Welcome to the 14th annual Estonian Documentary Film Festival. If you’re unfamiliar with the country of Estonia, it’s a small nation in Northern Europe on the shore of the Baltic Sea close to Finland with a population of 1.3 million. We are indigenous people of this terrain, who have a deep love and respect for the land and the ocean as well as a zest for song, art, and technology. In fact, the capital of our country, Tallinn, is sometimes called the Silicon Valley of Europe.
On February 24th of this year, we marked Estonia’s 100th anniversary, and the celebration is far from over. It continues through February 2020. Maybe that’s because we have so much to celebrate. In terms of film, we’ve been making movies in Estonia for more than 100 years.
According to Estonian World, that’s one reason James Cameron, the award-winning director of mega-budget blockbusters Avatar and Terminator, has decided to shoot Avatar 4 in Estonia. Not only do we have experienced local film crews to support the production, but we also have folk tales and myths in which the sins of humans reverberate in nature like they do in the Na’vi world of Avatar. And when Cameron found the “perfect filming spot” just outside an Estonian village, aptly named Navi, he was sold.
As we celebrate the centennial, Estonians everywhere are giving our country gifts. Here at EstDocs, our gift is the wonderful selection of films in this year’s festival, films that touch on many aspects of our past, present, and future, documenting our struggle to rebuild a nation after years of Soviet occupation, turning the lens on difficult issues of our time, and looking to create a bright, thriving future. We’ve also invited Estonia’s Baltic sisters, Latvia and Lithuania, to join the celebration by featuring some of their films that touch on these threads that bind all three of our nations together.
We are proud to share some beautiful words from our ambassador:
I am so pleased to welcome you to the 14th annual Estonian Documentary Film Festival in Toronto. This is the first time I have had the pleasure of taking part in EstDocs as the Ambassador of Estonia to Canada, and I am looking forward to it with much anticipation.
This year, Estonia is celebrating its 100th birthday with friends in Estonia and abroad. EstDocs, as part of the celebration in Canada, has been a memorable event of Estonian film and culture for the past 14 years.
Protecting and nurturing our cultural heritage and its roots in the Estonian language is not an easy undertaking for a small country. One of the impressive examples of culture and people coming together is the Song Festival which celebrates 150 years in 2019. It is also worth noting that Estonian documentary film celebrates its 110th birthday this year. In 1908 a documentary clip was filmed during Swedish King Gustav V’s stop in Estonia on his way to St. Petersburg.
These are just a few examples that illustrate how Estonia’s cultural heritage has thrived and will grow for years, decades and centuries to come.
In keeping with the current celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, the festival’s lineup of films captures the resilience, authenticity, and ingenuity of the Estonian culture and people. From Geislingen, Coming Home Soon that chronicles how children and their families established a small Estonia in a refugee camp in Germany during WWII, to Rodeo that documents how the vote was won in Estonia’s first free elections after the war, to Anni’s Island that tells how old traditions shape life on an island today, the films reveal the enduring spirit and strength of a country who fought for freedom and independence from Soviet oppression and rose up to become a world leader in technology, where internet access is a human right.
I am especially grateful to Festival Director Kristi Sau Doughty and her team of volunteers for organizing EstDocs and creating a showcase for Estonian culture, history, and art here in Toronto.
And of course, there’s the generous gift of all our volunteers, who give their hard work, time, and energy throughout the year, to bring EstDocs to the screen. Thank you and let the festival begin!
Doors open 45 minutes to an 1 hour prior to screening time. All evening films include post-screening discussion led by our moderator. EstDocs embraces non-Estonian speaking audiences, as the festival operates in English and all films include English subtitles.
Oct 19 @ 5:45 pm
Oct 19 @ 10:00 pm
Oct 20 @ 12:00 am
Oct 20 @ 1:00 am
Oct 20 @ 1:30 am
Oct 20 @ 6:00 pm
Oct 20 @ 9:30 pm
Oct 20 @ 11:30 pm
MARJE has been acquiring films for Estonian Television (ETV) since 2000, specialising in documentaries. In 2008, she started to build ETV2, a television channel dedicated to films, world culture, and children’s programs. In 2017, she became the Head of Programs at ETV, the main television channel of Estonian Public Broadcasting. She has worked as the commissioning editor for the film and television coproduction brand "Estonian stories," 30 min documentaries of life in Estonia. She is an experienced editor and producer as well as the director of several documentaries, such as "Time Is Here," which has been broadcast on television around the world, including the French-German culture channel ARTE and the worldwide news channel Al Jazeera.