL

(1995) is a young and aspiring director from Estonia. She graduated Film Directing BA from the Baltic Film and Media School in 2017. Additional to her BA studies Rebeka has studied in several directing workshops, including Cristian Mungiu’s master class in 2018 in Bologna and been part of Venice Days 28 jury. Rebeka’s filmography includes Säde that screened at Camerimage Short Film Section (2017), Julius that premiered at PÖFF Shorts (2020), and Death of the Clerk at UNICA (2018) where it also won

the Gold Medal. Rebeka’s other films have been recognized at the Best of BFM programme for Best Short Film, Best Actress, Best Sound Design and Best Production Design. Rebeka’s films are an observation of human soul exploring themes like trust, guilt and letting go. Her work is distinguished by a strong philosophical concept, the precision of the camera work and powerful acting.

FILM INFO

Original title: Triivides kaugusse

Genre: drama

Language: Russian

Director: Rebeka Rummel

Screenwriters: Rebeka Rummel, Kaur Kokk

Cinematographer: Peter Kollanyi

Production Designer: Jaanika Jüris

Editor: Moonika Põdersalu

Sound: Aleksandra Koel

Main cast: Yulia Aug, Igor Rogoatchov

Producer: Elina Litvinova

Produced by: Three Brothers

Premiere: PÖFF Shorts, November 2022

Festivals: Brussels Short Film Festival, Clérmont Ferrand Market Picks

20 min / 16mm / DCP / 1.66:1 / 5.1

CONTACT

Three Brothers

Elina Litvinova

+372 5691 3377

elina@threebrothers.ee

ESTONIAN FILM 63
Rebeka Rummel

Eeva

It’s pouring down with rain at the funeral. There’s a lot of crying, too much wine, several woodpeckers and a couple of dreams that fill in the gaps.

DIRECTOR MORTEN TŠINAKOV

was born in 1992 in Viljandi. He studied animation at the Estonian Academy of Arts and has made two films in Eesti Joonisfilm after the studies. Both of them have been shown at many festivals around the world and won several awards. Eva is his third professional film.

DIRECTOR LUCIJA MRZLJAK

was born in 1990 in Zagreb, Lucija is an illustrator and director of animated films. She studied at art academies in Zagreb, Krakow, Prague and Tallinn. Her films have been screened and awarded at numerous film festivals around the world. She has

also illustrated several books, directed and animated a music video and is working as a freelance artist and guest teacher at the Estonian Academy of Arts.

FILM INFO

Original title: Eeva

Language: no dialogue

Directors: Morten Tšinakov, Lucija Mrzljak

Screenwriter: Morten Tšinakov

Production Designers: Morten

Tšinakov, Lucija Mrzljak

Animators: Egert Kesa, Goran Stojnic, Morten Tšinakov, Lucija Mrzljak, Tarmo Vaarmets, Noemi Ribic

Editors: Morten Tšinakov, Lucija Mrzljak

Composer: Morten Tšinakov

Sound: Jure Buljevic

Technique: traditional animation

Producers: Kalev Tamm, Draško Ivezic

Produced by: Eesti Joonisfilm (EE), Adriatic Animation (HR)

World premiere: PÖFF Shorts, November 2022

Festivals: Berlinale Shorts, Animafest Zagreb, Annecy IAFF

16 min / DCP / 1.85:1 / 5.1

CONTACT

Eesti Joonisfilm

Kalev Tamm

+372 677 4228

info@joonisfilm.ee

joonisfilm.ee

facebook.com/Joonisfilm

SALES

Miyu Distribution

+33 4 48 67 90 09

festival@miyu.fr

sales@miyu.fr

miyu.fr/distribution/

ESTONIAN FILM 64
Morten Tšinakov Lucija Mrzljak
NEW FILM

FILM INFO

Original title: Koerkoerter

Language: Estonian

Director: Priit Tender

Screenwriter: Priit Tender (based on Andres Ehin’s poem)

Cinematographer: Ragnar Neljandi

Production Designer: Priit Tender

Animator: Marili Sokk, Egert Kesa

Editors: Priit Tender, Ragnar Neljandi

Technique: stop-motion

Producer: Kerdi Oengo

Produced by: Nukufilm

World premiere: Animafest Cypros, August 2022

Festivals & awards: Hallucinations

Dog-Apartment

Ills of fortune have deported a ballet dancer Sergei to a suburban kolhoz. Here he’s having his mundane fights against routine, domestic animals and alcohol.

DIRECTOR PRIIT TENDER

was born in 1971 in Tallinn, Estonia. He is an Estonian animator – the director, designer and writer of many animated short films. His first job was as one of the artists for Priit Pärn and Janno Põldma’s film 1895 (1995). His debut as director came in 1996 with the film Gravitation. He has made several films after that both in drawn and puppet animation techniques and his author films are driven by surreal imagery, black humor and dark existential

journeys. Priit’s films have won prizes and nominations from the most important short and animation film festivals, including Annecy, Ottawa, Hiroshima, Dresden, Fredrikstad, Utrecht.

Collectives FF - Grand Prix, Student’s Jury Prize; T–SHORT Animated FF –Best Film; Tampere FF – Best Animation; MONSTRA Lisbon AFF - Grand Prix; TOFUZI IAFF - Grand Prix; IFF Etiuda& Anima FF – Grand Prix, The Golden Jabberwocky; Animanima IAF – Special Distinction of the Jury; Stop Trik

International Stop Motion Competition

– Speacial Mention: LIAF - Best of the Festival Award; ALTER_NATIVE ISFF

- The Ministry of Culture’s Award; Estonian Film and Television Awards 2023

– Best Animation, Cultural Endowement Award 2022 - Best Animation

14 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1

CONTACT

Nukufilm

Kerdi Oengo +372 516 3833

kerdi@nukufilm.ee nukufilm.ee

ESTONIAN FILM 65
Priit Tender

Poop, Spring and the Others

The film is about longing, friendship, love, family and fears. The adventures of the strange characters are spiced with Kivirähk’s warm and bold humor, weaving wittily together the children’s boundless and the living conditions of the modern world. The film is full of emotions, excitement and a bit of nerve-wracking, for both young and old viewers.

DIRECTORS

René Vilbre – Who Shot Otto Müller, Estonian Funeral, Class Reunion

Meelis Arulepp – Raggie, The Great Painter

Mikk Mägi – The Old Man Cartoon Movie

Oskar Lehemaa – The Old Man Cartoon Movie, Bad Hair

Heiki Ernits – Lotte and the Lost Dragons, Lotte and the Moonstone Secret, Lotte from Gadgetville

FILM INFO

Original title: Kaka, kevad ja teised

Language: Estonian, English subtitles

Directors: René Vilbre, Meelis Arulepp, Oskar Lehemaa, Mikk Mägi, Heiki Ernits

Screenwriters: René Vilbre, Meelis Arulepp, Oskar Lehemaa, Mikk Mägi, Heiki Ernits

Production Designers: Meelis Arulepp, Heiki Ernits, Ivika Luisk, Sander Joon

Animators: A Film Estonia, BOP Animation, Nukufilm

Composers: Tõnu Raadik, Richards Zalupe, Jaanus Nõgisto, Sten-Olle

Moldau, Rasmus Lill

Sound: Horret Kuus, Matis Rei, Joonas Taimla

Technique: CGI animation, stop-motion, 2D animation

Producer: Kristel Tõldsepp

Produced by: A Film Estonia

Domestic Premiere: February 2023

70 min / DCP / 1.85:1 / 5.1

CONTACT

A Film Estonia

Kristel Tõldsepp

+372 516 0399

kristel@afilm.ee afilm.ee

ESTONIAN FILM 66 NEW FILM
Shoot in Estonia! CUT AND CUT YOUR COSTS CUT YOUR TIME CUT YOUR BUDGET CUT YOUR LOGISTICS 30% cash rebate on local expenses Payment in 40 days directly to a foreign account Competitive rates for world class film professionals All locations within a 3 hour drive MORE INFORMATION FILMESTONIA.EU

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Articles inside

Eeva

3min
pages 64-67

Drifting Apart

1min
page 63

Erik Stoneheart

1min
page 62

Stairway to Heaven

2min
pages 60-61

Last Sentinel

1min
page 59

The Last Relic

1min
page 58

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood

2min
pages 56-57

Ink Big!

5min
pages 52-55

Pedalling the Past

1min
page 52

WarmHearted Film About a StoneHearted Boy T

3min
pages 50-51

On the Big Screen

1min
page 49

Ink Big!

1min
pages 48-49

KALEV Larger Than Life

1min
page 48

EFM BALTIC COUNTRIES IN FOCUS

1min
pages 46-47

Awards in the Field of Film

2min
pages 44-46

How to Find Money in Estonia

3min
pages 42-43

Arts of Survival Documentaries

1min
pages 40-41

Amazin arts of survival

2min
pages 38-40

GlanceSurreal at the Past Or Perhaps the Future?

5min
pages 35-37

IN FOCUS

2min
pages 32-34

The Master of Good Interruptions

7min
pages 29-31

Lioness

2min
pages 26-27

COVER STORY

5min
pages 24-25

IN FULL The Roots of Russia’s Invasion COLOR

2min
pages 22-23

Daring, Caring & Youthful

4min
pages 18-21

Time &

6min
pages 13-17

Ulfsak

2min
pages 11-12

EFTA

1min
pages 8-10

Viola Salu

4min
pages 6-7

No Cho

2min
pages 4-6

Marianna Kaat on One Truth in Russia

1min
pages 1-3
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