Estonian Film 2021/ 1

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w w w.f ilmi.e e



The Anniversary Year of Estonian Animation

KAUPO KRUUSIAUK Is Inspired by Tragicomic Everyday Life


Marju Lepp Catching the Big Fish


Animist Tallinn @animisttallinn




Toimumiskohad Venues



s 2020 drew to a close, the European film industry hoped that 2021 would usher in better times. However, the first few months of the new year have shown that the road to recovery and a new normality is slow and painful. Nonetheless, our industry, thanks to its brilliant people, is both resilient and resourceful, and we will get there even if it takes more time than we would like. The good news is that, at the moment, the film industry in Estonia remains in reasonably good form. Our cinemas have been closed only for a few weeks during the pandemic; Estonia also kept its film shoots going without major interruption, but under a regime of very strict and controlled measures. Summing up the first pandemic year, we can say that local films had their highest ever share of cinema admissions -Estonian films market share was 26.7%. Our aim is to keep it this way – and to aim even higher. The new year is a special year for Estonian animation – Estonian grand-old man Rein Raamat will be 90 this year, and Estonians will have their first stand-alone international animation festival, Animist Tallinn, in August 2021. Our animation tradition is something we are very proud of here in Estonia. We all hope this festival is the beginning of a new and long running tradition. You can read more about the history of Estonian animation from the current issue of Estonian Film (see page 24-27). Apart from animation, our documentary film festival DocPoint Tallinn had a very diverse selection of films this year – and it was possible to watch the titles not only in the cinema but also online. This hybrid model worked rather well regarding audience numbers. Generally, more and more documentaries are made as co-productions; financial support for them has increased significantly, and this provides hope that they will remain strong. At the British Independent Film Awards (BIFA), Estonian set-designer Elo Soode was nominated for the Best Production Design award for the film Undergods. More great news was that Estonian crew members were nominated in different categories at Icelandic, Finnish and British film awards. Today, it is not easy to foresee what the year will bring, but the Black Nights team are already in full swing preparing new digital solutions for the 2021 edition; you can read about this and all the other news on the Estonian industry in the pages that follow. Together, we will overcome this virus and continue making films for cinema audiences, focused on better, brighter days and the new opportunities which undoubtedly are ahead.

Edith Sepp, CEO of Estonian Film Institute

Content 4

NEWS Cultural Endowment Awards. Praise from Critics. 101 Estonian Films. Success of the Undergods


NEWS Melchior the Apothecary in Production

10 COVER STORY Marju Lepp Catching the Big Fish

16 NEWS The Speeping Beast in Production


18 DIRECTOR Kaupo Kruusiauk


A Working Man

22 DOCS Estonian Docs Make a Mark 24 ANIMATION Fathers of Estonian Animation

28 FUNDS How to Find Money in Estonia 30 EVENT PÖFF. The Year of Living Innovatively

34 REVIEW Rain


36 REVIEW The Last Ones 40 CLASSICS Madness 46 NEWS Festival Highlights 48 NEWS Statistics 2020 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: Aurelia Aasa, Filipp Kruusvall, Johannes Lõhmus Translation: Maris Karjatse, Tristan Priimägi, Lili Pilt Linguistic Editing: Paul Emmet Design & Layout: Profimeedia Printed by Reflekt Cover: Marju Lepp, photo by Viktor Koshkin ESTONIAN FILM


Traditions and the Future


Mati Kütt

Great Job!

Cultural Endowment of Estonia presented awards in February for creative activities in the field of audio-visual art in 2020. Due to the pandemic, the traditional gala evening was not held; awards were presented via a TV programme. By EFI


his year, Cultural Endowment decided to present the Lifetime’s Achievement Award to animation director Mati Kütt who has always held the arthouse flag high in Estonian animation. He is one of the best known animators in Estonia with a surrealist approach and uncompromising artist’s character. The jury has stated the following: “Throughout his career, Mati Kütt has never tried to find a comfortable and smooth path; instead, he has rather always searched for an abyss that he could walk down with courage. His films do not attempt to be liked by viewers; and therefore, the films are especially liked by those who agree on following the film into the unknown. Because who knows what will be waiting for them? Perhaps the underwater animation opera The Smoked Sprat Baking in the Sun in German? Mati Kütt’s artwork has been largely influenced by dreams, his films encourage the viewer to let go of everyday reality and to fantasize about the world

with less rules, more surprises and endless possibilities.” The main award for 2020 was presented to the feature film The Last Ones directed by Veiko Õunpuu for expanding upon socially important themes in an exquisite artistic form. The jury’s comment: “The film skilfully combines black humour and apocalyptic emotions. For the director it is the first time to make a film in a foreign country and in a foreign language, to work with actors from two different nations and according to someone else’s screenplay – and yet, Õunpuu has brilliantly managed the task. This has resulted in an artistically powerful story with a unique style that is supported by a strongly ethical artist’s position as well as by a concern for tomorrow.” The Best Debut Film award went to Rain, written and directed by Janno Jürgens.

The winner of the Best Actress award, Hennessi Schmidt.

The Best Male Actor award went to Indrek Ojari who performed a role in the same feature film. The Best Actoress award was given to Henessi Schmidt for her role in the feature film Where the Heart Is. The special award in the genre of documentaries went to Margit Lillak for the excellent social approach in directing a participatory documentary The Circle. The Best Experimental Film award was presented to Ülo Pikkov and his film The Tortoise and the Hare. The Best Camera Work award went to Meelis Veerments for his work in the historical spy thriller O2. The Best Young Filmmaker award was given to Raul Esko and Romet Esko. The Best Documentary award went to Jaan Tootsen and Joosep Marjus for directing the film Fred Jüssi. The Beauty of Being. The Best Artist award was divided between Otso Linnalaakso and Jaanus Vahtra for their contribution to The Last Ones. The Best Composer award was given to Misha Panfilov for creating the soundtrack for the feature film Rain. Also, numerous other awards were given for those working behind the scenes as well as those maintaining the progression of Estonian film. EF

Photo by Merily Malkus



Photo Viktor Koshkin


Photo Karl Kristjan Nigesen

PRAISE FROM CRITICS In January, the Estonian Association of Film Journalists announced the awards for the Best Film and the Best Film Journalist of 2020 in Estonia. By EFI


he Virgin Maali Award, the oldest film award in Estonia, that has been presented since 1993, went to the feature film The Last Ones directed by Veiko Õunpuu, a co-production of Estonia, Finland and the Netherlands. Andrei Liimets, chairman of the Estonian Association of Film Journalists, commented: “Veiko Õunpuu, the laureate of the Virgin Maali Award for the fourth time, has on one hand a strong and recognizable artistic style and on the other hand he knows how to leave enough space in his films to be filled with meaning by the viewer.” The Last Ones is a Nordic Western which takes place in the untamed Lapland tundra. The protagonist is young miner Rupi (Pääru Oja) who hopes to scrape together enough money through excavating the tundra to forever shake the suffocating dust of the mining village from his feet. But the work has come to a halt because Rupi’s father – a reindeer herder – refuses to sell his land. What’s more, the manipulative mine owner nicknamed the Fisherman (Tommi Korpela) has his eye on Rupi’s friend’s wife Riitta (Laura Birn), a woman who Rupi is also secretly in love with. Now that life in the mining village is becoming more

Director Veiko Õunpuu and the Virgin Maali award that he receiver for The Last Ones.

dangerous day by day, Rupi must decide where and to whom his loyalty belongs. Among other candidates for the Virgin Maali Award was the documentary The Circle directed by Margit Lillak, the documentary Fred Jüssi. The Beauty of Being directed by Jaan Tootsen, feature film Rain, a debut film by Janno Jürgens, and historical spy thriller O2 directed by Margus Paju.

The Film Journalist of the Year award was given to Tristan Priimägi for his book of remarkable importance 101 Estonian Films. The Virgin Maali is the oldest film award in Estonia, this year it was presented for the 28th time. The Estonian Association of Film Journalists was founded in 1993 and is a member of the International Federation of Film Critics FIPRESCI. EF ESTONIAN FILM


Photo Karl Johanson


101 Estonian Films

By Maria Ulfsak


ristan Priimägi, who was announced as the Film Journalist of the Year in January, studied semiotics at the University of Tartu, but he did not become a professional semiotician. Many know him as the long-term head of international relations at the Estonian Film Institute and a true movie buff. Since 2014, Tristan works as an editor of film pages in the cultural weekly Sirp. However, his colleagues decided to give him the award of The Film Journalist of the Year for his book 101 Estonian Films that was published at the end of 2020. The book presents a subjective, unique and intelligent overview of the best works in Estonian film history. Hopefully the book will be translated into English soon. Tristan, why did you write the book? Was it an easy or a difficult task for you? It was actually a proposal from the publishing house. This project had, as I gather, become a sort of



hot potato that bounced from one time-deprived author to the other, ending up on my desk in 2015. Out of a stupid sense of responsibility, some curiosity, and blissful ignorance, I accepted. And I count myself very lucky that life interfered big time, and I didn’t basically make any progress in writing for several years. The idea had some time to gestate and I believe that the final result only gained from this. Additionally the Estonia 100 films gave it a coherent frame. I couldn’t have had it sooner. For a while I was convinced it won’t see the light of day, at least from me. To be frank, the 2020 pandemic was like a lottery win. Suddenly all the other engagements just stopped and I could concentrate solely on the book. Writing about Estonian film has largely been limited to a handful of hits, and it’s inevitable that everything gets reduced to basics in time. I think it’s up to us film writers to forcibly expand that

Film critic Tristan Priimägi introducing his book 101 Estonian Films.

range. That was one of the main intentions. What kind of surprises or new knowledge did the process of compiling this book offer to you personally? There’s so much to learn. About the films and authors, the production methods, censorship, power politics in the Soviet times, then the switch from almost total control to relative anarchy after the collapse of the USSR, and painfully reassembling and rebuilding all the production infrastructure until the last decade, when a sort of stability has been achieved for the first time during our independence. The film industry in the temporal context is always most interesting. And there are so many films we have forgotten unfairly. Hopefully the English version of the book will materialize too; it would be interesting to know how much sense it all makes to a foreign reader. EF

Art of the Undergods Science-fiction fantasy feature Undergods is a co-production of the United Kingdom, Belgium, Estonia, Serbia and Sweden. The Estonian premiere of the film was held at the Black Nights Film Festival 2020. By Maria Ulfsak


stonian concept artist Elo Soode, who had an essential part in designing the visual appearance of the film, was nominated for her work with production designer Marketa Kornikova on Undergods at the British Independent Film Award BIFA. The Estonian co-producer of the film is Katrin Kissa from the production company Homeless Bob Production. “This nomination was a great acknowledgment for both Elo Soode and the film itself. The concept artist often has a key role in the early phase of a film. She visualizes the ideas of the director, art director and cinematographer before the filming starts and according to her detailed design the environments for the film are created. It is difficult to overestimate Elo’s professional role in Undergods. She has created a great part of the cityscape visions that were included in the film using

computer animation. Several local environments have been used and included in the film, for instance, the Lasnamägi district in Tallinn, and the Kreenholm Factory in Narva. It is also remarkable that the other nomination of the film – Agnes Asplund and Martin Malmqvist for the best visual effects – is also connected to Elo Soode’s work,” explained the co-producer Katrin Kissa. Elo Soode is a production designer and concept artist. She graduated from the department of scenography at the Estonian Academy of Arts in 2008 and the department of production design at the National Film and Television School (NFTS), Great Britain in 2014. Among Soode’s previous works have been the feature film Paddington 2 (2017), Annihilation (2018) and TV-series Chernobyl (2019) and The Great (2020). Besides Soode, Estonian makeup artist Kaire Hendrikson also played an important part in creating Undergods. Estonian actress Katariina Unt also had a small role in the film. Undergods is the debut feature by Spanish director Chino Moya, filmed both in Serbia and Estonia. The film is a collection of dark humour, surreal stories about hopeless people and their tragic misadventures. According to the director, the film is an otherworldly journey through a Europe in decline, but it also depicts an endless journey through human weaknesses and predestined mishaps.

The landscapes of Undergods were created by concept artist Elo Soode.

The main roles in the film are performed by Hungarian actor Géza Röhrig (the star of the Academy Award winner Son of Saul); Jan Bijvoet and Ned Dennehy, known from the TV-series Peaky Blinders; Michael Gould who has also participated in Star Wars: Rogue One and several internationally acclaimed actors. BIFA (British Independent Film Award) is a film award founded in 1998 to value independent British films and filmmakers. In 2021, the awards were presented on February 21st. Undergods was produced in collaboration with Z56FILM, Velvet Films, Homeless Bob Production, Media Plus and Filmgate Films. The producer of the film is Sophie Venner, co-producers are Katrin Kissa, Sebastian Schelenz, Goran Djikic and Sean Wheelan. From the Estonian side the film was supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia and the Estonian Film Institute. EF




Melchior the Apothecary This trilogy of feature films in production is based on the series of crime novels Melchior the Apothecary by writer Indrek Hargla. The film series, with a budget 6,000,000 EUR, is a coproduction between Estonia, Latvia and Germany. By EFI Photos by Robert Lang




irstly, there will be three full length feature films, and also a 6 episode TV series made. The producers of the film are also preparing a multi-level marketing campaign and an entire “promotional eco-system” in order to establish and strengthen the new franchise. The director of the medieval crime trilogy is Elmo Nüganen; screenplay by Indrek Hargla, Elmo Nüganen and Olle Mirme. Producers of the film are Kristian Taska (Taska Film), Esko Rips (Nafta Films), Armin Karu (HansaFilm), Tanel Tatter and Veiko Esken (Apollo Film Productions). Latvian co-producer is Jānis

Kalējs (Film Angels Productions), German co-producer is Philipp Kreuzer (Maze Productions). The main protagonist of the film, Melchior Wakenstede, is a clever and curious apothecary who, in addition to healing the sick, solves murders that shake the town. In a medieval world where people look for signs of God or the Devil in everything, Melchior’s detective work appears to be truly magical – it’s even believed that he can speak with the dead. Melchior’s actual “secret weapon” is his knack for noticing traitorous details and his ability to understand the darkest desires of the human soul.

Melchior the Apothecary trilogy takes the viewers to the medieval Tallinn, full of magic and crime.

The apothecary has a unique position in the strict hierarchy of medieval society. Everyone is in need of his knowledge and help, from the rich counsellor to the almshouse beggar. During the murder investigations this helps Melchior to open the locked doors and the mouths whispering secrets that would otherwise remain shut forever. According to the producer Esko Rips, the principal shooting that took place in summer and autumn 2020 went exceptionally well. ”Although we were

shooting in so many different locations all around Estonia and Latvia, had to build impressive historical sets and produce tons of medieval props and costumes, there were no delays in the schedule nor any other major troubles. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the safety of the cast, crew and extras was always our top priority,” he said. “We believe that Melchior the Apothecary is a series destined to cross borders, based on its storytelling values, the high production quality we want to bring to the screen, and the fact that it is based on a series of bestselling books published in many languages. The mythology of Melchior is set in the time of the Hanseatic League, a unique phenomenon in European history, which consisted of a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Northwestern, Central and Eastern Europe. We believe that countries interested in the film would definitely include Germany, the Baltics and Nordic countries. So, our primary targets are in Europe; however, we believe that the nature of the project and its high production value can make it appealing beyond Europe as well,” Rips added. The DoP of the trilogy is Mihkel Soe and the production designer of the films is Matis Mäesalu. The man protagonist is played by Märten Metsaviir; other main roles are performed by Alo Kõrve and Maarja Johanna Mägi. EF ESTONIAN FILM






Big Fish


Today, Marju Lepp can be called the most diligent film producer in Estonia. Feature On the Water (produced by Marju Lepp, directed by Peeter Simm) premiered in the Main Competition at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, and the film can be also watched in the online market of the Berlin International Film Festival. By Maria Ulfsak Photos by Viktor Koshkin and Liisabet Valdoja

esides this, she also produced two documentaries last winter; the comedy Estonian Funeral is planned to be premiered in autumn of 2021 (Lepp is one of the producers of the film); and a new feature film is scheduled to start filming in the summer of 2021. Marju is also currently working on several more documentaries and has a feature film in development, directed by German Golub, one of the most promising young talents in Estonian film, who won the Student Academy Award last year.

Let’s start with the feature film On the Water, available in the online market of Berlinale. Please tell us the story behind the film. I can imagine that you as a producer have faced quite a challenge during the filmmaking process – since there are both children who grow up during the filming period as well as the changing seasons. Not to mention that waiting for a snowy winter has become quite an issue during the past few years in Estonia.

The beginning of this feature differs from the usual way films have begun for me. It was not the director who came to me with the story but this time it was me who found the story – a novel On the Water by

Olavi Ruitlane. The tale was touching – a good, human-centred story about growth, full of diverse characters. I got in touch with the writer, entered into the licence agreement with him and then started to develop the project. Ruitlane himself became the screenwriter. In the beginning the plan was to hire two directors, but we gave up on one and Peeter Simm remained, that was the very best choice. The film did not enter the production phase in the first year, so the child in the role of the protagonist grew too old and we had to choose a new one – Rasmus Ermel. Since the events in the film take place during one year, we decided to use a linear approach to filming. The boy, who is much shorter than the girl in the film, will ESTONIAN FILM



Andres, the protagonist of the film, is a sensitive teenager raised by his strict grandparents in a small bland Soviet Estonian town. He is being bullied at school and his only friends are the drunkards, whores and thieves living next door. Among them are a rough but sensible recidivist Valter and the simple-minded fisherman Kolla. And the only way to escape from his worries is to go fishing on the lake... The film talks about boyhood, friendship, first love, loss of loved ones, self-discovery and a coming of age. Despite the brutality and tragedy, it is a warm and humorous story of caring, humanity, and love. On The Water is based on the best-selling novel by Olavi Ruitlane.

noticeably grow during the film – the process of his transformation and growth can be observed on screen. The protagonist and other actors are excellent – everyone’s doing a great job in their performance in the film. The whole team and film crew enjoyed the filming period – there was even a joke going around that there should also be a part two about the protagonist’s adult life. Despite the fact that there are four seasons in the film, we were fortunate with the weather and filming went quite smoothly. The filming in winter brought along some stress – since the last two years there was no proper winter, nor ice, in Estonia. The film crew was on constant standby, and finally the snow came down for three days in March, before the emergency situation due to COVID, and we succeeded in filming the last part. Collaboration with the director Peeter Simm went really well – he is so creative, always in a good mood and an excellent narrator. With his pleasant stories, Simm managed to keep the film crew and acting team in the right mood during the filming period. The great master can also connect well with both child actors and the experienced ones. New collaboration ideas with Simm are already cooking. In my opinion, the film came



out well, I am satisfied with the final result – a successful combination of a festival film and a film attracting audiences. Estonian journalists have given lots of feedback on the film which also makes me happy. German Golub is a great young talent of Estonian film – his short film My Dear Corpses has already been successful in the international arena. What kind of project are you developing together?

German Golub, who won the Student Academy Award in 2020, is currently working on a film about Erika Salumäe, the Estonian track cyclist who has been twice awarded an Olympic gold medal. Some time ago I worked as a production manager on the feature film Goodbye Soviet Union (2020, directed by Lauri Randla) and German worked there as an assistant. He stood out immediately, proving to be a young, truly dedicated and diligent person. He was also helping out during the filming of On the Water, being the 3rd AD. We started to talk and it turned out that he had an idea for a short film. When he sent his idea, it was more than clear that there was enough material for a full-length feature film. German is currently

Director Peeter Simm and the main main protagonist of the film, Andres (Rasmus Ermel), on the set of On the Water.

working on a screenplay with Mehis Pihla, as well as communicating with Erika Salumäe, the protagonist’s prototype, who currently lives in Spain. The film tells about a great human tragedy – on one hand, it is a story of a girl with a complicated childhood and her self-realization, self-establishment and reaching the top of the sports world; on the other hand, it is a story of looking for love and intimacy. Please tell us more about your collaboration with cinematographer and director Manfred Vainokivi. You have made numerous films together. One of the recent documentaries, the somewhat scandalous Mephistopheles, premiered at the Baltic Competition programme at the

The boundary between a documentary and a feature film is often quite vague – at least with the films we have made. The crew of On the Water working on the set. The film was shot in Southern Estonia.

2020 Black Nights Film Festival and the other one, about the director himself, is in the making right now.

We have a long history in producing commercials with Manfred – in 1998, we started with the studio Parunid ja Vonid that we later renamed Filmivabrik, but this field exhausted itself over the years. However, the era taught both the director and the producer an excellent lesson – there was more creative freedom in the field of advertising, twenty years ago, than today. Then we started to make short films and documentaries together. The first one was Valli’s Bar (2008) that was immediately sent to film festivals. Manfred is rather an experimental, searching filmmaker – he has made traditional films; however, his most original and inventive films such as Stealing Socialism (2014) or In Bed With a Writer (2019) have gained international success and have been included in the main competition programme of IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) and DOK Leipzig. Mephistopheles that premiered at the end of 2020, talks about Linnar Priimägi, an erudite art historian and lecturer who never says what is appropriate, but always says what he is

thinking – and that can sometimes be quite shocking. They have been working together on TV travel shows and at some point Priimägi insisted Manfred make a film about him. The filmmaking process was interesting, just like being on a roller coaster – at some point, Priimägi stated he wouldn’t interfere with the filmmaking; and the next second he already reported that the title of the film must be this or that and directed how the filming should take place. There is also another, deeper level in the

Manfred Vainokivi is the cinematographer of On the Water. Marju Lepp has worked on many commercials, documentaries and features with him.

film – an elderly documentary filmmaker Edvard Oja who comments on the situation from a distance, teaches and cautions the director. The film is definitely giving the viewer a historical portrait. The result is funny, sad, witty and humane. Manfred’s newest project in the making – Me, an Estonian Director – is an especially experimental documentary. Again, he is searching for new roads and an approach that results in a self-ironic and intriguing work that Manfred himself calls a film-manifesto, and that is supposedly claiming to be an absolute truth. Our collaboration is creative, of course sometimes we argue a lot and then move on. It is free of routine and boredom. In June, you should start with the filming of a new feature, this time with Mart Kivastik



COVER STORY You produce documentaries and feature films, also you help films produced by others as a production manager – but what is it that you enjoy the most?

Honestly, I like to make films. The boundary between a documentary and a feature film is often quite vague – at least with the films we have made. Some films come out better than others. You put your heart and soul into every one of them. I am proud of several films we have made. A premiere becomes a success when you feel in the cinema hall that the film really matters to the audience … it is a feeling, a breathing, sometimes emotional tears in the viewers’ eyes, not necessarily any huge applause or loud ovations. According to the grand old master of Estonian film Jüri Sillart, a good film can be compared to a dream – the lights go out and you enter a new world. But the question is whether to enter the dream – or impatiently wait for the lights to go back on.

who is the screenwriter and director for his story Stairway to Heaven. What is this project about?

Mart Kivastik’s tragicomic Stairway to Heaven is a free flight between the 70s and today, a story about setting your spirit free, with an added dimension of the ongoing crisis. The author is looking for an explanation for the time given to us. Is one able to enjoy life, when facing midlife, growing old and eventually dying. The author’s message is humane, derived from his own life experiences: love and happiness from small things make life worth living. I have known Mart for a very long time. He showed me the story and I really liked it, it touched me. We got both the development and production support from the Estonian Film Institute; right now we are making preparations for the filming phase. What is also wonderful, is that the cinematographer for the film is Rein Kotov – and Mart has dreamed of working with him for ages.



Marju Lepp says her heart belongs to film - no matter if she works on a documentary of a feature, as a producer or a production manager.

You studied theatre directing at university. How did you switch to filmmaking?

I was in the film class in the upper secondary school where we had to watch films and write about them. Then I studied theatre directing and worked as a methodologist in a cinema, my task was to organize film events for children. Afterwards I got work in the film studio Tallinnfilm where I started to work as an assistant director-clapper girl with my first feature The Trees Were … (1985, directed by Peeter Simm). In this sense we have come all the way and met again… From there, I

moved step-by-step towards the place I am today – being a clapper-girl, an assistant, a 1AD, etc. When I look at the number of films you have produced in 2020 or that are in the making, I have the following question – is it a coincidence or have you have you been working like a lunatic during the past few years?

I have to say that I have been really working hard (laughing). Sometimes I have worked to the limits of a burnout. Yet, the fact that several films are produced on a tight schedule is partly due to the pandemic – for instance, the cinema distribution of On the Water has been already postponed three or four times. The comedy Estonian Funeral, where I am one of the producers, was filmed between the two waves of Covid last summer – the film is scheduled to be premiered in late summer 2021. Estonian Funeral is a film for wide audiences and produced with private support; it is based on the successful theatrical play of the same name, written by Andrus Kivirähk. In collaboration with the director Raimo Jõerand we made a documentary chronicle Year of the Pig – the film tells about the events in Estonia in 2019. It was also the opening film of DocPoint Tallinn 2021. Another documentary with Jõerand is also in the making – telling about the famous cartoonist Gori back in the times of the first Republic of Estonia. The documentary is produced in collaboration with A-Film, since the film includes some animation and we are animating some of the cartoons by Gori – which is again an exciting task! EF

A premiere becomes a success when you feel in the cinema hall that the film really matters to the audience … it is a feeling, a breathing, sometimes emotional tears in the viewers’ eyes, not necessarily any huge applause.

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

Photos by Karl Anders Vaikla

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

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

NEWS The Sleeping Beast is a new adventure film for the whole family.

Jaak Kilmi’s

The Sleeping Beast to Hit Screens This Year

Jaak Kilmi’s new family adventure film, The Sleeping Beast, was shot in the summer and autumn of 2020. The 95 minute film is a co-production between Estonia and Latvia. The main producer is Evelin Penttilä of Stellar Film and the co-producers are Roberts Vinovskis and Dominiks Jarmakovičs of Studija Locomotive. The film has a total budget of € 915,000. By Maria Ulfsak




ased on children’s author Aidi Vallik’s screenplay, the film tells the story of a circle of kids and their summer. Ten-year-old Kristjan’s gang defies danger and breaks the rules to keep their secret playground in the ruins of an old factory complex. One day, the complex guard has an accident. When the kids decide that it’s in the group’s best interest to keep the man

Director Jaak Kilmi (in the middle) working on the set.

The events of O2 take place in 1939.

hostage, Kristjan finds himself in a tough confrontation with his best friends. “I think The Sleeping Beast is about staying true to your conscience even in situations where others tell you to do something else,” producer Evelin Penttilä said. “This is an ethical conflict that we probably are all familiar with. As a producer, it’s been a while since I’ve been involved with all of the stages of a film, all the way from its development stages. So I feel proud to go into production on a film that carries a message so close to my heart. Together with our distributors from ACME Film, but both director Jaak Kilmi and I find it very important that children find the film, because the story is meant above all for them.” The COVID-19 pandemic postponed the shooting period a little but it affect-

ed the pre-production period the most. With help from crisis support from the Estonian Ministry of Culture, the production crew were able to solve the practical problems affecting the shooting process caused by corona and the summer shooting period went off without a hitch. The filmmakers had to search for children to play the leads twice – the first time was during the development and financing phase. But once the financing was in place, those kids had already grown up and they had to find new, younger actors to replace them. “We cast each character separately, keeping the group dynamic in mind the whole time in order to see how they worked together and what kind of synergy existed between them. And we have to be honest, we actually didn’t find the ideal group un-

til last spring – the boy, Nils, who plays the lead, moved to Estonia from Germany with his family last year. When we met him, all the other characters also fell into place,” says the producer. Evelin Penttilä is working on her second film with director Jaak Kilmi. “Our cooperation with Jaak has been very genuine and pleasant – I like his positive, life-affirming attitude as a director. I hope we have the opportunity to make more films together in the future.” The Sleeping Beast was shot by DOP Elen Lotman, the production designer was Getter Vahar, and the film stars Nils Jaagup England, Rebeka Kask, Laura Vahtre, Kimi Reiko Pilipenko, Andres Lepik, Una Marta Soms and others. The film was financed by the Estonian Film Institute, the Estonian Cultural Endowment, the Latvian Film Center and Creative Europe MEDIA. The local distributor is ACME Film and the premiere is planned for October 2021. EF ESTONIAN FILM








Debut feature Sandra Gets a Job directed by Kaupo Kruusiauk is a tragicomical film about job hunting and personal fulfilment. We will have a talk with Kaupo about the background of the film and about work culture in general. By Aurelia Aasa Photo by Viktor Koshkin


aupo, the protagonist Sandra in your feature is a woman of few words, she does not perceive the social code and does not belong to any particular group – shortly, she is a bit weird. When she loses her job, she will be extremely confused. How did such a character come to being?

impulses are somewhat resonating with chess. I have been familiar with chess since young age; people in that field do not differ from scientists that much. Playing chess includes frequent research and self-improvement. And just like Sandra, so can the chess community be sometimes strange.

It was my idea from the beginning to use a protagonist who would seem just like from another world in order to introduce extra nuances and to emphasize the story. The complicated character, coming from the universe of science, finds jumping to another field disturbing and the conflict grows deeper. When I started to write the screenplay, I had actress Mari Abel in mind immediately and I was really happy that Mari has come along with all ideas – since for actors this is definitely a hard nut to crack. It is always easier to follow the realistic approach. We knew each other before and mutual trust was certainly helping a lot.

How did you come up with the idea for the film?

Sandra is a scientist. You have no direct relationship with science. But you are quite a chess player yourself.

That’s true. And the protagonist’s basic

It rather came quite naturally to me – before the film school I worked in an office in another field, and I included elements from that era in the film. So I got the idea rather by chance – it seems to be an intriguing point of view in the process of job hunting. Similar films often use some kind of social approach, my purpose was to contemplate the diverse roles, identity and self-searching of an individual. I wanted the film to become a somewhat melancholy blend of the comical and the absurd. During the process on job hunting Sandra is struck by the worlds of corporative enterprises as well as the startuppers – thus jumping into the large part of today’s work envi-

ronment. Was the mapping of the contemporary work environment one of your missions?

It was definitely on my mind – although when I was writing the story, my idea was not to define various work environments but to reflect different situations in various professional fields so that the actor/ actress could practice diverse acting in various episodes not only from the psychological but also physical points of view. And yet, this is somehow an ironic view to work environment. The startuppers compete in holding a plank position in their offices; and the giant corporations play psychological cat and mouse games.

I hope that the comical element is present in this film. Perhaps I was inspired also by the feeling that there is so much faff in the world of employment – there are so many expressions and words that everyone is protecting their profession with. Thick walls of specialists are built, instead of trying to sum up everywith with a few words. And yet everyone is used to this situation, it is a social code. Sandra as a character reminds of an UFO who steps into the cliche-like situations. ESTONIAN FILM


Photo by Ken Mürk


What kind of preparations did you make for the film? Did you have conversations with those who had lost their jobs?

I spoke to people who had been job hunting for a long time. Perhaps the screenplay has even too much of job hunting in it, but I did not want a classical screenplay where the protagonist is unemployed looking for a job, and the next moment everything will be fine. The job hunt turns to a road movie where you start meeting various persons, one after another, but where collaboration never happens. Those who have been looking for a job for quite a some time confessed that it might be a long and complicated road. There are cases of public competition where the candidates have already picked out before the interviews are held. Despite the profession there are always a multiple stage competition. Finally one could ask whether the people really enjoy holding interviews and looking through presentations. We also did plenty of scientific study before filming. The laboratory where we are in the beginning of the film performs also scientific research in real life, also the dialogues in the film are science-centered. We listened to the scientific lectures with Mari Abel. Did you see any bitterness when talking to the people searching for a job?

Those whom I contacted had all finally found a job. I did not perceive bitterness but there was boredom. It must be taken



into consideration that we started with the project during the times of an economic boom. It seemed that everyone would get employed. In current situation, the film meets an unexpectedly positive feedback – not only because the economic cooldown but job hunting is a very current issue right now and the role of scientists are in the focal point. Even the state support to the field of science is being increased. I have the feeling that in the postCOVID world the film has acquired a new dimension. Besides the fact that science is becoming an increasingly important issue these days, many people have also lost their jobs and the work stuctures of many professions have transformed.

When the virus hit, we had almost finished the film. Now it falls into a somewhat fertile ground which provides the film extra opportunities. Many people have lost their jobs today. Perhaps the working models have also changed. However, in this film the focus is on the old forms of working and the film is mainly set in offices. Would you have approached differently as a director if the filming had coincided with the spread of COVID? Perhaps added some other ways of work?

That is difficult to say since every filmmaker shows scepticism towards the ex-

pectations that everything should reflect current issues. Another thing is that people chatting via computer screens is not the most exciting phenomenon from the cinematographic point of view. (Laughing.) Maybe I should have put some people wearing masks somewhere in the film. How has COVID-19 influenced your personal life?

It has had quite a strong impact, especially during its first period last spring. The situation made us to stay put at home, and even if in the beginning it seemed it would offer me so much time for writing then all of this time was totally lost in the family-related commitments. I cannot say the time has suppor­ ted creativity. Workaholics are the central characters in your film. How would you describe your relationship with work?

Filmmaker’s job is definitely not a nine to five one. Ideas are always with you, everywhere. During the spring lockdown I immediately started to search for a COVID-related documentary project to work on. I am not the best freelancer yet I cannot also stand the nine to five job. When I am actively generating new ideas then a bystander might have the feeling that I am doing nothing. After the brainstorming period I quickly write everything down. Filmmaking is often seen as a side job – something that should be made after hours. Unfortunately this is

Director Kaupo Kruusiauk and the cinematographer Sten-Johan Lill (below), actress Mari Abel as Sandra (on the right).

Photo by Ken Mürk


not the case – when you work full hours then you will be exhausted in the evenings and considering screenwriting as a side job won’t be a fruitful idea. Writing a screenplay is a demanding task, even if compared to other fields of work it may seem as something very simple. In your films you have touched a lot everyday subjects. Recently, a short documentary about grass premiered in Estonia. In your portrait documentaries, you have observed people’s daily life. Sandra Gets a Job is also a story taken from daily life. What does inspire you in everyday life?

There is rituality in daily life. I am not very practical-minded person myself and I enjoy looking these kind of people running around as a bystander. So I see that for many people such flow in daily reality matters a lot – it includes a moment of rituality. And at the same time, there is a somewhat comical and absurd element in all of that and I find it inspiring. I’d like to think about the importance of it – and it definitely is important to people. Sandra Gets a Job is your first feature film. You have been mostly working with documentaries until now.

During the process of directing a documentary it is important to observe, to flow with life. How did you apply your experience as a documentary filmmaker when working on a feature film?

In my opinion, making documentaries helps a lot a feature filmmaker as well. This is often left unnoticed and people think that filmmakers of different genres must remain in their field. Even during the film studies it was emphasized that the feature film is the beginning and the end. I discovered the world of documentaries full of surprises after my studies. Documentary film offers a chance to observe real characters – to find out what they think and do, how people try to look better, to hide or emphasize something. I think that my experience in the field of documentaries helps to create more natural characters also in feature films and I can choose better which elements to transfer from the real world to the feature film. It’s not that you take the script and start writing down the characters, one by one. Filmmakers often want to use the elements of feature films also in documentaries, but it is taught that feature films should follow their own strict rules. I believe that feature films can be playful.

Sandra (Mari Abel) has a PhD in physics and she has spent most of her life working in labs. As a typical workaholic, she has sacrified both her social relationships and private life for her work. Sandra’s world collapses after getting a sudden notice of dismissal. She must start looking for a new job. Shortly, the socially insecure woman is challenged by several job interviews while experiencing the worlds of both casually dressed startuppers as well as sexist corporations.

What I really liked about Sandra Gets a Job is that we were able to create our own world. It is up to every viewer how to relate to it. I consider it really important that every feature film would be unique and not repeating a certain standard pattern. A distinctive system could be perceived in a feature film – including the vision of the director as well as other visions. And I was stubborn with this feature – first, the project was not financially supported but I continued working on the screenplay because of the feeling that I simply had to carry on with it. EF ESTONIAN FILM



Docs MAKE A MARK Despite difficult times for the film industry, there’s brisk activity in the world of Estonian documentary film making. Films are being premiered online, and in the cinemas, new international projects and workshops are initiated. By Filipp Kruusvall


his year’s 12th Docpoint Tallinn International Documentary Film Festival presented no less than seven new Estonian documentaries. The festival took place in a hybrid format: the international program was show via an online platform, Estonian premieres were taking place simultaneously online and in the cinemas that had just been reopened. Like almost everywhere else in Europe, the cinemas in Tallinn had been closed down for December and January. However, the government decided to reopen them just four days before the start of the festival. Docpoint Tallinn reacted quickly and implemented a plan of action to premiere one new Estonian documen-



tary per day, in the cinema. Obviously, the number of attendees was limited due to safety, but it had the symbolic value of showing support for the Estonian filmmakers and screening venues during these tough times. BUNCH OF ESTONIAN PREMIERES

The festival opened with Raimo Jõerand’s current Year of the Pig that gave us an opportunity to take time out from the crazy 2020, and take a longer glance at the preceding year 2019 that was witness to Estonia’s fragmentation both politically and between generations. Raimo Jõerand and the cinematographer Rein Kotov tell a story of a nation and a state on the eve of the era of industrial

production, without over-explaining or taking sides. After the world premiere at the prestigious HotDocs festival in Toronto and winning the audience award at Bogota Film Festival, it was finally time for a domestic premiere of the Estonian-Colombian-Swedish co-production A Loss of Something Ever Felt. The film tells the story of an Estonian family whose life it turned upside down after a grown-up son goes missing in Bogota, Colombia, and his sister travels there to find her brother who has succumbed to drugs. Maria Aua’s debut Iron Thread is a film in the tradition of the poetic auteur documentary. Aua expertly weaves the construction of the new building for the Estonian Art Academy together with the historical strata of the old textile factory that used to be there. Iron Thread was premiered together with Ivar Murd’s short documentary Power that shows the industrial landscapes of North-East Estonia from a new angle.

Photo by Liis Reitalu

The ambience of DocPoint Tallinn 2021 online edition.

Another documentary that premiered at Docpoint was a portrait of the writer Mehis Heinsaar, by renowned cinematographer and director of nature documentaries Joosep Matjus. The Gardener of Tension Fields is a meditative journey through Estonian nature, following in Heinsaar’s steps. Joosep Matjus has beautifully managed to capture the magically realist world of the mystical writer.

The Ukrainian-Estonian co-production Tales of a Toy Horse introduces the artist Anatoli Ljutjuk, a Ukrainian living in Tallinn. He has given a religious vow to commit a good deed every day. When the war breaks out in Ukraine, he cannot remain impartial, and sets out on a mission to help people who have been caught in the warzone, and complete a book about the miracles that have taken place there. The editor of the film is Mirjam Jegorov from Estonia. She has also edited Maria Stonyte’s Gentle Warriors – a Lithuanian-Estonian co-production that premiered in Trieste. The Estonian Film Institute has consistently supported minor co-productions. Three of those were supported in 2019 and in 2020. Renato Borroya Serrano’s film Life of Ivanna found financial support at the end of last year. The Russian-Norwegian-Finnish-Estonian co-production was selected for the prestigious documentary workshop dok-incubator. The protagonist Ivanna is a young Nenets woman and a mother of five, living in the Russian Arctic. She decides to take her life in her own hands, break free from an abusive relationship and give up the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the people in the tundra. Life of Ivanna has already been selected by several renowned international festivals and the premiere will be revealed soon. When Docpoint Tallinn showcased full-length documentaries, eight new short docs from the Estonian Stories series were unleashed in January. Estonian Stories is a united project of the Estonian Film Institute, the Cultural

Endowment Fund and Estonian National Broadcast (ERR) who annually co-finance a series of 28-minute short documentaries that give an overview of the current themes and characters descriptive of today’s Estonia. THE PROJECTS FOR ICE AND FIRE DOCS HAVE BEEN CHOSEN

The Estonian-Finnish documentary workshop Ice and Fire Docs is beginning its Second season. A record 28 applications were sent to participate, exactly half from each country, Finland and Estonia. The competition was very strong this year, and it has to be said that intriguing times lie ahead in the documentary sector of both countries. Seven projects made it to the final line-up, three from Finland and four from Estonia. Ice and Fire Docs is creatively curated by the internationally acclaimed Danish coach Michael Opstrup. The second main tutor is Jesper Osmund, a wellknown editor and script consultant, who has participated in more than 100 documentaries. The workshop continues for a year and consists of three parts. The first two sessions focus on dramaturgy, visual storytelling and editing, the third one on marketing and distribution of the documentary projects. The first session of Ice and Fire Docs takes place in May. The first edition took place in 2019 with the participation of 8 projects. The program was brought to life by the Estonian Documentary Guild and Estonian Film Institute, and now it is being organized in close cooperation with the Finnish Documentary Guild and AVEK. EF

Concerning co-productions, Docpoint showed a Danish-Swedish-Estonian docu­mentary Meanwhile on Earth, directed by Carl Olsson. This darkly comical film talks about the everyday life of a funeral parlour, and the inevitable absurdities and paradoxes that occur in this necessary line of work that is predominantly perceived as something quite gloomy. The film premiered in Rotterdam and its composer Sten Sheripov is from Estonia.

Photo by Jaan Tootsen


Danish film editor and narrative consultant Jesper Osmund mesmerizes the participants of the Ice and Fire Docs workshop.




Rein Raamat


OF ESTONIAN ANIMATION Adventures of the Juku the Dog

April 30, 2021 marks the 90th anniversary of the first known Estonian animation film Adventures of Juku the Dog (1931) that was coincidentally discovered in the Central State Archive of the Russian SFSR fifty years after the film was made.

By Aurelia Aasa Photos Estonian Film Institute & Film Archive of the National Archives of Estonia




dventures of a dog with long ears, inspired by Disney’s Mickey Mouse. The authors – Voldemar Päts, Elmar Jaanimägi and Aleksander Teppor – created a landmark that can be called the beginning of Estonian animation. However, experiments in the field of animation were interrupted by the war and the post-war public order; it was years later when Elbert Tuganov, Heino Pars and Rein Raamat started to create the surrealistic animation tradition that made the Estonian animation famous around the world. 2020 marked Tuganov’s 100th and Pars’s 95th birth an-

Elbert Tuganov

Heino Pars

niversary. Rein Raamat who recently received the ASIFA Lifetime Achievement Award, will celebrate his 90thbirthday this March. The year of jubileums provides excellent grounds to look back at the creative work of the grand animation artists. FATHERS OF ESTONIAN ANIMATION – TUGANOV, PARS, RAAMAT

Let’s imagine Estonia in the 1950s, where the restrictions and principles of the Soviet Union have been applied. Nikita Khrushchev reigns over the Soviet Union. A 37-year-old Elbert Tuganov, comfortably far away from the doctrines of Moscow, works in Tallinn. Tuganov is an established personality, who has spent his early years in Berlin with his aunt, an actress; he has survived the sufferings of the war and worked for more than ten years in Tallinnfilm Studios, where he

has created both credit sequences and special effects. It is Tuganov who welcomes the friendly suggestion by his colleagues to start making animation films. In 1957, he establishes the department of animation at cinema studio Tallinnfilm, thus creating the basis for the tradition of Estonian puppet animation. A year after founding the department, Tuganov completes his first puppet animation Little Peter’s Dream (1958, artist Rein Raamat, camera assistant Heino Pars). This is the first collaboration between the future legends. During the first years, Tuganov and Pars worked side by side – Pars started as a cameraman and continued as a director. Director and animation historian Mait Laas has described Tuganov as the church-builder of Estonian art of film, and Pars as the priest who has stepped in the church of puppet animation. In total, Tuganov and Pars, the holy men of puppet animation, have directed more than 70 animation films. Rein Raamat, who has been an artist in many known Estonian feature films besides animation, arrived at the field of animation some years later in 1971; when he established the department of animated cartoon films that is today known as Eesti Joonisfilm Studio. During the few decades Raamat was the head of Joonisfilm, he directed 14 animated cartoons. The fruitful collabora-

tion between these three animators might have been thanks to the scarce competition in the field of that era, but who knows. At the same time, the authors’ contribution was even more remarkable in the days when animation was a novel genre in Estonia and everything had to be discovered through learning, experimenting and taking risks. Besides the technical complexity, the filmmakers had to learn how to hide messages between the lines, while not paying with the price of their liberty. Even if the films were successful in the international arena, only a few directors could get out from behind the Iron Curtain and enjoy the outside world – perhaps this influenced the directors even more on a personal level. FINNO-UGRIC MYTHOLOGISTS

It comes as no surprise that back then the Finno-Ugric heritage provided inspiration for filmmakers. Everyone discovered their own sources of expression, whether it be a love of nature, an ironic attitude towards a foreign power, or seemingly coincidental symbols. Heino Pars was a typical believer in nature for whom the essence of being an Estonian was encapsulated in the buzzing of bees, folk wisdom, digging in the field or picking mushrooms in the forest. They say that Pars used to sit on the top ESTONIAN FILM


ANIMATION FROM LEFT: Hell, Operator Kõps, Tyll the Giant and The Park.

of an apple tree for hours as a child, later in life he became a beekeeper. Becoming also the founder of Estonian animation film of popular science, Pars created the character – cameraman Kõps, interested in science and nature – who can be considered Pars’ alter ego, leading us through the realms of rocks, mushrooms and berries. Heino Pars, who among many diverse events in his life had also worked in the nail factory at a Russian prison camp, has taken a few experimental roads with his films, such as The Nail I and The Nail II. Despite a few exceptions, the target audience for Pars’ films was children – and the filmmaker always gave his best to forward the positive world view with the rich hint of nature philosophy. Elbert Tuganov, however, was an innovative, satirical filmmaker. Unlike Pars and Raamat, Tuganov’s director’s career was rather hectic – he was inspired by the Soviet space ideology (Ott in Space), science (Atom-Boy), dark fairytales (Northern Frog, Forest Tale) or criticism towards capitalism (An Almost Unbelievable Story). Today’s audiences probably relate best to his animations The Park, Pedestrians and Drivers that are all critical towards urban space. While watching the bald heads arguing about the urban planning in The Park, it is interesting that the satire once addressed to the former bureaucrats of the Soviet



Union is still sharply relevant today. Tuganov’s Finno-Ugric mentality seems to be hidden in a warmly humorous approach, trying to analyze and define everything in the surroundings. Rein Raamat, the founder of Joonisfilm, added a darker shade to the Estonian mythology. His heroic tale Tyll the Giant (artist Jüri Arrak), with its ghostly soundtrack, gets to the essence of the Drivers

central heroes – those phlegmatic and heavily built peasants – in Estonian mythology. The animated cartoon Hell inspired by artist Eduard Viiralt’s feverish nights in Paris, reflecting the hidden side of being a human being and proliferation of nocturnal desires that must have been especially restrained during the Soviet era. Rein Raamat realized from the start that animated cartoons should be addressed to adults. Since animated cartoons were called multifilms back then, then even the adult cartoons were brought to children’s audiences. Quite a few people today, who were once children in front of TV screens during the Soviet era, still

“We cultiva­ted the ground for the new field of art; out input was to create the rich soil in order the following generations would harvest the truly rich crop some day!” complain of having a childhood trauma from watching the cartoons directed by Rein Raamat. A more conscious viewer could probably have discovered the aspect of satire, not to speak about the yearning for human freedom, in the film. As for Rein Raamat it must be also noted that through the collaboration combining various disciplines, his artwork not only preserves the spirit of the artist himself but also the mentality of the former cultural avant-garde in general. Besides collabo-

rating with writers, composers and artists, Raamat included also acknowledged animation directors in his creative team, such as Janno Põldma, Heiki Ernits, Priit Pärn and Avo Paistik. THE GREAT MASTERS’ HERITAGE

The extensive contribution of the great animation masters can be summed up in the quote from Heino Pars: “We cultiva­ ted the ground for the new field of art; out input was to create the rich soil in or-

der the following generations would harvest the truly rich crop some day!” Today, several generations have succeeded in the field – Estonian animation is well known on an international level, whether it be the free line by Priit Pärn; the surrealistic approach of Estonian animation or the successful franchising of the children’s animation sequel of Lotte. Despite the fact that the grand old masters have received numerous awards and participated in the retrospectives of prestigious festivals, the top films of the founders of Estonian animation are viewed rather rarely. Which is understandable, as the peak of their creative achievements occurred behind the Iron Curtain; for today’s bystanders it is much more complicated to get acquainted with the films of that era. While searching for the roots of today’s Estonian animation, it is worthwhile getting to know the artwork by the former generations of animation filmmakers. Ethically and technically, animation might have developed in another direction; however, it is still a fertile ground of hidden symbols, experiments and self-discoveries. Perhaps today’s hectic field of animation, full of new challenges, can be compared to the one that was witnessed by the former founders in the field. Back then, censorship was the great issue. Today, we can talk about the cultural standardization and cultural imitation. Animators of former generations carved out their own way through unknown obstacles. Today’s filmmakers try to manage in home offices or studios while also striving for their own, unique language in the field. May the grand old masters be a good example with their courage to take risks, to be selfish and willing to take action in order to win all the battles on their creative path. EF Ott in Space

Little Peter’s Dream





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

ESTONIAN FILM INSTITUTE PROGRAMMES FOR FILM PRODUCTION MAJORITY CO-PRODUCTION • Financing for an Estonian co-produ­ cer the maximum subsidy is € 800,000 • Subsidy of up to 70% of the budget • 50% of the subsidy must be spent in Estonia • Two application deadlines: April 27 and November 30, 2021 MINORITY CO-PRODUCTION Budget 2021: € 600,000 • For producers from all over the world. Participation of an Estonian co-producer is necessary. Bilateral treaty not necessary • Maximum subsidy for an Estonian co-producer: feature film and feature animation € 200,000; documentary € 60,000 • Subsidy of up to 70% of the Estonian part of the budget • 100% of the subsidy must be spent in Estonia • Estonian creative and production related participation in a project should meet the requirements of minority co-production grading table • Two application deadlines: January 12 and September 14, 2021 • Decision in 40 days



FILM ESTONIA CASH REBATE Film Estonia cash rebate is a production incentive supporting the incoming production of feature films, feature documentaries, animation films, animation series, high-end TV-drama and the post-production of all previously mentioned works. An application can be made for international production service or co-production to receive a cash rebate up to 30% on eligible production costs. • Support intensity - 20%-30% of eligible costs • Deadlines - open call • Applicant - company registered in Estonia • Recipient - foreign company • Decision – in 30 days • Auditing and payment – in 40 days The scheme is open for: • feature films with a budget of at least € 1 million; minimum local spend € 200,000

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


Melchior the Apothecary

Shooting of Erna at War Photo by Andres Teiss

Photo by Karl-Andres Vaikla


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

• •

Budget 2021: € 120 000 Support intensity: up to 20% Objective: production of an audiovisual work in Tartu and Tartu County Support for the production of feature films, animations, tv-series, documentaries, short films Involvement of an Estonian production company is necessary No deadlines

Recently supported films: Omerta 6/12 (FI/EE), Erna at War (EE/DK/BE /EE), Dawn of War (EE/FI/LV/LT), The Beauty of Being (EE), Where the Heart Is (EE), The Wind Sculpted Land (EE) CONTACT: Kristiina Reidolv VIRU FILM FUND Type of fund: regional, incentive / cash rebate • Budget 2021: € 200 000 • Support intensity: up to 40% • Objective: production of an audiovisual work in the Eastern region of Estonia. • Support for the production of feature films, documentaries, tv-series, music videos • No deadlines, applications are accepted from February 10 to October 31 Recently supported films: Eternal Road (FI/SE/EE), Mihkel (IS/NO/EE), Mother (EE) CONTACT: Piia Tamm




FILM FUND OF ESTONIAN ISLANDS Type of fund: regional, incentive / cash rebate • Budget 2021: € 10 000 • Support intensity: According to the project • Objective: production of an audiovisual work on the island of Saaremaa • Support for the production of feature films, animations, tv-series, documentaries, short films and film education • Participation of an Estonian production company is necessary • No deadlines Previously supported films: Melchior the Apothecary (EE/ LV/ DE) CONTACT: Saaremaa Development Centre +372 452 0570 / film-fund-estonian-islands

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

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

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

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



Year Living Innovatively

The of

When the 17-day-long festival rollercoaster reached its destination at the end of November 2020, it was clear that it had been a ride to remember. The fact that the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, aka PÖFF, succeeded in holding a hybrid film festival with international guests amidst a pandemic, keeping everyone safe and building up a new online environment with an even smaller budget than usual, felt like a miracle itself. By PÖFF


ven if the physical, collective experience in cinema halls and screening rooms remains the main aspiration of Black Nights Film Festival in the future, it was clear from very early on for the team that this would not be the reality in 2020,” said festival director Tiina Lokk on the decision to organise the festival in a hybrid format. This essentially meant organising two events, as there were over 600 screenings in cinemas all over Estonia (Tallinn, Tartu, Kohtla-Järve, Narva and Jõhvi), while a new online environment was developed in cooperation with Shift72 and Elisa. This also meant translating the physical festival experience to online: meeting the filmmakers and festival team members via video interviews, talking to all the filmmakers via video chat (service by Vialog), introducing most of the film



screenings, both in cinemas and online, with an introductory Q&A with filmmakers before films. Having seen steady growth in international guest attendance and audiences over the last years (80 000 in 2018, and 90 000 in 2019), Black Nights had the difficult task of fulfilling the expectations of various groups: the industry, the audience, and the press. In the context of many A-class film festivals cancelling their editions throughout 2020 or not holding any competition programmes, it was a challenge to deliver a high-quality programme, present new talent, draw international attention to competitions, bring filmmakers to Tallinn during a pandemic and enable an exchange between the audiences and filmmakers. Surprisingly enough, the festival had a record number of world and international premieres (accordingly 38 and 32) in its var-

ious sections, and also a very successful German focus. Due to film rights, geo-blocking, screening period (2-5 days per film) and audience limitations per screening had to be applied to the films screened to regular audiences in Estonia, while most of the films in the four competition programmes were available to professionals and press all over the world. The 290 online screenings for professionals with global access made 9800 viewings from all of the continents, including Europe, Asia, North and Latin America, Australia and even New Zealand. Generating over a hundred reviews in the international press, the programme was received extremely well by critics and the industry with a record number of deals announced already during the festival. Many films from previous year’s Competition programmes have entered the award circuit of festivals - nominated and awarded by Goya, BAFTA, German film Awards, etc. presented as national Oscar entries or nominated for the European Film Award. The festival worked hand in hand with the German Film Institute, Rosskino in Russia, I AGICI in Italy and European Film Promotion introducing up and coming young talents from various programmes to the world. Tiina Lokk summed up the year: “We are so happy having pulled it off, as the

Photo by Aron Urb

After acquiring accreditation to Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event, the guests had seamless and automatic access to interactive events in the newly made virtual environment. The events were streamed live and had two levels of interactivity - video for the speakers and workshop participants, and live chat for the viewers.

Photo by Aron Urb

The opening ceremony of the festival.

Unique festival experience during the pandemic - various safety measures were put in place for everyone to feel protected.

second wave of the pandemic hit Estonia the week after our festival took place, closing borders and cinema halls once again. The fact that we were able to maintain the accredited guests’ number at 1600 and grow the total attendance to over 102 000, both with the help of going digital, for a country of 1.3 million inhabitants, in a year like this, we feel incredibly thankful that we had the chance to create a true film festival while there were so many of them postponed. What we suffered in the loss of revenue, we made up in terms of global visibility – reaching completely new people by going virtual,” This is highlighted by the fact that the festival’s potential global

media audience rose to 9.1 billion, with mentions in over 6500 varied coverage in 71 countries. ONLINE INDUSTRY EVENT

While PÖFF was organised as a hybrid event, Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event decided to bring the whole programme online with a specially designed platform introducing 62 events altogether, including film and drama series project presentations, panels, workshops, master classes and forums. It was a conscious decision, as the team was keen on organising an event that could be inclusive rather than exclusive. A decision that proved to be right as the events attracted

over 35 000 virtual attendances, with 900 accreditations – a significant increase on last year. In addition to enlarging the geographical area of the guests, it also gave them the possibility to make business, network and learn while staying safe at home. Featured projects and featured participants had dedicated pages with detailed information and pitch videos. Events, projects and featured professionals are to this day accessible for accredited guests. While taking up a new challenge, no compromise was made in terms of quality. The statistics can be one indication of this as the projects presented had over 700 meetings with co-producers, sales agents, distributors and festival programmers, resulting in new collaborations to be seen on screen - big or small in the near future. Projects by companies like Unafilm, Zentropa, Filmbyen, Arizona Films, Paradox House or Achtungpanda won’t take long to be completed and presented to the audiences. This brings us to the next burning topic - COVID or not, the most pressing aspects always remain the project packaging, presentation and distribution to the audiences. Guided through these rocky roads, sessions by pitching mentor Bonnie Williams, packaging and distribution guru Deborah Rowland or sales agent Tine Klint were the most attended ESTONIAN FILM



Photo by Liis Reiman

and praised. The European Film Forum Tallinn added insight into the distribution and future of film festivals and markets with Vanja Kaludercic, Ewa Puszczynska, Todd Brown, Ben Johnson among others. Tackling the drama series production, TV Beats Forum’s presentations and discussion panels included more than 40 speakers from the US and EuBest director award winner Nisan Dag with Oktay rope, among them Filippa WallÇubuk, the lead actor in her film When I’m Done Dying. estam from Viaplay, Madeline di Nonna from the Geena Davis Certainly, the business still greatly Institute, the creator of Deutschland 83 relies on personal contacts but judging Jörg Winger, TV4 Media head of scripted from the feedback of 2020 Industry media for the Nordics and Baltics Piodor guests, the online event was nevertheless Gustafsson. Discussions were held about a success. The development of the online the production and co-production during platform will continue in 2021 making it a the COVID-19 era, gender equality in the unique gateway to the information space drama series production, or how to talk to of various fields of the film industry and global streamers. Case studies and 12 of creative industries, combining different the newest drama series from the region databases and creating a new, year-round were presented, giving updates of what’s market environment for films, talents, coming next in 2021. projects, locations, hotels and more. In 2020, Creative Gate launched a So what’s the outcome? One of the new activity called Black Room which is most inspiring and reassuring proposals Industry@Tallinn’s training programme was worded at the end of our week-long that explores the visual language of cinesessions: Stay connected and support ma and each year focuses on a new skill each other, as we’re in it together! set within the Art Department. One week of master classes and workshops by EYES ON THE FUTURE world-renowned professionals took place In 2021 Black Nights Film Festival is celeonline. The program started with three brating an anniversary – the 25th edition. outstanding mentors - Jacqueline AbraTiina Lokk gave some foresight on the hams (The Lobster), Maria Djurkovic (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Simon next developments: “We have several ideWeisse who came to teach straight from as on how to make this year’s event memthe shooting of Matrix 4 and is the masorable. As we have always emphasized ter of miniature models for cinema, sharing knowledge and nurturing talent, which have created the worlds of Wes there will be a major new development anAnderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel for exnounced this spring that will mark a giant ample. Music Meets Film, Creative Gate’s leap in our film education strands. The film scoring series, reached a highlight newly created online environment will with composer Danny Elfman’s (Edward make it possible to soon launch the Black Scissorhands) workshop. Nights Film Academy for young film pro-



Photo by Kaie Kiil

Photo by Karoliina Kreintaal

Bog trips and winter swimming mornings - definitely the unusual collective activities during this festival that came here to stay, and were loved by the guests.

fessionals from all over the world. Furthermore, to build up online Creative Gate - a year-round film, project and talent market, a gateway to the Estonian Film Industry and designed for the Creative and Service Industry professionals who are interested in shooting in Estonia.” In addition to this, 2021 will mark a leap in nurturing its future audience. “Educating and nurturing a young audience has been one of the main intentions of the festival over the years,” says Mikk Granström, the head of Just Film, the Youth and Children’s strand of PÖFF. “Starting this year, PÖFF, in cooperation with the Baltic Film and Media School, will launch an online learning platform, where courses, designed by the festival, will be offered to general education schools, meaning all schools will be able to open a film study course as an optional subject,” he added. Just Film has also decided to set up a Scholarship Competition for high school students up to 12th grade, to encourage filmmaking and participate at a major film festival – the films of the scholarship recipients will have the opportunity to be screened at the Just Film Youth and Children Film Festival. They will also be invited to take part in lectures, workshops or other events that are part of the programmes of Black Nights and Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event. While looking into the future with optimism, the festival team is also planning to celebrate the anniversary by leaving a trace on the urban fabric of the city of Tallinn. “While moving towards the future, we should not forget our roots,” says Tiina Lokk. EF


On the Big Screen

Estonian Man’s Burden Estonian man has been the butt of many jokes. No wonder, because he’s quite a comical character from certain angles. Have you heard the old joke about an Estonian who loved his wife so much that he almost told her?


ccording to natural laws, incontestable forces beyond our control, every brighteyed, sensitive and lovely boy is likely bound to become a sighing grown-up male individual on a couch, with ugly pants and few words, whose burden is only slightly lifted in the blissful zone between the third and fifth beers, where said individual can end up with a lower or higher frequency, depending on the exis-



Ink Big! The critics have done their job

tential arrangement. The circle of life. In his debut feature Rain, Janno Jürgens (who has dedicated the film to his brothers) has concentrated on this glum and joyless circle handed down from generation to generation, and its pattern of complete inability to express your feelings. The only familial ties are solidarity born out of mutual sufferings at best, or time spent together consuming unhealthy food products prepared by the female

counterpart of the family, at worst. Discomfort, unspoken problems, loneliness amongst the crowd. Jürgens explores this model by example of a rather typical Estonian small-town family and tries to figure out how it works and why it is passed on. There are three men in the middle of the story – elderly and gray Kalju (Rein Oja), Rain (Indrek Ojari), a man in his late thirties, and Ats (Marcus Borkmann) in his early teens. They all represent different generations, and different periods in time. The title seems to imply that Rain is seen as the protagonist, but as the worn-down prodigal son returning home to his parents’ house, he is mostly a catalyst, the initiator of events. Jürgens’ story (co-written

with Anti Naulainen) is told through the innocent child’s eyes of Ats. Rain looks at the dynamics of relations between three men, but there are women in the background, trying to work out the men. Kalju still loves his spouse (Laine Mägi) who is in turn seduced by a rogue ethnic dance enthusiast Uuno (Ivo Uukkivi). Rain falls for a Slavic beauty Alexandra (Magdalena Poplawska) with a sketchy background, and Ats is simultaneously drawn to his friend’s sister’s perky tits and the mysterious red-headed girl next door. Jürgens has opted for a contemplative, reserved and suggestive narrative style. The scenes are not filled with talk or stuffed with unnecessary dialogue. It has often familiar, sometimes comical and partly even tragic overtones, carried by exchanges like: “Tell me” / “Say you what” / “What happened” / “Nothing”, etc. The director’s primary intention is not to make you understand everything right away, but to make you feel for the characters and think along with them. The key is

Indrek Ojari received the Best Actor’s Award from the Cultural Endowment of Estonia for his work in Rain.

in the minor details: the direction of the gaze, shiver of cobwebs, a slightly greedy gulp from a beer glass. This sort of storytelling technique really benefits from the support of strong cinematography (again a masterful job by DoP Erik Põllumaa), and even more so, from the actors. First, you have to make the absolute correct choices already in casting, and second, the actors have to feel natural on the screen. When the dialogue is sparse, everything else comes in play, but the camera mercilessly amplifies every eye roll, fake hand gesture or slammed door. Mannerisms and exaggeration kill all beauty, but give it too little, and the story remains untold. Jürgens has done good work with the actors, besides the main roles, praise should be reserved for Meelis Rämmeld for a strong supporting role. Rain’s time period is intentionally left open. Ancient tape recorders and reel-to-reel decks co-exist with some fairly modern details. In any case, it is all part of the succumbed atmosphere of a small town by the sea, without metrosexuality, vegans or smartphone addiction. Jürgens has cleaned his world of all of that. All that we are left with is the feeling of childhood coming to an end. Joyful, careless games are starting to get affected by the anxious pre-knowledge of all these scary, forbidden, “adult” things that lie ahead. Some scenes expose an homage to one of the most important Estonian cinematic texts about alienation, Veiko Õunpuu’s Autumn Ball. Clearly an influence on Rain in many respects, including the visual similarity between Õunpuu’s Lasnamäe and Jürgens’ Sillamäe. Both of them constructed their own fictional time-space in their debut features, juxtaposing details from different decades. Parallels can also be seen in the retro-tinged soundtracks of both films. Ats’ narrative arc – starting with the opening shots of him and his friends diving in a harbour on a hot summer day and finishing with him ending up in the same location

under quite a different set of circumstances – is an example of a classically envisaged coming-ofage story. Sadly, father Kalju’s character is sort of left to hang. As he is one of the key figures in the story, you would want more information about him to fully understand the reasons why his relationship with Rain is so tense. On the other hand, the silent, introvert father figure is always an enigma, and probably the authors have decidedly allowed him to be that. Music – diegetic, as well as non-diegetic – is a bit too frequent for my personal taste. Rain’s overall subdued style could have been more powerful entirely without the support of any music in some scenes. That would also give more prominence to the tracks and themes that really matter in the film. But enough said. Jürgens’ film is a success, no doubt about that. Now there’s only hope that all these talented debuts of recent years will be swiftly followed by the second and third films, allowing them to develop and find their voice. EF

Rain By Maria Ulfsak First published in Eesti Ekspress




On the Big Screen

What A Actually Happens? What actually happens? This question has bothered many. True, we can see bits and pieces with our own eyes, but beyond the field of vision there are some dark forces at work that remain out of reach. 36


lthough today’s society thrives towards “transparency”, it is clear however that more and more important things are happening covertly, hidden from us; many of those can’t be seen with the common eye and others are concealed because they couldn’t be taking place otherwise. Remaining invisible is often a crucial element of the event – and sometimes the essential part of it, because in a visible form it wouldn’t be the same even any longer. If we were able to see the Earth’s atmosphere heating up, contaminants permeating our air, water and food, the sixth wave of extinction and the destruction of our living environment on every level, we would be left with only two

The Last Ones By Hasso Krull First published in Teater. Muusika. Kino

options: put a rope around your neck right this minute, or try to do something about the destruction, whatever it takes. Except we don’t see it. We cannot see the last events that our civilization has become so tangled in. Veiko Õunpuu’s films have always portrayed the invisible events. In an elementary way, it is already happening in Empty (2006). The film is taking place in the Seventies, in a strangely barren past. The love affair of the characters is farcical and inconsequential, everything important seems to be taking place somewhere else, but we are not shown where. Autumn Ball (2007) takes the meaningless mess of relations and the erotic hodgepodge to the extreme. Different points of vision stress the fact that people living side by side only touch each other very fleetingly. Something is constantly happening, but no-one has an overview of the events; isolated episodes are parts of the bigger picture that eludes us, because it’s never fully present. The Temptation of St Tony (2009) is entirely allegorical already, events seeming incoherent and random. On the other hand, some other level of events happening inside the action is strongly

Pääru Oja, who plays the main protagonist in The Last Ones, was one of the European Shooting Stars in 2020.

Ink Big! The critics have done their job

hinted at. It is an immanent allegory where hidden meaning cannot be projected to the other side. Free Range (2013) might be Õunpuu’s most problematic film, because it attempts to conceal the allegorical content itself, reducing the events to the blandest possible realism, out of which only one question springs up in the end: what really happened here? Roukli (2015), on the other hand, is a real masterpiece where the metaphoric and the metonymic levels interact surprisingly well: allegory connects exactly with the film’s diegetic universe, some of the most memorable frames (like feet in rags moving along the gravel road, or a grass snake escaping through moss) fit seamlessly into the fictional set-up that has been thrust upon the characters. How does The Last Ones fit into the pattern? Do we detect a certain shift, changing the emphasis, and recalibrating the focus, moving it further from the set path? In a way, indeed. We might say that The Last Ones suddenly reveals things that Õunpuu hasn’t shown in any of his films yet. Realistic drama takes place in a seemingly marginal environment, exposing crass power relations, rigid hierarchies of a deceptively democratic society. The ESTONIAN FILM



text of Heikki Huttu-Hiltunen and Eero Tammi has a part in it, because it seems to concentrate on this exact power play. The main characteristic of power is that the relevant part of it is always concealed, as Michael Foucault said, and it has not changed for the better today, on the contrary. The manifestation of power is personified here by Kari (Tommi Korpela), who is a cunning scammer and manipulator: he is able to convince the miners to carry on working in an empty and deadly dangerous mine, sends away Rupi (Pääru Oja) and Lievonen (Elmer Bäck) to get his hands on the coveted woman (Laura Birn), and sells the mine to the Chinese behind everyone else’s back, luring people in with a promise of good jobs that he has no intention of honouring. Kari also has a hand in the legal matters. He informs the police that they should search Rupi’s and Lievonen’s car because that should contain amphetamine, and he manages to annex the land of Sami chief Oula (illegally, of course). Regardless of all that, the viewer is left with a feeling that Kari is just small fry, and the course of events is not really dependent on him at all. A scammer is found where one is needed, and chaos is called forth when necessary. Hence, the most important events are happening somewhere else, we only see the consequences of the abuse of power. But we see them in their full glory. The events



are chaotic, straggly and oppressive. Many different worldviews intertwine, mostly pathetic and limited, but still violently conflicting. Almost all the characters are, in a way, antiheroes, except for chief Oula (Sulevi Peltola), who refuses to give up his land and the few remaining reindeer until the end. Peltola is one of Õunpuu’s favourites: he had a part to play in Autumn Ball and The Temptation of St Tony, but in The Last Ones he can finally play the only true hero. Oula’s moral superiority over the hassle around him is startling, almost like a slap in the face. He has decided to stay, and he doesn’t need to be familiar with the inner workings of how power is abused, because he sees right through it. Oula’s son Tatu (Samuli Edelmann) has also remained faithful to him, and the two of them are the most crucial witnesses of those last events. Tatu approaches Kari like you approach a charlatan – with an iron pipe and no interest in his important papers. All this begs the question: is The Last Ones a step away from Õunpuu’s accustomed focus? Or is another immanent allegory applied here, hinting at a second or even third level inside the events, that actually carry the film as a hardly detectable but powerful current? Let’s think for a moment about the dark mining shafts underground, where you move around knee-deep in water, headlamp illuminating the dark walls, giving off a

Actress Laura Birn was nominated for Jussi Award for her work in The Last Ones.

blueish light, then to the mighty tundra, snowy hilltops and a solitary tepee in the middle of the vast emptiness. A miners village comprised of camper trailers, Lievonen sitting on the roof and sipping beer from a can; roaring sounds and a drunk man appears, carrying the head of a reindeer in one hand and a half-empty vodka bottle in another. Then a foggy bar, music blaring, women trying to scream over each other, and the evening live performance, where Kinnunen (Indrek Spungin) who has been hurt in the cave-in, is singing John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero”, accompanied by a monotonous guitar. In the last third of the film, the landscapes become ever more important, people shrink smaller and smaller, and some spell takes hold, an ethereal majesty and the inaccessibility of the cloudy horizon. This is emphasized by the Chthonic pressure, an underground magic that the viewer is familiar with from the first half of the film. The camera has gradually moved more above sea level, the views are increasingly wider, but the people are not left with many paths to continue their journey. So, Õunpuu has not abandoned his previous course. He still wants to show the invisible event, but the character of it is naturally shifting in time. The Temptation of St Tony was an allegory about Estonia in the 90s; Roukli spoke about the pre-emptive war of the 21st Century, that creates its own cause; The Last Ones is obviously a story about the demise of industrial civilization: The demise caused by its own senseless intensity, because it’s impossible to change course and even if someone tried to do it, he would be stomped down like a solitary figure trying to stand still in the midst of a crowd fleeing in panic. The film’s title therefore has a maddeningly multiple meaning: the last miners, the last mining shafts, the last reindeer herders, the last reindeer, the last fugitives. And the last events, followed by something that nobody rushes to see. Something we are still trying to postpone indefinitely. EF




Madness The Grandfather of Estonian Arthouse Cinema

Madness is considered the first truly outstanding and modernist film in Estonian film history. There are numerous legends around its production and film critics have consistently agreed on the film’s high level of artistic achievement for the last fifty years. By Johannes Lõhmus Photos by Estonian Film Institute & Film Archive of the National Archives of Estonia


t happened in a small town. The German occupiers had already managed to exterminate all the Jews, Marxists, Gypsies and Partisans. Now, it was time to go after the mentally ill…” These ominous words open director Kaljo Kiisk’s fifth feature film, Madness. A film that emerges both in Estonian film history and in the director’s filmography as the first work made in a truly modernist spirit. In addition to the symbolic language of the film, and the great work by the actors, the number of legends floating around about the film’s production and

distribution processes is subject enough for a film of its own – one full of bureaucratic spite, romantically artistic ambition, grandiose and international ideas, and the iron fist of censorship. This is an exceptional work in every sense, made during an exceptional era – the film shoot was coming to an end in the summer of 1968 right when troops entered Czechoslovakia to silence the Prague Spring. The action takes place in a mental hospital where a fascist army walks in through the gates with only one goal in mind – to destroy everyone who gets in the way of the regime. Gestapo officer Win-

disch (Jüri Järvet) arrives at the hospital at the same time as the troops and puts a stop to this monstrous task with his own assignment to expose British secret agents hiding within the hospital walls. The plot prepares the viewer for an exciting game of cat and mouse, turning into a psychological challenge that questions everything taking place and forcing the audience to become intensely involved in everything happening in the film. And, thus, the Soviet cultural authorities’ main criticism of Kiisk’s film was its ambiguity. It was a spiritual provocation that could in no way find offiESTONIAN FILM


CLASSICS KALJO KIISK: “I had two films banned – Traces and Madness – and we weren’t allowed to show either of them anywhere in the Soviet Union. This situation created its own rules where your imagination was constantly tethered to some kind of limitations. As soon as you started to move in one direction with your thoughts, you were told to turn somewhere else. Your soul and your mind have to be in sync when you are making art – they have to move dynamically and down the same path. But that kind of thinking was impossible at the time and there was nothing you could do about it. I’ve travelled to Argentina and around Europe with Madness and it was well received, even though it’s a relatively old film. But it would have had a completely different effect in its own time because the film is connected to the time and era when it was made.” Koppel, A. (2005). The Unusual Life of Kaljo Kiisk. [Interview]. Teater. Muusika. Kino, no. 12, pg. 121-128.

cial approval and which had remained an almost unattainable achievement for Soviet Estonian film art up until then. THE BIRTH OF MADNESS

The film is a modern European co-production that brought together Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians and Russians, but which had a difficult history from its very inception. The screenplay was written by Latvian Viktors Lorencs and it reached Kaljo Kiisk due to the resolute rejection of the screenplay by Riga Film Studio, who found it better not to get involved in making this “moonstruck” story of a madhouse in some unnamed, occupied European country. Kiisk quickly agreed to make the film but the abstract script needed to be rewritten to be more precise, and the detective had to become a fascist, which delineated the time frame for the sto-



ry and helped “get by” local authorities.1 Thus, they hoped to minimize the ambiguity but retain the artistic generalization and mystery written into the script. The film stars graduates of the legendary Lithuanian Panevežys Theater, Vaclovas Bledis and Bronis Babkauskas, and there is a small part for Lithuanian theatre legend Juozas Miltinis as well as Valeri Nossik from Moscow and Viktor Pljut and Harijs Liepinš from Riga. And, of course, Jüri Järvet from Tallinn, who went straight from playing Windisch in Madness to starring in Grigori Kozintsev’s film version of King Lear (1970). That was the beginning of Jüri Järvet’s international fame, which soon found him embodying Doctor Snaut in Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972). It’s possible that if Madness hadn’t been banned outside of Soviet Estonia, his name might rank among the aforementioned legends. Kiisk has

1 Viktor Mathiesen, “Eestlased tulevad! Ehk hullumeelsus Gnezdnikovi põiktänavas” / “The Estonians are Coming! Madness Across from Gnezdnikov Street”, Teater. Muusika. Kino, no. 3, 1993. 2 Reet Neimar, “Saatusest määratud? Juhusest juhitud? Üks kild Jüri Järveti elutööst.” / “Determined by Fate? Randomly Driven? A Fragment of the Work of Jüri Järvet”, Teater. Muusika. Kino, no. 1, 1996 3 Boris Tuch, “”Hullumeelsuse” võttegrupp tegi talle kingituse, millele oli graveeritud “Hullule hullumeelsetelt”” / The Crew of “Madness” Gave Him a Present Engraved with “To A Mad Man, Madly”, Teater. Muusika. Kino, no. 3, 2019.

To prepare for the shoot, Kiisk did several months of prep work in psychiatric hospitals in Estonia and Latvia.

said that he wanted to work with international actors not only for their talent but also to test how the temperaments of their different nationalities would relate to their personal experiences as members of societies under totalitarian rule.2 Minsk attempted to prevent Russian cinematographer Anatoli Zabolotsky, who was working in a film studio there, from joining the film crew. He was a man who said yes to Kiisk only three days after receiving the screenplay. But since he was a valued professional, the Minsk authorities weren’t keen on letting their guy go make a film with Estonians.3 The Estonians were very lucky to have Zabolotsky involved in the film because his collaboration with the director was flawless, and those who talk

about the film always emphasize the outstanding symbiosis of the work of the cinematographer, director and production designer Halja Klaar. The visual world they created on various physical surfaces (mirrored tables, mirrored cabinets, mirrors) hints at the internal contradictions of the characters and helps create an atmosphere where the protagonist starts to see himself more and more in his suspects, finally falling prey to the mad processes he himself started and ending up mentally ill himself. To prepare for the shoot, Kiisk did several months of prep work in psychiatric hospitals in Estonia and Latvia. He later visited the same hospitals with the film’s actors and claimed that “you could still hear the silence that reigned

Gestapo officer Windisch (Jüri Järvet) trying to delve into the psyche of the Editor (Valeri Nossik), one of the madmen of the psychiatric ward.

in the buses as they drove back – I remember the state we were in as we rode back… After the prep period, the actors brought a lot to the set with them, it was like fireworks on set”.4 They made a request to Moscow for the opportunity to watch some films, not available in Soviet cinemas, with the film crew to prepare for the shoot. The list included films like Franju’s Head Against the Wall (La tête contre les murs, 1959), Welles’s The Trial (1962), Bergman’s The Silence (Tystnaden, 1963), Buñuel’s Viridiana (1961), Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Il vangelo secondo Matteo, 1964), and Kra­ mer’s Ship of Fools (1965).5 Some members of the artistic council of Tallinnfilm worked against the film from the beginning, with the later President of Estonia, Lennart Meri, at the forefront of the opposition. Meri wrote to Moscow about the film and made strong recommendations in Estonia that the film would not be greenlighted. So we might only speculate if his activities were responsible for the elevated attention given to Madness, and for the later censorship and restricted

4 Viktor Mathiesen, “Eestlased tulevad! Ehk hullumeelsus Gnezdnikovi põiktänavas” / “The Estonians are Coming! Madness Across from Gnezdnikov Street”, Teater. Muusika. Kino, no. 3, 1993. 5 Andres Laasik, “Filmilavastaja ja näitleja Kaljo Kiisk. Ikka hea pärast” / “Director and Actor Kaljo Kiisk. Only the Good”, Tallinn: OÜ Hea Lugu, 2011, pp. 234.




Premiered on February 17, 1969 in Tallinn. Officially allowed to screen in Moscow on January 9, 1987 after which it could screen all over the Soviet Union and internationally. Length: 79 minutes. Produced by Tallinnfilm studios. Shot in Estonia and Latvia. Director: Kaljo Kiisk, cinematographer: Anatoli Zobolotsky, production designer: Halja Klaar, screenwriter: Viktors Lorencs, producer: Arkadi Pessegov. Cast: Jüri Järvet, Voldemar Panso, Mare Garšnek, Vaclovas Bledis, Bronius Babkauskas, Valeri Nossik, Viktor Pljut. There are two versions of the film – one in Estonian and the other dubbed into Russian. The Russian version is about 10 minutes shorter.


distribution of the film by the authorities in Moscow.6 But at first Moscow approved production of the film without reading the screenplay, and merely based on the opinion of the editorial board who claimed the film to be a whole lot less antifascist than the screenplay and future film really were. After the Prague Spring, Moscow suddenly realized that it was a very complicated time for such a film to be made in Estonia, especially as its screenplay was so ambiguous, so they started a correspondence with Tallinn. Amendments began arriving from Moscow for things like changing the title of the film, reshooting some scenes, and adding a partisan squad and armed insurgent uprising to the end of the film.7 Kiisk was forced to make changes before handing over the film, even though he didn’t make them to the extent ordered by Moscow and he didn’t change the title. He did have to leave out the crazed main character Windisch’s horrific vision, for which they



Windisch becoming part of the patients under investigation: (from the left) Willy (Bronius Babkauskas), the Editor (Valeri Nossik) and the Person No.1 (Vaclovas Bledis).

filmed material that the director claimed wasn’t even allowed near the editing table.8 There were two versions made of the film – one dubbed into Estonian and the other into Russian. The Russian version is about 10 minutes shorter, and some claim it to be more expressive visually thanks to the laconic editing that eliminates the film’s shortcomings and makes the film more engaging.9 The film got permission to screen only in the Baltic Republics and Belarus, and only nine copies of the Russian version were even printed at first10, which essentially meant that no one could see the film outside of Estonia purely because there were no prints to screen.

The film was well received by both the local arts council and by critics. Completion of the film was considered a special event not only for Tallinnfilm but also for all Soviet film art.11 Reviews praised the modernity of the concept as well as the balanced consideration of the issues at hand, which vividly characterized the desire of Estonian filmmakers to talk on the central issues of the modern world. The sleekest component of the film is considered to be Anatoly Zobolotsky’s work as cinematographer, greatly responsible for helping to achieve the characteristic two dimensionality of the film’s structure. His cinematography doesn’t play merely for effect or for creating independent meaning torn out of the context of the film, but rather always serve the central idea of the film.12 Polish critic Janusz Gazda also says something about how it marks the birth of great ambitions for Es-

Ibid. pp. 227-234. Viktor Mathiesen, “Eestlased tulevad! Ehk hullumeelsus Gnezdnikovi põiktänavas” / “The Estonians are Coming! Madness Across from Gnezdnikov Street”,, Teater. Muusika. Kino, no. 3, 1993. 8 Jaak Lõhmus, “Aktsentide muutumine” / “Changing Accents”, Postimees, 16.06.1997. 9 Andres Laasik, “Filmilavastaja ja näitleja Kaljo Kiisk. Ikka hea pärast” / “Director and Actor Kaljo Kiisk. Only the Good”, Tallinn: OÜ Hea Lugu, 2011, pp. 261. 10 “Kaadris: Hullumeelsus” / “Madness in Focus”, ETV, 16.03.2012. 11 Tallinnfilmi kunstinõukogu protokollist / Tallinnfilm Art Council Report, ERA.R-1707.1.1028, pp. 54. 6 7

tonian cinema, highlighting how the film received sharp criticism in the Moscow film journal “Cinema News” for its existentialism and influence of absurd theatre.13 The conditions of Perestroika in 1987 finally made it possible to rehabilitate films like this and thus the official premiere of Madness in Moscow finally took place. The film was also given permission to screen outside of the Soviet Union. There were screenings in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Munich and London.14 There had been earlier interest in the film by the Venice Film Festival after Italian film historian Giacomo Gambetti managed to see it at a closed screening in Moscow, but unfortunately the film did not get permission to screen at the festival from Soviet authorities, at the time the rule was that no film could be shown outside of the Union without having distribution within the Soviet Union first.15 Film director and critic Andres Maimik has called Madness the first courageous act in Estonian film, which openly contributed to showing conditionality and location as allegorical micromodels of a larger organizational grouping (state, regime, apparatus of repression). The film does everything it can to focus on the metaphorical meaning of its characters – the symbolic Fascist, Madman and Doctor, and to commemorate that contributing to an internal collapse of power is the eternal mission of the mind.16 Film historian Lauri Kärk has written that Madness was the only film in Soviet filmmaking next to Mikhail Romm’s Triumph Over ­Violence (Обыкновенный фашизм, 1965) that contained self-criticism for a totalitarian regime, i.e. the Soviet system.17 Critic Jaak Lõhmus has branded this film banned from the Soviet Union and international markets as the grandfather of Estonian arthouse cinema.18 MADNESS IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Madness is still relevant in the current century. In 2003, the film was

A scene from Windisch's dream sequence shot in the graveyard of the psychiatric hospital that wasn't allowed to be edited into the film.

screened at the Karlovy Vary IFF retrospective focus on cinema of the Baltic countries. In 2012, Estonian film journalists selected Madness as the second best film of the century (after Arvo Kruusement’s Spring). The artistic maturity and courageous content of Kiisk’s film still stands out in Estonian cinema today. The mental insecurity of power manifested in the imposition of violence on the poor is no stranger to the populist politicians who divide societies, nor to the people who suffer from their discriminatory poli-

cies. With its timeless approach and aesthetically thorough implementation, Madness is a film that doesn’t age, but rather manages to evade every decade that passes from its premiere by adding layers to its meaning that require a longer analysis than allowed by this introductory article. This is a film that is an ideal choice for any festival, TV channel or VOD platform retrospective program interested in (Soviet) modernist cinema of the 1960s or issues of resistance to regime, closed society or mental disorders. EF

Valdeko Tobro, “Süüta ja süüga süüdlased” / “Guilty and Guitless Culprits”, Noorte Hääl, 21.02.1969. Janusz Gazda, “Põgus kohtumine Eestiga” / “A Brief Encounter with Estonia”, Ekran, 1970, no. 12. 14 Endel Link, “”Hullumeelsusega” Münchenis ja Buenos Aireses” / “In Munich and Buenos Aires with “Madness”, Sirp ja Vasar, 14.08.1987. 15 Andres Laasik, “Filmilavastaja ja näitleja Kaljo Kiisk. Ikka hea pärast” / “Director and Actor Kaljo Kiisk. Only the Good”, Tallinn: OÜ Hea Lugu, 2011, pp. 286. 16 Andres Maimik, “”Hullumeelsus” - modernistlik üksiklane 1960. aastate eesti mängufilmis” / “”Madness” – A Solitary Modernist Wave in 1960s Estonian Film”, Teater. Muusika. Kino, no. 11, 1999. 17 Lauri Kärk, “”Viimne reliikvia” ja “Valgus koordis”: žanrifilmist žanrifilmini II” / “The Last Relic” and “Light in Koord”: From Genre Film to Genre Film II”, Teater. Muusika. Kino, nr 2, 2010. 18 Jaak Lõhmus, “Aktsentide muutumine” / “Changing Accents”, Postimees, 16.06.1997. 12 13




The year 2020 was also strange in the field of film festivals – several were cancelled and many took place as online platforms only, with less films than usual. By Eda Koppel


espite that, Estonian films reached the competition programmes of several prestigious film festivals – including Sundance, Venice, HotDocs, Annecy, Moscow, Cairo, and our own domestic Black Nights Film Festival.

Photo by Karoliina Kreintaal

Festival Highlights 2020 The team of Undergods: director Chino Moya, producer Sophie Vrenner, co-producer Katrin Kissa and make-up artist Kaire Hendrikson.

Short film Virago (directed by Kerly Kirsch-Schneider) took part in BuSHORTS san ISFF and received the Grand Prix, The year began with the short film Bad that also gave the film the right to be Hair (directed by Oskar Lehemaa) parsubmitted to the Academy Award for ticipating in Sundance Festival. 2020 can the Best Short Film. The similar right undoubtedly be called a successful year was received for the short documentary The Weight of All the Beauty (directfor Estonian short films. ed by Eeva Mägi) by the Abercrombie & Kent Award of the Melbourne International Film Festival. Also, the right to be submitted to the Academy Award was given to Struck by Lightning (directed by Raul and Romet Esko) that got the Best Estonian Short Film Award at the Black Nights Film Festival; short film My Dear Corpses (directed by Oskar Lehemaa German Golub) received (on the left) attending the Student Academy midnight screening of Hair in Sundance. Award.




As for documentary films, two films should be especially emphasized: Immortal (directed by Ksenia Okhapkina) and A Loss of Something Ever Felt (directed by Carlos E. Lesmes) – both films were selected for the programme of HotDocs. A Loss of Something Ever Felt also won the audience award at Bogota International Film Festival. Documentary Meanwhile on Earth (produced as a minority co-production film with Estonia, directed by Carl Olsson, and Estonian co-produ­ cer Ivo Felt from Allfilm) took part in numerous festivals, for instance in Gothenburg, Camerimage, Thessaloniki Documentary Festival and Moscow. Estonian animation films also participated in festivals: for example, the full-length Old Man Cartoon Movie (directed by Mikk Mägi and Oskar Lehemaa) that surprised audiences in Annecy, Moscow, Shanghai, Fantastic Film Fest and Fantasia Film Festival. The film won the Silver Audience Award

Producer Peeter Urbla and actress Ülle Kaljuste at the screening of Goodbye, Soviet Union at PÖFF.

2020 Best Animated Film and the Satoshi Kon Award for Best Feature Animation at the Fantasia Film Festival. Annecy International Animation Film Festival, where Estonian films have always been well represented, screened Cosmonaut (directed by Kaspar Jancis) and the student film The Piece of Tail in the Mouth of the Snake that Bites Its Own Tail (directed by Pablo Nicolas Martínez Ballaríni). FEATURES

For Estonian feature films the year started at Palm Springs International Film Festival where Truth and Justice represented Estonia – the film was also a national candidate for the Academy Award 2020 and reached the pre-selection of ten films for the Best Foreign Film. Feature film Conference (directed by Ivan I. Tverdovskiy, produced as a minority co-production film with Estonia) was selected for the competition programme of Giornate degli Autori at

the Venice Film Festival. At Cairo International Film Festival, Conference won the Best Actress and Best Director Awards. The film also took part in the New Currents Competition programme at the Black Nights Film Festival. Feature Helene (directed by Antti J. Jokinen, Estonian co-production and mainly filmed in Estonia) participated in the Shanghai International Film Festival. Undergods (the third successful minority co-production film with Estonia, directed by Chino Moya) was selected by Fantasia Film Festival and it also took part in the Rebels With Cause competition programme at the Black Nights Film Festival. The 1968 year feature Madness (directed by Kaljo Kiisk) was included in the special programme of The War: Witnesses’ Accounts at the Moscow International Film Festival – see page … for the longer back story of the legendary film by Johannes Lõhmus.

Photo by Liis Reiman

Photo by Erlend Štaub

Pääru Oja accepted the award for The Last Ones, the winner of The Baltic Film Competition Programme at PÖFF.

welcomed the participation of five Estonian films – the feature film The Last Ones (by Veiko Õunpuu) and Rain (by Janno Jürgens); and the documentaries Soviet Friendsbook (directed by Aljona Surzhikova), To Save a Language (directed by Liivo Niglas) and Mephistopheles (directed by Manfred Vainokivi). The opening film at Just Film – a festival of children’s and youth films at the Black Nights Film Festival – was Kratt (direc­ ted by Rasmus Merivoo). EF The director of the film Conference Ivan I. Tverdovskiy at Venice Film Festival.


The choice of films at the Black Nights Film Festival 2020 was especially elaborate when it comes to Estonian films. On the Water (directed by Peeter Simm) and Erna at War (directed by Henrik Ruben Genz, a minority co-production film with Estonia) were selected for the Official Selection - Competition programme. Goodbye, Soviet Union participated in the First Feature Competition programme. The Baltic Film Competition programme ESTONIAN FILM



Statistics 2020 2020 CINEMA TOP 10 English Title




1 Tenet

160 927

1 157 822,83



151 137

880 232,00


3 Raggie

107 496

481 402,00



Dawn of War

75 270

489 136,53


5 Trolls World Tour

61 159

315 758,24


Where the Heart Is

The Beauty of Being


2020 ESTONIAN FILMS TOP 10 English Title



Where the Heart Is

151 137



107 496


Dawn of War

75 270


Fred Jüssi. The Beauty of Being

57 111


Christmas in the Jungle

24 553


Things We Don't Talk About

20 755


Goodbye Soviet Union

11 133


The Salmons: 25 years later

10 354

The Circle

6 480

The Last Ones

4 530

9 10

CINEMA ADMISSIONS Foreign Films Estonian Films 2 982 647 2 837 562 3 228 511 2 943 714

57 111

307 350,00


7 Sonic the Hedgehog

56 879

299 900,26



Frozen 2

42 979

239 442,59


9 Bad Boys 3

40 784

290 103,13


37 524

244 841,86


10 1917

Where the Heart Is




Europe Estonia 5,43 47,7






1 318 412










30,7 29,5 18,19

648 665

847 960



480 758


347 036 282 421






















On the Water


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

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

Peeter Simm

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

CONTACT Filmivabrik Marju Lepp +372 516 3641

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



Sandra Gets a Job


andra Gets a Job is a psychological drama about a young Doctor of Physics, Sandra, who unexpectedly loses her job in a research group. Getting a new job seems simple at first glance, but after a few failures Sandra feels herself ever more clearly as unemployed. Every new attempt to find a job is increasingly humiliating. In addition, she must hide her failure, at least from her successful parents who also work in the world of science. DIRECTOR KAUPO KRUUSIAUK graduated from Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School as a film director. He also studied at FAMU in Prague and has a stage director diploma from

FILM INFO Kaupo Kruusiauk

Estonian Theatre and Music Academy. Kaupo has previously directed numerous short and documentary films. His debut feature film Sandra Gets a Job premieres in 2021. Kruusiauk currently also gives film lectures in Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication school.

Original title: Sandra saab tööd Genre: drama Language: Estonian Director: Kaupo Kruusiauk Screenwriter: Kaupo Kruusiauk Cinematographer: Sten-Johan Lill E.S.C. Production Designer: Tiiu-Ann Pello Editor: Kaie-Ene Rääk Composer: Kali Briis Sound: Horret Kuus Main cast: Mari Abel, Alo Kõrve, Raimo Pass, Kaie Mihkelson, Henrik Kalmet Producer: Anneli Ahven Produced by: Kopli Kinokompanii To be released: Spring 2021 96 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / Dolby SR CONTACT Kopli Kinokompanii Anneli Ahven +372 5562 2041






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

Peeter Rasmus Simm Merivoo

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

Original title: Kratt Genre: comedy, fantasy Language: Estonian Director: Rasmus Merivoo Screenwriter: Rasmus Merivoo Cinematographer: Jako Krull Production Designer: Krete Tarkmees Editors: Rasmus Merivoo, Kristin Kalamees Composer: Tauno Aints Sound: Jevgeni Berežovski,Tanel Roovik Main cast: Mari Lill, Ivo Uukkivi, Jan Uuspõld, Nora Merivoo, Harri Merivoo, Paul Purga, Marek Tammets, Mari-Liis Lill, Alo Kurvits Producers: Rain Rannu, Tõnu Hiielaid Produced by: Tallifornia Premiere: November 2020, Youth and Children’s Film Festival Just Film Awards: Youth Jury special mention at Youth and Children’s Film Festival Just Film 105 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Tallifornia Tõnu Hiielaid +372 5336 6981 SALES Media Mooove Justyna Koronkiewicz +48 535 547 355 ESTONIAN FILM



Dawn of War



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

Margus Paju

School . His first full-length feature film The Secret Society of Souptown (2015), the highest-grossing Estonian family film at the time, picked up awards at Stockholm, Zurich, Schlingel, Yerevan and many other international festivals. Margus has also written and directed a number of short films, which have been shown at festivals around the world.

Original title: O2 Genre: spy thriller Languages: Estonian, Russian, German, French, Finnish Director: Margus Paju Screenwriters: Tiit Aleksejev, Eriikka Etholén-Paju, Tom Abrams, Olle Mirme Cinematographer: Meelis Veeremets E.S.C. Production Designer: Jaagup Roomet Editor: Marion Koppel Composers: Eriks Esenvalds, Richards Zalupe Sound: Vytis Puronas Main cast: Priit Võigemast, Kaspars Znotinš, Agnese Cirule, Elmo Nüganen Producers: Esko Rips, Kristian Taska Co-producers: Jukka Helle, Janis Kalejs, Lukas Trimonis Produced by: Nafta Films (EE), Taska Film (EE), Solar Films (FI), Film Angels (LV), InScript (LT) Domestic premiere: October 6, 2020 100 min / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1 CONTACT Nafta Films / Esko Rips +372 525 6323 / SALES Kaleidoscope Film Distribution Daniel Cooper +44 (0) 7590 316 488



The Last Ones


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

DIRECTOR VEIKO ÕUNPUU Veiko’s debute Autumn Ball was awarded in Venice Orizzonti in 2007. For his second film, The Temptation of St Tony, he recieved the European Talent Award in

Veiko Õunpuu

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

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






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



Janno Jürgens

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

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

CONTACT Alasti Kino Kristjan Pütsep +327 5667 3727


Goodbye, Soviet Union


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

Original title: Hüvasti, NSVL Genre: drama, comedy Languages: Estonian, Ingrian, Russian Director: Lauri Randla Screenwriter: Lauri Randla Cinematographer: Elen Lotman E.S.C. Production Designer: Jaana Jüris Editors: Leo Liesvirta, Andres Hallik Composer: Lauri Randla Sound: Karri Niinivaara Main cast: Ülle Kaljuste, Tõnu Oja, Niklas Kouzmitchev, Nika Savolainen, Pääru Oja, Jekaterina Novosjolova, Sten Karpov, Elene Baratašvili Producer: Peeter Urbla Co-producers: Mark Lwoff, Misha Jaari Produced by: Exitfilm (EE), Bufo (FI) Premiere: November 2020, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival Awards: Audience Award at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 91 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1

Lauri Randla

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

CONTACT Exitfilm Peeter Urbla +372 515 9696 SALES One Eyed Films Betina Goldman + 44 20 8740 149

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




My Dear Corpses


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

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

German Golub

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

FILM INFO Original title: Mu kallid laibad Genre: tragicomedy, graduation film Languages: Estonian, Russian Director: German Golub Screenwriter: German Golub Cinematographer: Juss Saska Production Designer: Kätlin Loomets Editor: Kaupo Muuli Sound: Siim Škepast Main cast: Ruuben Joosua Palu, Erki Laur Producers: Sander Lebreht, Antero Noor Produced by: Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School (BFM) Premiere: November 2020, PÖFF Shorts Awards: Student Academy Award in the category of International Narrative Short Film 34 min / DCP / 1.85:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Sander Lebreht +372 5330 5434





rass is about two families with opposing views on mowing grass and gardening. Larissa and Arvo Pajo live near Rapla. They value caring for their grass and garden and spend an average of two hours on their yard every day. Yardwork is central to their lives and seems to be the guardian of their relationship. Anne Roolaht and Harvi Varkki are jewelry designers who live in Merivälja. Their philosophy is to care for their grass as little as possible. Nature should be allowed to sprawl and develop on its own. Not mowing their grass also means that animals living in their garden have a nicer environment. The documentary Grass looks at these two families with different understand-

ings of yard and garden care. Through their attitudes towards their yards and nature, we see into the interpersonal relationships of two couples and their correspondingly differing views on life. DIRECTOR KAUPO KRUUSIAUK graduated from Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School as a film director. He also studied at FAMU in Prague and has a stage director diploma from Estonian Theatre and Music Academy. Kaupo has previously directed numerous short and documentary films. His debut feature film Sandra Gets a Job premieres in 2021. Kruusiauk currently also gives film lectures in Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication school.

FILM INFO Original title: Murust Theme: environment, lifestyle Language: Estonian Director: Kaupo Kruusiauk Screenwriter: Kaupo Kruusiauk Cinematographer: Kullar Viimne, Kaupo Kruusiauk Editor: Kaie-Ene Rääk Composer: Kostja Tsõbulevski Sound: Mart Kessel-Otsa Producer: Kaupo Kruusiauk Produced by: Flo Film Premiere: January 7, 2021 28 min / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1 CONTACT Flo Film Kaupo Kruusiauk +372 503 1686 ESTONIAN FILM



The Gardener of Tension Fields


he main character of the film is the mysterious writer Mehis Heinsaar, a creator who likes to travel in his inner psychogeography. The writer is surrounded by unusual and meaningful nature, he can speak the language of animals and birds and see that what is invisible to the naked eye. The writer strives for wide meadows through a wild thicket, and those multi-day hikes he calls the pilgrimages of a poor man. The wanderer has seven encounters along the way, which will open up the magical inner world of Mehis Heinsaar to the viewer.

DIRECTOR JOOSEP MATJUS was born in 1984 in Estonia. He received a BA and MA in Film Arts from the Baltic Film and Media School in 2009 and is known as a director, cinematographer and screenwriter. He has fully dedicated himself to wildlife filmmaking. Filmography: Summer Documentary (2006), Rebirth (2007), Old Man and the Moose (2009), The Gull Theorem (2014), The Wind Sculpted Land (2018) DIRECTOR KATRI RANNASTU was born in 1981. She received a BA in Film Arts from the Baltic Film and Media School in 2007 and works as a producer, director and editor at the production company Wildkino that focuses on creative nature documentaries. Recent filmography: Beauty of Being (2020), The Wind Sculpted Land (2018)



Joosep Matjus

FILM INFO Original title: Pingeväljade aednik Theme: portrait, nature Language: Estonian Directors: Joosep Matjus, Katri Rannastu Screenwriters: Joosep Matjus, Katri Rannastu Cinematographer: Joosep Matjus Editor: Katri Rannastu Composer: Mati Uprus Sound: Joosep Matjus Producer: Katri Rannastu Produced by: Wildkino To be released: March 2021 60 min / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1

Katrin Rannastu

CONTACT Wildkino Joosep Matjus +372 521 6949

For Tomorrow Paradise Arrives


he world is suffering from the flood of food waste, to save the environment and the future of their children, young mothers decide to feed their families by diving into the dumpsters of the enormous super markets. DIRECTOR ANNA HINTS has a background in contemporary art and experimental folk singing. She has studied Estonian and Comparative Literature and Folklore and has a degree both in Photography and Film Directing. Her student film Free World brought her Kaljo Kiisa named Young Filmmaker Award and Best National Short Film Award at Black Nights Film Festival. Her debut short fiction Ice was selected to more than 90 international film festival competition programs and won 14 awards, including Best Short Film Award at Estonian Film and Television Awards in 2018. Anna is currently filming her first feature documentary Smoke Sauna Sisterhood that focuses on women


Anna Hints

stories based on shame set in the significant smoke sauna culture from South Estonia. Her new short fiction in pre-production is set in India and combines environmental and women issues. Anna is part of female music trio Eeter that was nominated for The Best Composer Award at Estonian Film and Television Awards in 2019 for the original score for the feature wildlife documentary The Wind Sculpted Land.

Original title: Homme saabub paradiis Theme: social issues, environment, sustainability Language: Estonian Director: Anna Hints Cinematographer: Erik Põllumaa E.S.C. Editor: Marion Koppel Composer: Ann Reimann Sound: Ekke Västrik Producers: Evelin Penttilä, Johanna Maria Paulson Produced by: Stellar Film Premiere: January 7, 2021 28 min / DCP / 1:1,85 / 5.1 CONTACT Stellar Film Mirjam Ruut +372 5345 3002




Vinyl Whisperer


hto, armed with encyclopaedic knowledge and unbound love for obscure music, embarks on a journey to find the rarest vinyl records of the Soviet era. DIRECTOR ALEKSANDR HEIFETS is an independent documentary filmmaker with a focus on social issues and a strong emphasis on the story. Born in Russia and raised in the U.S., he has studied psychology and linguistics at the University of Chicago and directing at FAMU in Prague. After 15 years of documentary, TV, and new media production experience ranging from MTV True Life series in New York

Aleksander Heifets

to anti-corruption TV ads in Tajikistan, Aleksandr settled in Southern Estonia where he works as a director, editor and cinematographer at Taiga Film.

FILM INFO Original title: Muusika, mida ma veel ei tea Theme: portrait, music, lifestyle Language: Estonian, Russian, English Director: Aleksandr Heifets Cinematographers: Taavi Arus, Aleksandr Heifets, Madis Ligema, Margus Talvik Editor: Aleksandr Heifets Sound: Indrek Soe Producer: Kalle Konrad Produced by: Well Well, Taiga Film Premiere: January 7, 2021 28 min / DCP / 16:9 / Dolby 5.1 CONTACT Well Well Kalle Konrad +372 5635 6179 Taiga Film Aleksandr Heifets +372 5822 7566



Life of Ivanna


vanna, a 26-year-old mother of five children, is living in the Arctic region in northwest Siberia. She lives a traditional nomadic life, driving her herd of reindeer at the tundra as her family did for centuries. But due to the environmental side effects of climate change most of her reindeers are dying and she knows that she will soon be ruined and forced to make a dramatic decision. Her husband, Gena, has already left the family. He moved to the city, hoping to find a job as an oil worker in the Russian oil fields but didn’t succeed and spends his time drinking and fighting. Ivanna is willing to give her marriage a last chance. She will give up her traditional life, leave the tundra, move to the city, and get a job at Gazprom. But time has changed, Gena became violent and alcoholic and Ivanna realizes that the civilized city life is not what she expected.

But there is no way back, Ivanna will have to take life into her own hands and secure a future for her and her five children. The film follows Ivanna and her family closely for four years through her dramatic life-changes, from the harsh life at the tundra to the modern life in the Siberian city of Norilsk.

Renato Borrayo Serrano

DIRECTOR RENATO BORRAYO SERRANO was born in Guatemala in 1992. He graduated from documentary directing at the All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK). He has directed several films that were shown at many international film festivals. His latest film Film for Carlos received Honorary Jury mention at DokLeipzig 2017 and the prize for Best Short Film at Docudays UA 2018.

FILM INFO Original title: Жизнь Иванны / Ivanna elu Theme: social issues, environment, family Languages: Russian, Nenets Director: Renato Borrayo Serrano Screenwriter: Renato Borrayo Serrano Cinematographer: Renato Borrayo Serrano Editors: Renato Borrayo Serrano, Inge-Lise Langfeldt Composer: Timo Steiner Sound: Israel Bañuelos Producer: Vladislav Ketkovich Co-producers: Marianna Kaat, Mette Cheng Munthe-Kaas, Pertti Veijalainen Produced by: Ethnofund Film Company (RU), Baltic Film Production (EE), Ten Thousand Images (NO), Illume (FI) To be released: April 2021 Festivals: CPH:DOX, 61st Krakow Film Festival 77 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1

CONTACT Baltic Film Production Marianna Kaat +372 502 7509 SALES CAT&Docs




Year of the Pig



documentary about life on planet Estonia. Monitoring a controversial year in the recent history of our country - the year 2019, an extensive visual essay of imminent serious challenges has been created by the author. From winning the War of Independence to gaining freedom from Russian occupation during the Singing Revolution, we now have to defend our land from the brightest of foes, from ourselves. Will we be able to take on this fight?

DIRECTOR RAIMO JÕERAND touches on subjects with great importance to the history of Estonia: the creation of Estonian state in 1917-1920 - Moment of History, the fall of it in 1944 - Blue Hills and the regaining of independence in 1992-1994 - Rodeo. How will our



Raimo Jõerand

current time be remembered and which moments of it are meant to last - this can be decided by every filmmaker right now, basing it on their best knowledge, their feelings and intuition.

Original title: Sea aasta Theme: political, philosophical, environment Language: Estonian Director: Raimo Jõerand Screenwriter: Raimo Jõerand Cinematographers: Rein Kotov E.S.C., Jaan Kronberg Editor: Raimo Jõerand Composer: Ardo Ran Varres Sound: Horret Kuus, Henri Kuus Producer: Marju Lepp Produced by: Filmivabrik Premiere: February 2, DocPoint Tallinn 2021 57 minutes / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1 CONTACT Filmivabrik Marju Lepp +372 516 3641


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