Estonian film is enjoying a production boom both at home and abroad, thanks partly to the XD Cam SONY format as well as an innovative financing scheme that could become a model for producers throughout Central Europe.
The Warsaw International Film Festival (Oct. 12-21) is featuring a special focus on Estonian film this year called "Estonian Explosion" that pays tribute to the extraordinary success of the films from this small European country.
Estonian film has nearly doubled its feature film production over the past two years. Director Ilmar Raag, who was in Warsaw for the screening of his film The Class, says he believes the success is due partly to an innovative way of producing feature films that could provide a model for low-budget and independent feature production throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
"The Class was shot on XD Cam, a SONY format, but using a 35-mm lens. This made it much less expensive," said Raag, "The film had a budget of just €100,000 but it reached second place at the Estonian box office."
Estonian production has also been boosted by a three-party agreement signed by pubcaster Estonian TV (www.etv.ee), the Estonian Film Foundation (www.efsa.ee) and the Estonian Cultural Endowment Foundation (www.kulka.ee) to fund film production. The Class received 40% of its budget from Estonian TV, 40% from the Estonian Film Foundation and 20% from the Estonian Cultural Endowment Foundation. Six features were produced in 2007 under the innovative scheme.
The Class is screening in competition in Warsaw. Also representing the Estonian explosion in the Polish capital are Magnus, the debut of Kadri Kõusaar (Donus Films/Vitamin K Film) and Veiko Õunpuu's award-winning first feature Autumn Ball (Kuukulgur Film/Homeless Bob Production).
The documentary competition will screen James and Maureen Tusty's The Singing Revolution(Mountain View Productions/Allfilm/Northern Light Productions). Screening in the Free Spirit program will be the domestic box office hit by Rain Tolk and Andres Maimik, 186 Kilometres (Kuukulgur Film).
The festival will also show a program of the film genre that put Estonian cinema on the map: animation. The Estonian animation program includes: Karl & Marilyn (dir. Priit Pärn), Instinct (dir. Rao Heidmets), Way to Nirvana (dir. Mait Laas), Fox Woman (dir. Priit Tender), Message for the Neighbors(dir. Priit Tender), Marathon (dir. Kaspar Jancis) and Institute of Dreams (dir. Mati Kütt).