Sauna Day by Anna Hints and Tushar Prakash will premiere in Critics’ Week programme at Cannes Film Festival

The new short film Sauna Day, directed by Anna Hints and Tushar Prakash, was selected to premiere as the first Estonian film in the special programme of La Semaine de la Critique (Critics' Week) at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.  


Two Estonian short animations Eeva and Dog Apartment are shortlisted for the Oscars

Two Estonian short animations Eeva and Dog Apartment are shortlisted for the Oscars.


Estonia selects Anna Hints’ documentary “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” as the national entry for the best International Feature Film Academy Award

A committee convened by the Estonian Film Institute (EFI) selected “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood”, a feature documentary by Anna Hints, to compete for the annual Oscar award of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the best International Feature Film category.


European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 Arts of Survival Documentaries announces eight filmmakers to capture life in Southern Estonia

Arts of Survival Documentaries has selected eight filmmakers to capture Southern Estonia on the topic of “Arts of Survival”, the artistic concept of European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024. The filmmakers are Viesturs Kairišs (Latvia), Andrey Paounov (Bulgaria), Carl Olsson (Sweden), Ülo Pikkov (Estonia), Jaan Tootsen (Estonia), Eva Kübara (Estonia), Maria Aua (Estonia) and Andris Gauja (Latvia). The collection of films will be released to the audiences in the spring of 2024.


Elmo Nüganen received a Lifetime Achievement Award

Porto International Film Festival Fantasporto acknowledged Elmo Nüganen’s work and awarded the director with a Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to Nüganen, the Lifetime Achievement Award was also given to Krzysztof Zanussi, Ferdinand Lapuz ja Anthony Waller.


“Ice and Fire Docs” film projects have been selected

The documentary film training programme “Ice and Fire Docs”, a joint project of Estonia and Finland, is about to commence its third season in 2023. Nineteen applications to participate in the training programme were received this year.


Six Estonian films to feature in Cottbus line-up

This year’s Cottbus festival in Germany will feature as many as six Estonian films in its programme. Taking place for the 32nd time, the festival has adopted “Diversity of Genres” as its theme for 2022, as reflected in the variety of Estonian films forming part of its line-up.


Estonia to shoot for Oscars glory with basketball film Kalev

By the slimmest of margins and following lengthy discussions, a jury convened by the Estonian Film Institute (EFI) has selected Ove Musting’s film Kalev as the country’s nominee for the title of Best International Feature Film at the 2023 Academy Awards. Likewise in contention for Oscars glory, in the category of Best Animated Short Film, will be Sierra, written and produced by Sander Joon.
 “With each passing year it becomes harder and harder to pick just one film to represent Estonia,” admitted Edith Sepp, the head of the EFI. “This year was no different!” An independent jury led by Sepp selected this year’s nominee from among 11 candidates, which included documentaries in addition to live action films.
Other members of the jury included cinema journalist Tõnu Karjatse, internationally prize-winning film designer Eugen Tamberg, film booking specialist Tõnis Lõhmus, distributor Kaupo Liiv, film critic and Black Nights Film Festival director Tiina Lokk and film critic Johannes Lõhmus.
Kalev is the story of the stressful journey of a legendary Estonian basketball team to the final championships held in the sport in the collapsing Soviet Union. With many of their fellow countrymen opposed to them taking part, and pitted against merciless opponents, the team faces turbulent times on and off the court. The film was inspired by actual events that took place in 1991, when the Estonian team won the last ever Soviet basketball trophy.
“Despite knowing how the story ends, tension is maintained to the final frame,” noted the jury in justifying their choice. “The film is marked out by first-rate direction and editing, which enhance every scene, and the narrative itself is fascinating to follow. Adding to all of this is exciting lighting and camerawork. Among the cast, Mait Malmsten in particular stands out for his performance. Basketball is used in the film to convey key moments in the modern history of the Republic of Estonia: its regaining of independence, the events leading up to it, the problems this involved and the solutions that were found to them.”
The jury also felt that in revisiting the basketball team’s 1991 triumph the director was examining themes that are just as pertinent today: a country’s right to self-determination; national pride; opposition to the imperialistic world view; and sport as a universal concept that transcends political power struggles. Another of Kalev’s strengths is that as a team production it also examines how a team comes together and the roles that individuals play therein.
Kalev received four votes from the jury. The runner-up, which received three votes, was Jaak Kilmi’s family film Tagurpidi Torn (‘The Sleeping Beast’), about which one of the jury members said: “Of the films in contention, Tagurpidi Torn was in my view the strongest overall. A thriller about social problems, it manages to maintain its tempo while building up a sense of unease in the viewer, and doesn’t answer all of the questions it asks, but leaves a lot of them up in the air.” Another member of the jury said of the film: “It’s a kids’ film that makes perfect viewing for adults as well, leading viewers down pathways of recollection that have surreptitiously embedded themselves in our subconscious.”
Pille Rünk, one of the producers of Kalev, said upon learning of the jury’s choice: “Film magic happens when a good story comes together with a creative team that’s well matched to it. I genuinely hope the Estonian audience, which of course it was primarily made for, get to see it on the big screen.”
Rünk added that working on the film was as terrifying as it was ultimately rewarding. “I’m so grateful to everyone who poured their skills and talent into making Kalev happen,” she said. “It’s a truly Estonian story, about our history, our identity and our legends – sporting and otherwise! There’s no way of knowing how the Academy voters will respond to it, but it’s a positive film, with some true grit to it, and one we made with love. So hopefully they’ll see that and respond to it.”
Kalev’s main characters are the team’s firebrand captain, Aivar, its exacting head trainer Jaak and single-minded young player Gert. The head trainer is played by Mait Malmsten, while Priit Võigemast portrays the team’s other trainer. The actual players from the time are played in the film by Reimo SagorMihkel Kuusk, Veiko Porkanen, Kristjan Sarv, Ott Kartau, Howard Frier and others.
The film was directed by Ove Musting, shot by Rein Kotov, designed by Tiiu-Ann Pello, composed by Mihkel Zilmer and produced by Pille Rünk and Maria Avdjuško. It is an Allfilm and Ugri Film co-production distributed by Hea Film.
The making of the film was supported by the EFI and the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, with film producer Kristjan Rahu providing substantial private backing. Other supporters included entrepreneur Priit Koit, the companies Alexela, Postimees, Cramo, Golden Club and Sportland and the Riga Film Fund.
The time and place of Kalev’s international premiere is to be announced on 29 September.
Also being submitted for Oscars contention by Estonia is Sander Joon’s short animated film Sierra. At the heart of the story is a young boy who turns into a tyre during a rally-driving competition. Beneath the superficial absurdity of the narrative lies a personal story inspired by the film-maker’s relationship with his father.
Sierra will be vying for the title of Best Animated Short Film thanks to its wins at a number of film festivals, including San Francisco and Palm Springs ShortFest.
Sierra was written, designed and directed by Sander Joon and produced by Aurelia Aasa (AAA Creative) and Erik Heinsalu (BOP! Animation). Music for the film was composed by Misha Panfilov, with sound by Matis Rei. It was animated by Henri Kaido Veermäe, Valya Paneva, Teresa Baroet and Sander Joon himself, with backgrounds by Hleb Kuftseryn. Development and production of the film were supported by the EFI and the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.
For further information please contact:
Edith Sepp
Estonian Film Institute

Estonian Film Institute distributed the first round of project support in 2022

In the first financing rounds of 2022, the Estonian Film Institute (EFI) distributed over 1.5 million euro. A socio-critical comedy from the near future, and two Finnish co-productions found financing amongst others.


The Baltic Film Days will take place on August 24 - 25 at Cinema Artis

Artis will once again showcase the best of Latvian and Lithuanian filmmaking of the recent years. The the screenings are free of charge and all films have Estonian and English subtitles.


Eurimages supports Estonian films with 622,000 euros

Eurimages supported three Estonian films at their June 2021 meeting. Director Rainer Sarnet’s The Invisible Fight received 360,000 euros, while Triin Ruumet’s Dark Paradise received 150,000 euros and a Lithuanian-Estonian-Bulgarian documentary coproduction Irena received 112,000 euros.


Veiko Õunpuu’s The Last Ones opens Stockfish Film Festival

Veiko Õunpuu’s latest feature The Last Ones will be the opening film this Thursday, May 20 at Iceland’s Stockfish Film Festival. The film won Best Baltic Feature at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival last autumn and is still enjoying festival success. In April, it screened in the „Masters“ programme at the Moscow International Film Festival and was in competition at GoEast Film Festival. The fall in coronavirus cases allows Stockfish to happen as a physical festival at the Bíó Paradís cinema. The opening screening is invite only, however, The Last Ones will be available for the wider festival audience on May 25.


Two Estonian features to premiere at the 43rd Moscow International Film Festival

Two Estonian directorial debut features Goodbye, Soviet Union by Lauri Randla and Firebird by Peeter Rebane are chosen for the programme „Russian Trace“ at this years’ Moscow International Film Festival. The former had it’s world premiere at the A-list Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, followed by screenings at Tromsø IFF and Cleveland IFF, the latter had its start at London’s oldest LGBTQ+ film festival BFI Flare.


Estonian cinema attendance down but audiences still show their love for domestic fare

Coronavirus unsurprisingly causes 2020 cinema attendance in Estonia to fall dramatically, but Estonian films still prove popular amongst local audiences.


“A Winner is Seen at the Start” wins the 2021 edition of When East Meets West

The Kazakh project “A Winner is seen at the Start” is the winner of the 5.000 EUR Film Center Serbia Award at the 11th edition of When East Meets West. The debut film of the writer-director Zhannat Alshanova is produced by  Yevgeniya Moreva for Almaty-based Steppe by Steppe. The story follows 19-year-old Mila, who joins an experimental swimming school, but after the death of a teammate, a series of revelations come to light. The film also received the Pop Up Film Residency Award, and Alshanova was also crowned with the European Women’s Audiovisual Network Award for the Best Woman Director, which was given out for the fifth year in a row at WEMW.