Estonian Film 2018 / 3

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Joosep Matjus

Brings Nature Films to the Forefront

Two Debuts Reality & Fiction

Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo & Kaur Kokk

Reimo Sagor A Rising Star

It’s PÖFF time! FEATURED FILMS: Take It or Leave It Portugal I Fire Lily I The Riddle of Jaan Niemand Roots I The Wind Sculpted Land



he end of year 2018 is fast approaching – and what a year of transformation it has been for Estonian film! The Estonian Republic 100 (EV100) film programme has produced outstanding results. By the end of this year, for first time in their history, Estonian films will generate 0.5 million admissions at domestic cinemas. This should deliver a 20 % share of the local market. However, it is not only about the numbers when it comes to films in Europe – it’s about the audiences’ trust in filmmakers to tell engaging stories. Estonian filmmakers have the talent to deliver, if given a chance. This special programme has provided that chance - and filmmakers have delivered 100%. Perhaps even a bit more. The first EV100 feature film The Little Comrade by Moonika Siimets has started a fantastic festival circuit being internationally released in Busan and winning the Busan Bank audience award. The film also opened Nordic Film Days in Lübeck. The next EV100 feature Take It or Leave It by Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo, which premiered at the Warsaw International Film Festival, is the Estonian entry for the Foreign Language Oscar. The EV100 documentary The Wind Sculpted Land by Joosep Matjus has become the most watched Estonian documentary film ever. From international perspective, Estonia has been more visible than ever in 2018. Our film industry and talents were represented at different festivals around the globe with more than 20 focus programmes. Our crown jewel, Black Nights Film Festival, is the only festival in the Nordic and Baltic region with a FIAPF accreditation for holding an International Competitive Feature Film programme. Running concurrently with the festival is the Baltic Event Co-Production Market and Industry@Tallinn. In cooperation with the European Commission, the festival will organise a European Film Forum for the fourth time in 2018. Building on this success and looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, Estonian Film Institute remains extremely committed to supporting films of all genres. We are determined to be both inclusive and innovative in our support, nurturing new talents as well as supporting established filmmakers, and connecting their work with local and global audiences. Estonian film is booming – let’s spread the word together!

Edith Sepp, CEO of Estonian Film Institute

Content 4

NEWS Eva’s Christmas Mission Opens Just Film

COVER STORY Liina Triškina Vanhatalo – A Creator Juggling


with Reality


11 NEWS Estonian Co-Production


Awarded at Venice

12 EVENT Estonian Films

Travelling the World

15 NEWS Drama About Fatherhood

Joins the Oscare Race

16 TALENT Reimo Sagor. A Rising

Star in Estonian Cinema

19 NEWS Õunspuu’s Newest One 20 EVENT Fast Times at

the Black Nights Film Festival

22 COVER STORY Kaur Kokk – Looking


for Answers in All the Weird Places

28 EVENT Estonian Animation in Japan 31 NEWS Puppies and Dragons 32 IN FOCUS Joosep Matjus –

A Master of Grandiose Nature Films

36 NEWS The Bank Goes to America 38 PRODUCER Doc Man Riho Västrik 40 EVENT A Dynamic Finale of the Year 42 REVIEW Portugal 44 REVIEW Fire Lily 46 REVIEW Roots 49 NEW FILMS The Overview of the

Latest Estonian Films


Estonian Film is published three times per year by Estonian Film Institute Estonian Film Institute Uus 3, 10111, Tallinn, Estonia Phone: +372 627 6060 I E-mail: I Editor in Chief: Eda Koppel Contributing Editor: Maria Ulfsak (Eesti Ekspress) Contributors: Sigrid Saag, Johnnes Lõhmus, Filipp Kruusvall Translation: Lili Pilt Linguistic Editing: David Edwards, Lili Pilt Design & Layout: Profimeedia I Printed in Adverts Cover: Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo & Kaur Kokk, photo by Virge Viertek ESTONIAN FILM


The Year of Outstanding Results



Eva’s Christmas Mission

Opens Just Film The opening film of Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival’s international competition Just Film - a subfestival of children’s and youth films at PÖFF - is Eva’s Christmas Mission. The film is also competing for the festival’s Estonian Film Award. By Maria Ulfsak Photos by Kristjan Mõru




va’s Christmas Mission is one of the five features that won the Estonia 100 competition. The children’s adventure film follows 10-year-old Eva, whose Christmas holiday takes an unexpected turn after being brought to a mysterious farm in rural Southern Estonia. She follows her heart to rescue an old primeval forest, helps two lovers find each other, and is destined to unwrap her family’s well-kept secret. The screenwriter and director of the film is Anu Aun. “It is very meaningful and special for

me that Eva’s Christmas Mission has been selected as the opening film of Just Film and to the programme of Black Nights Film Festival since this festival was an entrance to the film world for me. If I hadn’t been working as a volunteer at this festival many years ago, I probably wouldn’t be a director today,” the director said to Estonian Film. “The reason I made this film is that I have two children of my own and I believe that the stories we tell our children influence who they become and what they stand for as adults. Hopefully this film teaches children understanding and forgiveness in family, the true value of good friendships and hopefully influences children to be more caring towards nature, animals and birds. With my film, I’d like to show children that you don’t need to save the whole world, fight with a dragon or solve a crime in order to be a hero. Even a small good deed leaves an important mark on this world,” she added. Aun uses two directors of photography in Eva’s Christmas Mission – director of photography Heiko Sikka filmed all

of the directed scenes and nature cinematographer Ants Tammik worked on the documentary nature scenes of forest animals and birds. According to producer Maie Rosmann-Lill, the future target audience of the film was already involved in the project during pre-production. “We found the main actors for the film through casting where 3000 children applied. Children came from every corner of Estonia to try out for the film. Some children

even came from across borders, from Helsinki and Moscow. There were 7 boys and 7 girls in the final round and we organized a camp in the forest with them. There, we understood who the children really were who we’d be spending several months in the forest with. We cast 10-year-old Paula Rits and 12-year-old Siim Oskar Ots in the main roles. They are great on camera and off. Estonia doesn’t yet have its very own children’s Christmas film so we’re very happy to be able to give one as a present to our country for its 100th anniversary,” commented Rosmann-Lill. Anu Aun is a director-scriptwriter and producer currently working in Luxfilm. She graduated with a BA in TV directing and completed postgraduate studies in film directing at the Baltic Film and Media School. Aun’s debut feature The Polar Boy premiered at the Mann-

heim-Heidelberg International Film Festival official competition and screened at the Cairo International Film Festival and Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. For producer Maie Rosmann-Lill, Eva’s Christmas Mission is the third feature film – her previous films The Days that Confused (2016, dir. Triin Ruumet) and The Man Who Looked Like Me (2017, dir. Katrin Maimik and Andres Maimik) both premiered at the Karlovy Vary East of West competition programme. The main roles in Eva’s Christmas Mission are played by Paula Rits, SiimOskar Ots, Märt Pius, Priit Pius, Liis Lemsalu, Mirtel Pohla, Priit Võigemast, Jaan Rekkor, Juhan Ulfsak and Anne Reemann. The film’s production designer is Matis Mäesalu, the composer is Sten Sheripov and the editor is Margo Siimon. The film is produced by Luxfilm and Kinosaurus Film. EF ESTONIAN FILM



Creator Juggling with





Take It or Leave It was selected as the Estonian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards. Johannes Lõhmus talks to the director Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo. By Johannes Lõhmus Photos by Virge Viertek


ake It or Leave It is part of the programme celebrating the centenary of Estonia and it’s one of the most remarkable contemporary stories of recent Estonian cinema. It is a film about a man who doesn’t know what to do with himself when he suddenly gets the news that he’s become the father of a little baby girl. He needs to decide whether to take this responsibility or leave it, try to forget about it and move on with his life. It is a strikingly realistic story about finding the power to take responsibility and getting to know yourself when everyone else in the world thinks they’ve got you figured out. The director of the film, Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo, is mostly known as the writer-screenwriter-editor of numerous local documentaries as well as working on script supervision or continuity. One theme recurrent in her work is taking the next step, overcoming your personal adversity and finding the strength to try to be the person that you want to be.

Liina, you directed your first film in 2001 (short film The Gardener), but Take It or Leave It is your debut feature. In the meantime you were actively making documentaries. Have you been attempting to make your first feature for a long time or was it more of a natural development towards this moment in your career?

I was only the co-director for The Gardener and being honest I was more active organizing the shoot than directing it. I wasn’t interested in making feature fiction for a very long time. But six or seven years ago something started to grow in me. I felt that with documentaries I couldn’t achieve the effect that I wanted. Whatever I tried, either the idea would stay vague or the story would be too soft, and I didn’t want to start directing the documentary towards achieving these effects artificially. I’m not fond of such documentaries. I also had this phase when it felt that the perfect way of getting my story told would be animation, as it would give me the freedom to compress time or really hit the gas, whichever I wanted. Me and Andrei Ivanov (Russian-speaking Estonian writer – J.L.) wrote a script together based on his works Ash and A Handful of Dust. We even got some financial support for writing the script, so we finished it, but we never got going as neither of us are animators and we understood the

sad reality that making a feature animation for grownups might simply be out of our reach. But after this I continued writing and developing ideas, so that’s how Take It or Leave It came to be. All of this doesn’t mean of course that I think making a feature film is somehow more important than making a documentary or that documentaries are just exercises before making your feature. Not at all. I just personally felt that I needed to try something different in my work. What inspired you to tell the story of a single parent?

I was thinking recently about how I had a plan to make a documentary about Estonian female filmmakers after I had read an article in Helsingin sanomat (the largest subscription newspaper in Finland) where one very respected film critic was saying something like “Goddamn women, they don’t care about anything except children, animals and their own menstrual cycle.” Well, women might make films a little bit differently but what’s the most important thing in life? The relations between children and their parents - either the personal relationship with your parents, or with your own children. I feel that it’s vitally important how familial ties shape a person. Is the idea about making a documentary on Estonian women filmmakers just an idea or something more concrete?

I’m afraid that I’m late with this plan as in the past couple of years so many of our women have released their films that this observation should have started a long time ago. When meeting the film audience, it has been very surprising how much this comes up. That I am a woman and how many women are making films recently and what is going on in Estonia? So, it still seems like there is a lot to talk about, considering the #MeToo movement in the world. A lady said after the film that she thinks that women aren’t afraid of being sentimental and thanks to that they choose to tell stories about the everyday feelings of regular people. Maybe the time is right for this and the audience is waiting for more emotionally approachable films. Cinema that tries to be too intellectual can become a tiresome experience for people. ESTONIAN FILM


Photo by Aron Urb


What else has surprised you when meeting your film’s audience?

It’s been very surprising how the open ending of the film divides them. Some like it a lot and others get anxious or angry about it. Like they’re supposed to start waiting for a sequel as they can’t be sure exactly what happened. It seems like people are forgetting that it’s a fictional film. Neither while writing or shooting could I have imagined that the ending might become so divisive. Maybe it’s the strength and a problem for a film tackling a contemporary subject in a realistic way that it touches the audience closer to the heart and therefore in ways unexpected to them? I like that people have become passionate about Take It or Leave It so that it has become one of those films that people either really like or don’t like at all. It’s a great compliment that there are opinions rather than indifference towards this story. Your film touches upon several very important and vital subjects, one of them is the insecurity of single parents – their sensitivity that makes them lash out and get hurt easily. Where do you think such insecurities come from?

The tragedy of the single-parent characters in the film is that both have their own baggage – old wounds that are far from being healed. At the same time, they have be-



Liina with two main actors of her film - Reimo Sagor and little Nora Altrov.

come used to managing their life on their own which makes the environment ripe for conflict. I contacted people inside my connection circles and read as much as possible about this. People stay or become single parents for very different reasons so there are ones who are doing great and others who have been hurt a lot. Even though I am not a single parent, I am a parent, so I think that all parents have their moments when they feel trapped and completely alone. The entire process of parenthood is somehow so emotional that it keeps you from staying entirely cool or realistic all the time. At least that’s how it’s been for me. The other important subject in the film is working away from home and the social problems involved with that. Have you had any feedback from people who are working in the conditions that’s showed in the film?

There’s been no feedback from anyone in that target group, but while I was writing the story I did have a close contact who was living such a life and could reflect on this reality to me. I’m pretty sure that Finnish laws have become stricter, but I don’t believe that unofficial employment is completely a thing of the past there. I am not 100% sure that it is such a bad thing as well because how can we be sure that these people can even find jobs in the current overregulated job mar-

Photo by Aron Urb

SELECTION OF LIINA’S PREVIOUS WORKS Ordeal by Fire, documentary, 2003, director/writer/ sound department/editor Flying Free, documentary, 2004, director/writer/ sound department/editor Afanassi, documentary, 2005, director/writer/editor

Photo by Aron Urb

Ruudi, feature, 2006, script continuity Georg, feature, 2007, editor, script supervisor Will Buy Hives, documentary, 2009, director/writer/ cinematographer/editor 40+2 Weeks, documentary, 2012, writer/cinematographer/editor/ sound recordist The Burden of a Fire, documentary, 2013, writer/editor Life on the Mother River, documentary, 2015, writer/editor Take It or Leave It, feature, 2018, director/writer

ket. Being unemployed or working unofficially, which is better? It would be completely irresponsible and naïve to start telling thousands of men living in rural areas that they should try to get by and not leave their families – as person who has lived in the city all her life, I could never say anything like that. Of course, it is sad when children are raised basically without their fathers and women must live among themselves. I am certain that most of them haven’t chosen this voluntarily, but I think that it’s also important to think about the aspect of how this kind of life can become a habit that you can’t get out of. You go there temporarily, things start working out and you become mentally accustomed to this way of life and might not find the strength in yourself to look for alternatives… The construction scenes meant to look like Finland were shot in Estonia and at our local construction sites you couldn’t hear any Estonian being spoken. So many of our houses here are being built by Ukrainians and Belarussians and these men have families waiting somewhere as well. What was it like being the director of a feature for the first time?

Being on set wasn’t a step into the complete unknown for me as I have already been involved with a couple of

Liina TriškinaVanhatalo on the set of Take It or Leave It.

features working on script continuity and so on. And I knew most of the crew having worked on other projects with them beforehand. Only my position had changed. Understandably I was nervous at the beginning, but it became clear quite fast that there was no point as the preparations had been thorough and the crew was very supportive. Filmmaking is a collective act, just the director is making the decisions and taking responsibility. My short experience is that even though it might seem like the director is the boss and everything revolves around him/her, in many ways it’s completely the opposite. There is only one director but a large crew, so the director is at the mercy of these people. Cooperation is a subtle art and there’s plenty of room for development for me. What are the greatest challenges for a filmmaker who aims to tell a contemporary story as realistically as possible?

We tried to make a film where the form wouldn’t dominate the content. We tried to simplify the visual components as much as possible: the sets, the lightning, the costumes, make-up and of course the cinematography. The simplification isn’t easy as we are professionally used to making things look great – choosing remarkable sets, elegant costumes, making the camESTONIAN FILM



I think that the premise of trust is listening – not to assume anything but to listen. derstanding of the whole. One of the discoveries with this approach was realizing that the acting of a non-actor can feel too real for a feature film! It was similar when writing this story, because we are dealing with themes that most people have an opinion about. Everybody is looking at it from their perspective. We had to be factually precise while trusting our inner emotional experiences and hope that the audience can feel it too. And I think that we achieved that as the audience has been passionately for or against some things in the film, which means they have been emotionally engaged and that’s very important. We talked to the cinematographer Erik Põllumaa about how it’s impossible to develop this “style without any style” way of filmmaking in only one film, so I very much hope we can work together again. Another important subject in your film is the problem with trust. The protagonist Erik didn’t have much trust for anyone except himself. How do you feel about trust among people in the world?

era do everything it’s capable of. In this sense I think it became a process of letting go of your creative ego. And of course, we were afraid that if we went too far with this, we would lose the cinematic elements and the result would be boring, because we are doing a feature film which should be done bearing aesthetics in mind. Even the actors started worrying when they were constantly being asked to act less. Making a contemporary realistic drama seemed like an easy genre before we got started and tried to shoot it in a believable way. If we are showing life here and now, then everybody knows what here and now looks like, how people speak and walk and eat. But you can’t do a feature in the same way as doing a documentary and there were moments when realism had to be sacrificed for the sake of the story and vice versa. Juggling reality and fiction was a great challenge. But I think that the key component is the ability to keep the balance between art and reality while having a very good un-



Liina TriškinaVanhatalo says that juggling reality and fiction in Take It or Leave It was a great challenge.

I think that the premise of trust is listening – not to assume anything but to listen. In Take It or Leave It as well as while making the film, I could see that people who listen to each other usually can trust each other too. The more carefully you listen, the greater the trust is. Nothing good comes out of being content with yourself and just presuming things about world and other people. What will the future hold? Is there any chance that you will warm up to the idea of making this animation happen?

Difficult to say. I believe that each story has its own form that is born along with the idea. That story can’t be told in any other form than animation, so I can’t say if a time will come for that film to be made. I try to live in the here and now and not carry ideas along with me for years and years. Of course, I am playing around with some thoughts but it’s too early to speak about them. I need to get Take It or Leave It out of my system first, make space for new thoughts, and take a little break. EF


Estonian Co-Production Awarded at Venice The Russian-Estonian-French co-production film The Man Who Surprised Everyone competed in the Venice Orizzonti Programmme and was awarded the Best Actress Award at the closing ceremony on September 8th. The award went to actress Natalya Kudryashova.


he film is directed by Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov and the cinematographer is Mart Taniel. On the Estonian side, The Man Who Surprised Everyone was produced by Katrin Kissa and Homeless Bob Production, for whom this is the second prize from the Orizzonti Programme – in 2007, Veiko Õunpuu received the main Orizzonti prize for his film Autumn Ball. According to producer Katrin Kissa, the cooperation with Russia and France was smooth. “For me as a producer, it’s been a very interesting project. It seems that the Estonian film industry has reached an interesting stage where we are able to be equal partners to such large film countries as Russia and France, where they are more and more interested in Estonian production designers, cinematog-

Actress Natalya Kudryashova was awarded with the Best Actress Award at Venice Orizzonti Programme for the role in Russian-Estonian-French co-production The Man Who Surprised Everyone.

raphers, composers and actors. In addition to the DOP, the post-production and graphic design for the film were also done in Estonia,” Katrin Kissa added. The cinematographer for The Man Who Surprised Everyone was Mart Taniel, who worked with directors Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov for the second time. Their cooperation began with the directorial tandem’s award-winning debut film Intimate Parts, which competed in the debut competition at the Black Nights Film Festival in 2013. The Man Who Surprised Everyone is about Igor, a fearless state forest guard in the Siberian Taiga. He is a good family man, respected by his fellow villagers. He and his wife Natalia are expecting a second child. But one day, Igor unexpectedly finds out that he has cancer and only two months left to live. No traditional medicine or shamanic magic can save him. Finally, left with no other options, he makes a desperate attempt to trick death. Igor chooses to follow an old Siberian myth about Zhamba, who knows that death is looking for him so he changes himself completely, hoping that death’s eye will thus slip past him. The Man Who Surprised Everyone is produced by Pan Atlantic (RUS), Homeless Bob Production (EST) and Arizona Production (FRA). Production support was received from the Estonian Film Institute and the Estonian Cultural Endowment. EF ESTONIAN FILM



Estonian Films

Travelling World E the

The Estonian centennial year has passed in a whirlwind of new Estonian films and numerous screenings at international film festivals. The limelight has equally been on feature films, documentaries, animations and short films so everyone has had their moment to shine. By Sigrid Saag



stonian animation was strongly presented over the summer when Animafest Zagreb and Annecy International Animation Film Festival were filled with Estonian animation films. Galway Film Fleadh hosted Irish premieres for two Estonian-Irish co-productions and a very special Estonian focus programme took place at the International Film Festival Hiroshima in August. The success of short animation films by talented, Estonian filmmakers is inevitable and the current shining star is

THE LITTLE COMRADE BY MOONIKA SIIMETS • Busan International Film Festival, South Korea • Riga International Film Festival, Latvia • Nordische Filmtage Lübeck, Germany • Minsk International Film Festival Listapad, Belarus • Arras Film Festival, France • Noordelijk Film Festival, Netherlands • Camerimage, Poland • Oulu International Children’s and Youth film festival, Finland • Estonian Film Days in Berlin, Germany • Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, Estonia

Photo by Kerdi Oengo Photo by Nordic Film Days Lübeck

Kaspar Jancis, the director of Captain Morten and the Spider Queen, presenting the film at Annecy International Animation Film Festival.

the fresh, feature-length puppet animation Captain Morten and the Spider Queen by Kaspar Jancis. After a successful summer, the film screened at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, picked up the Best Animation Feature Award given out by the German Institute for Animated Film at Schlingel International Film Festival for Children and Youth and is set to be screened at many other international festivals over the winter. Captain Morten and the Spider Queen was recently released in France and is due for release in Poland shortly. Documentary films were very much in focus over the summer as well. After the Beldocs and Krakow Film Festival focus programmes in May, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival hosted an inspiring retrospective on Baltic New Wave documentary films from the 1960s in July. Moreover, the celebrations in Karlovy Vary included the world premiere of a brand-new Latvian-Lithuanian-Estonian documentary Bridges of Time by Kristīne Briede and Audrius Stonys. Estonian documentaries also played an important part in the Baltic Film Days in Riga and Vilnius, the Reykjavik International Film Festival and Baltic Film Days in New York, where in addition to the film programme, the University of New York organised a panel

The team of The Little Comrade presenting the film at Nordic Film Days Lübeck together with the festival directors Linde Frölich and Florian Vollmers.




discussion and a special screening for Baltic poetic documentaries. This year, Nordic Film Days Lübeck definitely needs a special mention. Our wonderful collaboration with the historic film festival that celebrated its 60th anniversary this year enabled us to bring an extensive selection of Estonian films to German audiences. The cherry on the cake was definitely The Little Comrade by Moonika Siimets being chosen as the opening film of the festival. This also marked the first time in the history of the

CAPTAIN MORTEN AND THE SPIDER QUEEN BY KASPAR JANCIS • Animafest Zagreb, Croatia • Annecy International Animated Film Festival, France • Galway Film Fleadh, Ireland • Hiroshima International Film Festival, Japan • Fantoche International Animation Film Festival, Switzerland • Zürich International Film Festival, Switzerland • BIG Cartoon Festival, Russia • Filmfest Gent, Belgium • Cinekid Festival, Netherlands, • Schlingel International Film Festival for Children and Young Audiences, Germany • Ottawa International Animation Festival, Canada • Nordische Filmtage Lübeck, Germany • Gijon International Film Festival, Spain



Photo by Telegael

• Warsaw International Film Festival, Poland • CinEast Film Festival, Luxembourg • Film Festival Cottbus, Germany • Arras Film Festival, France • Nordeelijk Film Festival, Netherlands • International Film Festival MannheimHeidelberg, Germany • Estonian Film Days in Berlin, Germany • Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, Estonia

The Irish premerie of Captain Morten and the Spider Queen at Galway Film Fleadh.

renowned festival that the opening night film was from a Baltic State. A very special moment for us all. The Little Comrade by Moonika Siimets has started its international festival circuit strongly in general and has already won several awards. The film had its international premiere at the Busan International Film Festival, where it won the audience award. Shortly after, the film screened at Waterloo Historical Film Festival in Belgium, where it earned both the festival’s grand prize as well as the film critics’ award. Leading actress Helena Maria Reisner also won the best young actor award. Furthermore, Nordic Film Days Lübeck awarded The Little Comrade with the prize for best feature film debut. The film has been screening at numerous European film festivals and was recently theatrically released in Latvia. Another Estonian feature film to keep an eye on in the international festival circuit is Take It or Leave It by Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo. The film, also the official submission from Estonia for the foreign-language Oscar, had its international premiere at the Warsaw International Film Festival in Poland. Several successful screenings followed, including CinEast

Film Festival, Film Festival Cottbus, Arras Film Festival, International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg and more. As for other new Estonian feature films, Fire Lily by Maria Avdjuško confirmed its International premiere at International Film Festival MannheimHeidelberg, the Icelandic-Estonian-Norwegian co-production Mihkel by Ari Alexander Magnusson premiered at Busan and Warsaw and the The Riddle of Jaan Niemand by Kaur Kokk will start its festival circuit internationally in 2019. November brings Baltic films into focus in Estonia as the Black Nights Film Festival has curated a special Baltic Competition programme. The film not to miss is the very first Estonian Christmas film Eva’s Christmas Mission by Anu Aun that will have its world premiere in the international competition of Just Film - a subfestival of children’s and youth films at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. December brings a warm ending to the year as Baltic cinema is in focus at the Tbilisi International Film Festival and Estonian Film Days are held throughout the whole month in Madrid. So keep an eye out for Estonia. We are out there. EF

Drama About Fatherhood Joins the Oscar Race The Estonian submission to the U.S. Film Academy Foreign Language Oscar is Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo’s drama Take It or Leave It.


he film is produced by Ivo Felt from Allfilm, who has had two films sent to compete for the Foreign Language Oscar. Tangerines (directed by Zaza Urushadze) made it to the 2015 nomination list and The Fencer (directed by Klaus Härö) made the shortlist in 2016. According to the selection committee, Triškina-Vanhatalo has tackled the complicated and serious themes of single parenthood, inter-country economic inequality and the latent migration found in developed, Western countries as well as the age-eternal, human responsibility we have for our own future as well as that of our loved ones. “This film sticks out for its approach to socially important issues,

which feels fresh and new in our modern film world,” said CEO of Estonian Film Institute (EFI) Edith Sepp. The film is about 30 year-old construction worker Erik who unexpectedly finds his ex-girlfriend at his door with the message that she has given birth to their daughter. The woman isn’t ready to be a mother so, if he doesn’t want the child, she’ll put her up for adoption. Take it or leave it! This long, complicated, at times even comical path to becoming a father turns a regular man into an everyday hero, a Superman who is ready to fight for his fatherhood with tooth and nail. According to producer Ivo Felt, Take It or Leave It tells the story of a regular man growing into being a father in a straightforward and non-moralizing manner. “Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo’s modern take on this theme is effective and moving but it doesn’t underestimate the viewer. We believe the film will find an audience outside of Estonia and we will do everything we can to make that happen,” Felt said. The film’s DOP is Erik Põllumaa, the editor is Tambet Tasuja and the composer is Sten Sheripov. The cast includes Reimo Sagor, Liis Lass, Adeele Sepp, Epp Eespäev, Andres Mähar, Egon Nuter, Mait Malmsten and others. The US Film Academy will hand out Oscars for the 91st time on February 24, 2019. EF ESTONIAN FILM



Rising Star



Reimo Sagor (31) is a rising star in Estonian cinema. He was in Zero Point (2014), Ghost Mountaineer (2015) and The Days That Confused (2016). In Liina Triškina-­Vanhatalo’s drama Take It or Leave It (2018), Sagor plays a single father and in Martti Helde’s Scandina­ vian Silence (set to premiere in 2019), he embodies a young man with a compli­cated past. By Maria Ulfsak Photo by Virge Viertek



It’s hard to choose. I feel like all of the roles have been very important and meaningful during my short film career. They’ve all had some bigger or smaller nuances that inspired me. Every role is a mirror image of being a person, which you can inspect and discover through endless facets, and this is what makes acting in a film such a powerful experience – all the preparation where you study the character and learn who he his, followed by rehearsals and then finally a sense of knowing him. The moments when you realize that you understand a character – perhaps you don’t agree with his opinions, per say, but you understand why he acts the way he does and you want to experience his life – those are very important moments. I want to find characteristics of each role and play with the opportunities they offer to discover things about myself. It’s the same with all my roles. Bert (Zero Point) seems like just a comical sidekick but really he grew up without parental guidance and is trying to find his independence. Olle (Ghost Mountaineer) has a great need to assert himself but he is socially weak. Toomas (The Days That Confused) is also a comical sidekick but is really a boy who doesn’t know what to do with his life. Erik (Take It or Leave It) is stuck in life and has no ambitions whatsoever. And then, there’s Tom (Scandinavian Silence), who is a guy with a very broken and complicated past. They are all such interesting characters. I had to ask a lot of questions to really delve into them and they have all helped me to grow and develop as a person and as an actor. You play a young, single father in Take It or Leave It. Please tell us more about the character you play and how you approached the role.

Erik is a man who isn’t doing very well in life. He doesn’t really know what he wants to do with himself, where he wants

to be, with whom and why. He doesn’t have any great ambitions in life. He’s a drifter. He recently broke up with his girlfriend and he took it hard. He works in construction in Finland because it really wouldn’t be much better or worse anywhere else. He’s very stubborn and wants to follow his own rules but often those rules don’t consider others. This leads to a lot of conflict, which Erik even kind of enjoys and searches out because it helps him unwind. He’s subconsciously looking for a stronghold, something to lean on in life. And one very unexpected day, he gets

helped us get to know one another and this shared character. It was a great, interesting process. A search, in a way. We synchronized our thoughts and views on life, which allowed us to understand each other and Erik’s personality. Every time we met and discussed another scene, we always found parallels with our own lives, which helped me to get closer to Erik and understand him better. This is how Erik developed into the character people see on the big screen. I don’t have children but the topic became so relevant to me that I subconsciously started

Ghost Mountaineer (2015)

Photos by Liisabet Valdoja


eimo, are any of your film roles particularly important or meaningful to you? Which ones and why?

observing fathers in public and the way they acted with their children. I watched their behavior and how they were. It became an everyday observation and the basis for many of our discussions. On the set, with the baby in my arms, I really felt like a father.

The Days That Confused (2016)

just that, but he has no idea just what that change will turn out to be. He’s a person who wants to love and be loved but who lacks that in his life. How did I approach the role? First of all, we had a lot of rehearsals and discussions with director Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo. We talked about how Erik acts in different situations and just about different things happening in the world, which

Soon, another film with you in the lead will come out – Martti Helde’s Scandinavian Silence.

Scandinavian Silence is a film about being silent, or, rather, one that questions silence. I’ve been in certain situations – and I’m sure that viewers have as well – where a few simple words could solve a lot of problems but, for some strange reason, those words won’t leave your mouth. Is it fear, selfishness, surrender or anger? Why do we decide to remain silent? What emotion is guiding us? Is it something unique to Estonians? To Nordic people? To people who live most of the year in darkness? ESTONIAN FILM


TALENT In film, the camera can come really close and get very intimate with the world and the actors. Scandinavian Silence (2019)

Scandinavian Silence is a film about two people with complicated pasts who are searching for a way out of the silence. Theatre or film? And what is it about each that attracts you to them?

In film, the camera can come really close and get very intimate with the world and the actors. Every small reaction is visible, legible, experiential. That’s a very powerful tool. In film, you can also do several takes, which help you take a feeling or reaction to perfection. Sometimes you don’t ever get there and sometimes you get there on the first try. But I like that search and pushing myself to try to find out what I need. In the theatre, I like that the audience is close and you have contact with them. But the thing that diffe­ rentiates film and theatre is that theatre has that momentary presence created between the actor and the audience. You’re up on stage, the audience is reacting, you react and keep going. There’s a symbiotic relationship between the actor and the audience – all the emotions and thoughts that you create within the audience and the energy and thoughts you get back from them make theatre a very



Take It or Leave It (2018)

magical place. I would never replace one with the other or prefer one to the other. I enjoy both because they both help you grow. They both take a lot but they also give back a lot. Is there a director outside of Estonia whose films you would like to act in or whose work you admire, is important to you or has influenced you? Why?

Honestly, I have to say that during my young life I haven’t had time to become acquainted with the works of all of the great figures of cinematic history. But I’m working on it. There are contemporary directors whose works have influ-

enced me a lot. Lars von Trier, Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Jim Jarmusch, Tony Kaye, Thomas Vinterberg, David Fincher, David Slade, David Leitch, Steven Knight, Kenneth Lonergan, Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski, Joshua Oppenheimer, Guy Ritchie and the list goes on. Watching their work full of wonderful actors, I often leave the cinema and think “holy crap” – what worlds, what people, what lives! Their work puts me in awe, makes me laugh and cry, takes me with it in a way that makes it difficult to face reality again. They are very powerful experiences and I’m very grateful for them. EF

Photos by Maxim Mjodov

Õunpuu’s Newest One Veiko Õunpuu’s new film The Last Ones is in the postproduction phase. The film was shot in Northern Finland and Norway and is a co-production between Estonia, Finland and the Netherlands. The Estonian producer is Katrin Kissa from Homeless Bob Production. By Maria Ulfsak


llen Havenith from the production company PRPL, who worked with Homeless Bob on last year’s domestic and international success November, said that co-producing second time with Katrin Kissa and Homeless Bob Production is an adventurous ride in a creative and cultural landscape that is limitless. “With every film we work on together, the practical hurdles due to cultural differences are tackled more easily and the communication flows. There are always many compromises on the journey of filmmaking, but there are none when it comes to aesthetics and beauty with Kissa,” she added. Misha Jaari, from the Finnish production company Bufo, explained that they tried to make The Last Ones with Finland as the main producer at first. “We had a script that was interesting but the writers wanted Veiko Õunpuu to direct, which made it very interesting for

us. So when Veiko agreed to proceed with the project, it picked up speed and momentum and we were excited. Unfortunately - or maybe fortunately - we could not get the film financed from Finland even though the effort was considerable. Luckily, Katrin Kissa picked up the film. Funnily, when the film became Estonian, it was easier to get Finnish financing as a co-production. So once Katrin had a plan to finance the film, it went rather smoothly from the Finnish point of view,” commented Jaari. The Finnish producer of The Last Ones, Mark Lwoff of Bufo, said that the shooting period in Lapland went very well. “It was a nice bunch of people working in the middle of nowhere. I was very happy to work with Kissa and Veiko,” added Lwoff. The Last Ones is a modern, Nordic western about crime and revenge, with a dash of Õunpuu’s signature black humor. The film

Veiko Õunpuu is a multi-awarded Estonian director and a scriptwriter. His first feature Autumn Ball (2007) was awarded the Horizon Award 2007 at the Venice Film Festival. Veiko’s newest film The Last Ones will premiere in 2019.

takes place in a mining village in the Lapland tundra. The main character of The Last Ones is young miner Rupi who only wants to scrounge up enough cash to leave this backwards place forever. To that end, he’s willing to toil away at the mine and traffic with illegal pills. He’s also secretly in love with his friend’s girl, Riitta, who also elicits the attention of the mine’s powerful owner, nicknamed The Fisherman. Estonian actor Pääru Oja plays Rupi, the main character in The Last Ones. The film also stars Finnish talents Tommi Korpela, Laura Birn and others. The Last Ones was written by Veiko Õunpuu along with Finnish screenwriters Heikki Huttu­-Hiltunen and Eero Tammi and the cinematographer is Sten-Johan Lill from Estonia. The film will premiere in 2019. The film production was supported by the European co-production fund Eurimages, the Estonian Film Institute, the Estonian Cultural Endowment and the Creative Europe MEDIA Programme. The Finnish financiers also include the Finnish Film Institute, YLE and the Lapland Film Commission. Additional production support came from the NL Film Fund and The Netherlands Production Incentive. EF




Find your Pack

Fast Times @ the Black Nights Film Festival Estonia’s biggest film event and Northern Europe’s only A-category film festival has reached its 22nd edition. Expecting over 1200 filmmakers, journalists and delegates from over 60 countries, Black Nights Film Festival aka PÖFF has become a cosmopolitan film industry meeting point that offers a rich film programme, exciting new discoveries and is backed by a comprehensive industry platform Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event. By Hannes Aava


he programme of the 22nd PÖFF and its two sub-festivals – PÖFF Shorts, and youth and children’s film festival Just Film – offer a carefully picked selection of over 250 features and nearly 300 shorts and animations. The festival’s programming team is made up of over 22 programmers representing 15 different countries and regions, making sure that the selection represents the variety of global auteur cinema. What to expect from this year’s lineup? It is the first time that the festival



opens with a world premiere of a highly anticipated film. The Opening Ceremony, taking place on the 16th of November in the Alexela Concert Hall, celebrates the 100th anniversary of Estonia and culminates with the world premiere of the spectacular, technically groundbreaking Awaken, directed by Tom Lowe, executive produced by Godfrey Reggio and 3-time Academy Award nominee Terrence Malick, following the filmmaking traditions that Reggio pioneered in his legendary Koyaanisqtsi in 1982. The screening will include a live soundtrack performed by the Estonian

National Symphony Orchestra and Voces Musicales, conducted by the film’s composer Joseph Trapanese, who has written soundtracks for films like Tron: Legacy and Straight Outta‘ Compton. The film was shot over a span of 6 years and in 35 countries, including Estonia. COMPETITION PROGRAMMES PICKING UP PACE

The two premier competition programmes of the festival, the Official Selection and First Feature Competition programme can boast a successful lineup from last year, as all of the films found

SAVE THE DATES • Black Nights Film Festival runs from the 16th of November until the 2nd of December; • Youth and Children’s festival Just Film runs from the 16th of November until the 2nd of December, opening with the world premiere of Eva’s Christmas Mission, funded with the Estonian Centenary Fund;

Festival’s opening film Awaken includes scenes shot in the Estonian countryside.

• PÖFF Shorts, the sub-festival dedicated to short films and animations, and the short film market Baltic Preview, runs from the 20th until the 28th of November; • PÖFF is helping to launch a new festival in Eastern Estonia called KINOFF, that runs from the 26th of November until the 2nd of December.

2017 Black Nights FF Award Ceremony

Eva’s Christmas Mission.

their way to the festival circuit, some travelling to more than 30 festivals. Three of the films were selected as the Oscar entries for their respective countries: the winner of the Grand Prix in the Official Selection, Night Accident, was selected to represent Kyrgyzstan, while the First Feature Competition’s Special Jury Prize winner The Marriage and the audience favourite Secret Ingredient were selected by Kosovo and Macedonia respectively. 2018 is set to look equally exciting in terms of participating directors and countries represented. The Official Selection will set a new record for the festival, as 12 of the 20 titles are having their world premieres. It is also a chance for the festival to welcome new countries in that section, as the selection includes films from Egypt, Hungary, Albania, Costa Rica and Portugal. The First Feature Competition is set to look equally interesting, with the 18-film selection also rep-

resenting a larger part of the planet and including great films from countries that are less represented in the film industry such as Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. As a new feature, the festival is set to launch the Baltic Competition to put the regional cinema in the spotlight for both the local audience and international industry, while making an effort to bring the filmmakers of the three Baltics closer together. The selection will see Estonia’s The Little Comrade, Captain Morten and the Spider Queen, Take It or Leave It and Eva’s Christmas Mission, compete with Lithuanian films Ashes in the Snow, Breathing into Marble and Summer Survivors, and Latvian Bille, Foam at the Mouth, Bridges of Time, 100 Years Together and To be Con­tinued. CELEBRATING THE 100-YEAR-OLDS

Each year the festival chooses a focus country or region to introduce its cinematic and cultural heritage. 2018 will

make a precedent as the festival’s focus is dedicated to the 13 countries celebrating their 100th anniversary: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Estonia. The films, curated by Eva Näripea, the head of the Estonian Film Archive, originate from the period 1958–1977 and represent the rebellious, political side of cinema, which, in the case of countries belonging to the Soviet Union, usually meant a healthy life on the dusty archive shelves. The festival also celebrates the 100th birthday of the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, exploring his lesser known ties with Estonia and will screen, among others, the film This Can’t Happen Here (also known as High Tension, 1950), which is rarely given permission to be shown. The film, though artistically less ambitious than many other works by the director, nevertheless bares strong cultural significance for Estonia, as Bergman used several Estonian political refugees, mostly the artistic staff from the Estonian Drama Theatre who had fled the Soviet regime in the 1940’s, as actors in the film. The programme is accompanied by an exhibition organised by the Ingmar Bergman Foundation and a lecture by a Bergman expert Christo Burman. EF ESTONIAN FILM



Looking for Answers in All the

Weird Places



Kaur Kokk (31) has just finished his first feature The Riddle of Jaan Niemand, the film he has been actively immersed with for the past eight years. Before going to film school Kaur studied philosophy for two years at Tartu University. He gets excited about the inner hooks of the human soul, observing life and troubled times.


By Johannes Lõhmus Photos by Virge Viertek

aur’s debut feature is like a challenging meditation exercise that’s not concerned with making the audience comfortable or telling a story in a simple way. The world in The Riddle of Jaan Niemand is a mystery set in 18th century Estonia. It’s the time after the Great Northern War when the folk of Estonia had been excessively killed and tortured by the atrocities of war. It was a time when the beliefs of people were put to the test, and isn’t this defiance against or towards traditional beliefs something that is very common to the insecurities of the current world? If everything is up for debate, then where should the individual position him- or herself? Kaur might not know the answers, but he is definitely up to asking the difficult questions. “I wasn’t really interested in accomplishing the kind of suspense that makes you hold onto your chair with all ten fingers for the entirety of the film. I was curious about creating something that constructs itself piece by piece in your mind so that you can’t really be certain what happened. I want the audience to have something to think about and chew on long after the film has ended.” Why does Jaan Niemand open his eyes during the period after the Great Northern War?

I am interested in troubled times, when the people are restless and can’t really imagine what the future has in store for them. A little bit like the time we have now. It seemed that Estonia after the Great Northern War was a place where forces were completely against human kind. It intrigued me to imagine a world where humans had become irrelevant. How do you cope in a situation where the living environment seems to have decided that humans as a species have become a redundant phenomenon? I wasn’t so much interested in the visual grotesque of the time, but more about what’s

happening here (tapping his temple with his index finger – J.L.). Simply put, the principal story of The Riddle of Jaan Niemand is that we start looking for all kinds of lifelines when put in a complex situation. The popularity of all these esoteric truthtellers and know-it-all’s is increasing. I feel that during complicated times, odd things will start happening because people are looking for answers from all these weird places. I’ve heard that making this film was quite a long story for you?

Yes, it started from making a short film at my film school. Jüri Sillart (late master of the faculty of film arts in The Baltic Film and Media School 2006–2011 and one of the most beloved film scholars in Estonia, who passed away in 2011) wanted us to make a period piece because he thought that all films should be made like that. He had this approach that this would help you understand every period you work on in the future. As I had just seen Haneke’s The White Ribbon and had watched probably too many Ingmar Bergman films, I got really excited about the task and made a black and white short film. I guess it was a pretty bold film with a remarkable energy that Katrin Kissa (the producer of The Riddle of Jaan Niemand) saw and liked. From the beginning I had the feeling that Jaan’s story had enough juice for a feature film. It took me eight years from the preparations with the short film to this moment. I was 23 when I started so this has been a very important growing up period mentally and I must admit that I’ve been worried about how to keep it all together when this very concrete and significant period is over. Having worked on this one story for such a long time, of course I also had to warm up some old impulses to make it happen. Fortunately, this has been created with such a genuine feeling that re-finding the impetus wasn’t too difficult and there is nothing to worry (makes an impression to spit three times over his




Kaur Kokk and his crew at the set of his debut film The Riddle of Jaan Niemand.

shoulder – Estonians do this for good luck) because I know that me and the crew didn’t give in to any popular opinions and had the chance to make exactly the sort of film we wanted to. How much research did you do learning about the history and mentality of the time?

Making the short film, I didn’t really know much more than that the times had been really-really complicated so I did some research in the archives, etc. The longer I worked on this the less research I did, because I never wanted to make a historical film. The period serves the purpose of the story. There is no ambition to re-create history because I think that’s a senseless and impossible thing to try on a feature film. Mentality is something that I am more interested in, but where can I find out more about that? As there aren’t that many reliable sources and because doing the research can start derailing the work at some stage, I was mostly working these things out in my own mind. Doing extended research can be the most dangerous tool of procrastination when you are creating something. Jaan Niemand has a crisis of identity due to memory loss, what interests you about identity?



I think the greatest creative impulses come out of the desire to understand myself better and trying to make better sense of the world through this understanding. Such impulses can be created when you find yourself in an internal crisis that makes you challenge your current state of mind. I think that Jaan’s condition is no different. How much is one directed by the environment or how little rule does one have over the genetic trajectory that they’re on, for example? Can you maneuver and correct your way or has the orbit been set before you can make a move? I am haunted by feelings of endless inner changes that are, at the same time, mixed with remaining a completely unchanged person. Being constantly the same, with the same worries you

Photos by Gabriela Liivamägi

artworks that have influenced Kaur Kokk

• Jim Jarmusch Dead Man (1995) • Ingmar Bergman Through a Glass Darkly (1961) • Laozi Tao Te Ching (4th century BC) • Tool Lateralus (2001) • Samuel Beckett Waiting for Godot (1953)

faith can be one of the analytical tools that might help understand the actions in The Riddle of Jaan Niemand better. What do you believe in?

I am a humanist and believe in the ever-lasting ability of humans to become better people. I’m not sure where this optimism comes from, but I wouldn’t like to talk about any of my very personal convictions because this film isn’t trying to promote these in any way. have always had while everything stays the way it has always been. This film is a description of an experience that hopefully will make the viewer reflect upon something personal in themselves. Another theme of Jaan’s is that we are all guided by some sort of belief. For some reason we have this very common understanding in Estonia that nothing is worshipped, but unfortunately that’s not possible. The human brain won’t allow it. In your ignorance you will still adore a free-market economy or running in the forest or something else. Everybody worships and if you know that, you will also know how this belief directs your behaviour. If you don’t want to think about what you believe in, then you will also be clueless about what motivates you. Questions about personal

The leads are played by Meelis Rämmeld (on the left) and Andres Lepik.

Did the questions about identity become clearer for you during making this film?

As filmmaking is such an absurd endeavour which puts you under enormous stress and in a very difficult situation for an extended amount of time, of course you can’t really avoid learning something about yourself. Ever since going to film school in 2008 I’ve been directing my life towards making a feature film. Now that it’s finished I realize that there’s no turning back for me. At least for now it seems like I’ve had the chance to put the finger on my personality and understand that on the one hand I really want to know all the answers, and on other hand I really don’t want to know any answers. I guess that Jaan is in a similar situation. ESTONIAN FILM





Making your debut feature celebrating the centenary of your nation can be an absurdly risky endeavour?

It is relatively so, but I didn’t really understand at first because I was so enthusiastic. When I really grasped what was going on, I did freeze for a bit, but after that my wonderful producer and the rest of the crew created a non-stress environment for us to work in, so I really felt good. Everybody was very supportive as they genuinely liked the story about Jaan. It was very straightforward approaching actors with this script. Having done about ten short films, I’ve had very different reactions before, but this time almost everyone I talked to about participating was very interested. The interest was prevalent throughout the entire crew, I think. Feeling the crew’s trust made directing the film a rather peaceful experience, if you can describe filmmaking like that. But that’s all down to the wholehearted work of the production team. The Riddle of Jaan Niemand is the sort of film that’s been picked up because of its substance, nothing else. That creates a very solid ground for directing. The world and the mood of the film are very impressive, how was this accomplished?

a completely different energy. But it should be possible for filmmakers to make films both ways, so that there’s room for peaceful development as well as intuitive reactionary art. Watching your films, I noticed that one thing constant in your work is the emphasis on visual details that helps your films to move on even without any significant action. How have you trained or gained this highly evolved observational skill?

I’m an intrinsic voyeur. My childhood home in Tartu was an apartment building next to an empty field that was a paradise for little children with all its hills and holes. When other kids went out to play, I usually stayed inside and observed the action. We were living on the third floor and I was lucky to be able to just sit on the window and fantasize. I’ve just always had these peculiar characteristics that are useful at my line of work. When I finally got into film school to study directing, I started adding meanings to all the gestures I saw

I tried to write an unusually atmospheric story where the lighting and the space was thoroughly described.

A lot of this was already described in the script. I tried to write an unusually atmospheric story where the lighting and the space was thoroughly described, sometimes even the shots. That’s perhaps where this world began. After that, the intense work with the production designer Matis Mäesalu and cinematographer Mart Taniel started – reading, talking, driving all over the country and building this world stone by stone. This process can’t really be described, I guess. All the films celebrating the centenary of Estonia that have been released so far are similar in the sense that the conditions for both developing and producing the films have been greater than usual and the audience has warmed to the quality of these films. The budgets haven’t been anything luxurious, but our filmmakers have enjoyed more freedom. How would you comment on this thought?

It’s true that there hasn’t been any wastefulness on the filmmakers’ part. I think that the bonus of this longer development period has been that the creators have gained some sort of inner peace, which makes a person act differently. There is less stress and the films are well thought-out. I think it’s the effect of having had the possibility to trust your intuition and having the freedom to correct it without rushing into it. It’s great that this has been made possible, but I believe that this is not the only way to create stories. Next, I would like to create something that’s been written, shot and edited in a short, intense period. It would have

– it became a little bit manic, I guess. Soon I realized that this kind of habit would only lead me to being institutionalised, and would probably lead me down a very wrong path. After I realized that, I’ve become much more relaxed about it. To be honest, the art I enjoy is very much observational as well. In literature I especially enjoy work that doesn’t overwhelm you with dramatic commitments but makes you wonder about finding the hook of the story from internal clues. That’s probably the reason why Bergman had a great effect on me, especially his more improper works. He is a dramatist par excellence who knew exactly what, where and how to keep the audience hooked. Films where the drama is created with great power and by quite shamelessly holding the foot constantly on the gas pedal make me turn my head away. I just get bored with that. Fortunately, there is no reason to think about personal taste because if you are being honest in your work then all your actions will be done according to the best possible taste available to you. What’s going to happen after The Riddle of Jaan Niemand? Do you know?

I know something, but I can’t say. Yet. I just know that telling Jaan’s story has only been the beginning.. EF ESTONIAN FILM


Photo by Anita Kremm

Photo by Peter Murdmaa


Photo by Peter Murdmaa

Estonian filmmakers Kaspar Jancis and Priit Pärn

Festival director Sayoko Kinoshita

Estonian Animation in

Japan Hiroshima Animation Film Festival screened the largest Estonian film focus of all time in honor of Estonia 100. By Mari-Liis Rebane




he Hiroshima Animation Film Festival, which took place from August 23–27, included a comprehensive programme of Estonian animation films, from the classics to the modern day. The programme included sections of auteur focuses on directors, commercial animations, animated trailers, TV series, full-length animations and animated documentaries. The focus included a total of

Filmmaker Priit Pärn

323 animation films and clips and filled nearly half of the festival programme – every day, around 60 Estonian animations were screened. One might think that Estonian animation films, known for their absurd, at times melancholic satire and merciless expressiveness may seem foreign to the Japanese public. But the opposite has proven true – you could even say that the Japanese public is pleasantly receptive of Estonian authors’ work. Japanese

Photo by Hiroshima FF

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

Photo by Sergei Kibus

By Maria Ulfsak Photos by Krõõt Tarkmeel

Festival founder and director Sayoko Kinoshita with Estonian filmmakers Janno Põldma, Hardi Volmer and Estonian Short Film Center representative Peter Murdmaa

Sumo wrestler Baruto and Peter Murdmaa from Estonian Short Film Center

animation films have reached European audiences through pop culture, but there have been auteur filmmakers working in Japan for years whose film language and style are radically different from the Japanese anime culture and influenced more by Eastern Europe and the avant-garde West. Despite the fact that the existence of Estonia and its 1.3 million population may come as a surprise for people outside of Europe, the

Estonian animation retrospective programmes were popular. We were happy to note that the filmmakers who laid the foundation for Estonian animations, Eino Pars and Elbert Tuganov and who are wellknown by domestic audiences, were also introduced to the festival public. Estonian film heritage was represented by hundreds of pre-independence era Tallinnfilm studio films, many of which have not screened at international festivals

ABOUT HIAF The festival was established in 1985 in Hiroshima, 40 years after the atomic bombings. The current festival director, Sayoko Kinoshita, and her husband Renzo Kinoshita,, along with ASIFA (the International Animated Film Association) were among its founders. The biennial festival in Hiroshima has historically been in the TOP 5 of animation festivals in the world. Estonians who have received awards there include Priit and Olga Pärn, Rao Heidmets and Riho Unt. This year, Chintis Lundren got the Special International Jury Prize for the second time in a row, this time for her film Manivald.

for decades. Over 30 films screened from 35mm film prints. “My favorites were the focus programmes on Heino Pars, Elbert Tuganov and Avo Paistik. In Avo Paistik’s films, we can feel his own, strange sense of time. I also enjoyed the documentary Kings of Time about Tuganov and Pars. I have known about Estonian animation for a long time but I had never seen so many early Estonian animated films before,” said Koji Yamamura, a professor in the Animation Department of Geidai Art University. One of the more important festival highlights was the Asian premiere of Kaspar Jancis’s first fulllength animation film Captain Morten and the Spider Queen, which screened in a 1200 seated hall full of local film fans and festival guests. Other films by Nukufilm Studio, including their shorts, received a lot of attention in Japan. The honorary guest of the Estonian focus was Priit Pärn, whose films were screened in several author focus programs and who was one of the five members of the international jury. The international competition programme included films by Estonian directors Priit Tender, Ülo Pikkov, Lucija Mrzljak and Chintis Lundren – who received the Jury Special Prize. A delegation of almost 30 filmmakers from Estonia participated ESTONIAN FILM


TALENT EVENT in the festival, half of whom were represented by their own retrospective programmes. “We have never seen this many Estonian filmmakers in one room together,” was a sentiment often heard from the filmmakers themselves. The Estonia 100 programme is symbolic – a feeling of patriotism is important to keep and appreciate our culture, not just for Estonia but for everyone who cares about cultural heritage and legacy. Since the Hiroshima festival was found-

Bonycrone (dir. Heino Pars, 1977)

The event was dedicated to the centenary of the Republic of Estonia and was part of the Estonia 100 international programme. The Estonian focus in Japan was coordinated by the Estonian Short Film Center along with the Estonian Film Institute, the Estonian Art Academy Animation department and film studios. The festival included representatives of the studios: Nukufilm, Eesti Joonisfilm, Rao Heidmetsa Filmistuudio, Chintis Lundreni Animatsioonistuudio, Silmviburlane, A Film, Tolm, Karabana, Fork Film, Meksvideo, Animailm.

Ott in Outerspace (dir. Elbert Tuganov, 1961)

Three Jolly Fellows (dir. Avo Paistik, 1990)

Johnny’s 7 Friends (dir. Heino Pars, 1967)

A Little Motorscooter (dir. Heino Pars, 1962)

The Triangle (dir. Priit Pärn, 1982)



Estonian animation film heritage was represented in Hiroshima by pre-independence era Tallinnfilm studio films.

Klaabu (dir. Avo Paistik, 1978)

ed exactly 40 years after the explosion of the atomic bomb, it still carries the motto “Love and peace”. Festival director Sayoko Kinoshita has never let go of his primary mission for the festival: “We don’t run a film festival just to introduce filmmakers. This is something bigger that brings together different understandings of the world and culture, that creates understanding and enriches the audience with different worldviews. All of that is definitely something that Estonian animation offers.” EF


The new Lotte cartoon will hit screens in January 2019. By Maria Ulfsak


n January 4th, Lotte and the Lost Dragons will premiere in Estonia and Latvia. Produced by Eesti Joonisfilm and co-produced by Rija Films, the latter also being the film’s distributor, it is one of the films made to celebrate the centenary of the Republic of Estonia. The film with the budget of 2.7 million euro is currently in the final stages of post-production. “The Estonian version is finished and we are now making screening copies,” said the film’s producer Kalev Tamm. “At the same time we are dubbing the movie into Russian, and we will premiere the film in Estonian and Russian at the same time in Estonia.” The Latvian co-producer Rija Films is also working on the Latvian version, where the film will also premiere on January 4th in Latvian and Russian. “The previous Lotte films were sold to almost 50 territories so we hope that the new film will be just as successful. We are currently in

negotiations with different sales agents,” Tamm added. The 78- minute animated film Lotte and the Lost Dragons is a non-violent film for the whole family, including its smallest members. It is the third film of the Lotte series. In the film, the spirited puppy Lotte gets a little sister named Roosi. Karl the raccoon and Viktor the fish are scientists who come to Gadgetville taking part in a big competition collecting folk songs. Whoever succeeds in recording the folk song of the world’s oldest animal species, the mythical fire-breathing dragon, will win the competition’s grand prize. Lotte and Roosi decide to help the scientists, embarking on exciting and unexpected adventures.

Photos by Eesti Joonisfilm

Puppys & Dragons

The film’s directors are Janno Põldma and Heiki Ernits who are also the co-screenwriters along with beloved author Andrus Kivirähk. The film’s production designer is Heiki Ernits and the editor is Janno Põldma, the composer is Sven Grünberg, the producer is Kalev Tamm and the co-producer is Vilnis Kalnaellis. Production support was received from the Estonian Film Institute, the National Film Centre of Latvia, MEDIA, Shortcut and Estonian Public Broadcasting. EF ESTONIAN FILM


Joosep Matjus

A Master of Grandiose Nature Films



Photo by Jaan Tootsen


Joosep Matjus is a young cinematographer and director who has brought nature films back to the forefront in Estonia.


By Filipp Kruusvall

is documentary, The Wind Sculpted Land, was one of the films made for the Estonian centenary film programme and gave Matjus a powerful opportunity to realize his passion for nature documentaries in the form of an intricate portrait of Estonian nature, which is also an homage to our Nordic, untouched environment. How easy is it to make a documentary film in modern-day Europe? Is there any untouched nature left, any places with no signs of human presence?

It is very possible to make a nature documentary in modern-day Europe, though you do have to look hard to find untouched nature. Many species-rich ecological communities are anthropogenic – wooded meadows, floodplains and coastal meadows remain bare thanks to humans haying and sending animals there to graze. These semi-natural, ecological

communities are very biodiverse, which shows that man and nature can coexist quite successfully if the right balance is found. Though our modern lifestyles tend to be rather destructive towards nature. How many shooting days did The Wind Sculpted Land take and how long did the whole process take?

The first plan was to go out with a camera every day for two years but we soon started to grasp the weakness in our maximalist approach. We finally had around 400 shooting days and the whole process took three and a half years, which is on the short side for a nature documentary. It’s very difficult to plan a shoot when it comes to nature because conditions are constantly changing and sometimes you may have to wait a week for the right light. What is unique about Estonian nature?

Our nature is unique because of its five, distinct seasons – winter, spring, summer, autumn and the spring floods. Estonian nature has diverse types of landscapes: we have bogs and marshes, coniferous forests, deciduous forests, coastal areas and islands and preserved

semi-natural ecological areas like wooded meadows, floodplains and coastal meadows. Estonia is also rich in natural borders – the southern border of the forest belt runs through and it is also the natural northern border for the growth of many plant species. As a rule, peripheral border areas are the most biodiverse. On the one hand, a nature film is a documentary, but it also often includes a certain amount of provocation or manipulation in order to be effective. What do you consider to be the right way to make a nature documentary?

The use of provocation and manipulation are a question of each author’s own ethics. For example, time lapse videos of plants growing are usually done in a studio, as are macro shots of insects and scenes where mice run through underground tunnels. This means you have to first catch the species in nature and then film it in a controlled re-creation of its natural habitat. All of that is done to visualize the hidden world for us. Later, all of the animals are released back into nature. I personally don’t like studio shoots very much. I prefer immediate, natural situations. ESTONIAN FILM


Photo by Atte Henriksson


I personally don’t like studio shoots very much. I prefer immediate, natural situations. Is nature a static, passive partner for you or is the relationship between you reciprocal and playful?

I am definitely in a playful relationship with nature. We even use an expression in Estonian that means something like nature “plays into your hand”. To be honest, most of the shots were situations where nature played into my hand. Our shoots were often dependent on the weather and the direction of the wind – you always have to be downwind from the animals because they will smell a human from afar. Sometimes, the wind unexpectedly changes directions and that often ruins a shoot. But during a large



storm, animals are often bothered and can’t hear well so, for example, I’ve happened upon a sleeping pack of wolves. In nature, you always have to be ready for the unexpected. Meetings with wolves are always by chance. That day was muggy, rainy and very stormy. I had no hopes of shooting anything worthwhile that whole day. But thanks to the storm, the wolves didn’t notice us because nature around them was in movement and full of noise. Fortunately, we had a camera with us and, in spite of the storm, we captured a whole scene. The Estonian wolf is particularly cautious and it’s very hard to see him - even harder to get him on camera.

I’m most interested in wolves. There’s no film in the world that looks at the wolves in our forest belt because everyone seems to find it too hard. If I had unlimited time and opportunity, I would start a film about our wolves and I would sit in a hideout for months on end like Korean Sooyong Park who filmed Siberian tigers, which was also thought to be impossible. Who was part of your team during the making of The Wind Sculpted Land and what were their roles?

We had a small team, which allowed us to be very flexible and react quickly. We started developing the project together with Atte Henriksson, who is the film’s cinematographer and co-producer, and Katri Rannastu, who was the editor and producer. The three of us worked together all the way to the end of the edit. Nature sounds were recorded by Veljo Run-

Photo by Jaan Tootsen


nel and the sound design was done by Horret Kuus – I have worked with both of them from the beginning and we’re slowly starting to form a kind of a school of nature filmmakers. Producer Riho Västrik also helped us.

Photo by Atte Henriksson

Photo by Atte Henriksson

first student film Old Man and the Moose (2009) won awards at different nature film festivals. The warm and personal story proved that Matjus has the talent to approach our natural environment imaginatively. His next film, The Gull Theorem (2014) received widespread recognition for its inventive look at urban nature. Matjus’s newest film, The Wind Sculpted Land (2018), delights the viewer with its sensitive but extensive look at nature and its technical mastery, which brings previously unseen footage of the animal kingdom to the big screen. The audience clearly appreciates Matjus’s efforts as The Wind Sculpted Land is breaking cinema admissions records for documentary films in Estonia.

Atte Henriksson

We have maestro Rein Maran and strong, young talents like you, Remek Meel and Ants Tammik. Can we talk about a culture or tradition of nature documentaries in Estonia?

cause it has screened in cinemas and viewers have come to see it. This creates anticipation and yearning for more nature films.

Rein Maran has upheld the nature film tradition through several decades. There is a generational change taking place in Estonia, which is proving labored and demands a lot of effort from filmmakers to justify the need for this genre to the general public. Culture is always a dialogue between the makers and viewers. I think that The Wind Sculpted Land is the first film that started creating a new culture of nature documentaries in Estonia be-

What aspect of nature films is the most important to you – is it that they are educational and bring people closer to nature or are you trying to capture the aesthetics of nature and make a work of art out of them?

I think that film is a complete art form and I always strive for artistry. Through artistry, a good nature film can also be educational, use imagery to talk about the essence of nature, and thus also bring

people closer to it. Nature is very visual, which means the text in nature films can be scant. A complete nature film is visual. It has space, nature sounds, music and text, all of which flow as one river through its delta into a coherent ocean. Is homo sapiens a species that interests you and one you would like to follow with your camera to make a documentary?

I like to film people a lot. It’s a fresh change of pace. Thanks to my experience with nature films, I am also able to observe the human world from the side, at a bit of a distance. EF ESTONIAN FILM


Photos by Jekaterina Abramova


The Bank Goes America Estonian First Ever Highend Drama Series The Bank Sold to MHz Networks


ritish distributor Videoplugger and Estonian rising content creator Itamambuca are delighted to announce that The Bank (Pank) has been picked up in a deal with MHz Networks and will air in North America, in Estonian with English subtitles. The plot follows the rise of an Estonian bank during the turbulent 90’s just after the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union. Largely specialising in broadcasting international series and films, the terrestrial broadcaster MHz is widely available throughout the USA and Canada. Videoplugger aims to continue to promote excellent scripted regional drama of the highest quality. Lance Schwulst on behalf of MHz Networks comments: “Watching Scandinavian noir on HBO is not on the rise anymore. The new cool is to watch Estonian drama on MHz. I think The Bank is a great addition to our selection. It has fantastic visuals, the characters draw you in and as it is based on a true story, it’s compellingly exciting.”



The Bank’s Producer Paul Aguraiuja from Itamambuca says: “I am happy to see that this universal story about how banking decisions made in the 90’s still influence our lives today has been picked up by such a respected channel as MHz Networks. It’s a great international start for The Bank together with the selection to the competition programme of the Geneva International Film Festival.” Emanuele Galloni, the CEO of Videoplugger, adds that he is thrilled by the amount of interest that The Bank is gathering among global broadcasters.

“MHz is the ideal outlet in the US as it showcases the very top calibre of European TV series. We were impressed with The Bank from the first screening and are proud to be contributing to its international success by working alongside Paul Aguraiuja and Itamambuca. It’s a great moment for Estonian drama and we will continue to support and invest our time in high quality independent productions.” The Bank has also been sold to Latvian National TV and to the Finnish broadcaster YLE. EF

THE BANK IS INSPIRED BY REAL-LIFE EVENTS in the turbulent Estonian 90’s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. We follow the lives of Ülle (Evelin Võigemast), Toomas (Sergo Vares) and their colleagues at Nordbank a successful investment bank, during the financial boom that reverberated in the newly liberated Estonia .The series is based on a true story of the rise of one of the most successful banks in the Baltics. The characters lives are turned upside down as money starts streaming into a country that had been trapped behind the iron curtain. Everything has to be rebuilt from scratch; politics, business, relationships. People have to re-evaluate their currency rate as well as their personal value system.

In August 2018, Nele Paves assumed the role of film commissioner in the cash rebate programme Film Estonia.


Photo by Riin Eensalu

ele has worked in television for the last 10 years for different channels and knows the industry in detail. Her work at the Estonian Film Institute will also tie into Nele’s other interests as she is a passionate film buff and fan of Estonia. Her job as film commissioner ideally ties those two things together. Nele can go

on for hours about what a great place Estonia is and how diligent the people are. “Estonia is like a film – it has an interesting (hi)story, lovely visual and interesting characters. The cash rebate programme is still in the development stage in Estonia so we have the opportunity to grow it into an important source of revenue and experience. The more top international specialists and filmmakers we can bring into Estonia, the more our own industry will develop and our own filmmakers will get opportunities to participate in top productions from abroad,” Nele thinks. Of course, she dreams of the Estonian cash rebate system getting its foot in the door of Hollywood someday. The Film Estonia production incentive supports the production of feature films,

Filipp Kruusvall – the New Documentary Expert at EFI On August 1st, Filipp Kruusvall started work as the documentary expert at the Estonian Film Institute.


ilipp Kruusvall has been one of the organizers and programmers of documentary film festival DocPoint Tallinn for the last ten years. He is a film critic and member of the Estonian Asso-

Photo by Mark Paves

Toomas works at the local gas station to support his studies and make a living. One day a random conversation with a customer lands him a job at a new and fast-growing bank. Toomas suddenly finds himself catapulted into a new world, at the sharp end of big deals and complex transactions. Ülle is Nordbank’s CFO. She is smart, tough and focused. One of the original founders

Nele Paves to Head Film Estonia Programme

Filipp Kruusvall

of the bank she is a rare sight – a woman in a man’s world, she seems to have achieved everything she could ever wish for, yet her life is not as perfect as it may seem. Success, however, comes at a price. When you are winning, you don’t see what you are losing. Their success makes them a lucrative target for a Swedish banking giant, making inroads to the new market. The Bank is directed by Rainer Sarnet, Juhan Ulfsak, Marianne Kõrver and JanErik Nõgisto. The series is created by Eero Epner and Tarmo Jüristo, the producer is Paul Aguraiuja.

Nele Paves

feature documentaries, animation films, animation series, high-end TV-drama and the post-production of all aforementioned 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. More information: EF

ciation of Film Journalists. Filipp studied politics, governance and psychology. “My hope is for the influence of Estonian documentaries to grow in society and the film industry. The Estonian documentary field is very diverse and full of different formats for realizing your ideas. My job is to help Estonian documentaries become more focused so they can break through internationally and to create all the conditions necessary for even the most ambitious documentary projects to get all the support they need from development to financing,” Filipp Kruusvall commented on his goals for his new position. EF




Doc Man By Maria Ulfsak

Riho Västrik is a documentary film director, producer and lecturer. In addition to all that, Västrik is also currently writing a doctoral thesis on Estonian documentaries between 1960 and 1985.


iho, these last few years, you have been attracting attention internationally as a co-producer. In 2016, you had two co-produced films competing at IDFA. What co-production projects are you currently working on?

Photo by Piret Räni



Bridges of Time is a Latvian-Lithuanian-Estonian film about Baltic new wave documentaries that premiered in Karlovy Vary and is now off to its festival career. But as far as co-productions, I am currently working with Lithuania on a film called Gentle Warriors, where the main production country is Lithuania, the director is the daughter of acclaimed Lithuanian director Audrius Stonys, Marija Stonyte, and the Lithuanian producer is Giedre Zickyte. The development phase is going well; our Estonian team includes editor Mirjam Jegorov, who is currently studying in London at the National School of Film and Television. The film is about servicewomen in

Lithuania and shows how girls grow up in the army. The film follows three main characters before their service begins – each has her own reasons and expectations for going, for what will happen and how she will change during the 11 months. This is an important topic as the situation in the world is currently tense and even Sweden, the country of “200 years of peace,” is reviewing its defense needs. Lithuania even had a paid army for a while, but now they’ve reinstated conscription and it has become more and more popular among girls. Gentle Warriors watches girls grow into women in a masculine environment. We find out how many of their dreams before joining the army become true, and how very many of them turn out to be unfounded. Military service is quite a masculine topic. The film’s producer, director, editor and main characters are all women. How do you see your role in all this?

As a producer, I have two types of projects. The first kind need my creative help. So I go to the set, instruct, guide and act as an older colleague. And then there are the other kind of projects – the strong, auteur projects where my mission is to just allow them to be made and to do everything in my power to help the author make their films the way they want. Short

Photo by Agnese Zeltina

Riho Västrik (on the right) with his Latvian co-producer Uldis Cekulis.

Scenes from Marija Stonyte’s Gentle Warriors (on the right) and Ksenia Okhapkina’s Immortal (above).

of imminent disaster, I don’t impugn on the author’s creative freedom. At the moment, Gentle Warriors is the second kind of film – one with a strong directorial vision. But of course, I look over the offline versions of all my films and give suggestions. We started working together two years ago in Riga and we hope for the film to be ready by the end of 2018. Please tell me more about the newest film by the talented Russian documentary filmmaker Ksenia Okhapkina.

Ksenia is a born filmmaker. She wants and needs to make films. Immortal is our second film together. The first one, Come Back Free, did very well. It premiered at IDFA and won the Jury Special Mention there. Ksenia’s new film, Immortal, reveals the mechanism that entices human beings – the greatest miracles on earth – to voluntarily turn themselves into mediocre, faceless creatures. Thus, they become a resource to be used by the state – a grey lump of ore who cannot see the value of their own life. So it is a philosophical and poetic look at the more complicated dimensions and layers of being human that takes place in the far north of Russia, in the Apatity mining town. The film is a co-production with my old partner Vides Filmu Studija from Latvia. In addition to producer Uldis Cekulis, the team also includes writer-philosopher Pauls Bankovskis as co-screenwriter. Filming Immortal has understandably been a very sensitive and delicate task. Fortunately, all of the material has now been shot; we are currently editing and hope to have the film finished by the end of 2018. I’m also working in Estonia as a pro-

I also know that you are currently working on your film-related doctoral thesis, right?

ducer on Joosep Matjus’s nature documentary The Wind Sculpted Land, on my former student Maria Aua’s documentary about the Estonian Art Academy and making a nature film with Remek Meel where we talk about the relationship between man and nature. Are you also active as a director right now or are you more oriented towards the production role?

I’m working on the 15-minute short documentary New Neighbours, which was filmed in a small town in Estonia called Tapa. There are about a thousand Allied soldiers in this former Soviet war town. The Soviet army campus was located less than a kilometer from the current base and there is a “shantytown” in between where local Russians grow their crops. In the mornings, the NATO soldiers run past them. And the Soviet Fatherland Monument continues to be holy to the Russian people. During the commemoration ceremony, armored cars with French flags hurry by on the way to their training sessions. It’s a very surreal situation. The hypothesis of my story is that the Russian people like uniforms and that this helps them overcome the estrangement they feel towards the NATO soldiers. And it seems to be working.

In my doctoral thesis, I look into Estonian Soviet-era documentary filmmaking from 1960 to 1985. Above all, I’m investigating the creative influences that made authors make the films they did. A lot of my doctoral work is in line with the film Bridges of Time, which also looks at the documentaries made in the three Baltic countries in that same era. And what exactly do you do at the Baltic Film and Media School?

I am the curator for the documentary film MA programme and, from last year, also the curator of the audiovisual media BA programme. We admit documentary students every two years. There’s a lot of work to do there. The Master’s programme at BFM is international and our geography is expanding – I guess alumni are spreading the word. We teach auteur cinema, not TV documentary production, and that is a huge privilege. We are like the French in the 19th century where the women crocheted lace and the men played the stock exchange while the Germans started pouring steel – and look what happened. But, really, it’s a sign of our mental health and wellbeing that we allow ourselves to teach art. And we do teach documentary filmmaking as a form of art, not journalism. We have to keep such art alive because there are so many TV and Youtube-style videos around and there’s a danger of people starting to see those kinds of “documentaries” as the prevailing norm. EF ESTONIAN FILM


TALENT EVENT Photo by Liis Reiman

2017 Best Pitch Award winner Restore Point (Czech Republic) team.

With nearly 600 guests from almost 50 countries in 2017, Industry@ Tallinn & Baltic Event is becoming the must-visit finale of the film industry professionals’ calendar year. By Kadi Kolk


aking place from November 26–30 this year, Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event focuses on the further development of the established programme and successful projects, as well as adds a couple of new initiatives to keep the industry developing and wheels turning. This year’s programme has a lot to offer. But even before the official Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event kick-off, TV Beats, the TV-series programme introduced at the previous Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF), will come back with a brand new initiative. TV Beats is organised in collaboration with Narva Creative Incubator OBJEKT with the aim to create a



roadmap for developing the TV production industry ecosystem in the Baltic region. On November 7–23, the programme will see a string of events: IdeaLabs for developing new formats and business models, a hackathon and an accelerator programme, as well as TV BEATS Forum where world-class TV producers and media services providers meet to share their knowhow and valuable experience with the Baltics. 2018 will see a further development of the Creative Gate, the talent platform launched last year with its joint initiatives Black Nights Stars, Black Nights Catwalk, Music Meets Film and Baltic Preview. The objective of the project is to help professionals from the fields related to the AV industry, including screenwriters, actors, production, costume and fashion designers, film music composers and performers find their way to the international industry and showcase the talent that is already actively participating in filmmaking in the Baltic region. The 7th Music Meets Film runs from November 23–25. Featuring acclaimed director Mike

Photo by Aron Urb

A Dynamic Finale for the Film Year Baltic Event Co-Production Market.

Newell, award-winning composer Alexandra Harwood, editor Paul Tothill, and composers Christian Vorländer and Simon Heeger in talks and masterclass sessions dedicated to film scoring, Music Meets Film will tackle creative collaboration between directors, composers and editors, and the fine art of scoring for films and trailers. The programme is curated and moderated by Michael Pärt, a music editor who has worked on film scores for over 15 years, among them The Danish Girl (2015). A networking event for short film professionals, Baltic Preview, initiated and coordinated by ShortEst – the Estonian Short Film Center - will see its second edition on November 26–27 in cooperation with Torino Short Film Market.

Photos by Aron Urb


Black Nights Stars (previously Screen Stars Tallinn) returns on November 26–28 with a three-day lab and showcase programme for 5 selected young actors and actresses and several workshops, panel talks, meetings, presentations and networking events for the local actor scene. This year’s focus is on the casting process. It looks at how the industry has changed, what are the growing opportunities for actors to be discovered and discusses the shifting focus from film to TV. Black Nights Stars aims to help talents promote themselves outside their home territory, connect with international film professionals, and acquire practical skills needed in their future international careers. Script Pool Tallinn holds its second edition with the aim to gather talented scriptwriters in order to provide them support enhancing their scripts and maximizing their chances of getting produced. The first edition received new projects from internationally accomplished filmmakers such as Shonali Bose (Margarita With A Straw) who won the main award provided by Telepool, Andrea Pallaoro (Hannah), Alexander Kott (Insight) and Black

Estonian EU Presidency Conference 2017 International and Baltic Works in Progress screenings.

is presented by Elisa, supported by the Creative Europe MEDIA Programme, the European Regional Development Fund via Enterprise Estonia and the Creative Industries’ Development Centre Creative Gate,

the Tallinn City Enterprise Department, the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, the Estonian Film Institute, the Polish Film Institute, the Lithuanian Film Center and the National Film Centre of Latvia.

Nights Official Selection’s Best Script winner in 2016 Igor Cobileanski (Eastern Business). The second edition welcomes emerging talents and discovers new voices from around the world with 5 selected projects from Georgia, Romania, Kazakhstan, Iceland and Colombia. Script Pool collaborates with the training and networking platform MIDPOINT. On this occasion, Marietta von Hausswolff, a Swedish screenwriter and script consultant who has written and co-produced the award-winning Call Girl (2012) will be this year’s MIDPOINT script doctor as she will mentor Script Pool participants and give feedback on selected projects. Founded last year by private investors and PÖFF, Storytek and its accelerator programme are designed to enhance the international film and content industry through bringing together world class storytellers, technology innovators and investors. This year, Storytek Accelerator presents a Storytek Cohort 3 demo day with 8 start-ups taking place on November 29th during Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event: a high-energy night with start-ups on course to revolutionize #futureofcontent from Estonia, Canada, Lithuania, Russia and Switzerland as well as keynotes from content innovators across the world. The participants of Cohort 3 are APMS, Beholder, Clappy, Code of Freedom, E-contenta, Fienta, La Boheme, Videolevels. They will benefit from business matching with potential corporate clients and investors, as well as gain access to the tech and content worlds. To name one of its success stories, start-up Zelos that grew out as the initiative of coordinating the volunteers of Black Nights

Film Festival has now developed a gamification app to help keep people and large groups organised and motivated. In addition to PÖFF, it has now already partnered up with the Viljandi Folk Music Festival, the robotics festival Robotex and the Estonian telco Elisa. As at previous editions, the 2018 programme also sees a series of conference and panel programmes on film marketing and distribution, many screenings and project presentations. This year’s International Works in Progress showcase presents 8 international works from Israel, Colombia, Russia, Vietnam, Turkey, Norway and Armenia. Baltic Event Works in Progress presents 11 new exciting projects from Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania. The programme also includes 10 selected POWR Baltic Stories Exchange projects Pitch and European Genre Forum Pitch, as well as the full-fledged Co-Production market with 17 selected projects and tailor made programmes for participating producers and co-production partners. To conclude the programme, on November 30th, under the theme “Creativity, Technology, Finance: Sustaining European Diversity post-2020”, the European Film Forum Conference will see several panels as invited film, media and technology industries leaders tackle crucial issues such as territoriality, venture-capital raising, audience development opportunities, distribution markets and national film policies. Among the key speakers this year are festival, film, sales, TV industry, as well as VR investment fund representatives. This and many more exciting events offer industry professionals a lot to discover and look forward to. EF ESTONIAN FILM



An Ode to Letting Go

It may be an unoriginal thing to say, but it becomes more and more appropriate in our increasingly info-saturated world: the less you know about a film before watching it, the more powerful the experience will probably be. And that’s also the case with this piece of filmmaking.


t’s true, a real film buff might find the opportunities for such an approach to be meagre. In the case of domestic films, it would mean at least partially cutting one’s self off from the media and perhaps fully boycotting the cultural scene. Which is difficult. So you probably already know a thing or two about Lauri Lagle, his performances as an actor on stage and in film, and his acclaimed work as a director. Perhaps you also know that this is the first feature film to receive recognition from



Ink Big! The critics have done their job

the Locarno Film Festival. In any case, let’s talk about the film, itself. The central character in Portugal is Karina (Mirtel Pohla) whose everyday life with her partner and son is secure, conventional and agreeable in every sense. You live, you are, you do things that people do in life and feel happy about it all, until one day… you don’t any more. How do you understand what is missing and distinguish reasonable reconciliation from giving up? There is that moment when you suddenly discover yourself trapped in the life that

Portugal By Nele Volbrück First published in Müürileht

you’ve woven just as it irrationally seems to slip away from you. What do you do when there are no choices left? Portugal talks about the question of where to go when there’s nowhere left to go. The film doesn’t necessarily go out of its way to stuff explanations or justifications down the viewer’s throat – rather, it readily demolishes emotionally at will. It starts to tell a linear story, but after some progress, takes a completely unexpected direction. A journey doesn’t necessary have to take place physically. Surreal elements and flights of fantasy emerge and one colorful character after another give the actors space to shine in their wellknown quality. For example, Taavi Eelmaa’s dark, if not lewd, vibrations as the character Aare are a sure bet, and Elmo Nüganen’s good-hearted demeanor as the Boss makes the character feel natural. Portugal offers many pearls in its witty dialogue, but it also says a lot between the lines on the countenances of its characters. The characterizations are spurred on by a general attention to detail. Usually, in the rare instance when a costume designer is in the spotlight, it is for a period costume drama or some other narrow, niche genre, but “regular” clothing can also be a powerful communicator. Karina’s thoroughly tasteful wardrobe, Anne Türnpu’s principled sales clerk Renee with her sparkly sweater and the nuance of the blue that lines her eyes – all give the characters and atmosphere an indescribably distinctive flavor. As do other, small details, like attention to a strange

item or the flash of the taxi driver’s eyes in the rear-view mirror – a product of Liis Nimik and Hendrik Mägar’s work as editors. The edit also evokes other tricks. The sweetly bawdy montage of the night of partying in Tallinn shows a routinely familiar location (and situation) in a completely new light. The classical litmus test of whether a film is thought-through and ripe is the developmental arch of the characters – are they different, more experienced and perhaps smarter at point B than they were at point A? Portugal is all the more unique in that Karina’s development doesn’t typically progress upwards. The thing that opens up inside has always been there. Instead of watching the typical zig-zagging of a developmental arch, the audience witnesses the human and familiar scrambling around a closed circle and the immensely hurtful yet intoxicating moment of breaking free. Karina is

The central character in Portugal is Karina (Mirtel Pohla). The film talks about the question of where to go when there’s nowhere left to go.

Portugal offers many pearls in its witty dialogue, but it also says a lot between the lines on the countenances of its characters.

curious, analytical of herself and the world, active in relationships and in life in general. She rules the dynamics of her relationships. There’s never a moment when she seems to be acting against her own will. So, if she doesn’t like something, she does something about it. Even though her partner Martin (Margus Prangel) has his own midlife crisis demons to deal with, he finds himself torn out of the comfortable fluidity of his life. Figuratively speaking, he’s left with no other option but to shrug, and whatever he does manage to utter remains bitterly floating in the air above them. It’s already hard to find a common language for the two. The film plays with different story lines but Karina’s takes precedence. The woman may have lost her footing but she’s not shy or insecure. When her self-destructive approach doesn’t bring results, she keeps searching. Karina is thirsty for life. Pohla is present in

every frame, even when she doesn’t really have to do anything to affirm her presence. Portugal shows more than it judges. In that sense, the pieces don’t form a solid circle. But this works thanks to the curiosity of its impetus and the lightness of its progression. The film transpires with a sheer bravery that becomes honest. One of the marketing texts for Portugal compares it to a summer night – profound and deep. Yes, you could say that: it’s more or less warm throughout the film and the tags fit. On the other hand, there is a tingling and searching in the film that hints at the first days of spring, where something is afoot: your lungs already fill with warm air, the sun strokes your cheek and you can let your coat hang open… but it’s cool in the shade and the grass hasn’t turned green yet. But somewhere, and soon, it will all be for real, won’t it? EF ESTONIAN FILM



A Flower in Unknown Soil After years of working as an actress, Maria Avdjuško has set up camp behind the camera. Her role, first as director of the short film Bewitched and then the feature-length, psychological drama Fire Lily, has unwittingly put her in line with a global trend.


tories about women, directed by women, that talk about the harassment and empowerment of women. Though this fact essentially isn’t even worth mentioning as the film speaks for itself. And it is a film that tells the story of Pia (Ingrid Isotamm), a wealthy ophthalmologist in her late thirties. The same thing happens to her that so many experience: her seemingly secure world falls apart, there is a debilitating crash, and she has to learn to adapt to her new reality. The man she lived with for fifteen years



Ink Big! The critics have done their job

loves someone else, and she has to keep going alone. But breaking down this foothold is enough to destroy her peace of mind, selfesteem and sense of joy. Pia becomes exhausted and dull. She manages to suppress the anxiety that this monotonous state creates; she has to find a way to carry on. So she lives a conscientious life in the rhythm between work and home, not caring much for the warning that you shouldn’t drink alone. But what comes next hasn’t happened to many at all. The woman who spends most of her time alone suddenly starts to perceive a

Fire Lily By Nele Volbrück First published in Müürileht

ghostly presence around her. A soul, an energy, a power, whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t manifest itself physically but leaves behind very physical traces. One morning, Pia wakes up somewhere completely different from where she fell asleep, with a real hickey on her neck and her pyjamas crumpled up in the corner... and other such surprises. The unknown brings out a certain mental and physical, rational and unexplainable, passive and agitated duality in Pia. Almost as though empowered by the moonlight – a very intense thing to watch, by the way – something primal wakes in her, something carnal and powerful that is difficult for her “normal person” and doctor persona to accept or explain. But the more spectacular and unbelievable the cir-

cumstances become, the more she needs to look for an explanation. Isotamm has received a lot of praise for her portrayal of Pia, and for good reason. It’s refreshing to see new faces on the screen, especially ones not straight out of theatre school. Isotamm is what makes Pia into Pia. The quiet self-awareness of her expression meets the melancholy and fragility in her glance. Her moments of despair seem as genuine as the tender ones. The main character’s ordeals are witnessed by a whole slew of other roles. Strong episodic performances include Liisa Pulk’s stern GP and Elina Reinold as a witch. The host of supporting characters each seem to signify certain moods, emotions and ideas: little Peeter (Rasmus Kallas), the ideal son she borrows from a girlfriend; the ex who emphasizes

Isotamm has received a lot of praise for her portrayal of Pia, and for good reason.

Fire Lily is the feature debut for Maria Avdjuško who is mostly known as a successful film and theatre actress.

the hostility and change in her life (Kristjan Sarv); Kaarel, the epitome of her alternative dream life; the carefree and kind idealist (Johann Urb). Whereas the actions of her optimistic girlfriend Ida (Eva Eensaar) are a bit questionable, mother Dagmar (Epp Eespäev) is pure camp! Eternally beautiful, she portrays a former stage diva whose unwanted children forced her to sacrifice her stage career so she now throws relics of former times at Pia and her sister Kaia (Adele Taska) in order to use any and all opportunities to sharply express her emotions. These types of characters and their witty comments add lightness and momentum to the film and keep it from becoming too serious, even though they also cloud the tonality of the film as a whole. The film is visually a dark one. French director of photography Thierry Pouget’s camera gives a foreignness to the viewer and makes the familiar Tallinn cityscape seem anonymous and Nordic. The color palette emphasizes this play with expansion: the film is cold in tone, accented by a few demonstrative streaks of colour. And the soundtrack goes hand in hand with the colouring as the ominous rustles and breaths refer to the supernatural just like a horror film and

allude to the horror genre in the same way as certain plot elements. Fire Lily is engaging and captivating. Allowing yourself to be caught up in the elements of horror retains your interest in the final solution. And there is a solution, even though the road leading to it allows for speculation. There is more than one possible string to unravel and the film doesn’t move along any one, nor force the viewer to dedicate themselves to just one. It deliberately takes the “think what you will” approach. And they make it out, i.e. find a way to accept the inexplicable complications of life. It’s almost as if Pia undergoes the stages of grief: from shock to denial, from bargaining all the way to acceptance. Finally, the most unnerving events are the ones that rip her out of her painful dormancy – you can’t feel sorry for yourself for long with real life nipping at your heels. Things don’t always have to be the way they’re supposed to be. You have to be ready for anything, or, to paraphrase Rain Simmul’s clergyman, a miracle is a deviation that benefits people. Even though Fire Lily remains difficult to define, the film has character: it is a fleck in world cinema and a nice addition to our genre films. EF ESTONIAN FILM



Women Who Rip Their Wounds Open Six women of different ages look at the world through a camera and their personal life experience. They are searching for something in their life that truly touched them.

E Roots By Eva Kübar First published in Postimees 46


ven though they are all very different, all of the films talk about the themes of honesty and vulnerability, the things that are sometimes difficult to talk about. About birth, death and the life in between; about the things that leave wounds in our souls. Things like resentment, humiliation, rape and betrayal. How do you live with these things? How do you forgive them? The bravest of the films is definitely Aljona Surzhikova’s Waiting for a Miracle. The director has literally put art above life and left the camera on even as her newborn

Ink Big! The critics have done their job

child dies in her arms. The moment is painful; whimpers ring through the audience as Surzhikova shows impressive strength and ability to deal with the situation and let go of it. She seems to be in direct contact with the universe at that moment. And the purity of the pain is beautiful in a way. This shocking experience is followed by Kersti Uibo’s Wombstone. This is a poem about a boulder in her home village in Pärnu County. Here, we must praise the woman behind the Roots project, Heilika Pikkov, and her masterful arrangement of the stories. Uibo’s audiovisual lan-

With Mum at the Monastery

Waiting for a Miracle

guage is so abstract that it leaves a lot of room for interpretation, the most direct reference being to a mother’s womb as a rock solid, safe place, which is tied to the previous film in the compilation. It’s interesting that the depth of the tragedy in Surzhikova’s film didn’t fully reach me until the final frames of Uibo’s film. The boulder brought on the tears. Each viewer probably imagines scenes of their own personal story as they watch Wombstone, images enhanced by Finnish director of photography Pentti Keskimäki’s wonderful visuals and Seppo Vanhatalo’s deeply layered music. This film is an expression of freedom and submission to nature – or, rather, the knowledge of how to live alongside nature.

ple in younger generations as well). These people grew up during difficult times when store shelves were empty and you had to stock up on whatever you could. The characters – Moonika’s own parents Tiina and Ülo – are a good find: there is a hearty, absurd humor to them both, which they have passed on to their daughter. After decades of

The films are glued together by Anu-Laura Tuttelberg’s playful and estheti­cally consistent animations.

living together, the dynamics in the Siimets’ relationship are peppered with warmhearted banter and comical situations. Together, they dig through a pile of things accumulated over forty years. Why, for example, did they need a silly, leopard-spotted hat or long underwear with the tags still on it? The audience laughs out loud. This film introduces a theme that also plays out through the next two films – the relationship with one’s parents. Anna Hints’s With Mom at the Monastery talks about the complicated relationship with one’s mother. The filmmaker decides to travel to Thailand with her mother to spend 26 days meditating in silence at a monastery, trying to find forgiveness for issues from her childhood. Hints is full of irreconcilable feelings of anger and resentment towards her mother and reveals the reasons in a candid confession. Director of photography Erik Põllumaa has captured the monastic environment very delicately, preferring wide shots of the atmosphere and keeping a distance from the life and inhabitants of the monastery. We only get close to Anna and her mother Anu, the contrary duo at the monastery: they are “the talking mom” and “the silent daughter”, as the locals call them. It feels like the final meeting between Hints and her mother at

CLEAN ROOM, CLEAN SOUL So as not to become too abstract and serious, the next film in the series is 40 Years Later by Moonika Siimets. This is a fun, light portrait of a generation of 70-year-olds (though you can find similar peo-

40 Years Later



REVIEW discovering herself, the world and the first time she’s had to look for her roots and ask how deeply she should press them into the ground.

REAL AND NOT SO REAL Särak finds love and follows it into the wide world. Everything is new and interesting and startling! It makes you want to photograph, film, record! A real sheepherder, real piles of cabbages, a real banana tree! The film stands out for its interesting visual language. It’s a

My Flesh and Blood


A Poem About Love

the end of the film is just one small step closer to each other with a lot of space yet to cover. And yet the filmmaker has made a very huge leap inside herself by learning to forgive despite not being fully understood. The exotic location of this film feels fresh and different – saying that in order to find your roots, you may have to travel to Thailand. Is this a need for something different and pure? Is it that the cleansing ritual of our own smoke saunas wouldn’t work because it is already so intertwined with the roots of our own foremothers?

ANOTHER FORM OF DEATH Heilika Pikkov’s film My Flesh and Blood also tackles the theme of generations. She goes to visit her grandmother who has been married for fifty years. The young filmmaker wants to know how a couple can last that long. It’s noteworthy that the director subconsciously emphasizes her role as a grandchild in the film. Her questions are asked with a



Roots is a film about birth, death and the life in between.

childish intonation, just as her grandmother answers them in the way she would answer a good, little girl. Pikkov’s groundwork is thorough so she knows to ask her grandmother to tell her more about one of the more piquant moments from her marriage. A large part of the film is shot in a hospital where her grandmother regularly goes for dialysis and not without close-ups of the IV being inserted into the vein. We touch on death in this film, though not as concertedly as in Surzhikova’s work. Such an unfiltered depiction of birth and death on screen evokes contradictory emotions. I’ve heard the opinion that showing these things so directly kills the mystery. What is left if you’ve shown everything? But others think that the more precise a documentary is in capturing reality, the better. But is an unfiltered display of reality really art? Nora Särak’s A Poem About Love fittingly sums up the films, even though it comes first in the series. It’s the story of a young girl

hectic collage of her travels caught on film strips, 35mm photographs and digital images, accompanied by the author’s voice over text. The images pass by quickly and the earnest text portrays the emotional confusion of a young woman in a strange land and a new situation. So where are her roots? The metaphor of the banana tree is a good one for the story as a whole – as things develop, the filmmaker finds a banana tree growing in the backyard of her Czech home and describes how she’ll be picking bananas from it. But the tree turns out to be decorative and never bears any fruit. The films are glued together by Anu-Laura Tuttelberg’s playful and esthetically consistent animation films where a little girl looks for somewhere to belong in a thicket of roots. In any case, Roots affords for interesting viewing. Some of the films could be stronger visually and more considered, but there is a message, a very personal revelation, for later reflection in all of them. EF


Eva’s Christmas Mission


hildren’s adventure film Eva’s Christmas Mission follows a 10-year-old Eva, whose Christmas holiday is taking an unexpected turn, after being brought to a mysterious farm in rural South Estonia. She follows her heart to rescue an old primeval forest, helps two lovers to find each other, and is destined to unwrap her family’s well-kept secret. DIRECTOR ANU AUN has graduated with BA from TV Directing and completed postgraduate studies in Film Directing in Baltic Film and Media

School. Anu has produced and directed several short films, documentaries and one feature film. Anu’s latest short film Shift (2010) was selected to more than 70 international film festivals and won 17 prizes from all over the world. Anu’s debut feature The Polar Boy (2016) was developed in Torino Film Lab and Nipkow Programme. The film screened in Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival official competition, Cairo International Film Festival, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and many others. Anu is currently in production with creative documentary Walker on Water.

FILM INFO Original title: Eia jõulud Tondikakul Genre: family, adventure Language: Estonian Director: Anu Aun Screenwriter: Anu Aun Cinematographers: Heiko Sikka E.S.C, Ants Tammik Art Director: Matis Mäesalu Main cast: Paula Rits, Siim Oskar Ots, Märt Pius, Priit Pius, Priit Võigemast, Mirtel Pohla, Liis Lemsalu, Tambet Tuisk, Juhan Ulfsak, Meelis Rämmeld, Anne Reemann, Tõnu Oja Sound: Horret Kuus Composer: Sten Sheripov Editor: Margo Siimon Producers: Maie Rosmann-Lill, Maario Masing Produced by: Luxfilm, Kinosaurus Film World premiere: November 2018 Black Nights FF 95 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Kinosaurus Film Maie Rosmann-Lill Phone: +372 5615 6535 E-mail: SALES Attraction Distribution Phone: +1 514 360 0252 E-mail:




The Riddle of Jaan Niemand


omewhere in Estonia at the beginning of the 18th century. After ten years of war, plague and famine, the land is swept clean of people. An anxious silence hangs over the land. On one particularly starry night, two peasants find a stranger on the seashore. He’s disheveled and comatose. They take him to the local manor lord and slowly bring him back to consciousness. When he opens his eyes, he realizes that he can’t remember who he is or how he got there. He’s just as much a stranger to himself as to the people around him. By force of circumstance, he must stay at the manor and live as one of them. His preliminary state of lethargy slowly gives way to recovery. He must come to terms with the question: Who am I? He



finds himself in a bizarre world, one full of meager uncertainty and growing disorder. There are sparse hints at his past… but what do you do when there is more than one correct answer to a question? What do you do when the answers aren’t good enough? Can we choose who we are? He embarks upon a journey of self-discovery with the most unlikely of landscapes as the backdrop. DIRECTOR KAUR KOKK graduated from the Baltic Film and Media School and has been successful with his short films both in Estonia and abroad. His short Olga received the Jury Special Mention at the 2014 Clermont-Ferrand IFF. The Riddle of Jaan Niemand is his debut feature.

FILM INFO Original title: Põrgu Jaan Genre: drama Language: Estonian Director: Kaur Kokk Screenwriter: Kaur Kokk, Anti Naulainen Cinematographer: Mart Taniel E.S.C. Art Director: Matis Mäesalu Main cast: Meelis Rämmeld, Andres Lepik, Pääru Oja, Peeter Volkonski, Adele Taska, Egon Nuter Editors: Velasco Broca, Marion Koppel Producer: Katrin Kissa Produced by: Homeless Bob Production Domestic premiere: October 5, 2018 110 / DCP / 1.85:1 / Digital SR CONTACT Homeless Bob Production Phone: +372 5667 7855 E-mail:


Take It or Leave It


ne sleepy Saturday morning a 30-year-old construction worker Erik gets some earth shattering news: his ex-girlfriend Moonika who he hasn’t even seen for the past six months is about to go into labour. She however is not ready for motherhood and if Erik doesn’t want the kid either, the little

girl will be put up for adoption. Take it or leave it! DIRECTOR LIINA TRIŠKINA-VANHATALO is an acclaimed Estonian documentalist and editor. She has been involved in filmmaking since 1999 in various roles. Take It or Leave It is her debut as a director.

Original title: Võta või jäta Genre: drama Language: Estonian Director: Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo Screenwriter: Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo Cinematographer: Erik Põllumaa E.S.C Art Director: Markku Pätila Main cast: Reimo Sagor, Epp Eespäev, Liis Lass, Adeele Sepp, Nora Altrov Sound: Seppo Vanhatalo Composer: Sten Sheripov Editor: Tambet Tasuja Producer: Ivo Felt Produced by: Allfilm Domestic premiere: September 12, 2018 International premiere: October 2018, Warsaw IFF 90 min / DCP / 1:1,85 / 5.1 CONTACT Allfilm Ivo Felt Phone: +372 517 6393 E-mail:





The Man Who Surprised Everyone


gor is a fearless state forest guard in the Siberian Taiga. He is a good family man, respected by his fellow villagers. He and his wife Natalia are expecting a second child. But one day Egor finds out that he has cancer and only two months left to live. No traditional medicine or shamanic magic can save him. Finally, left with no other options, he takes a desperate attempt to trick death. Egor chooses to take the identity of a woman as a way of fighting the disease. His family and the local society now have to accept his new self. DIRECTOR NATASHA MERKULOVA (born in 1979) graduated from the Irkutsk

University and from the High Courses for Scriptwriters and Film Directors of Moscow. Worked as a presenter on Irkutsk television. Her debut feature film Intimate Parts (2013) was critically acclaimed and gained over 30 awards and nominations at various Russian and international film festivals. DIRECTOR ALEKSEY CHUPOV (born in 1973) graduated from the Moscow State University, studied Movie History at Wake Forest University in U.S. Started out as a TV journalist. Together with his wife Natasha Merkulova he wrote the screenplay and directed the film Intimate Parts – a critically acclaimed debut of 2013.

Original title: Tchelovek kotorij udivil vseh Genre: drama Language: Russian Director: Natasha Merkulova, Aleksey Chupov Screenwriters: Natasha Merkulova, Aleksey Chupov Cinematographer: Mart Taniel E.S.C. Art Director: Sergey Avstrievskikh Main cast: Evgeniy Tsiganov, Natalya Kudryashowa, Yuriy Kuznetsov, Vasiliy Popov, Pavel Maykov, Aleksey Filimonov, Elena Voronchikhina, Maksim Vitorgan Sound: Vladimir Pryamov, Aleksandr Fedenyov, Stas Kreckov Composer: Andrey Kurchenko Editor: Vadim Krasnitsky Producers: Katia Filippova, Katrin Kissa, Alexander Rodnyansky, Guillaume de Seille Produced by: Pan-Atlantic Studio (Russia), Homeless Bob Production (Estonia), Non Stop Production (Russia), Arizona Productions (France) World premiere: September 5, 2018, Venice IFF, Orizzonti Internation Awards: Orizzonti Award for Best Actress 105 min / DCP / 1:1,85 / 5.1 CONTACT Homeless Bob Production Phone: +37 256677855 E-mail: SALES Pluto Film Margot HaibĂśck (sales) Daniela Chlapikova (festivals)






ihkel and Igor dream of moving from their home in Estonia to the land of opportunity and justice, beautiful Iceland. However, events take an unexpected turn and Mihkel ends up being betrayed by Igor, his oldest friend. It is a story of Biblical betrayal, reenacted in a dark, real-life tragedy as Igor, a modern-day Judas, sells Mihkel out for material gain. DIRECTOR ARI ALEXANDER ERGIS MAGNÚSSON was born in Reykjavik in 1968. He studied at the Sorbonne University and earned a BFA in fine arts from Parsons Paris School of Art and Design (1991-1996). Since then, his paintings, installations and video work have been shown in Scandinavia, France, England, USA, China, Argentina, Russia and Siberia. In recent years, Magnússon has focused on his documentary films

Ari Alexander Ergis Magnússon

- The Cultural Thriller Movie Series. His documentary Screaming Masterpiece, featuring Björk and Sigur Rós was nominated for the Nordic Council Film Prize (2005). Mihkel (2018) is his first full feature film.

Original title: Halastjarnan Genre: thriller Languages: English, Icelandic, Estonian Director: Ari Alexander Ergis Magnússon Screenwriter: Ari Alexander Ergis Magnússon Cinematographer: Tómas Örn Tómasson Art Directors: Atli Geir Grétarsson, Eugen Tamberg (Estonian unit) Main cast: Pääru Oja, Kaspar Velberg, Maiken Schmidt, Atli Rafn Sigurdarson, Tómas Lemarquis Sound: Øistein Boassen Composer: Gyda Valtysdottir Editor:Davíd Alexander Corno Producers: Kristinn Thórdarson, Leifur B. Dagfinnsson, Fridrik Thór Fridriksson and Ari Alexander Magnusson Co-producers: Evelin Penttilä, Riina Sildos, Egil Ødegård Produced by: Truenorth (Iceland), Amrion (Estonia), Evil Doghouse Productions (Norway) International premiere: October 2018, Busan IFF 96 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Amrion Evelin Penttilä Phone: +372 5552 3500 E-mail:




The Little Comrade


ne day, six-year-old Leelo’s school teacher mother is taken away by soldiers and the little girl has to find answers to a lot of questions on her own: why is the blue-black-white flag forbidden, what’s a traitor, why is a scary NKVD detective snooping around in their home and is being a Soviet Pioneer a thing of honor or shame? Through frequently tragicomic situations, Leelo tries to be as good a girl as she can in the two-faced, Stalinist world around her so that her mother will one day come back home. DIRECTOR MOONIKA SIIMETS is a talented young Estonian director

and scriptwriter. She graduated from the Baltic Film and Media School of Tallinn University and attended Judith Weston’s scriptwriting and directing master classes in Los Angeles. She has directed multi-award-winning documentaries, TV series, and short films, including Is it You? (2013), which screened at Stockholm Film Festival, The Last Romeo (2013), and Pink Cardigan (2014). Her documentary credits include Report: Green Estonia (2007), World Champion (2009), Another Dimension (2012), Trendy Dog (2010) and Another Dimension (2012). The Little Comrade, made in the frame of the Estonian centennial film programme, is her full-length feature debut.

FILM INFO Original title: Seltsimees laps Genre: Family, historical drama Language: Estonian Director: Moonika Siimets Screenwriter: Moonika Siimets Cinematographer: Rein Kotov E.S.C. Main cast: Tambet Tuisk, Helena Maria Reisner, Yulia Aug, Eva Koldits, Liina Vahtrik, Juhan Ulfsak, Lembit Peterson, Maria Klenskaja Art Director: Jaagup Roomet Sound design: Matis Rei Composer: Tõnu Kõrvits Editor: Tambet Tasuja Producer: Riina Sildos Produced by: Amrion Production Domestic premiere: March 23, 2018 International premiere: October 2018, Busan IFF 100 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Amrion Riina Sildos Phone: +372 677 6363 E-mail: SALES Eyewell Michael Werner E-mail:





arina and Martin have been in a blooming relationship for some years and share a son Patrik. While planning a family holiday trip in a trailer house, they both discover that things are not as as they seem. Suspicion arises and tension grows, life takes quickly intensively emotional and messy turn. Suddenly Karina drops everything and takes off alone with a trailer. The path of love between a man and a woman is playful and mellow and thoroughly human. It is full of mistakes and the possibilities for new beginnings and it’s full of colorful characters who all share one common goal – finding happiness. The story touches on different phases of love and dissects the paradox of how to

FILM INFO love a person for who they were and for who they’re becoming. Portugal is profound and smooth like a summer night. It is a physical progression and a mental journey towards something other than a mere geographical location on a map. DIRECTOR LAURI LAGLE is an Estonian actor and theatre and cinema director. He’s theatrical work has been critically highly acclaimed and he has been awarded numerous prizes for his works. Internationally he is mostly known for the main role in Veiko Õunpuu’s Free Range. Ballad of Approving the World (2013). Portugal is Lagle’s first feature film as a scriptwriter and director.

Original title: Portugal Genre: drama Language: Estonian Director: Lauri Lagle Screenwriter: Lauri Lagle Cinematographer: Erik Põllumaa E.S.C. Art Director: Kamilla Kase Main cast: Mirtel Pohla, Margus Prangel, Taavi Eelmaa, Jarmo Reha, Anne Türnpu Sound: Nikita Shiskov, Tanel Kadalipp Composer: Taavi Kerikmäe Editors: Liis Nimik, Hendrik Mägar Producers: Tiina Savi, Ivo Felt Produced by: Allfilm Domestic premiere: April 12, 2018 112 min / DCP / 2.39 / 5.1 CONTACT Allfilm Tiina Savi Phone: +372 5399 3411 E-mail:




Fire Lily



he mystical drama thriller Fire Lily tells the story of Pia (38), an ophthalmologist, whose marriage has recently ended because she was not able to have children. As she strives to move forward with her life, Pia learns the unknown but also finds her inner strength. Unexpectedly, her deepest wish materializes, but not quite in the way she imagined it. DIRECTOR MARIA AVDJUŠKO is an Estonian actress, producer and filmmaker. Maria graduated from the Tallinn Academy of Music and Theater in the field of acting and started working as an actress at the Youth Theater immediately after school. From 1992 to 2014 she was employed as the actress of the Estonian Drama Theater. During her prolific career,

Maria Avdjuško

she has played over 50 roles in theater and over 20 film and television roles. To date, she has written and directed two experimental short films and a life-story documentary. Fire Lily is her feature film debut.

Original title: Tuliliilia Genre: drama-thriller Language: Estonian Director: Maria Avdjuško Screenwriters: Maria Avdjuško, Leana Jalukse, Al Wallcat Cinematographer: Thierry Pouget Art Director: Carolin Saan Main cast: Ingrid Isotamm, Johann Urb, Eva Eensaar, Epp Eespäev, Bert Raudsep, Adele Taska, Rasmus Kallas Composer: Tõnu Kõrvits Editor: Helis Hirve Producer: Aet Laigu Co-producers: Maria Avdjuško, Julien Madon, Bastien Sirodot Produced by: Meteoriit, Ugri Film (Estonia), Single Man Productions (France), Umedia (Belgium) Domestic premiere: May 11, 2018 International premiere: November 2018, Mannheim-Heidelberg IFF 85 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Meteoriit Aet Laigu Phone: +372 58258962 E-mail:



Captain Morten and the Spider Queen


Sometimes you need to be shrinked in order to grow up. Morten is a 10-year old dreamer. His Father sails the seas on his ship, The Salamander. Morten is taken care of by Aunt Anna, who is an evil task-master. Morten plays with a toy boat with insects for crew. One day Morten is magically shrunk and awakes on his toy boat! He is thrilled to be a Captain but the bugs are as big as he is and they eerily resemble adults from his ‘real’ world.
 Storm is coming and the toy ship is sinking. Morten has to save the ship and return to the real world. DIRECTOR KASPAR JANCIS made his first animated film during his school years. He has been part of the creative core of several rock groups, written

Kaspar Jancis

song lyrics and melodies. With his films, Kaspar has won several awards including Cartoon d’Or in 2010. Selected filmography: Weitzenberg street (2003), Frank and Wendy (2005), Marathon (2006), The Very Last Cigarette (2007), Crocodile (2009), Villa Antropoff (2011), Piano (2015)

FILM INFO Original title: Morten lollide laeval Genre: animation, family film Languages: English (dub to Estonian, French, Gaelic, Flemish) Director: Kaspar Jancis Screenwriters: Mike Horelick, Paul Risacher, Robin Lyons, Kaspar Jancis Co-directors: Riho Unt, Henry Nicholson Cinematographer: Ragnar Neljandi Sound: Ciarán Ó Tuairisc Composer: Pierre Yves Drapeau Editor: Keith Garvey Technique: Stop motion animation Art Director: Kaspar Jancis, Producers: Kerdi Oengo, Paul Cummins, Mark Mertens, Robin Lyons, Andrus Raudsalu Produced by: Nukufilm (Estonia), Telegael (Ireland), Grid VFX (Belgium), Calon (Great Britain) World premiere: June 2018, Zagreb FF 78 minutes / 2K HD / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Nukufilm Phone: +372 615 5322 E-mail: SALES Sola Media E-mail:





The Overcoat


t’s Christmas eve in New York, 1932. Alexi, a large old Russian man, arrives home to find that his young granddaughter has decided to stay up late in the hopes of getting her present early from Santa. Feeling a bit homesick, he sits down with her in front of the open fire and they begin to talk. When she asks about Santa, Alexi gets her to close her eyes and gives her his big old coat as a “present”. But when she complains about the smell he starts telling a story… The story brings us back to the beautiful city of St. Petersburg in the late 1800’s where we meet a young man named Akaky - an ordinary office worker who works in a boring government job that pays very little. With no real family or friends and winter fast approaching, his life is a dull loop of menial tasks and loneliness. That is until his old threadbare coat gets ruined in an accident and he decides to spend all his savings on a brand new one. Suddenly his life is turned upside down - people start to pay attention to him. So much so, that he’s invited to a huge Christmas party where he finds himself centre-stage, and finally gets to feel what it’s like to live life to the fullest and not stand on the outside. DIRECTOR SEAN MULLEN is co-founder and Creative Director at Giant Animation. He studied Animation at Ballyfermot College of Further Education, and set up Giant Animation in 2011 with



fellow classmates Alex Sherwood and Ben Harper. Throughout the company’s development, Sean has served as creative lead on on a diverse range of projects, as well as working in all areas of the animation pipeline. His work has screened all over the world and has won numerous awards, including an IFTA, Best Animation at the Galway Film Fleadh and Best Irish Film at the ADIFF festival. Sean is currently dividing his time between development of Giant’s first feature film and a new TV show called Knuckle to bring to the international market. But unfortunately his new-found confidence and happiness is short lived, and things soon take a ghostly turn. DIRECTOR MEELIS ARULEPP has worked as an animator in various animation studios since 1987. He started to work in A Film Denmark since 1990 and in 1994 he co-founded the studio in Tallinn – A Film Estonia. Meelis has worked as the creative head of the studio since then. Meelis’s filmography includes over 30 feature films, where he has been involved as directing animator, designer, storyboarder or supervisor. Some examples are All Dogs Go to Heaven 2, The Quest for Camelot, Help! I´m a Fish, Asterix and the Vikings, Titeuf – the Movie, Smurfs – the Legend of Smurfy Hollow etc. Meelis has co-directed 5 short films and directed over 300 commercials. He is also a well-known book illustrator and caricaturist.

Original title: Talvelugu Genre: animation Language: English, Estonian Directors: Sean Mullen, Meelis Arulepp Screenwriter: Hugh O’Conor Animators: Svetlana Bezdomnikova, Margo Busch, Riina Kütt, Ilja Makarenkov, Malle Mäenurm, Liis Roden (A Film Estonian team) Main cast (English version): Cillian Murphy, Alfred Molina, Devorah Dailey, Michael McElhatton, Mikel Murfi, Sam McGovern, Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Hugh O’Conor Sound: Mutiny Post Composer: Liina Sumera Editors: Mark Fisher, Ben Harper, Daniel Courtney, David Slattery, Basim Ahmed, Anna Sorgon, Conor Finn Producers: Jonathan Clarke, Kristel Tõldsepp Produced by: A Film (Estonia), Giant Animation (Ireland) World premiere: July 14, 2018 100 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT A Film Estonia Kristel Tõldsepp Phone: +372 516 0399 Giant Animation Jonathan Clarke Phone: +353 1426 5481

The Wind Sculpted Land


n epic story of Estonian wild nature, where versatile landscapes with wild animals and thousands of migrating bird flocks are screened. The main character of the film is our biggest forest mammal – moose. The journey in the wilderness opens our past endeavors, calls and character, all of which the landscapes have held and sculpted through thousands of years.

DIRECTOR JOOSEP MATJUS was born in 1984 in Estonia. He received a BA and MA in Film Arts from Baltic Film and Media School in 2009 and is known as a director, cinematographer and a screenwriter. He has fully dedicated himself to the wildlife filmmaking. Filmography: Summer Documentary (2006), Rebirth (2007), Old Man and the Moose (2009), The Gull Theorem (2014)

FILM INFO Original title: Tuulte tahutud maa Genre: nature documentary Language: Estonian Director: Joosep Matjus Screenwriters: Joosep Matjus, Atte Henriksson Cinematographers: Atte Henriksson, Joosep Matjus Art Director: Joosep Matjus Sound design: Horret Kuus Sound: Horret Kuus Music: Eeter Editor: Katri Rannastu Producer: Riho Västrik Co-producer: Annette Scheurich Produced by: Wildkino Domestic premiere: September 21, 2018 78 minutes / 2K HD / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Wildkino Joosep Matjus Phone: +372 521 6949 E-mail:




Bridges of Time


n the beginning of the 60s, behind the Iron Wall, a new generation of filmmakers in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia challenged the Soviet dogma of propaganda newsreels, back then called documentaries, and turned documentary filmmaking into a form of Art. They explored metaphor, promoted associative thinking, balanced facts and images in an earlier unseen and groundbreaking visual language - all that was and is called Poetic cinema. This phenomenon continues to influence and inspire generations of filmmakers and their audiences in the whole world. Half a century later we try to build bridges of time and detect how the old masters were thinking and how they managed - in the midst of that vast Soviet Solaris Ocean - to put a Human in the focus and search for the answers to the Eternal questions - the ones that every generation has to answer anew...

We re-touch, re-discover and re-visit the film worlds created by the masters of the generation 60ties. Our path leads from misty Lithuanian meadows to Latvian fisherman villages, from the Death row of Riga prison to the deserts of Israel, from the Midsummer bonfires of Estonian islands to 235,000,000 faces behind the Iron Wall. DIRECTOR AUDRIUS STONYS is a globally acclaimed Lithuanian documentary filmmaker. In 1989 Stonys graduated from the Lithuanian State Conservatoire, where he was taught by Lithuanian film legend Henrikas Šablevilius. In 1990 Stonys completed a masterclass of Jonas Mekas in New York. In 1992 he was awarded a Felix Award from the European Film Academy for his documentary Earth of the Blind, and in 2002 he received the Lithuanian National Prize of Culture and Arts. Stonys’ documentary Ramin, which was created in collaboration with VFS films, was the Lithuanian nomination for the foreign language Oscar in 2012. DIRECTOR KRISTINE BRIEDE is as a screenwriter, producer, director and cinematographer for various cultural, artistic and social integration projects. Briede was one of the founders of the culture and information centre K@2 in 2000 and long-term director of the Karosta in Liepaja, a historically degraded zone. In 2006 the centre received a Ministry of Culture award in the category Culture for the Development of the State.



FILM INFO Original title: Ajasillad Genre: creative documentary Languages: Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian Directors: Audrius Stonys, Kristine Briede Screenwriters: Kristine Briede, Audrius Stonys Co-screenwriters: Ramune Rakauskaite, Arunas Matelis, Riho Västrik Cinematographers: Valdis Celminš, Audrius Kemežys, Joosep Matjus, Janis Šenbergs, Laisvunas Karvelis Sound: Artis Dukalskis Composer: Giedrius Puskunigis Editors: Kostas Radlinskas, Andra Doršs Producers: Uldis Cekulis, Arunas Matelis, Algemantè Matelienè Co-producer: Riho Västrik Produced by: VFS Films (Latvia), Studio Nominum (Lithuania), Vesilind (Estonia) World premiere: July 1, 2018, Karlovy Vary IFF 80 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Vesilind Riho Västrik Phone: +372 507 8067 E-mail:



ollection of short documentaries by female directors. The collection of short documentaries Roots, tells six very personal stories. They are stories about birth and death, being alone and together, great joy and great sadness. They are told honestly and bravely from a female perspective. The authors are well known, Estonian, female directors, between the ages 29-61, who are also mothers, daughters and wives. And why not lovers or world travelers. The central symbol of the collection is the root, a vital organ. Roots don’t have leaves but they may grow buds that sprout above the ground. The root is the beginning, the origin, the starting point,

FILM INFO the cause. Roots hold on to us and feed us. Even when we are far away. Even if we have to let go of everything we’ve held on to thus far. Those who are closest to us are our roots. We are intertwined and we breathe together.

Poem of Love directed by Nora Särak At the Monastery with Mom directed by Anna Hints Flesh and Blood directed by Heilika Pikkov 40 Years Later directed by Moonika Siimets Waiting for the Miracle directed by Aljona Suržikova Wombstone directed by Kersti Uibo

Original title: Juured Genre: documentary Languages: Estonian, English, Russian Directors: Nora Särak, Aljona Suržikova, Heilika Pikkov, Anna Hints, Moonika Siimets, Kersti Uibo Screenwriters: Nora Särak, Aljona Suržikova, Heilika Pikkov, Anna Hints, Moonika Siimets, Kersti Uibo Animations by: Anu-Laura Tuttelberg Composers: Maarja Nuut, Hendrik Kaljujärv Producer: Ülo Pikkov Produced by: Silmviburlane Domestic premiere: May 2018 International premiere: November 2018, Luebeck Nordic Film Days 90 min / DCP / 5.1 CONTACT Silmviburlane Ülo Pikkov Phone: +372 5648 4693 E-mail:




The Mountains That Were Not There


stonian pro-cyclists Tanel Kangert and Rein Taaramäe are under the microscope as they both cycle in the World Tour level teams. Talent, diligence and willpower can take you to the world stage, even if you grow up in Vändra, on the periphery of Europe. Can make you a pro whose name is heard from week to week on the Eurosport channel when the Tour de France or Giro d´Italia are underway. One exceptional success story is understandable, but when there are two of them, and at the same time… Tanel Kangert and Rein Taaramäe grew up to become world-class cyclists under the guidance of coach Erich Perner. What were their paths to success, and at what cost? Are they happy in a world fraught with



falls and reprehensible doping stories? This is a film in which peripheral low-lying landscapes meet world-famous mountaintops and we peek behind the scenes into the hidden world of the topflight teams Astana and Katusha. DIRECTOR IVAR JURTSHENKO born in 1973 in Pärnu, Estonia. Jurtshenko was deeply involved with cycling and was a junior category road race champion of Estonia in numerous times. During his university studies he had an opportunity to work with the Estonian Television’s sport department and became a sports journalist in their team. As of today, he has been working as at the same position for twenty years in various publications.

FILM INFO Original title: Mäed, mida polnud Languages: Estonian, Russian, English, French, Italian Director: Ivar Jurtenko Screenwriter: Ivar Jurtshenko Cinematographer: Taavi Arus Sound: Indrek Soe Composer: Erki Tero Editor: Taavi Arus Producer: Pille Rünk Produced by: Allfilm Domestic premiere: November 2018 70 min / HD / 16:9 / 5.1 CONTACT Allfilm Pille Rünk Phone: +372 508 2999 E-mail:




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