A M A G A Z I N E F R O M T H E E S TO N I A N F I L M I N S T I T U T E
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at the Venice Art Biennale
Active and Productive
Estonian Animation Flying High
Livia Ulman Andris Feldmanis
The Stars of Estonian Screenwriting
FEATURED FILMS: THE SLEEPING BEAST • SIERRA ’TIL WE MEET AGAIN • ORCHIDELIRIUM • DARK PARADISE SENTINEL • KIDS OF THE NIGHT • SANDRA GETS A JOB
he film industry is recovering from the chaos caused by the pandemic. The best way to describe the current film world; it is in the process of rethinking and questioning many things about the way it functions. We can never know exactly what awaits us when the pandemic is truly over. Or if it will ever be over. But for us here in Estonia, it certainly seems full of exciting opportunities. At the Estonian Film Institute, we are keeping our focus on the essence of filmmaking – our goal is to make sure our films are interesting for audiences here and abroad, and that our filmmakers are happy. Since Estonia is holding the Presidency of the European Audiovisual Observatory in 2022, we will organise a hybrid conference in June. The main topic of the event will be how the film industry has to nurture and support creators with a renewed vigour, to make sure that the film industry can thrive and flourish. Today we talk a lot about data and the changed audiovisual market, but above all, we need to support our auteurs to keep European film alive and relevant. Our local market share dropped from 26.7% in 2020 to 14% in 2021 in Estonian cinemas, but that was to be expected – cinemas were closed for a while, and quite a few producers decided to postpone their premieres. Despite the challenges of last year, we were able to sow the seeds for a promising 2022. Our young and talented duo of scriptwriters Livia Ulman and Andris Feldmanis were on the red carpet in Cannes when Compartment No. 6 competed for the Palme d’Or and won the Grand Prix in Cannes. Now we wait impatiently to see if this film will be nominated for an Oscar. You can read more about Andris and Livia from the cover story of Estonian Film (pages 16-20). Other young filmmakers are also in focus in this edition of the magazine. Notably, the animation year starts with Sander Joon, who opens our presence on the festival circuit with his animation Sierra premiering in the Clermont-Ferrand Main Competition Programme. In the second half of the year we will have the premiere of Triin Ruumet’s new feature Dark Paradise; it can be described as a raw insight into the female world. The key word this year for Estonia is “children”. Estonia has two major and long-awaited films premiering - Jaak Kilmi’s The Sleeping Beast, and Ilmar Raag’s Erik Stoneheart. Our filmmakers have specific plans to produce more features for children and the youth. It is an important mission to show our kids films in the Estonian language, and made by Estonian directors, but these films have a lot of international appeal as well. Cinema is a universal language, as we all know! Stay tuned to Estonian film. For sure, many exciting surprises lie ahead.
Edith Sepp, CEO of Estonian Film Institute
NEWS Dark Paradise in Post-production
NEWS Film Journalists Elected Their Favourites
NEWS Cultural Endowment Awards
DIRECTOR Jaak Kilmi – Always in Action
14 NEWS Sentinel in Post-production 16 COVER STORY Livia Ulman
and Andris Feldmanis The Stars of Estonian Screenwriting
22 IN FOCUS Ülo Pikkov Stories from Life
26 DOCS Best of Estonian & Finnish Docs 28 TALENT Surreal Sander Joon 32 IN FOCUS Kristina Norman
Speaking Through s Flower
36 EVENT PÖFF Back to the (New) Normal 40 NEWS Festival Highlights 42 REVIEW Kids of the Night 44 REVIEW Sandra Gets a Job 48 NEWS Statistics 2021
50 NEW FILMS The overview of the latest Estonian films
Photos by Virge Viertek
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: firstname.lastname@example.org I filmi.ee Editor in Chief: Eda Koppel Contributing Editor: Maria Ulfsak (Eesti Ekspress) Contributors: Andrei Liimets, Johannes Lõhmus, Aurelia Aasa, Filipp Kruusvall, Mirjam Mikk Translation: Tristan Priimägi, Maris Karjatse Linguistic Editing: Paul Emmet Design & Layout: Profimeedia Printed by Reflekt Cover: Livia Ulman and Andris Feldmanis photo by Virge Viertek ESTONIAN FILM
Exciting Surprises Ahead
to the Eat-Pray-Love The new feature film Dark Paradise, directed by award-winning director Triin Ruumet (The Days that Confused, 2016), has entered the post-production phase. The film with the budget of 1.5 million EUR is produced as a co-project of Estonia and France. By Maria Ulfsak Photos by Heikki Leis, Virge Viertek and Felix Laasme
he producers of the film are Elina Litvinova (Three Brothers) and Jeremy Forni (Chevaldeuxtrois). The film will be completed by the first half of 2022, yet the premiere in Estonia is planned for spring 2023. Triin Ruumet completed the screenplay of Dark Paradise in collaboration with Livia Ulman and Andris Feldmanis who are also the screenwriters of Compartment No. 6 – a feature film whose screenplay was completed together with director Juho Kuosmanen, and nominated for the Golden Globe, and shortlisted for the Academy Award in the Best International Feature Film category. PERSONAL AND UNIVERSAL STORY
Dark Paradise follows a 27-year-old woman called Karmen. After her father’s death, she commits an atrocious
act against her half-brother Viktor. Now she must face the dark void of the universe. At the centre of the film is the hedonistic lifestyle and nihilistic search for love and intimacy. Actors Rea Lest and Jörgen Liik are the main protagonists, both of them known internationally for their main roles in November (directed by Rainer Sarnet). Juhan Ulfsak, Maria Avdjushko, Kaie Mihkelson and Reimo Sagor also play in the film. The cinematographer is Erik Põllumaa, the production designer is Matis Mäesalu, and the costume designer is Liis Plato. The producer of the film Elina Litvinova says: “In my opinion, Triin Ruumet as the screenwriter and the director is the high-end professional of her generation, telling both very personal and universal stories. With her strong, unique style, Ruumet can raise serious topics, and show these things through a prism
of comedy, which is essential considering the audience. Together with co-screenwriters Andris Feldmanis and Livia Ulman, our common purpose was to narrate a multi-layered and complicated story about young people, and to do that in an entertaining way using pop
The shooting of Dark Paradise.
At the centre of the film is the hedonistic lifestyle and nihilistic search for love and intimacy.
music and black comedy, so that viewers of different backgrounds could identify with it.” Litvinova says that Dark Paradise is a sombre yet magical fairytale about millennial kids. She explains the concept of the film: “It is a drama balancing on the edge of tragedy and dark comedy, where the protagonists are searching for happiness and love. In opposition to today’s esoteric self-development methods, where welfare, positivity and the best version of oneself dominate, the protagonists of the
Rea Lest, the European Shooting Star 2019 is playing the leading role.
film go on a self-destructive journey in order to face their personal demons. As Triin herself says, the film serves as an antidote to the eat-pray-love culture.” COMPLICATED SHOOTING PERIOD
The filming of Dark Paradise took place at the end of summer/autumn 2021, it was divided between Tartu and Tallinn, and altogether there were 32 days of shooting. According to the producer, the filming period was extremely charged by the director’s strong energy and the film crew’s dedication. The filming was complete barely before the third wave of coronavirus in Estonia. Elina Litvinova comments to Estonian Film: “Since we have developed the film since 2017, starting the filming was a day of celebration for both the crew and the actors. Due to the large number of actors in the film, all of them having terribly complicated working schedules, the greatest risk was that if someone had been infected with coronavirus, the whole ensemble would have fallen apart. The COVID crisis support from the Cultural Ministry of Estonia was a big help, providing us with weekly testing and other necessary equipment to secure the working process.” EF
Dark Paradise is a drama balancing on the edge of tragedy and dark comedy, where the protagonists are searching for happiness and love. ESTONIAN FILM
NEWS film On the Water. In 2021, Neitsi Maali went to Veiko Õunpuu’s The Last Ones. Maria Ulfsak was elected film journalist of the year. “We recognized Maria for her outstanding work as the head of the cinema section in Eesti Ekspress, and sharp statements as a critic. In addition, we would like to mention Sten-Kristian Saluveer, who has elaborately covered the future of Estonian film and cinema in general in his writings,” said Liimets. Award for the theatrical release of the year went to the three-time Oscar winner Nomadland, distri buted by Hea Film. Neitsi Maali was given out for the 29th time which makes it the longest-running film award in Estonia. Neitsi Maali is supported by Olympic Casino Estonia and the Cultural Endowment Fund of Estonia. The Estonian Film Journalists’ Association was founded in 1993, and is a member of the International film critics’ association FIPRESCI. EF
Neitsi Maali for best film: A Loss of Something Ever Felt (directed by Carlos Lesmes). The award was received by the film’s editor Hendrik Mägar and sound designer Haendel Gabriel Solis.
Film Journalists Elected Their Favourites In the beginning of January 2022, the Estonian Film Journalists’ Association announced the recipients of their annual awards: best Estonian film of 2021 (laureate of Neitsi Maali), best theatrical release, and film journalist of the year. By EFI Photos by Eero Vabamägi
eitsi Maali, an award that has been given out since 1993, went to Carlos Eduardo Lesmes Lopez for the documentar A Loss of Something Ever Felt. It is a first time since 2011 for a documentary to win this prize. “Film journalists acknowledge Carlos Lesmes for a courageous and emphatic approach to a complicated
social issue, in an especially personal story of a family,” said Andrei Liimets, chairman of the association. Four more films were nominated for the award and the prize money of EUR 2500: Rasmus Merivoo’s family horror film Kratt, German Golub’s short film My Dear Corpses, documentary portrait u.Q. by Ivar Murd, and Peeter Simm’s feature
Film journalist of the year: Maria Ulfsak
The proud team of Compartment No 6; Livia Ulman, Riina Sildos and Andris Feldmanis.
Cultural Endowment Awards The Estonian Cultural Endowment Fund gave out its annual awards for creative activities in the audiovisual sector in 2021. By EFI Photos by Erlend Štaub and Filmivabrik
Above right: the winner of the lifetime achievement award, director Valentin Kuik.
Below: Carlos Lesmes, the director of A Loss of Something Ever Felt.
he main prize went to the creators of Compartment No. 6, the director Juho Kuosmanen, and screenwriters Andris Feldmanis and Livia Ulman. Riina Sildos, the producer at Amrion Production, was given a mission award for her work on the same film, the Finnish-RussianEstonian-German co-production that won Grand Prix at Cannes, was nominated for a Golden Globe and shortlisted for an Academy
Award in the Best International Film category. Lifetime achievement award went to the veteran scriptwriter and director Valentin Kuik (Family Lies, Doctor Stockmann). In documentaries, the audiovisual committee recognized the director Carlos Eduardo Lesmes Lopez, and the producer Liis Nimik, for a dramaturgically profoundly realized documentary film A Loss of Something Ever Felt. Ivar Murd won an award
for directing u.Q., an elegant experimental portrait of musician Uku Kuut, and producing the interesting TV documentary Lil Estonia. Marianne Kõrver was awarded for her captivating documentaries about Estonian art history – At is the Only Way Out, Oleb Subbi. Life in Six Chapters, and Destudio. Hangover. Taavi Arus, author of many TV-documentaries, was acknowledged for his long engagement in documentary filmmaking, and directing Lil Estonia and Davai Igrayem. One of the annual awards went to a short film, My Dear Corpses by German Golub that has previously won a Student Academy Award, gold medal in the International Narrative category. Jonas Taul’s A Most Exquisite Man, a stop-motion animation with stylish visual aesthetics, was considered the best in the animation category. Additionally, feature film On the Water was recognized, with annual awards going out to both director Peeter Simm and scriptwriter Olavi Ruitlane. Documentary filmmaker Manfred Vaikokivi won best main role award for impersonating himself in The Best of Salieri, or I, Estonian Filmmaker. Nukufilm won a mission award for running and developing the oldest Estonian film studio Nukufilm. The same award also went to the team of Tartu Elektriteater cinema, who have brought a carefully curated arthouse program to Tartu already for a decade now. EF
Always in Action Jaak Kilmi is one of the most productive Estonian filmmakers. As a film director, producer, cameraman, or screenwriter, he has participated in more than 40 films of various lengths and genres. By Johannes Lõhmus Photos by Viktor Koshkin
is filmography includes diverse productions, such as provocative documentaries about Estonia getting to know the mysteries of capitalism in the early 2000s (A Living Force, The Art of Sel ling), playful and enchanting historical documentaries (Disco and Atomic War) as well as historically authentic youth films (Revolution of Pigs). He has even made a refugee comedy with elements of suspense (The Dissidents), and a feature film about a modern Christ living in Siberia (Christ Lives in Siberia). Recently Jaak completed a new thriller for children and their parents titled The Sleeping Beast. You just returned from Kenya, what was the aim of your trip?
We made the documentary Out of Fashion in 2015 together with fashion designer Reet Aus; the film was about the way our clothing is made, how big the environmental footprint is, and the negative impact on our planet. We mainly filmed it in Bangladesh, it focused on the fashion industry. Now we are working on its conceptual sequel Completely Out of Fashion, this time with garbage and people as the focus. Namely, the majority of used clothing in Europe is exported to Africa. Disposing of these clothes into landfills is expensive, and the whole continent is liter-
ally drowning in unwanted garments. So our aim is to study the journey of our used clothes after we have discarded them. In my opinion, there is a strong aspect of the exotic in your films, and by this I don’t mean only Christmas in the Jungle that takes place in Indonesia, but it seems to be a leitmotif. Christ Lives in Siberia has already a totally exotic theme; Disco and Atomic War demonstrates the exotic mentality created largely by Finnish TV inside of the huge and monotonous Soviet Union; and your documentaries from the early 2000s were all based on very exotic characters. Even in The Sleeping Beast, the focus lies on the ensemble of historical buildings attracting the attention of village children from their boring daily life. Why are you obsessed with exotic elements?
I guess something that I once read about the famous Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi and his La Traviata has subconsciously affected me. The opera that is now a great classical piece of music premiered in 1853 – but back then it was booed by the audience, people were throwing tomatoes during the premiere. Why? Because it was an opera that was set in the very time it was performed, the singers wore the same costumes as the people in the audience. But the viewers were
Photos by Heikki Leis
The mother (Evelin Võigemast) is a worrier and the father (Anti Kobin) works abroad.
repulsed by a contemporary piece – what they yearned for were the beautiful ancient times, either Egypt or Assyria. Nabucco offered the audience exactly what they wanted – but La Traviata presented them with some kind of a daily familiar life. In a way, I keep thinking of this story, and ask myself whether this kind of exotic in my work is what I need to get myself going. That’s why I like films depicting a certain era where I can create another kind of a world in order to take the audience on a journey into an exotic environment. The journey may not have a familiar appearance, but it tells a human story and tackles contemporary themes. I am trying to create a fairytale while making use of film magic – just like some kind of carnivorous plant that lures you closer and closer in order to swallow you. If you realize that your idea fails to offer exotic experience, will you then stop working with the film?
I wouldn’t say that. However, creating a different world is something that has always attracted me. I also have the feeling that this is what the viewer expects. Film director Marko Raat, a friend of mine, once commented on a film that included too much life and too little art – in my opinion, this sharp critique hits the nail. If you make actors rant naturalistically on the screen so that it seems close to everyday life, then I ask myself: what’s all that? One cannot lose the artistic dimension in the film. The last two feature films represent a new direction in your long-term filmmaking career – child protagonists and stories including children. Please describe the process of your creative practice – what’s your story as a film director having arrived at this point in your career?
For a long time, I had the feeling that making children’s films is something for those filmmakers who have children themselves. Today, I have children my-
The kids need to find action for themselves and pretty soon the summer takes a turn for the dark.
self, between ages from 6 to 17. At one point I understood that there are no films for my kids to watch; everything I was doing received as some kind of father’s work. They had no interest in it, and it was not recommended viewing by children of their age. That is certainly one of the reasons why I got inspired by the genre. Another reason is that the themes in children’s films can pose a challenge – the themes for children should not necessarily be light, the theme may also be very serious. For instance, childhood traumas influence people for the rest of their lives. Problems that for adults can be something to overlook, may seem tragically hard for a child. What is the childhood trauma to be solved in The Sleeping Beast?
The protagonist faces a strong moral dilemma where the main issue is whether keeping a secret within a group is more important than human life? What will happen if the secret comes out in the open? On the one
hand, the protagonist doesn’t want to betray his friends; on the other hand, he realizes that this game is a question of life and death, and his friends won’t understand that. For adults, such issues may seem easy to find solutions to, but we should know how difficult it may be for children. You have made numerous documentaries using lots of amateur actors. How did your experience as a documentary filmmaker influence the process of working with children?
Jaak Kilmi in action. He finds great excitement in working with young actors and works hard to get them into having belief in what they do.
The documentary actor is convincing for the audience if the actor believes his or her being in front of the camera and lives a normal life despite the adjacent camera. A good documentary filmmaker must have developed the so-called unerring gaze in order to define both natural and unnatural moments. If there is something the protagonist wants really bad and there is discomfort included due to certain conditions, then the existence of the camera is often forgotten. This
It was extremely interesting all the time, since I knew exactly what I wanted and did not give up before I got what was important.
also applies to a children’s film. Child actors need to have faith in what they are doing since any kind of formal behaviour cannot be hidden. I really enjoy working with children – especially when you succeed in making children believe in what they do, it’s very exciting. Undoubtedly, I have also heightened expectations towards child actors. How did you make the child actors of The Sleeping Beast believe in what they have to do in the film?
I have five mischievous rascals acting in The Sleeping Beast – I had quite a hard time with them, and yet their energy was just so cool. The film has been shot quite in chronological order – there was playing and hanging around in the beginning, followed by suspense, and the final conclusion. It was extremely interesting all the time, since I knew exactly what I wanted and did not give up before I got what was important. And this succeeded largely thanks to the month-anda-half long testing period before the filming. We had recited the whole story with the children so they knew the final destination well – where the group of friends will reach and what will happen. We changed the screenplay quite a lot during the rehearsals, the majority of the dialogues had to be rewritten, and that’s where the children contributed a great deal through their improvisation. So at the film location, everything took place according to the script. When working with such a complicated psychological feature, the testing period is always essential for me. ESTONIAN FILM
DIRECTOR How do you characterize yourself as a film director when you are working with children?
Self-establishment is absolutely essential, especially with children on the set, but also when working with actors in general. Actors must trust and believe in the director. When working with children, the question of authority is important. I developed my role already when making Christmas in the Jungle. No small talk or befriending on the set. I do not communicate with the children when we are not working. When we meet during the filming, we only talk about work, that’s it. Naturally, there are people in the film crew who entertain children and help them to relax – but when the kids arrive on set and meet the director, they will work for the final result. Everything has to be organized in a way that all the participants understand we are doing really exciting work, where there is no space for conflicts or throwing one’s weights around. When a child actor is aware of this, then everything will succeed. When children know that our collaboration is terribly cool and important, they will contribute to the fullest, and do their work with joy. The Sleeping Beast begins just like any other adventurous children’s film set during a warm summer. When adults enter the game, the first impression starts to fall to pieces. What is the role of a child in the world in your opinion?
This is something I have been thinking about a lot. What would be good for a child, how would it be possible to grow up without trauma and violence. It is important that children could trust other people, that their worries and problems won’t be ignored or disregarded; they must feel that their parents support them and listen to them at home. If the first reaction to any kind of children’s behaviour by their parents is ‘don’t tell me again that you have done something’, then the child will unfortunately sense mistrust towards their parents, and things are being told only to friends of their own age. What about the trust between children and parents in The Sleeping Beast?
All of the problems of the film’s children would have solutions if they could have been able to talk to their parents; but they couldn’t since their needs were ignored. The parents of the children in The Sleeping Beast completely disregard the world that is so important and exciting for their children. Kristjan, the protagonist, comes actually from a nice family – even if his father is often away, but who is a cool guy, and his mother is caring but worries a lot. Mother’s excessive worrying is the reason why Kristjan starts to hide things in order to protect his mother. But it is not a child’s job to protect their parents. Parents have to be there for the children, and prove that they can manage their life. I think this film will pose numerous challenges to parents.
Director Jaak Kilmi loves sports, especially skiing and running.
What are your plans after the completion of The Sleeping Beast and Completely Out of Fashion?
I am writing the next screenplay for our next children’s film that we call a children’s horror film, in collaboration with Aidi Vallik, the screenwriter of The Sleeping Beast. The title is The Raven’s Stone, the story is based on the ghost tales of Võru county written by Juhan Jaik. The film, with elements of mythology, takes place in ancient times where the Tatars have destroyed a village and taken the villagers as slaves. The protagonist, a nine-year-old boy, tries to make money by freeing farm houses from ghosts, in order to buy his father out of slavery. But before this film, I am going to take on another film project, a very dark suspense drama taking us back to the late 19th century, where the poet Juhan Liiv is going to solve extremely brutal and raw murder mysteries.
IMPORTANT FILMS IN JAAK KILMI’S FILMOGRAPHY
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
Beauty of Fatherland (Doc, 2001) Doc A Living Force (Doc, 2003) Revolution of Pigs (Feature, 2004) The Art of Selling (Doc, 2006) Disco and Atomic War (Doc, 2009) Out of Fashion (Doc, 2015) Christ Lives in Siberia (Doc, 2015) The Dissidents (Feature, 2017) My Father the Spy (Doc, 2018) Christmas in the Jungle (Feature, 2020)
I practice sports almost every day. I would go skiing every day if possible. The ski track is the place where I can totally switch off. This is going to be a series, and the first pilot episode is a full-length feature for cinema distribution, titled The Shadow. Also, together with Kiur Aarma we plan to make a full-length documentary about the Juminda maritime tragedy in 1941 – a spatial film journey that we made for the exhibition at the Seaplane Harbour. So, besides making films, I really enjoy also making exhibitions. How can you survive such an intense load of productivity and ideas?
This has always been a problem among Estonian filmmakers, that you constantly have to initiate new projects in order to make both ends meet. This is a bit like a pyramid scheme. Today, I try to clean my desk of projects, in order to dedicate myself more to one film, and address all my productivity to the preparatory process of films. In fact, the only thing that keeps me healthy is physical activity, I practice sports almost every day. I would go skiing every day if possible. The ski track is the place where I can totally switch off; skiing with a high pulse rate is something that is vitally and psychologically important for me. This provides me with the feeling of utmost presence, both the mental and emotional restart, so I would later be able to give something to Evelin Penttilä the world. EF
Evelin Penttilä, producer of The Sleeping Beast:
hen we first met with Jaak in 2015, he told me about where the idea for The Sleeping Beast began. We are connected through the belief that films should provide hope and courage. This is something that creates the possibility for building various diverse worlds. Even now, we have ideas in different phases. Jaak is someone who is always involved in so many other processes, so it happened that before The Sleeping Beast was completed, his film Christmas in the Jungle, filmed in Indonesia, reached the cinemas and he dragged me into that collaboration as a co-producer. I enjoy working with Jaak because of his energy, liveliness, immediacy, and buoyancy. When he arrives at a place, he will be completely there, present; even if there are times when he arrives with a little delay, since he has always so many ongoing projects. There are always people who want to partake in Jaak’s ideas and energy. For Jaak, all ideas must be authentic and sincere – he is always reflecting on these stories through his personal filter that is never moralizing. For me, the journey that led me to The Sleeping Beast has been a huge lesson about how to trust the people and the world surrounding us. More than once, there have been critical situations when we had to change our plans, while hoping that this would lead us to the result that touches the audience. For me, The Sleeping Beast is a very important film because it is my first full-length feature after Zero Point – the feature where I have been collaborating as the executive producer since its beginning. When making this film, it has been our priority not to underestimate children as an audience, but to take them as equals. Since the film tackles themes that everyone can relate to, we really hope that it will also offer both excitement and moments of recognition to an adult audience. I am very grateful to Jaak that he decided to include me in the film project – and I hope this will be only the beginning.
Photo by Virge Viertek
The shooting of the feature Sentinel, directed by Tanel Toom (Truth and Justice), was completed in Tallinn in late autumn 2021. The former title of the film was Gateway 6. Kate Bosworth, Thomas Kretschmann, Lucien Laviscount, and Martin McCann perform in this English-language film. The sci-fi thriller is a co-production between Estonia, Germany, and the United Kingdom. By Maria Ulfsak Photos by Kristi Tüvi, Allfilm
et in the future on a war-ravaged Earth, four soldiers are manning Sentinel – a remote military base in a vast ocean that separates two warring continents. They wait for relief, or the enemy, whichever comes first. But as the empty weeks turn into months, paranoia descends that tests relationships to
breaking point. Whilst their tour of duty ended 3 months ago, the relief crew still hasn’t shown up. Alone and uncertain as to their fate, the simmering tension amongst the crew only escalates when a mysterious boat drifts into range – is it the help they have been waiting so long for, or something far more sinister? The screenwriter of the project is
The film crew on Sentinel – a remote military base in a vast ocean.
Photo by Erlend Štaub
Malachi Smyth (UK), the cinematographer is Mart Ratassepp (Estonia), and the production designer is Kaia Tungal (Estonia). The costume designer is Theresia Wogh (Germany), the editor is Tambet Tasuja (Estonia), the sound designer is Matis Rei (Estonia) and the composer is Gert Wilden (Germany). The film’s producers are Ben Pullen (UK), Ivo Felt (Estonia), Jörg Bundschuh (Germany), Pippa Cross (UK) and Matt Wilkinson (UK). Sentinel is produced by Allfilm (Estonia), Sentinel Entertainment (UK), and Kick Films (Germany), in collaboration with CrossDay Productions and Stigma Films (UK). Sentinel is presented by Altitude Film Entertainment in association with Head Gear Film and Metrol Technology in association with BR/ARTE, Tallifornia, Ichiban Films, Sentinel Entertainment and Vertical Entertainment. The film has been in the development for 12 years, and will reach cinemas in 2023. If everything happens as planned, producer Ivo Felt assures that the final version of Sentinel should be ready by the end of summer 2022 in order to start chasing the best time and place for the possible premiere. EF
PRODUCER IVO FELT: FINALLY EVERYTHING SUCCEEDED Ivo, it’s your first time producing a scifi thriller – a genre rarely seen in Estonia, mostly due to financial reasons. What about this particular film project – was it complicated to manage the financing of the project, and what schemes were finally involved? The financing process of Sentinel was really complicated – there were numerous sources of financing, including private investments from Estonia, Germany, and Great Britain; and almost half of the film budget was covered by public support from Estonia and Germany. There were also pre-sales by international sales agents and domestic distributors, and finally gap financing. All of it took time, various supporters came and went, but finally everything succeeded. I must say I am much more experienced after this. Since Estonia has the biggest input into financing the film, we are also the leading producers of the film. What do you think are the greatest advantages of director Tanel Toom? How well did he deal with the internationally acknowledged film stars, as well as the psychologically complicated and tense story? Tanel is a phenomenal director in the sense that he really knows all the ropes in filmmaking. One thing that inspires him the most is working with actors – he has studied in several schools all over the world, as well as taking additional courses in the field. Also, directing actors is one of Toom’s strongest skills. The actors sense it well and they quickly
start to respect Tanel and his work, this happened also while filming Sentinel. It was a truly great collaboration between him and the cast. As for the story, Tanel has has been working on polishing the script for years, so no big surprises were ahead of him when we started. What has been the crucial aspect about this film project? What has kept you working with this film for such a long time? What’s the catch? Who will be the target audience of the film? And – will this be an international blockbuster, a globally distributed feature directed by an Estonian? The film has been in development for 12 years. Besides Tanel Toom there has also been a long standing collaboration from the beginning with British producer Ben Pullen and screenwriter Malachi Smyth. I joined the project in the middle, and have been involved with the film for about six years, so this is not such a long time. I was convinced by two things – Tanel and the story. Also, all the abovementioned issues related to financing, and making the whole thing work was really challenging for me. I have a vague feeling that financing of a film can´t be more complicated, but we’ll see. Our aim is to reach as large an audience as possible. I believe our chances are good – especially thanks to Tanel, the story, and the excellent choice of actors. Also, the contribution of experienced producers and professional sales agents cannot be understated. So, we will see. EF ESTONIAN FILM
The Finnish-Estonian-RussianGerman co-production Compartment No. 6 won the Grand Prix at the Cannes film festival. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe and is shortlisted for an Academy Award. The screenwriters Livia Ulman and Andris Feldmanis share the story of turning a promising idea into an international hit. By Andrei Liimets Photos by Virge Viertek
LU: When we start working, everything usually seems to go fine at first. We talk and discuss and put the general structure in place. And then, when we feel something isn’t working and we will not be able to move forward with it, we go into full panic. You just have to get through this feeling. When we began as screenwriters, we often got stuck in this panic, and started doubting ourselves. Now we are aware it’s part of the process. You have to begin every project not knowing if and how it will work, because if you do already know, then it will probably bore you.
Photo by Sami Kuokkanen
irectors seem to go through different phases while making a film – from a nervousness on set and during editing, to a sense of calm and acceptance after the premiere, and then constructive self-criticism some time later. How does it go for screenwriters?
Compartment No. 6
AF: I read some old email exchanges with Juho (Kuosmanen, the director of Compartment No. 6 – ed.). Quite some time before filming he wrote to us how it clicked for him, what the story is about, and that the film will be very good.
LU: Juho can seem very confident. Or maybe writers can just enjoy the ups and downs of hesitation and certainty more because the nature of the work is a bit different. AF: Of course, after we have finished our work, anything can change during the shoot. LU: Then we get the next panic attack about what will remain of the story. We have had some experiences where we thought we have gone through everything with the director, but then we discover the director is just starting to search for the meaning. That’s a horrible moment for us, thinking: but where were you before!? How much distance do you have with Compartment No. 6 by now? Are you satisfied with it or is there something you think might have worked better?
LU: We don’t have any qualms. We went through the whole development with Juho. Of course there are details which we might have done a little differently had we been in sole control of the creative process, but that’s only due to us just being different people. AF: I mostly focus on the process, and once the film is finished the process is also finished and I’m ready to move on. It is exhausting and unhealthy to keep obsessing about this one thing. I think you probably learn more from the process than the finished article. LU: It’s not vital to us for everything to be exactly as we wrote it. The ideal is that everyone fits in with each other creatively and gives their best – then the end result is something that couldn’t have worked without these specific people. The synergy is what makes something special.
Did you have any major disagreements among yourselves, or did you have the story mapped out from the beginning?
LU: We saw the main themes and the philosophical meanings similarly from the very beginning. The actors and locations caused some changes, of course, and we weren’t prepared that we would have so much creative license. We drifted quite a bit from the book (Rosa Liksom’s Hytti nro 6 from 2011 – ed.).
but you also hope they talk about it in a way that makes the public want to see the film. If you are content with the film yourself, you just hope for people to see it. Otherwise filmmaking turns into a rather lonely art, even if the critics praise it. In the media, directors and actors get most of the spotlight. How much do you seek out any feedback for the script from reviews?
LU: This might be an ego thing, but I do
It’s not vital to us for everything to be exactly as we wrote it. The ideal is that everyone fits in with each other creatively and gives their best.
check if the screenwriters are mentioned, because it really annoys me if they aren’t. The story is such a central part of a film, there is no reason you should leave out the screenwriter. AF: This might be a cliché, but film is a collective art form. In hindsight it’s sometimes very difficult to say where something stems from, be it directorial choices, the dialogue, or the casting. As screenwriters, how much do you try to assess the script while watching films yourselves?
LU: We try to look at the film as a whole. AF: Sometimes you do notice some really obvious screenwriting techniques, which pull you out of the experience. And of course you notice great dialogue, such as in the HBO series Succession. Then we get jealous! LU: If I couldn’t enjoy films as a spectator anymore, I would give the work up. Of
Juho Kuosmanen has had a dream start to his career, with both Compartment No. 6 and The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki before that winning multiple awards. Based on your collaboration with him, can you describe what makes him stand out?
AF: If you get into a discussion with him, you instantly get the feeling he has a specific and personal relationship with cinema from the way he talks about scenes or actors. It’s not something you can borrow from somewhere; it really runs in his blood. I also think his talent is to seek out and put his trust in unexpected things. I mean, we were a sort of random choice for him as screenwriters, but he makes many decisions based on instinct and just how well he connects with people. LU: He has an openness about him, and he doesn’t seem to be too ego-driven. We never got the feeling that he thinks of himself as above others, being the director. AF: As a filmmaker he is also very much facing the audience. He tries to make the film as an author with his own vision, but also puts great care into making it accessible for people. Andris, you worked as a film critic before going into screenwriting. Now your own work is an object of criticism. Has it changed your views on the function of criticism in any way?
AF: That’s a difficult question. Of course you want critics to say they liked the film, ESTONIAN FILM
TALENTSTORY COVER Scriptwriters Andris Feldmanis and Livia Ulman with the director Juho Kuosmanen in Cannes.
There’s been a long-running discussion in the media that while Estonian film has talented directors and directors of photography, there is a lack of good scripts. How do you evaluate the current situation?
AF: I’ve always found those claims to be suspect. I don’t think it’s a question of screenwriting or directing, but a question of storytelling in general. If you’re a great storyteller as a director, you can’t really direct a poor script, because you understand it will not work. LU: It’s very difficult for me to detach the role of the screenwriter from the film. It sometimes seems to me that whatever goes wrong gets noted as the screenwriter’s fault, because they are in the shadows, somehow non-human. AF: Again, you have to find the solutions collectively. Otherwise many aspects can ruin a film. You can choose a great visual style and directorial sensibilities for a great script, but if these don’t match each other, the film might still be a bust.
Photo by Priit Grepp
course I sometimes spot specific details of filmmaking such as a great sound, but mostly it’s just a feeling – whether I like it or not.
The most important aspect is to gain and keep the audience’s attention. You seek some kind of intensity or tension. It’s similar to jazz music for me, where you have standards and a melodic whole, but also a lot of freedom within them. And the most interesting creative area for me is when control is starting to drift away, but the “music” hasn’t turned completely abstract yet.
Photo by Heikki Leis
Photo by Sami Kuokkanen
The best way to learn is to keep working and learning from the results all the time.
The key challenge for screenwriters seems to be finding a balance between a structure that works and breaking the rules in that structure in search of originality. How do you find the right balance?
LU: We are wildlings in the sense that we have never studied screenwriting, nor do we read books and guides on it. The best way to learn is to keep working and learning from the results all the time. Over time, you develop a sense of what works, and when. Of course you can put it into a formal structure – three acts etc. – but if a person is telling a story and is good at it, there is something very primordial in that. AF: If a great story is being told, you never think: hey, wait, what is going on, shouldn’t act one have ended already!?
You have two films coming out this year - Erik Stoneheart directed by Ilmar Raag and Triin Ruumet’s Dark Paradise, written together with the director. But what do you dream of in the long-term? Are there any themes you want to cover, or stories you are looking to tell?
LU: I hope that we can continue with the kind of work and the kind of collaborations we like. We don’t really dream of going to Hollywood or something like that. I try not to think of life as a perpetual uphill climb, but rather enjoy the moment. Shall I note: Hollywood need not bother.
LU: Haha, no, don’t put that down, there’s nothing wrong with Hollywood. A good offer may come from anywhere, it’s not really dependent on the size and fame behind it. AF: We often get asked if we’ve had any great offers after Compartment No. 6, but it’s very difficult to say what actually is a great offer. The most important thing is to get to do the things you like yourself, and tell the stories you believe are worth telling. EF
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Stories Life from
Ülo Pikkov, the newly appointed Head of the Animation Department at the Estonian Academy of Arts, started animating documentaries long before Flee took the genre to the limelight. Estonian Film spoke with Ülo about animation trends, distribution, and his newest film, ’Til We Meet Again, made entirely with sand, feathers, and other materials found on the tiny island of Ruhnu. By Aurelia Aasa Photos by Viktor Koshkin
hat are your ambitions as Head of the Animation Department? Which direction do you set your controls to?
The animation department of the Estonian Academy of Arts was founded in 2006 by Professor Priit Pärn. Two years later, international MA studies were initiated, and that has been going on since. For over a decade, we have schooled directors of animated films, always concen-
trating on the auteur-centric approach. This should remain the same in the future. On the other hand, I feel that there is a distinct lack of animation producers on the Estonian, and perhaps also Nordic, animation scene. Or producers-curators even, to be more precise. I would like to bring in extended studies for producers who I would rather call animation curators. These days, a good producer is required to be a curator anyway, and the job encompasses a wide variety of tasks: finding additional funding and exhibition spaces in cooperation with art galleries, festivals, events, and also through commercial projects. Today, the manual skills of the applicants are evaluated in the entrance exam, but these shouldn’t necessarily be required from a curator. A curator is to have good taste, and a knack for initiating and organizing things. In the academic and social sense, the whole animation scene has traditionally been centered on the classic animated film, and going back a few decades, more specifically around the children’s film. Today we have
screens, LED screens, you name it – animation is everywhere. Recently, Nukufilm studio created stop motion solutions for the EXPO pavilion of this year’s hosting country, the United Arab Emirates. There seems to have been a traditional opposition against advertising and commercialization in Estonian animation. Is it your intention to expand the field?
The animated film, already over a hundred years old, is still very much concentrated on technique. In Estonia, we have two historically developed studios, Eesti Joonisfilm and Nukufilm, the names of
the two studios already determining what technique is used to make films there - “cel animation” and “puppet animation” in Estonian. In the Estonian Academy of Arts, animation studies have been technique-based as well. The audio-visual media of today is very active in mixing, connecting, and blending different techniques. The distinction between a children’s film, commercial film, or advertising clip is also based on technique and function in a way. We should shift away from a technique-based education to a genre based approach, encouraging the blending of various techniques. When the scene was still young and people had no idea how animation works, a technical distinction was justified. Compared to literature, for example, it would be weird to differentiate between novels written with a pen, on a computer, with a quill… In animation we distinguish between drawn animation, puppet animation, and digital animation. We should have grown out of this by now, and the conversation should be about content and genre, not technical approaches. Technique is important to consider too, take budgeting for instance, it cannot be ignored, but it cannot become the main focus of the project. The focus has to be on content. Looking at student work, which themes prevail? Can you spot any trends, or is it all chaotic?
These things come and go in waves. Art has always been intrigued by the theme of physicality and the body, regardless of the governing power or political undercurrents. Not only in animation, also in painting, and sculpture. I have a feeling that there is a new generation emerging, who are accustomed to express their thoughts on Instagram, Twitter, and lately TikTok. They do not think in the context of one piece of art, a film, or a definite object so much, but move in wider cur-
Ülo Pikkov, the Head of Animation Department at Estonian Academy of Arts.
rents. Yes, they make a film, but they also tell the same story on Instagram, mark or archive their activities on TikTok. Everything has become cross-media based. Even if the film is finished, it has spawned parallel stories that often continue. It’s hard to define the beginning and the end. It’s a sign of the times. How does the Estonian Academy of Arts stand out in the international arena?
Flexibility is maybe the key word. Having had conversations with many students who have come from other schools to study here, it seems that the old and respectable schools are not that lenient when it comes to some techniques, or mixing different ones together. We always find a way. Even if we don’t have the skills or know-how, we will hire someone, or connect the student with a specialist. We are working towards a tailor-made education, not one put together on an assembly line. How highly do you regard the distribution potential of animation? The festivals are taken for granted, but what do you think about the animation reading skills of the general audience?
There are many currents here, but Academy of Arts graduation work, for instance, was a basis for the character of Old Man
who is active on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube… The creators kept on developing the character after school and it resulted in a feature length animated film Old Man Cartoon Movie (2019) with 100,000 admissions – a huge success on an Estonian scale. It’s a good example of cross-media based domestic distribution that involves various channels and cultivates its audience over a longer period. It’s much more complicated with shorts, the calling card of Estonian animation.
It is much more complicated indeed, but I see progress. It’s not that long ago when people in East Europe were very reluctant to pay any money for a film, be it fea-
tures, TV series, or shorts. They would buy a ticket to a theatrical screening, but at home illegal downloading prevailed, regardless of the quality. Today, people don’t download any longer, because Netflix and other platforms have made the viewer experience so comfortable. It works well with long forms. Shorts are not quite there yet, there is still a barrier in user habits to overcome. On the other hand, a short film often has the bonus of telling the story with very little text, or none at all. There is global potential in that. Many Estonian films have proven it through Vimeo, for instance. As Vimeo Staff Picks, they have spread quite well, gathering 100,000 views per film, and more. Maybe the leap in distribution ‘Til We Meet Again
hasn’t quite happened for shorts yet, but I predict that it will take place soon, in the coming years. You are a sort of spokesperson for documentary animation in Estonia. Why do you find that genre so close to your heart?
It’s hard to bring out one reason. There are several approaches to it that are more philosophical: can animated documentary exist at all, and to what extent is it a documentary? I think that talking about documentary filmmaking, animation allows us to get closer to certain themes and emotional states, than live action. Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee is a good example. Had it been made with actors, or in the way of a classic documentary, it wouldn’t probably have made such an impact and started the kind of discussion it has now. Think about religious icons: they wouldn’t work as photographs – find a person most similar to the prototype, apply make-up, and take a photo. At least it’s hard to imagine how these could work. Icons reflect historical events, characters described in the Bible. The distinct handwriting of a talented artist allows us to get much closer to reviving the documentary situations and events successfully, than a re-enacted photo could. Your art is dominated by stories connected to Estonia’s traumatic past. How do you find these stories, or do they find you?
As a young man recently out of a Finnish film school, I was certain that I had many great ideas to be realized through animated films. Becoming older, I have come to see and notice the stories around me. More and more I get the feeling that I have become a screen, or rather a membrane for the stories of others, empowering their
stories and giving them a chance to be heard, seen, and told. I think that we all hear interesting stories on a daily basis. As a filmmaker, you always think, cool story, nice situation, but most of these tales come and go. Next to those, there are the ones that stick. The stories of my recent films have reached me via very different ways, and I have even made the effort to get rid of them, but it’s like a disease that cannot be shaken off that easy. To cast out the illness and find the cure, I have turned them into films. Who else should tell these stories – I mean the tales of my tribe, my geographic region – if not the storytellers from around here, writers, or, more recently, animators-filmmakers? I don’t consider this a mission, but it has sort of taken this kind of shape. Your work as a maker of animated documentaries is characterized by very distinctive puppets, made of either yarn in Body Memory, or books in Letting Go. Now we see the emergence of ecological themes via found objects from Ruhnu Island. Tell us about your search for visual language.
It’s a long journey, and I have always tried to keep in mind that the technique and the material should be connected to the story. First, the story, and visual language stems from that. In ’Til We Meet Again, all the characters, objects and background are made from things found on Ruhnu – sand from the beach, pieces of reed, feathers. I try to approach the story, technique, and style as a unified whole. I have to say, that my films are made in cooperation with the team. Raivo Möllits has been the cinematographer of almost all my films, and Anu-Laura Tuttelberg has often been the art director, making collaborative filmmaking a pleasure.
Did you take all the materials back to Ruhnu afterwards?
Honestly, all the materials are waiting in my shed, packed in boxes (laughs). We haven’t been able to go back because of COVID-19. We are planning to have a premiere for the island people in spring, and set the materials free and give them back to nature then. It has been the idea and a deeper background story of the film since the very beginning. The fate of the people of Ruhnu has been very much in the crosswinds of history –like bits of reed on the beach that will be carried to another beach on the next wave, or on the next storm. Encounters taking place between feathers or tree roots in the film are accidental, but maybe not entirely. As people, we think that everything is under control, yet we are surrounded by a field of randomness and uncertainty. That was one idea behind choosing the technique for the film. You are currently making a film about a legendary animated film director?
I do have a project like that in the works. It’s an animated documentary called Titanic. Two years ago I went to Russia and interviewed perhaps the greatest living legend of animation, Yuri Norshtein – the author of Hedgehog in the Fog, and A Tale of Tales, among others. As Norshtein is one of the last Mohicans of the film format who hates everything digital or computer-based, we conducted the interview on a ship, and with a camera, but imposed a digital 3D iceberg on the background. The result is a documentary interview with Norshtein, mixing 3D digital animation with film. I hope to get it ready this year and unleash it upon festivals. EF ESTONIAN FILM
One Man's Pain Pildiallkiri
Best of Finnish & Estonian
DocPoint, running simultaneously in Helsinki and Tallinn, is one of the largest documentary festivals in the Nordic countries. The festival celebrated its 21st edition in 2022. By Filipp Kruusvall
or Finland and Estonia, it is the main event for international and national creative documentary films. Every year, it brings more than a hundred of the best and most talked-about documentary films all over the world to the screens of Helsinki and Tallinn. Since 2010, when the sister-festival DocPoint Tallinn was established, coop-
eration between the documentary industries of the two countries has advanced significantly. ICE AND FIRE DOCS
The opening kick of the documentary year was in January 2022 when the last session of the second edition of Ice and Fire Docs took place. It’s the documentary workshop for developing Finnish
Ice&Fire Docs participants in Billnäs Ruuki, Finland.
ESTONIAN DOCUMENTARIES SELECTED TO DOCPOINT FINEST MARKET
Two Hours to Happyness
Photo by Kadriann Kibus
and Estonian film projects. This initiative’s, organized by Estonian and Finnish Documentary Guilds and supported by Estonian Film Institute and AVEK, leading tutor is renowned Danish consultant Mikael Opstrup. The session was dedicated to sales and distribution in these very challenging times for the film industry. It brought to Estonia acclaimed tutor and mentor in this field, Gitte Hansen, an executive producer of more than 20 international independent documentaries for First Hand Films in Zürich, where she was deputy director and headed sales and acquisitions for many years.
film industry structures are transforming. Therefore, there’s a need to react swiftly and offer something agile and precisely targeted to the international market. DocPoint wants to contribute to the success of Finnish and Estonian films by offering curated and high-quality Finnish-Estonian documentary films to international documentary makers and buyers. DocPoint FINEST Market took place on an online platform from the 31st of January until the13th of February 2022. 20 Finnish and Estonian documentaries were ready for acquisition or distribution, both feature-length and shorts. It gave international buyers and distributors a chance to explore the newest works of makers such as Pirjo Honkasalo, Kiur Aarma, Alina Rudnitskaya, Suvi West, Moonika Siimets and many more. Most of the films presented at the DocPoint FINEST Market were world premieres and haven’t been seen elsewhere yet. Besides that, FINEST Market also had a section of Works in Progress that presented promising projects still in production.
DOCPOINT FINEST MARKET
TWO HOURS TO HAPPINESS OPENS THE FESTIVAL
Ice and Fire Docs was followed by the opening of the DocPoint film festival. In 2021 it launched two annual competitions for the first time, 2022 was the start of the festival’s industry initiative. In cooperation with DocPoint Tallinn a unique platform DocPoint FINEST Market was created, designed to exclusively present Finnish and Estonian documentaries. The timing was perfect, as international competition in the region is fierce, and
One of the festival’s highlights was a world premiere of the Estonian documentary Two Hours to Happiness by Moonika Siimets. It premiered both at DocPoint Helsinki and DocPoint Tallinn and was also presented at FINEST Market. The significance of this film is that it tells about a phenomenon that has had a strong impact on both Estonian and Finnish society. More than 70,000 Estonians, or around four percent of the country’s population, lives and
• u.Q., Director Ivar Murd. Producer Margus Õunapuu. Filmtower. Estonia. 83 min, 2021 • Yoyogi, Director Max Golomidov. Producer Volia Chajkouskaya. Allfilm, Volia Films, Kofuba. Estonia, Japan. 74 min, 2022 • Nowtime, Director and producer Aet Laigu. Meteoriit. Estonia. 13 min, 2022 • Hippodrome, Director Vladimir Loginov. Producers: Pille Rünk, Elina Litvinova. Allfilm. Estonia. 85 min, 2022
WORKS IN PROGRESS • Skype Story, Director Kiur Aarma. Producer Margus Õunapuu. Film Tower, Nafta Films. Estonia, 59 min, 2022 • One Man’s Pain, Director Kullar Viimne. Producer Erik Norkroos. Rühm Pluss Null, Estonia, 90 min, 2022
works in Finland, while their families, parents, children, and homes are in Estonia. Estonians form the largest immigrant group in Finland. Two Hours to Happiness by Moonika Siimets doesn’t judge; it simply looks at the possibility of living a life between two countries. Her film tells stories of longing, solitude, searching for happiness, and the conflict between reality and human desires. It shows that sometimes leaving your home isn’t an easy decision, even if it is the only possible one. The film is a humorously wistful documentation of people living their peculiar lives in the snowy fields of Lapland, the spartan apartments of Vantaa, the hotel lobbies, hospital corridors, construction sites, and grandmothers’ kitchens as they wait for their grandchildren to come back home. It is a mixture of confessions where people tell their very personal stories that don’t make it to the front pages of the media. Two Hours to Happiness tells a story about Estonians living in Finland, but the film has a very universal narrative that all viewers can relate to. EF ESTONIAN FILM
Surreal Sander Sander Joon’s short films Velodrool, Moulinet, and Sounds Good have all received multiple awards at different festivals. The young animator speaks about his latest work, Sierra, which premiered at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival. By Andrei Liimets Photos by Virge Viertek
atching Sierra, the first word that popped into my mind was “surreal”. How would you describe your style?
I strive for surrealist absurdism, which Estonian animation is known for. It’s something I like to watch myself and it seems that the viewers enjoy it as well, since it is fun and interesting. I also focus on dynamics and rhythm. Sound is also very important to me – it should complement what you see, create a new sensation together with it. I mostly use sounds you don’t hear in real life, which is something that fascinates me about animation. Your films don’t adhere to logic or narrative in a strict sense. What does the creative process look like?
I guess the closest parallel could be free writing. It is difficult for me to describe where an idea stems from. I do often end up on the topic of sport, although I don’t really know why. I suppose I like the fact that sport has its own set of rules, which I can then start breaking. There’s an end goal and a conflict,
someone must win. In a short format, it is very important to get the point across quickly, and most people already know the rules of sport. I don’t do or watch much sport myself, but it gets my ideas flowing creatively.
the film. It also ended up on a TV show on biking, so the topic itself took it in unexpected directions. Will Sierra then be targeted at the fans of Ott Tänak (a famous Estonian rally driver – ed.)?
Haha. I hope that some of Tänak’s fans will discover the film, and will also get acquainted with Estonian animation. I hope they will not be disappointed.
I was just about to ask, where your love of sports comes from, because your debut Velodrool is about cycling, and now Sierra is based on car racing.
I think it’s mostly subconscious. Sport just provides a good ground for dynamics and absurdity. There is also the advantage of each sport having its own set of fans. Many people ride bikes and had a personal attachment to Velodrool. As it turned out, there are quite a few bike film festivals around the world, which screened
Where does the title come from?
Sander Joon’s rally-themed short animation Sierra pulls us into the surreal car racing world.
Sierra is inspired by the relationship between me and my father. A red Ford Sierra was my first car, handed from person to person in our family. When I got the car for myself, it was a way of showing my father I had grown up and was finally ready to drive myself. Sierra also refers to mountains, and there is also a mountain in the film, symbolizing a sort of chasm between the parents and their son.
Joon’s first three films Velodrool (2015), Moulinet (2017), and Sounds Good (2018) have all been successful at international animation festivals.
TALENT How much does the film reflect your relations to your father in real life?
“My inspiration comes from all over the place, partly from Estonia, partly from Europe, partly from America,” says Sander Joon.
He has always loved motors, but when younger, he was also interested in making films. He mostly enjoys the technical process, which I have inherited from him. This is what brought me to animation. When I was growing up, my father mostly worked on cars, which I didn’t really connect with. Driving the Ford Sierra was a sort of initiation ritual – finally we had
something to talk about. I guess many Estonian sons have similar experiences. The father might be a wonderful craftsman, but his child is interested in something else. I had a fear of not being cool enough for my father, but now I understand he respects what I do. There is also some animation in Sierra which my father made when he was 16 years old in 1980, before I was even born. At the back of my mind I always had the idea of someday using it.
Animation is sometimes haunted by the expectation it’s mostly aimed at children. Do you have an age or a target group in mind for your films?
I think I mostly make them for people my own age, so I can’t really say how older or younger audiences react to it. I do think children enjoy the spectacle, and I also try to avoid any characters dying, although it would be an easy route to achieve a dramatic impact. Films are often evaluated either on viewing numbers, awards, or critical ratings. In that sense, you have put yourself in a doubly difficult position, since neither animation not marketed at children, nor short films, usually gain wider attention. How do you evaluate the success of the film?
The most important aspect for me is if it makes it to the festivals, the programming decisions of which I respect. Getting to Clermont was already a big achievement for me. The reaction from the festival community and the animation community is something I am most looking forward to. Speaking about international attention, you were involved in creating a clip for the series Rick and Morty. How did that come about?
Oh, I almost fell off my chair when I got that email! I was thinking this can’t be for real. Almost like a letter from a Nigerian prince leaving you a large sum of money?
Exactly! I had just watched the show, which I still consider to be the best animated series in the world. The proposition came thanks to my student film Velodrool, which had been chosen as a staff pick on the Vimeo platform. The producer of Rick and Morty was searching for different indie-animators from there and found me. I was given the last frame of one animator and had to give my last frame to another. I was given no restrictions and they
went with the idea I proposed. That was a wonderful collaboration. Estonian film has gone through a generation change during the past decade or so. However, it hasn’t really been so with animation. The older wellknown generation – Priit Pärn, Mati Kütt, Heiki Ernits, Janno Põldma, Rao Heidmets – are mostly well into their sixties at least. Then there’s a long gap with only perhaps Kaspar Jancis, Priit Tender, and Ülo Pikkov standing out, and then it’s basically the generation in their early thirties starting out. Why is that?
I have pondered the same question. On paper, we have ten or so animation directors graduating each year. They all get their driving license, but don’t end up driving. The technical side of things is the most difficult, and it’s not easy to stand out from the crowd. I am interested in technology, so I do as much as possible myself, even if no one helps me. I think in very practical terms, so as not get stuck behind technical barriers. It’s a mindset that needs to be nurtured in young people. I don’t think there is a lack of will or ideas, and there are quite a few interesting young animation artists coming through, but it’s mostly about technical courage. There is no such thing as an impossible idea. You basically have a tutorial for anything on YouTube.
Estonian animation has had a very distinct style. It also seems to me it has hindered progress in some sense, with little technical innovation coming through, and computer animation being sometimes frowned upon.
It’s a broader fear of animations looking too mainstream, reminiscent of a commercial. I don’t think everything has to be done by hand, computer animation provides so many new opportunities. At the same time, it has its own limitations that stop motion animation does not. Both have their own charm.
Sander was involved in creating a clip for the series Rick and Morty. The proposition to take part in that seemed unreal to him at first, because he considers it to be the best animated series in the world.
Your films seem to bridge a gap between the surrealist tradition of Estonian animation and current technological means.
My inspiration comes from all over the place, partly from Estonia, partly from Europe, partly from America. I watch very different things and try to create something similar in some way. To differentiate myself, I seek out new possibilities rather than only sticking to
There is no such thing as an impossible idea. You basically have a tutorial for anything on YouTube.
hand drawn animation. I also try to create something that might have international appeal. On the other hand, Estonian stop motion animation has achieved such a high level due to it being consistently developed for a long time. Luckily, they are now incorporating new techniques, new styles and new artists such as Jonas Taul. You are at a stage in your career where you have proved yourself with short films. The logical next step would be feature length format. What do you plan on doing next?
I will not exclude the possibility of going feature length, but at the moment I’m not really sure that is the next step for me. I feel that what I like to do works best in a shorter format. A feature length film would require a stricter structure to keep the viewer’s attention. With short films I like the ability to experiment and try out things you wouldn’t hang a feature length film on. Maybe a TV series then, Estonia’s own Rick and Morty?
Haha, why not! It’s not a simpler solution as a season for TV runs for longer than a feature length film, but there are more opportunities to break the rules. EF ESTONIAN FILM
Speaking Through 32
The first part of the trilogy, Rip-Off, focuses on the manor as the place for a transfer of culture.
Internationally acclaimed artist Kristina Norman represents Estonia at the Venice Art Biennale this year. A significant part of the exhibition is her experimental film trilogy Orchidelirium. By Maria Ulfsak Photos by Virge Viertek Special thanks to chain store DEPO
Kristina, please tell us about your background first. How do you see yourself positioned or defined on the landscape of art? Recently, I went to see your fabulous poetic documentary production Lighter than Woman. A shattering experience – film, theatre, and exhibition, all in one. Would “interdisciplinary” be a good word to describe your work?
It can be said that my area of activity in art is a bit wider, and my long-term research-based projects end up in very different institutional frames. It depends on who commissions the work, or which form I deem the most suitable for the idea. Almost all my projects are connected through use of the audio-visual medium, interlaced with interventions in the public sphere, drawings, and sculpture. Lighter than Woman, for example, is formulated as a sort of invitation to the artist’s studio, telling her own story which she illustrates with drawings made on the spot, with minimalist choreographic numbers, and pre-recorded documentary clips. In the past few years, I have given a lot of thought to the Eastern European identity in my work and pondered about
the ways it connects to the big themes like migration, race, colonialism, or belonging to Europe, the problems which have been explored very thoroughly from the Western European perspective. Lighter than Woman, too, addressed some of the topics in this thematic cluster, through the work experience of Eastern European women working as caretakers for the elderly in Italy. The Italian welfare system is largely built on the cheap labour of women from Eastern Europe. Simultaneously, clearly racially sensitive stereotypes are spreading in Italian society, claiming amongst other things that Eastern European women are born with a natural proclivity suited to domestic help. Immigrant labour allows local women to realize themselves professionally in different fields. An Italian has even reached the Earth’s orbit as the first and only woman in the European Space Program.
Please explain the central theme of your exhibition at Venice Biennale – colonial histories that are unexpectedly connected through three countries: Holland, Estonia, and Indonesia. Why this selection?
In the context of the so-called migration crisis, racist jargon is increasing considerably in the Estonian public space. It is largely connected to the East European post-Socialist self-image of our society, the victim complex, and peculiar notions about being part of Europe. The world of politics declares that Estonia has no part in the guilt about Western colonialism, and it’s the Western countries who should deal with the refugees arriving on the shores of the Mediterranean. As an artist, I decided to explore biographies that would support the depiction of Estonians and people from our linguistic and cultural space as part of a bigger history. Something that would em-
Norman’s most recent project was the poetic documentary piece Lighter than Woman, starring Eastern European women who work in Italy as caretakers for the elderly.
IN FOCUS For the upcoming 59th Venice Biennale (2022),
the Estonian pavilion will exhibit a project by artists Kristina Norman and Bita Razavi titled Orchidelirium: An Appetite for Abundance (curated by Corina L. Apostol), inspired by Emilie Rosalie Saal’s (1871–1954) watercolours and paintings of tropical plants. In the exhibition the artists combine historic and new artworks to propose a multifaceted view on colonial history and its problematics.
phasize Estonia’s present and historic ties to the so-called global South, and turn attention to the unequal power dynamics of this relationship. The Venice project “Orchidelirium. Appetite for Abundance” started in conversation with curator Corina Apostol and film producer Erik Norkroos and is based on 334 botanical paintings by Emilie Rosalie Saal (1871–1954), an Estonian artist from the beginning of the 20th Century, who has been largely forgotten today. She painted tropical plants on the East Indian islands that were colonised by Holland, travelling there with her husband Andres Saal in 1899–1920. Estonia was still a Western province of the Russian Empire, and the aristocracy here was mainly of Baltic German descent. Andres Saal was a writer and one of the key figures in the Estonian national awakening, his journalistic writing was targeted against the Baltic aristocracy and his novels romanticized the struggle of Estonians against German crusaders in the 13th century. Regarding the biography of this married couple, I was driven by the fact that after leaving their Estonian peasant background behind, they became quite ordinary white colonists in the Dutch Empire. Much like Italian women in Lighter than Woman, who evolved at the expense of the other women’s work who have a lower standing in society, Emilie could dedicate herself to painting because local Javanese women took care of her household and children. Andres Saal accepted a new job as the Head of the Photography Department of the Topographical Bureau of the Dutch East Indian colonial army, and made his family a part of the colonial élite. My work was based on the Saals’ journey from colonized subjects to colonizers,
made possible by the opportunity to impersonate the Western European whiteness represented by the Baltic Germans in Estonia. How did you come upon this relatively unknown person Emilie Rosalie Saal, and the mysterious and dark history of orchids? Botany as a subject usually intersects with art only in the context of decoration.
As an object of nature, exoticised by Europeans, orchids became status symbols in wealthy European and North American households. The orchid craze coincided with the ongoing exploration project in the colonies, and the “hunt” for
rare orchids was characterized by the rhetoric of conquering nature, nations, and landscapes. Many “hunters” lost their lives in the jungles deemed dangerous by white people. It is known that Emilie Saal had her own personal orchid collection on Java, featuring over one hundred different species, many of which ended up as subjects of her detailed paintings. Planning my film trilogy, I was thinking how to address the seemingly innocent iconography of Emilie’s botanical paintings. It implicitly contains the dictate of the European science matrix that makes everything subject to the hierarchy of classification. White surfaces sevOrchidelirium is not Norman’s first time to represent Estonia in Venice. In 2009, she was at the Biennale with the solo project After-War.
er the ecological ties of the plants, erasing their meaning and the associations they have in the ancient wisdom of the natives. A white background also renders the people surrounding the artists as invisible, enabling the necessary material conditions for the artist to work. In one part of the trilogy, I wanted to deal with these omissions and suggest a vision of resistance to such obfuscation. At the exhibit of the Estonian pavilion, there are three experimental films done by you. Films which combine dance, painting, even architectural film I think, and other exciting elements. What did you keep in mind when directing those?
The trilogy was born in collaboration with three dancer-choreographers - Teresa Silva, Karolin Poska, and Mari Mägi. These films are in essence collages of reflexive visuals, three images of colonial processes, tensions, and transformations in the characters’ inner and outer universes. The focus is on the ambivalence of the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. Both counterparts are tense and insecure, and there is a mutual desire for each other. I used erotic tension as an instrument of empowerment in the narrative of undermining and upsetting hierarchies. The first part, called Rip-Off focuses on the manor as the place for a transfer of culture. Everything that the Saals will experience later in their life – exotic plants, woman’s art hobby – existed beforehand as a reality in the Baltic German manor house. There they gained knowledge of the West-European lifestyle and the desire to become white that they could realize in Indonesia. The second part called Shelter is shot in the abandoned bear cage of Tallinn Zoo. It explores the issue of colonial representation that I tried to approach from two different viewpoints – from inside the cage and outside. In (Baltic) German and Russian imperial science, Estonians were depicted as representatives of a non-white race, and in some scientific publications, Estonians and Latvians were classified under fauna of the Russian Empire. The third film Thirst emphasized the connection between peat mined from Estonian mires and the plantations of tropical orchids in Holland that use peat as a substrate. One discernible side effect of
Kristina Norman’s work explores the intersections of national identity, politics, memory, and public space.
such flower business is a decline of ecosystems and a loss of drinking water in communities bordering peat extraction sites. At first, these films will only be available in Venice, but what are your plans for future? Do you plan to turn it into a unified story that would have a chance to be shown at the more experimental film festivals?
At the moment, it is exciting for me to work with the trilogy in the form of a room installation, where it will start to resonate with the other elements of the exhibition. Saals’ personal archive, the textual and choreographic interventions of Indonesian writer Sadiah Boonstra and choreographer Eko Suprianto, Bita Razavi’s spatial and performative works. In Venice, all the films will be looping si-
multaneously on three screens and their soundtracks, created by composer Märt-Matis Lill, will form a composition. Should the films move to the cinema, the whole viewing experience would be different. We plan a different audio track for the cinemas, and, content-wise, we will aim for the curated whole, a compilation that would also include input from the Indonesian point of view. Until now, you have directed several poignant documentaries. Now we can add another art film project to the resume. What are your plans, regarding cinema?
I would like to continue our collaboration with long-time cinematographer and producer Erik Norkroos. First, I’d like to open the exhibition in Venice, and then start making new plans together. EF ESTONIAN FILM
Back to (the New) Normal Last November’s 25th edition of Tallinn Black Nights (PÖFF) saw the film festival returning to something like pre-pandemic times. By William Smith Photos by Erlend Štaub and Liis Reiman
he lobby of the Nordic Hotel Forum was once again a bustling hive of activity with filmmakers, journalists and industry professionals from around the world meeting up again in the real world and sharing their passion for cinema. The bravest of guests even dipped their toes in the Baltic Sea, during the festival’s bracing morning winter swims. Perhaps most importantly, cinema-goers returned in numbers to Estonian cinemas, to see the best festival films on the biggest of screens. 2020 saw a hybrid festival hosted, leaning heavily on PÖFF’s freshly launched online cinema platform, which was developed together with Festival Presenter Elisa. Hybrid was here to stay and the tradition continued in 2021, but with a smaller online programme running after the festival and featuring some
of the winners and most acclaimed films selected. The films were, again, available to film fans throughout Estonia, but acknowledging the organisers’ central goal of getting cinemagoers back into cinemas, of course, as safely as possible. Festival organisers were assisted by a number of innovative and high tech Estonian health and safety sponsors: Respiray personal air-purifiers were worn by filmmakers, professionals and staff; BioBlock nasal sprays were issued in guest goody bags, testing service/app Certific smoothly checked anyone with potential symptoms and the Hotel Nordic Forum had recently been outfitted with the very latest COVID-proofing measures. In the end, no infections were detected in the festival’s testing centre. PÖFF’s very special 25th birthday edition featured a few special events (including a Tarkovsky opera performance!),
even in trying pandemic times, but the festival mainly saw business as usual, with a schedule including 795 screenings and a packed industry programme for the 700+ industry guests in attendance in person and online. In total, 71,200 people watched films at the festival. PÖFF’s main programme included 182 feature films, 2 shorts and 12 TV series; with Just Film encompassing 51 long and 29 short films; and the PÖFF Shorts’ programme comprising 244 films. Local talent was on display in the 82 films from Estonia. For the first time, in collaboration with the European Film Academy (EFA), PÖFF screened the nominees for the European Discovery – Prix FIPRESCI, including eventual winner Promising Young Woman. Directors Valdimar Jóhansson (Lamb), Laura Wandel (Playground), and Ninja Thyberg (Pleasure) attended festival screenings as well as
Festival organisers were assisted by a number of innovative and high tech Estonian health and safety sponsors.
participating in the Discovery Campus’ Discovery Showcase. PÖFF’S WINNERS
The Official Selection jury, headed by EFA Chairman Mike Downey, selected director Andreas Kleinert’s historical biopic Dear Thomas as their favourite, handing the film the PÖFF Grand Prix. Far from following biopic conventions, the film takes biography and makes a manifesto for art and its power for change. The Best Director award went to Wojciech Smarzowski for The Wedding Day: a rich, provocative and brutally incisive portrait of Polish society and history. Smarzowski also received the Best Screenplay award in recognition of The Wedding Day’s script. The Best Cinematography award was presented to Emre Tanyildiz for The List Of Those Who Love Me, in the eyes
of the jury “16mm filmmaking at its very best”. The Best Actress award went to Russia’s Sofia Krugova for No Looking Back for her portrayal of a daughter caught between comically ultra violent mother and grandmother. Albrecht Schuch received the Best Actor award for his “extraordinary and multifaceted” performance as German writer and man of letters Thomas Brasch in Dear Thomas. The Best Original Score prize went to Finland’s Esa-Pekka Salonen for his evocative score for The Wait, described by the jury as both “emotionally raw” and “spiritually liberating”. Hungary’s Anna Nyitrai picked up the Best Production Design award for Perpetuity’s vividly-realised futuristic dystopia. In the First Feature Competition, the jury led by Jayro Bustamante gave Germany’s Other Cannibals, directed by Francesco Sossai, the Best First Feature award. The twisty thought experiment combines black comedy, Western and a
deep dive to the heart of human desire. Two Special Jury Prizes were handed out to Chilean director Nicolás Postiglione for Immersion, an exquisitely tense water-bound psychological thriller, and Cécile Ducrocq for Her Way, offering new perspectives on both prostitution and motherhood. Lithuania’s Runner, from Director Andrius Blaževičius, picked up the Baltic Competition prize, presented by jury head Marjorie Bendeck. The fast-paced drama finds Marija chasing after her mentally ill and missing life partner. The Rebels with a Cause jury, led by Kazik Radwanski, chose Piotr Stasik’s The Moths for the Rebels with a Cause prize. The experimental piece follows a youth group detached from their virtual lives in a Polish forest. The jury also presented the Rebels with their Shorts award to Faeze Karimpour’s They Were to Cross the River. Lifetime achievement awards were presented to Estonian actress Elle Kull and to legendary Spanish director Carlos Saura, who also screened his latest feaESTONIAN FILM
EVENT A new tradition began at the recently inaugurated PÖFF Park, with commemorative trees planted for winners and festival guests. ture at PÖFF. The DDA Spotlight Awards for inclusion and diversity in film were presented to Liesl Tommy for her film Respect and Sebastian Meise for his film Great Freedom. A new tradition began at the recently inaugurated PÖFF Park, with commemorative trees planted for winners and festival guests including EFA President and main jury head Mike Downey; DDA Chairman Dennis Davidson; Discovery Campus headliner Baltasar Kormákur; as well as the Grand-Prix-winning Dear Thomas’s director Andreas Kleinert and The Wedding Day’s Wojciech Smarzowski. The park is in the grounds of the soon-to-be-built studio complex in Northern Tallinn and will serve as a lasting celebration of world cinema. SUB-FESTIVAL SUCCESS
The PÖFF Shorts jury selected Teresa Juksaar’s King as its Estonian National Competition winner. In the international animation section, Hugo Covarrubias’s Beast triumphed, with Guillaume Lorin’s Vanille picking up best children’s animation. In the New Talents competition, With Love, Father (animation) and Reflecting on the Weather (live action) prevailed. The best live action short prize was given to Sunrise in My Mind, directed by Danech San. The Just Film Children’s Jury picked Even Mice Belong In Heaven as their winner, while the Youth Jury chose Good Old Times. The ECFA Award for Best European Children’s Film went to My Dad is a Sausage. Finally, the Just Film Grand Prix was presented to Playground. LOOKING TO THE INDUSTRY’S FUTURE
Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event (I@T&BE) also celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2021. Around 550 local and international guests attended industry
events in person, with another 150 attending online. The organisers were pleasantly surprised by the strong attendance, even having to close onsite accreditations early. Attendees were not let down by the variety and quality of the more than 110 masterclasses, roundtables and presentations organised or by the strength of the 66 projects on show. The Script Pool prize went to Dreaming of Lions. In the Works in Progress section, the Asymmetric Studios Best Visual Effects Award went to Parade. The Baltic Event Award was awarded to Bethlehem Light. The Just Film Award went to Paula. Baltic Event Co-Production Market winners included Lioness (Best Project) and You Can Dance (Screen International Best Pitch Award). Clara Larrin and Larisa Oleinik each picked up a Producers Network Prize for Promising Young Producers. TV Beats, the series-focused strand of I@T&BE also hosted an in-depth programme and included a co-financing market for the first time. Troll Farm was chosen by an international jury as the Most Promising Project. Perfect Kids On/Off won the Hypewriter Award. Industry partners Midpoint chose ELEPHANT as it’s 2021 TV Launch winner. In its special birthday year, I@T&BE
welcomed the UK as its Focus Country, organised in association with the British Film Institute. A roundtable discussion of British-Estonian co-productions and co-production possibilities was one of the year’s standout events. The broader conference programme’s main focuses were green production and sustainability, with events including a panel discussion with filmmakers from carbon-neutral production The Wait, as well as a networking dinner prepared using recycled food. For the first time, a new Discovery Campus brand was introduced, joining up talent programmes Music Meets Film, Black Nights Stars and Black Room, together with a new Future to Film programme. All will continue in 2022 and develop into year-round online training for composers, actors, production designers, writers, directors and more. Offline, a new training programme under this new umbrella, has been launched for technical film crew in Eastern Estonia and has already seen an unexpectedly large number of applications. The festival will also continue to develop its Creative Gate project this year: a web portal and shop window for discovering film services, talent and locations. In 2022, the PÖFF team will be attending Berlin virtually and Cannes in person, including participating in the Goes To Cannes Works in Progress showcase for the second year running. At home in Estonia, preparations for the 26th edition of PÖFF and 21st of Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event have begun in earnest, with festival dates set for November 11–24, 2022. Stay tuned to poff.ee for news about submissions, programmes and events. EF
18-25 NOV, 2022
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Festival Highlights of 2021
Despite the relentless march of the pandemic, the Estonian film industry maintained a healthy presence at festivals in 2021. It was an especially successful year for our highly-acclaimed co-productions where Estonian filmmakers filled many of the key creative positions. By Mirjam Mikk Photos by Erlend Štaub and Homeless Bob Production
Producer Riina Sildos and costume designer Jaanus Vahtra representing Compartment No 6 at Cannes.
he Finnish-EstonianGerman-Russian feature Compartment no. 6 by Juho Kuosmanen premiered in the Main Competition at Cannes, where it won the Grand Prix and Ecumenical Jury Prize. This prestigious achievement launched it onto a global buzzing festival circuit, where it collected awards and nominations, such as Best International Film at Jerusalem FF, the Golden Camera 300 Award at Manaki Brothers Cinematographers IFF Macedonia, and the Audience Award at Cottbus. It was nominated for Best International Film at the Spirit Awards, for European Film, European Actor and European Actress at the European Film Awards, for Best Motion Picture Non-English Language at the Golden Globes, and is in the running for Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards. Some other festivals in the list are London FF BFI, Busan IFF, PÖFF, Mar del Plata FF, Montreal Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, Goa iFF, and Göteborg FF. The main actor of the film
Yuriy Borisov, won Best Actor Award at São Paulo IFF and Seminci IFF for his role in Compartment no 6, and is also the leading man in another festival hit that is co-produced with Estonia. Captain Volkonogov Escaped, directed by Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov, was produced by Russia, Estonia, and France. The film premiered in the Main Competition at Venice IFF and continued onto São Paulo IFF, Warsaw IFF, Ghent FF, Busan IFF, PÖFF, Thessaloniki FF, International Film Festival of India, Les Arcs IFF. It has already won the Silver Hugo: Best Art Direction at Chicago IFF, Best Film Directed by a Woman at Gijón International Film Festival, and Best Narrative Feature at Philadelphia FF. And it was not only fiction co-productions which were successful. Guatemalan-born director Renato Borrayo Serrano’s latest feature documentary Life of Ivanna was produced by Russia, Estonia, Norway and Finland. The film’s world premiere was co-presented by CPH:DOX 2021 & Hot Docs in May, due to the postponements in the festival calendar. A
string of other screenings followed - GoEast, Krakow IFF, DOK.fest München, Human Vision, Docaviv, Shanghai IFF, Luebeck 63rd Nordic Film Days, DOCNYC, Tromsø IFF, just to name a few. Life of Ivanna won Best Documentary Film at Zurich FF, El Gouna IFF and Festival international du film d’éducation à Évreux, the Don Quijote Award for the best international feature-length film at Mdoc (ES) and special jury prizes at Message to Man and Nordic/Docs Dokumentarfilmfestivalen Fredrikstad. Another international documentary Tell Me is a look at the universality of emotions during lockdown. The film is the collaboration of 19 directors from all around the world and led by the Estonian director Marta Pulk. It premiered at Ji.hlava IDFF and screened at PÖFF. The features by Estonian directors were also well-received by festival audiences. The fourth film of the acclaimed Estonian female director Kadri Kõusaar Deserted is a modern hostage drama. It is produced by Estonia, Sweden and
Finland, has an international cast, and had its world premiere at Busan IFF. Produced by the UK and using the Film Estonia cash rebate scheme, the debut feature Firebird from the Estonian director Peeter Rebane, premiered at BFI Flare, where it was the festival’s opening film. It was chosen for the opening night at various festivals, such as Film Out San Diego, where it won the awards for Best Narrative Feature, Best Director, and Best Actor. The LGBTQ+ historical drama screened at a string of festivals and collected numerous awards Durban IFF, Rainbow Visions (Audience Award, Best Feature Film), Cinema Diverse Palm Springs (Festival Favorite, Director’s Choice Award), Key West FF (Best LGBTQ Film), Image+Nation Montreal (Audience Award), Side By Side (Audience Award), and Moscow IFF, among many others. The 2020 films also continued their festival run, with Veiko Õunpuu’s latest feature, the Nordic western The Last Ones, and Lauri Randla’s pastel-coloured coming of age debut Goodbye, Soviet Union
The happy team of Captain Volkonogov Escaped at the Venice Film Festival.
also being part of the programme at Moscow IFF, Janno Jürgen’s drama Rain had its international premiere at the Baltic Debuts Film Festival. It also screened in the debut competition at Filmfestival Kitzbuehel, Cineast and Kinoshock and had its Asian premiere at Goa IFF. Estonian animation shorts also had a successful year. Estonia-Croatia directing duo Morten Tšinakov’s and Lucija Mrzljak’s Stork (2020) won the Bronze-Jabberwocky Award at the Etiuda & Anima IFF in Kraków in the summer. The film also won the Audience Award for Best Short Film, and a Special Jury Prize at the prestigious Zagreb Animation Festival. In total, the Stork has won 9 international awards. Another film to mention is the debut puppet stop-motion by Jonas Taul A Most Exquisite Man, which premiered at Stop Motion Our Fest, where it won Best International Film and also collected the Best Professional Film at Montreal Stop Motion Film, and the Grand Prix at Fredrikstad Animation Festival. EF ESTONIAN FILM
Liis (Grete Konksi)
On the Big Screen
Karin (Piret Krumm)
KIDS are ALR It is not often that an Estonian film offers a fast-paced youth comedy based on inescapable youth conflicts and crises that would attract a cinema audience among teenagers. Youth is a critical time, full of different kinds of exploration, where hormones dominate.
oung people dive into mellow summer nights in order to discover their truth, answers, and the burning pleasures of desire. The comedy Kids of the Night is directed by Priit Pääsuke and the story deals with teenage journeys, including three sisters and their personal confusing issues that are disentangled during one night. This modern and optimistic adventure is accompanied by inviting neon lights, irresistible electronic music, and the protagonists struggling with heartache.
Ink Big! The critics have done their job
The middle-aged fathers and mothers are left passively in the background of this story. Kids of the Night addresses various teen topics; embarrassing romantic conversations at parties, a tough time at school, or working for a demanding company. These issues are reflected by three young women – the youngest sister, bellicose Jane (Alice Siil); Liis (Grete Konksi) who is about to enter university, and the oldest sister Karin (Piret Krumm) who has fallen for her boss. Besides the three sisters, there are lots of disobedient supporting characters in the film,
Kids of the Night By Ralf Sauter First published in Postimees
Photos by Andres Teiss and Liisabet Valdoja
Jane (Alice Siil)
among them Liisi’s friend Pamela (Jaune Kimmel), and two unreliable policemen (Juss Haasma, Ott Lepland), who smoke weed during their shift while discussing which one of Disney’s princesses – Jasmine or mermaid Ariel – is sexier. The snappy text of the film includes casual contemplations and witty sayings that the characters express towards each other while wandering through Tallinn’s maze of streets. The truth is that Kids of the Night hits the spot when the sisters happen to enter some exciting venue – such as a hot night club Loveshack, or a random gas station by the highway. These are the places where we can see the actresses liberally enter a playful repartee. Since the roles in Kids of the Night are considerably different, every actress has an opportunity to contribute some kind of unique strength. Alice Siil as Jane – a vulnerable young woman – feels pressured by her party animal friend, and her parents. Jaune Kimmel has a totally different role to play – a wild and hotheaded Pamela – a truly essential and amusing character in the youth comedy. Unfortunately, Kids of the Night perhaps won’t offer all the characters enough satisfactory artistic freedom while desperately searching for its energetic rhythm, and somewhat disintegrates under the load of storylines. The personal storylines of the sisters are well elaborated at the beginning of the film; but then, there will be arbitrary digressions into different sets and places that also separate the characters, and the young women’s issues fail to lead to meaningful solutions. However, one should not be surprised by the lack of focus, since the film has been composed as an adventurous film based on emotions, reflecting the night-time Kids of the Night is a modern and optimistic adventure, accompanied by inviting neon lights, irresistible electronic music, and the protagonists struggling with heartache.
city atmosphere through different types of young philosophers and wanderers. For instance, one of the comical characters in the film is a droll worker at the gas station (Argo Aadli) who succeeds in impressing Liis for a second with his depth of soul. The charm of the film appears both in the improvisational and simply human moments – but the final scenes may create disappointment in a viewer, as the sisters’ issues won’t have a cool solution - other than a tepid mutual understanding within a family circle. But thanks to the nonchalant mood and the visual details, Kids of the Night still has an invigorating and captivating effect. The film can be described as a cocktail suffering from too many ingredients, but attractive due to its pretty colours and garnishes. The production designer of the film has used a lot of retro elements, and the cameraman plays with warm rays of light – that adds a somewhat different, even magical atmosphere to the film. If an observant viewer notices some cool film poster (for instance, of the cult film Blade Runner uniquely attached to the wall of the gas station) or old-fashioned technical equipment, the world of Kids of the Night becomes much more eccentric than people are used to experience in the capital of Estonia. Finding the set pieces hidden behind the actors, and resonating with the chosen music, definitely helps the film’s audience to perceive a unique night-time dimension. Despite the fact that the story consisting of multiple parts won’t be developed to the fullest, the entertaining youth film still finds its own rhythm, pace, and temperature. And sometimes this is all a film needs, to offer a light boost of vitamins for teenagers enjoying their summer holidays, and whose everyday vocabulary includes fashionable expressions such as “omg”, “yolo” or “dope”. And in my opinion, Kids of the Night is dope indeed. EF ESTONIAN FILM
Work as the Pillar Stone of Estonian Culture
“Listen, let’s go and have a dance, after all this misery”, the boss says after a redundancy notice given to Sandra in the middle of an office party. “Thank you, not right now”, the doctor of Physics gives her resolute answer, and starts to pack.
andra Gets a Job, the debut feature film of Kaupo Kruusiauk, begins with a lab door closing. Every end is the beginning of something new, but the highly qualified Sandra finds herself at the beginning of a tiresome cycle of opening and closing doors.
We probably all have a childhood memory of an affectionate aunt or uncle and their kindly interrogations about your potential career options already during the kindergarten years. The question, “What do you want to become when you grow up?” is as significant in Estonian culture, as the motto of our “national novel”,
Truth and Justice – “Work, and love will come”. Estonians’ unquenchable love of work (or is it duty?) is etched into our use of language – the phonetically and grammatically correct definitions of different forms of work could fill a whole paragraph. Our chosen profession may be the centre of our self-determination, or the inevitable part of our daily schedule, we are all in the force field of that four-letter word, one way or another. I don’t think that anyone asked Sandra about her plans for the future in a kind voice. The fact that the daughter will follow the footsteps of her scientist father was established already at birth, given the family profile. Sandra’s mother Tiina (Kaie Mihkelson) seems to represent the family’s only connection to reality, but it becomes clear soon enough that the Mets family
Depicting work culture is not new on the Estonian cinematic landscape. terms like “lifelong learning” and “soft skills” were not yet born. In society today, where self-determination is largely based on a chosen profession, career setbacks are hard to endure for everyone. The way Sandra keeps on looking despite the obstacles, is worthy of recognition. Determined, like a true-blue scientist, she walks through several assistant positions and the bureaucratic gauntlet of the unemployment office. Sandra is hired as a scientist, a secretary, and a detective. This flipping back and forth between different occupations has been a source of criticism for the film, and considered to make the film too ambiguous. Agreeing with my colleagues, I admit that there is most likely no link between the police detectives and the start-uppers, but different situations illus-
trate the extreme measures someone is willing to take in order to secure a job. Sandra Gets a Job is, above all, a bouquet of characteristic skits, showing us the nature of all possible work environments in a comical manner. Depicting work culture is not new on the Estonian cinematic landscape. The image of an industrious slave nation follows us like a shadow, and our films often take us to poor rural households or mansion yards. November (Rainer Sarnet), Manslayer. Virgin. Shadow (Sulev Keedus) and The Riddle of Jaan Niemand (Kaur Kokk) brought along a wave of grim peasant films and enforced the image. Truth and Justice (Tanel Toom) brought to light the tribulations of free landowners. We are celebrating the start-up enterprise today much in the same way we celebrat-
Photos by Ken Mürk
doesn’t really know any other reality than the world of science. Sandra’s demeanor tempts us to compare her with the heroines of Little Joe or Toni Erdmann, but even more closely to the aforementioned Truth and Justice, toiling away with the same incessant urgency as Estonia’s foremost workaholic, Andres. It seems that nobody has prepared Sandra for a life outside of science and academe. “I have done everything right during my entire life, and haven’t received anything in return”, Sandra says, halfway through her search for a new job. “Maybe there is nothing to get”, the stylish serial start-upper Edvin (Henrik Kalmet) mutters in retort. For him, failure is a way of life. Whiles he’s not inventing the bicycle, he is in the middle of charting all the providers of electricity. Sandra doesn’t feel comfortable in the start-up world, where the “fail and try again” mentality prevails. She’s more accustomed to the career model of the previous century, where a profession was picked for a lifetime and
Sandra Gets a Job By Aurelia Aasa First published in Teater. Muusika. Kino
Female detective (Carmen Mikiver) with her colleagues in Sandra Gets a Job.
Next to those successfully surfing the new economic boom, many identify with someone struggling to find work, even if it’s on the big screen. ed the potato harvest one hundred years ago. Thanks to Chasing Unicorns (Rain Rannu), this sector even has its own movie. Drama Take It or Leave It (Liina Trishkina-Vanhatalo) convincingly touched upon the weary lives of Estonians working in Finland. The Days that Confused (Triin Ruumet) embodied the spirit of 90s hedonism and entrepreneurial opportunism. Kaupo Kruusiauk has a background in Economics and based his film on his own office years. Sandra Gets a Job takes on the mantle of exploring office work that has not been sufficiently observed in Estonian film before. An office reflects the changes in society, and has assumed various forms in different periods. The corporate office religion of the 1980s is echoed in the messy desktops, smoking room gossip, and aggressive business talks. The end of the cubicle farm era was predicted in the 90s cult classic Office Space. In the Noughties, we saw a cold boss bitch in her corner office
The cynical lady at the dental clinic is played by actress Tiina Tauraite (below).
enter the film market via romantic comedies, valuing her career at least as much as love. Nowadays people are keeping busy in workspaces, including workout gear, and it took a pandemic to grasp the efficiency of the home office, but new towers are reaching into the sky as before, at least in Tallinn. With its minimalistic colour scheme and architectural film language, Sandra Gets a Job resonates with the artificial, bleak nature of offices. At times, Sandra’s dull-coloured world feels like an omnipresent office space. Even at home, Sandra cannot escape the perfect employee stereotype, sitting up straight on the sofa in her embarrassingly spotless apartment. The unstable professional life of highly educated specialists,
chronic underpayment, good girl complex, job-searching, a dysfunctional family and loneliness, are some thematic keywords that the film embraces in one and a half hours. Although the film enlivens the Estonian film canon with its modern thematic approach, most of the feedback has been unflattering, to say the least. On one hand, it’s nice that the trend of blindly praising domestic films is dissolving. The question whether Sandra deserves such a flogging is another matter. True, the film’s rhythm is lagging in places and could benefit from more rapid editing. Breathing space is necessary, but slow milieus and driving shots repeating from scene to scene often stifle the film’s dry humour. Sandra Gets a Job takes its cue from the Nordic masters Aki Kaurismäki and Roy
Henrik Kalmet as the young and fearless man Edvin representing the start-up world.
Andersson. Andersson often prefers carefully sequenced melancholic skits to classical narrative. Despite the static pace, the Nordic old-timers’ mise-en-scène is full of visual rubble. Some decades-old song is humming in the background, someone sips brandy, a wistful couple dances the tango. Sandra Gets a Job does not ensnare the viewer with highly visual bohemian bars or messy homes. And it is devoid of overworked nicotine addicts from the 80s corporate offices, or the cocky charm of the office party gone overboard. Even the alcoholic haze is observed through Sandra’s discreet eyes. No doubt that Sandra’s alien demeanour adds to the film’s uniqueness. On one side, we see the uncertain world that operates on flexibility, on the other, there is San-
Mari Abel as Sandra, a woman who has a PhD in Physics and who doesn’t really know any other reality than the world of science.
Ink Big! The critics have done their job
dra, a pedantic person living and acting in a very tight square. In her own mind, Sandra has done everything right, and the results would have corresponded to her expectations, had she lived in a vacuum. Adapting to the environment is the main factor in a person’s ability to function. Sandra’s shortcomings in certain skills make her vulnerable, and Mari Abel successfully amplifies that vulnerability. Unfortunately, the self-ironic smirk of the viewer is fixed by the uneven pacing. The film is trying to unite two opposites, universal humour and quiet Scandinavian drama. This results in a dissonance, although occasionally Sandra Gets a Job serves up exhilarating moments. Sandra is like a perfect employee who cannot simply connect with the social code of today. Much like the film itself cannot connect with the code of the audience. Whether this is to be presumed with every feature film, is another matter. In a low production capacity country, every cinematic work is accountable; and compared to a short animation or a documentary, features don’t have to try too hard to get the attention of the audience. Maybe it has something to do with the recent box office successes, but domestic feature films are anticipated to exceed the high expectations of the cinema-going public. Filmmakers are under pressure to
succeed, and in art, like in society, there seems to be no space left for experimentation, or error, much less failure. Big feature film producers are set on their course of high quality with traditional and often thematically safe films. Granted, every filmmaker has a right and even obligation to choose their own path. But let’s keep in mind that experimenting and risk-taking are just as necessary for the film sector’s development, as the artistic choices that have already proven themselves. In comparison to several other recent feature films, Sandra Gets a Job picks a more complicated route. True, the film’s rhythm gets stuck at times, much like Sandra herself, but its brand of dry comedy with a peculiar dynamic is a breath of fresh air on the Estonian cinema landscape. Ironically, the long gestation period has been good for the film. When Pfizer stocks soared and phone apps mediated the purchase of thousands of home delivery burgers, hundreds of thousands of (simple) workers lost their income, and it’s not easy for them to get back in the saddle. A film about work and losing one’s job connects directly with the here and now. Next to those successfully surfing the new economic boom, many identify with someone struggling to find work, even if it’s on the big screen. EF ESTONIAN FILM
Statistics 2021 2021 CINEMA TOP 10 English Title
2021 ESTONIAN FILMS TOP 10 English Title
1 Estonian Funeral
2 On the Water
3 Hunting Season
5 Kids of the Night
6 Compartment No 6
8 Sandra Gets a Job
9 A Loss of Something Ever Felt
10 The Body Fights Back
1 No Time to Die
2 F9: The Fast Saga
4 Spider-Man: No Way Home
6 Venom: Let There Be Carnage
7 Estonian Funeral
8 The Boss Baby: Family Business 38 582
9 Paw Patrol
10 On the Water
CINEMA ADMISSIONS Foreign Films Estonian Films
On the Water
MARKET SHARE BY COUNTRIES Other countries USA
2 982 647 2 837 562 3 228 511
AVERAGE TICKET PRICE (EUR)
Europe Estonia 7,96
1 318 412
1 190 171 29,5 18,19 648 665
24 480 758
23 197 015
n an assignment to the abandoned, lawless and apocalyptic Sinai coast a Swedish photojournalist Ingrid (Frida Westerdahl) is kidnapped by a gang of Palestinian men and hidden in the desert. Soon Ingrid finds herself falling in love with the most sympathetic of the abductors, Ali (Ali Suliman). Ali’s boss Moussa suspects that something is going on and becomes increasingly dangerous and violent. “This is a film about an all-conquering love between people from completely different cultural backgrounds who find each other in the desert. It is in the desert where the soul becomes naked and what really matters comes to the surface,” describes Kadri Kõusaar. DIRECTOR KADRI KÕUSAAR is a multi-award-winning Estonian writer and director born in 1980. Her debut feature Magnus (2007), about a father trying to help his suicidal son, was the first Estonian film ever included at the official selection of Cannes Film Festival (Un
Certain Regard). Kadri’s second film The Arbiter (2013) premiered internationally in competition (East of the West) at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and her third film Mother (2016), was included in the programmes of more than 80 international film festivals to date and was Estonia’s entry for the Oscars in the category of the Best Foreign Language Film in 2017. It premiered in the international narrative competition of Tribeca Film Festival. Deserted (2021) premiered as part of the official selection of Busan International Film Festival.
Original title: Kõrb Genre: modern hostage drama Languages: English, Arabic, Swedish Director: Kadri Kõusaar Screenwriter: Kadri Kõusaar Cinematographer: Sten-Johan Lill E.S.C. Editor: Menni Renvall Composer: BJ Nilsen Sound: Joonas Jyrälä Main cast: Ali Suliman, Frida Westerdahl Producer: Aet Laigu Co-producers: Charlotte Most, Maria Larsson Guerpillon, Essi Haukkamaa, Merja Ritola Produced by: Meteoriit (EE), MostAlice Film (SE), Greenlit Productions (FI) World premiere: Busan IFF 2021 92 min / DCP / 2.39:1/ 5.1 Dolby Digital CONTACT Meteoriit Aet Laigu +372 5825 8962 email@example.com meteoriit.ee
The Sleeping Beast
en-year-old Kristjan’s gang defies all dangers and rules to keep their secret playground in the ruins of an old industrial 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 hostage, Kristjan finds himself in a rough confrontation against his best friends. DIRECTOR JAAK KILMI has graduated from the Department of Culture of Tallinn Pedagogical University, majoring in Directing. He has (co-)directed and produced a string of award-winning short films; a number of documentary
films and feature films. His films have received international recognition and have often been broadcasted abroad.
Original title: Tagurpidi torn Genre: children drama Language: Estonian Director: Jaak Kilmi Screenwriter: Aidi Vallik Cinematographer: Elen Lotman E.S.C. Production Designer: Getter Vahar Editor: Andris Grants Composer: Karlis Auzans Sound: Matiss Krišjanis Main cast: Nils Jaagup England, Rebeka Kask, Laura Vahtre, Kimi Reiko Pilipenko, Una-Marta Soms, Andres Lepik Producer: Evelin Penttilä Junior producer: Johanna Maria Paulson Co-producer: Roberts Vinovskis, Dominiks Jarmakovics Produced by: Stellar Film (EE), Studio Locomotive (LV) To be released: Spring 2022 100 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Stellar Film Evelin Penttilä +372 5552 3500 firstname.lastname@example.org stellar.ee
Tree of Eternal Love
DIRECTOR MEEL PALIALE is a new-generation filmmaker from Estonia. Together with his childhood friend Urmet Piiling, they have made several award-winning short films. Tree of Eternal Love is his debut feature. Both Meel and Urmet are currently studying in the Estonian Academy of Arts.
ree of Eternal Love is a humor-spiced debut feature film by new generation filmmakers Meel Paliale and Urmet Piiling. Kiik, a young car mechanic stuck between the gears of life, finds out that his girlfriend’s heart has been won over by a new handsome man. To get rid of the pain haunting his soul, Kiik asks his best friend to join him on the adventure to cut down the tree of eternal love. The journey to the mystical tree becomes thorny, intriguing and criminal.
Original title: Kiik, kirves & igavese armastuse puu Genre: comedy, drama Language: Estonian Director: Meel Paliale Screenwriters: Meel Paliale, Urmet Piiling Cinematographer: Markus Mikk Production Designers: Meel Paliale, Urmet Piiling Editor: Meel Paliale Composers: Janek Murd, Meel Paliale Sound: Joonas Taimla, Breth Bachmann Main Cast: Urmet Piiling, Herman Pihlak, Marko Matvere, Andrus Vaarik, Jan Uuspõld, Egon Nuter, Mihkel Raud, Franz Malmsten, Hanna-Ly Aavik, Pirte Laura Lember, Producers: Rain Rannu, Tõnu Hiielaid Produced by: Tallifornia World premiere: Youth and Children’s Film Festival Just Film 2021 82 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Tallifornia Tõnu Hiielaid email@example.com tallifornia.com
he Bog, based on the eponymous novel by Oskar Luts, is a thrilling love story that takes us back to the year 1917, when Europe was engulfed in WW1 and a revolution erupted on the other side of Estonia`s Eastern border. Young artist Toomas Haava (Franz Malmsten) returns from Paris, back to his brother’s bog farm and wraps himself unintentionally in a conflict with violent and terrifying Madjak (Märten Matsu), who is harassing a local girl, Hilda (Hanna-Ly Aavik), also known as Wildcat. Enchanted by the mysterious beauty, Toomas discovers himself in the middle of a fight for love, with his own life at stake. While clashing with the local brute, young artist has to fight the “ogre” as well as his own insecurities. The Bog is a period piece taking place at a stormy time in world history, intertwining an atmospheric thriller with an enchanting love story. In addition to these main elements the film has plenty of humour and a number of colorful supporting characters.
a photo editor for Postimees. In 2002 he started working as a freelance filmmaker, since 2007 he has been the chairman of the board of Kassikuld. Ergo Kuld has been involved over 20 different TV series in Estonia, in most cases as a producer, director, cinematographer, musical designer and editor at the same time. The Bog is his third full-length feature film.
Original title: Soo Genre: romantic thriller Language: Estonian Director: Ergo Kuld Screenwriter: Martin Algus Cinematographer: Ergo Kuld Production Designer: Ervin Roots Editor: Ergo Kuld Composer: Mick Pedaja Sound: Lauri Laagus Main cast: Franz Malmsten, Hanna-Ly Aavik, Liis Remmel, Helgur Rosenthal, Martin Kork, Grete Kuld, Märten Matsu, Indrek Taalmaa, Epp Eespäev, Toomas Suuman. Producers: Kristian Taska, Tanel Tatter, Veiko Esken Produced by: Taska Film, Kassikuld, Apollo Film Productions To be released: February 18, 2022 85 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / Dolby 5.1 CONTACT Apollo Film Productions +372 56 652 386 firstname.lastname@example.org heafilm.ee/event/4568/title/soo/
DIRECTOR ERGO KULD was born on August 23, 1976 in Tallinn. In 1994 he graduated from Kullamaa Secondary School, in 1998–2000 he studied photography at Tallinn Communication School and in 2000–2004 at Tallinn University as a cinematographer of audiovisual works. In 2000 he worked as a photographer for the newspapers Äripäev and Postimees, in 2000–2002 as ESTONIAN FILM
Two Hours to Happiness
ore than 70,000 Estonians live and work in Finland, at the same time as their families, parents, children and homes are in Estonia. Moonika Siimets’s new documentary film Two Hours to Happiness talks about adjusting to new conditions, sticking to and loosing ones roots, the yearning for and the search for happiness. The film is a humorously wistful documentation of families living in the snowy fields of Lapland, apartments in Vantaa, on the staircases of shopping malls, at construction sites, hotel lobbies, and of grandchildren in the living rooms of Estonian grandmothers who are waiting for their children to come home. DIRECTOR MOONIKA SIIMETS is a talented Estonian female director and scriptwriter. She graduated from the Baltic Film and Media School of Tallinn University and attended Judith Weston’s scriptwriting and directing master classes in
Original title: Kaks tundi õnneni Theme: social issues Language: Estonian Director: Moonika Siimets Screenwriter: Moonika Siimets Cinematographer: Rein Kotov E.S.C. Editor: Andreas Lenk Composer: Ann Reimann Sound: Horret Kuus Producer: Riina Sildos Produced by: Amrion Production Premiere: January 2022 Festivals: Docpoint Tallinn, Docpoint Helsinki 80 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1
Los Angeles. She has directed award-winning documentaries, TV series, and short films, including Is It You?, which screened at Stockholm Film Festival (2013), The Last Romeo (2013), and Pink Cardigan (2014). Her documentary credits include Report: Green Estonia (2007), Another Dimension (2012), Trendy Dog (2010), and World Champion (2009). In 2018 she was one of six women to direct a short clip for the documentary film Roots. Her first feature film The Little Comrade (2018) premiered in Busan IFF and received the BNK Busan Bank Award (Audience Award).
CONTACT Amrion Production Riina Sildos +372 504 8985 email@example.com amrion.ee
o understand the international phenomenon of Uku Kuut means to understand the ability of different musical niches, sub-genres and hidden creative explosions to not only exist, but flourish, completely independently of the mainstream. Kuut’s life, mothered by Maryn E. Coote (who you may know as the Estonian Jazz diva Marju Kuut), took him from the Soviet Union to refuge in Sweden, music studios in Los Angeles, back to a re-independent Estonia and later, fighting ALS, to speakers all around the world. A Greek comedy captured on 8mm, VHS and BETA tape. DIRECTOR IVAR MURD was born September 13, 1990 in Kohtla-Järve – a shale oil mining town in East Estonia. He has lived in Finland, Denmark and the United States. Gra duated magna cum laude in 2013 from
Original title: u.Q. Theme: music, experimental, portait Languages: Estonian, English Director: Ivar Murd Screenwriter: Ivar Murd Editor: Ivar Murd Composer: Uku Kuut & Maryn E. Coote Sound: Markku Tiidumaa Producer: Margus Õunapuu Produced by: Film Tower World premiere: Tallinn Black Nights FF 2021 83 min / DCP /16:9 / Dolby 5.1
Fairleigh Dickinson University (Madison, NJ, USA), Department of Audiovisual Arts, majoring in Directing with a minor in Studio Arts. Directs and produces documentaries and music videos. He is one of the organizers of Mägede Hääl music festival and the CEO of Kino Sõprus since 2020.
CONTACT Film Tower Margus Õunapuu +372 565 1654 firstname.lastname@example.org
n the first days of worldwide lockdowns, filmmakers from 15 countries set up phone lines for people to leave anonymous messages from their confinement. Starting from the very beginning when the Chinese had not yet determined the origin of the virus, to the Brazilians demanding quarantine from their leaders months later; Tell Me combines hundreds of voices from around the world, into a poetic documentary. It is a whirlwind of emotions crossing all boundaries of culture and nationality by fresh directors from around the world. A true experiment of cinema, Tell Me serves the viewer a portrait of humanity in isolation by creating a space after the tone, a void where people could leave anything they wished to be free of, crystalizing a moment in time the whole world experienced together. DIRECTOR MARTA PULK was the leading director and author of the idea. She was born in 1988 in the midst of the Estonian Singing Revolution and the fall of the Soviet Union. Her films feature
a strong visual handwriting and relentless interest towards the human spirit and what makes us fight. Her films often spotlight a sharp societal theme and combine together the robust and the poetic. Working in both documentary and fiction, Marta’s films have travelled the festival circuit, with her latest A Year Full of Drama selected for Sydney International Film Festival, Docs Against Gravity, BAFICI and many others. In Tell Me, she works as a lead director, connecting all co-directors’ work into one poetic narrative. The network of co-directors met during a Werner Herzog workshop in 2018, and hail from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kosovo, Peru, Turkey, UK, and USA.
Original title: Räägi ära Theme: social issues, mental health, pandemic Languages: English, Spanish, Arabic, French, Albanian, Estonian, Mandarin, German Director: Marta Pulk Co-directors: Rodrigo Baptista, Agustín Barrutia, Sebastián López Borda, Rupert Clague, João Carlos Couto, Tom Hamburger, Quentin Lazzarotto, César Málaga, Tanya Marar, Ashley Mosher, Sonja Ortiz, Brett Pedersen, Fermín Pedros, Pablo Radice, Norika Sefa, Gerónimo Tanoira, Natalia Trzcina, Lucía Valdemoros, Shen Wei, Kevin Zayat Cinematographers: Aivo Rannik, Agustin Barrutia et al. Editor: Jaak Ollino Composer: Chihei Hatakeyama Sound: Gabriel Solis Producers: Karolina Veetamm, Tanya Marar Co-producer: Marta Pulk Produced by: Kafka Films (EE), Ettevaatlik Sten (EE), SomeNobody productions (JO) World premiere: Ji.hlava IDFF 2021 Festivals: Tallinn Black Nights FF 75 min / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1 CONTACT Karolina Veetamm +372 5196 8064 email@example.com kafkafilms.ee
The Diary of Vaino Vahing
n 1968–1984, Vaino Vahing kept a diary about real events and persons in his own subjective interpretation. It reflects the cultural life of Tartu, love affairs, bohemian parties and intellectual quests of the time. Vahing was interested in borderline situations, crossing the borders. He drew no clear line between art and life. Vahing provoked people, tried to make them to lose their masks, their self-control. He called this provoking the Spiel, or play. We are looking at a creator who has made disharmony his source of inspiration, who experiences “the greatest torment in love”. One who fears to lose himself in love. A human perceiving the great power of love and responding subconsciously with disharmony. The red line in the diary of Vahing is sacrificing life for art. The life where everyday burns to ashes and nothing but pure art remains. Is this possible at all or do we still have to try to love first? To err is human, as well as to suffer from the consequences. But does a person suffer just because erring, or is suffering an inevitable part of a human
being? A part, deeper reasons of which remain a secret? The film does not try to judge Vahing but cast some light into these black holes on the verge of which he performed his balancing act that makes him human and his creations ever enchanting.
FILM INFO Original title: Vaino Vahingu päevaraamat Theme: spiel-documentary Language: Estonian Director: Rainer Sarnet Screenwriter: Rainer Sarnet Cinematographer: Erik Põllumaa E.S.C. Editor: Martin Männik Sound: Harmo Kallaste Producer: Marianne Kõrver Produced by: Klaasmeri World premiere: Tallinn Black Nights FF 2021
79 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 DIRECTOR RAINER SARNET (b. 1969) is a film and stage director, film critic, and creator of photo comics for newspapers. He has made several shorts and in 2007, he debuted in features with Where Souls Go, The Idiot, inspired by the Dostoyevsky novel, came four years later. The film had its world premiere at the Busan IFF and subsequently toured the festival circuit (Best Cinematography at PÖFF). His fourth full-length feature, November, based on the best-selling novel by Andrus Kivirähk, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, where it won the best cinematography award. The Diary of Vaino Vahing is Sarnet’s second full-length documentary.
CONTACT Klaasmeri Marianne Kõrver +372 5691 1149 firstname.lastname@example.org SALES Must Käsi Kristi Porila email@example.com kinosoprus.ee/en/distribution
FILM INFO Original title: Hipodroom Theme: history, animals, sports Languages: Estonian, Russian Director: Vladimir Loginov Screenwriter: Vladimir Loginov Cinematographer: Maxim Golomidov Sound: Dmitry Natalevich Editor: Mirjam Jegorov Producers: Pille Rünk, Elina Litvinova Produced by: Allfilm To be released: Spring 2022
ocated in the heart of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, the Hippodrome used to be the centre of entertainment for all its neighbouring countries. For nearly 100 years, it has lured visitors with bets and races, and the chance to try their luck with the totalisator. All that remains today of this majestic racecourse is a lonely horse stable. Now it is more of a social club than a prestigious racetrack. Animal lovers and sports fans still meet here despite the poor conditions. Bizarre parties and engagement photo sessions are held at the Hippodrome, and this is where the best Swedish racehorses are still trained. This hypnotic black and white film is an ode to a disappearing era and a unique subculture in a place soon to be demolished to make way for yet another brand new office building complex in the city’s never-ending triumphal march of business-oriented real estate development. DIRECTOR VLADIMIR LOGINOV graduated from International School of Social Sciences LEX in 1998 and advanced his studies on TV-production, news and advertising design on a stint at BBC in London and Moscow. His first documentary Silence premiered in 2006 and his latest Prazdnik in 2020. In 2015, Vladimir directed Anthill that was presented in Visions du Réel festival in Nyon, Switzerland and had a very successful international festival circuit: Jihlava IFF, Docpoint Helsinki, GoEast Germany, Zerkalo, Stalker and ArtDocFest in Russia, Green Film in Korea
89 min / DCP / 2.35:1 / 5.1 Vladimir Loginov
etc. Vladimir`s style can be described as observational, defined by author`s artistic freedom and influence.
CONTACT Allfilm Pille Rünk +372 508 2999 firstname.lastname@example.org www.allfilm.ee
Mia and Liki
t seems the summer will last forever. Sisters Mia and Liki are taking the best out of it but the signs that something’s wrong with their parents disturb their happy life. Girls perceive the changes around them but can’t comprehend the situation, which causes inexplicable fear and confusion.
FILM INFO Katrin Tegova
DIRECTOR KATRIN TEGOVA is a director and screenwriter. Katrin received a Bachelor’s Degree in dramatic theory from the University of Tartu in 2005 and an MA in scriptwriting from Tallinn University’s Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School in 2013. She has done four short films – The Photo (2013), Christmas Mystery (2018), Nissan Patrol (2017) and Silver Wedding (2013) and two feature films – Cherry Tobacco (2014), The Man Who Looks Like Me (2017) as a co-director and co-screenwriter together with director Andres Maimik.
Original title: Mia ja Liki Genre: drama Language: Estonian Director: Katrin Tegova Screenwriter: Katrin Tegova Cinematographer: Mart Raun Production Designer: Katrin Sipelgas Editor: Emeri Abel Composer: Janek Murd Sound: Gert Mäll Main cast: Miriam Mia Maimik, Liisa-Lotta Vahemets Producer: Maario Masing Produced by: Tandem Film World premiere: PÖFF Shorts 2021 15 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / Stereo CONTACT Tandem Film Maario Masing +372 5559 9899 email@example.com
rchidelirium unveils a complex and dark account of colonial ecological exploitation with present-day repercussions. The overlooked story of the 19th-century botanical artist and world traveller Emilie Saal served as an inspiration for studying the entangled histories of self-determination, colonial experiences, neocolonial structures, botany, science and art. Born in Estonia, then part of the Russian Empire, the artist’s story is one of a colonized subject becoming and passing as a white coloniser on Java island where she lived and worked between 1900 and 1920. The episodes, entitled Rip-off, Shelter and Thirst respectively, explore the manor as an elite place of cultural transfer between upper-class Baltic German women and their servants through the knowledge of and fascination with tropical flowers; the cage as a liminal place of transformation, divided between a perspective from the inside and the objectifying gaze from the outside; the orchid nursery as a site connecting peat excavation industries, the import of tropical orchids and the circulation of capital and natural resources. DIRECTOR KRISTINA NORMAN is a Tallinn-based artist whose creative practice is pervaded by audiovisual elements, at times combining with scultural objects and urban interventions, materialising as individual video installations and documentary films, or becoming an organic part of stage performances. Her work explores the converging trajecto-
ries of identity, memory and public space. In 2009, she represented Estonia at the Venice biennale with After-War, a vast audiovisual and sculptural installation based on the research into the memorial conflict revolving around the Soviet soldier statue removed two years earlier from the center of Tallinn. Her most recent work - documentary performance Lighter Than Woman is about women who overcome the Gravity of life in the metaphorical and the literal sense. It brings together immigrant elderly care workers in Italy, their female Italian employers, and astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, the most emancipated woman of Italy who was able to overcome physical Gravity and spent 199 days on the International Space Station.
Original title: Orchidelirium Genre: experimental Language: no dialogue Director: Kristina Norman Screenwriter: Kristina Norman Cinematographer: Erik Norkroos Production Designer: Kristina Norman Editor: Erik Norkroos, Meelis Muhu Composer: Märt Matis-Lill Sound: Tammo Sumera Main cast: Teresa Silva, Karolin Poska, Piia Haab, Mari Mägi Producer: Erik Norkroos Produced by: Missing Pictures – Rühm Pluss Null Co-produced by: Estonian Center for Contemporary Art To be released: Autumn 2022 Festivals: Biennale Arte 2022, the 59th International art exhibition, Venice. 40 min / DCP / 1.78:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Rühm Pluss Null Erik Norkroos +372 506 7585 firstname.lastname@example.org
’Til We Meet Again
ven at home one can feel homesick. This is a story about an island and an elderly woman. Destiny has taken her far away from her home island. Being finally able to return, she finds that strangers are living there now. What is home? Just a mere location or a place where you can find equanimity and piece of mind. The makers of this film are trying to reflect upon the deepest layers of human nature.
Animation short ‘Til We Meet Again talks about the tragic history of a small Ruhnu Island. Fearing for their lives, its entire population abandoned their homes while escaping the war in 1944. Decades later they had a chance to finally return, only to find out that the strangers had settled in. DIRECTOR ÜLO PIKKOV (1976) is an internationally renowned filmmaker, producer and film scholar. Pikkov studied animation at the Turku Arts Academy in Finland and since 1996, has directed several award-winning animation films (Empty Space, Tik-Tak, Body Memory, Dialogos). He has published articles on film and written fiction books for children and adults. Pikkov is the author of Animasophy, Theoretical Writings on the Animated Film (2010). In 2018, Pikkov got a PhD at the Estonian Academy of Arts with his thesis „Anti-Animation: Textures of Eastern European Animated Film“.
FILM INFO Original title: Taaskohtumine Language: Estonian Director: Ülo Pikkov Screenwriter: Ülo Pikkov Cinematographer: Raivo Möllits Production Designer: Anu-Laura Tuttelberg Animators: Triin Sarapik-Kivi, Marili Sokk Editors: Ülo Pikkov, Raivo Möllits Composer: Karoliina Kreintaal Technique: stop motion & sand animation Producer: Kerdi Oengo Produced by: Nukufilm World premiere: PÖFF Shorts 2021 14 min / DCP / 2.39:1 / 5.1 CONTACT Nukufilm Kerdi Oengo +372 516 3833 email@example.com nukufilm.ee
ather and his son are losing the folkrace. In order to win, a boy turns himself into a car tire. Loosely inspired by the director’s childhood, Sierra pulls us into the surreal car racing world. DIRECTOR SANDER JOON uses animation to create surreal worlds with a dash of humour. His films have previously travelled to festivals such as Annecy, DOK Leipzig, Ottawa, Go Short, Stuttgart, Fredrikstad, Kaboom, Supertoon, Animateka and GLAS. He has attended the Open Workshop artist residency in Viborg twice and is now teaching animation at the Estonian Academy of Arts, where he has received a master’s degree in Animation. Besides films he has animated a music video for Tommy Cash, participated in a popular commercial for Rick and Morty and has been a VJ to numerous events. Sander also worked as
a 2D artist for the multi-awarded film The Old Man Movie (2019). His previous short Sounds Good (2018) won awards from Stuttgart, Fredrikstad, SUPERTOON and PÖFF Shorts. Filmography: Velodrool (2015), Moulinet (2017), Sounds Good (2018)
Original title: Sierra Language: English Director: Sander Joon Screenwriter: Sander Joon Animators: Sander Joon, Henri Veermäe, Valya Paneva, Teresa Baroet Editor: Sander Joon Background artist: Hleb Kuftseryn Composer: Misha Panfilov Sound: Matis Rei Technique: 3D digital, 2D digital Producers: Erik Heinsalu, Aurelia Aasa Produced by: BOP Animation, AAA Creative World Premiere: Clermont-Ferrand International FF, January 2022 16 min / DCP / 16:9 / 5.1 CONTACT AAA Creative Aurelia Aasa +372 5568 1287 firstname.lastname@example.org aaacreative.ee SALES Square Eyes Wouter Jansen email@example.com squareeyesfilm.com New Europe Film Sales +48 88 216 5221 firstname.lastname@example.org neweuropefilmsales.com
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