Nine works in progress showcased at Tallinn
by Vladan Petkovic
- Most of the projects are at advanced stages of production, with an evident trend towards period pieces
Nine Baltic films at advanced stages of production or post-production were presented on 26 November at Tallinn’s Baltic Event. Most of the titles are almost finished, and are looking for post-production services, sales agents and festival exposure. Also, a strong trend towards period dramas was evident at the showcase, moderated by former head of international promotion at the Estonian Film Fund Tristan Priimagi, now editor of the SIRP cultural weekly.
One of the biggest projects, with a budget of €2,145,700 (already fully funded), is Finnish director Klaus Härö's fifth feature film The Fencer, partly based on the life of Estonian athlete and USSR fencing champion Endel Nelis, who in 1952 arrives in a small town, Haapsalu, to teach children how to fence. The principal of the school starts investigating his (as it turns out) dark past. The film, co-produced by prolific Finnish company Making Movies Oy, Germany's Kick Film and Estonia's Allfilm, is set to be released in spring 2015, and the producers are hoping for a slot at the Berlinale.
Making Movies Oy presented another project to be released at the same time: Tsamo by writing-directing duo Markku Lehmuskallio and Anastasia Lapsui (Pudana: Last of the Line). Based on a true story and set in 1860, it is about mining engineer Simon, a Swede from Finland, who buys a ten-year-old Alaskan Indian girl and brings her home. The girl is converted to Christianity and taught European habits, but because she is used to Indian tradition, she believes she is married to Simon, which gets even more complicated when he marries a lady of his own age and class. Producers Kaarle Aho and Kai Nordberg report a budget of €700,000, and excerpts that they have shown have a distinctly crisp Scandinavian look.
Another period piece, this time set in 1941, is Chronicles of Melanie by Latvian director Viestur Kairish (Leaving by the Way), co-produced by Latvia’s Film Studio Mistrus Media and Finland’s Inland Film Company. Following Stalin’s orders, over 40,000 people from the Baltic states were sent into exile, to camps in Siberia. Among them were journalist Melanie and her eight-year-old son, Andrei. Melanie keeps herself alive for the sake of her son and because she hopes to see her husband, to whom she writes hundreds of love letters that are never sent, since his address remains unknown. The budget is €971,752, with 69% in place, and producers are looking for post-production services, sales and pre-purchases from broadcasters.
A similar setting and period film also hails from Latvia: Dawn [+see also:
film profile] by writer-director Laila Pakalnina (Pizzas [+see also:
film profile]). A co-production between Latvia's Hargla Company, Estonia's Digital Sputnik, and Poland's Staron Film and Miracle Worker, it is based on a Soviet propaganda story about Young Pioneer Morozov, who denounced his father to Stalin’s secret police and was in turn killed by his family. In the Soviet Union, it was adapted into all possible formats, including Bezhin Meadow, an unreleased Eisenstein film from 1937. In Pakalnina's version, the boy is called Janis, and his father is an enemy of the Soviet system who wants to burn down the eponymous collective farm where they live; the boy then turns him in. The project is currently in production, budgeted at €1.2 million (out of which €1 million is in place), and the producers are looking for sales, distributors and co-producers.
A bridge between the period pieces and the more genre-orientated films at the showcase was Ghost Mountaineer [+see also:
film profile] by Estonian first-time writer-director Urmas Eero Liiv. Based on true events, it tells the story of a Soviet Estonian student hiking group that gets caught up in a series of scary events unfolding in wintry Siberia. The group leader, Olle, disappears on the last day. His rival, Eero, guides the descending hikers into a Buryat village to seek help. With €550,000 of its €650,000 budget in place, the Kopli Kinokompanii production is set for release in autumn 2015.
Among the more modern stories, Estonian director Mihkel Ulk's first feature film, Zero Point, stands out because it is actually due to be released on 4 December. High-school student Johannes is an outcast at school and frightened away from home by his mother’s developing schizophrenia. There is no other way out for him but to start improving his life by reforming himself. Budgeted at €250,000, the youth drama was produced by Estonia's Allfilm.
Another Estonian movie, aimed at children aged between six and 12, is Margus Paju's first feature, Secret Society of Souptown [+see also:
film profile]. The main character is ten-year-old girl Mari, who forms the eponymous group with three friends. But one day, their city is attacked by a mysterious poison that turns adults into children. The kids embark on an adventure to discover an antidote. Co-produced by Estonia's Nafta Films and Finland's Solar Films, it is budgeted at €1.4 million, with €1.2 million already in place, and is in post-production, looking for financiers, a distributor and a sales agent.
Modern-day drama The Find, hailing from Russia and starring the renowned Alexey Guskov (Thirst, 4 Days in May [+see also:
film profile]) and Nadezhda Markina (Elena), is written and directed by debutant Victor Dement and produced by Klepatski Production. It is a story about fishery control inspector Trofim, who is elderly, morose and unsociable, and unforgiving of even the slightest deviation from fishing rules or the norms of humanity. During his usual route, he gets into a conflict with a local fisherman and loses his boat. On his 20 km journey home around the huge lake, he finds an abandoned child. His five-day quest through the forest turns into a search for his own soul. Budgeted at €1.1 million, The Find is in post-production, and looking for sales and a distributor.
Finally, from Lithuania comes a title set in the future: The Garden of Eden by veteran writer-director Algimantas Puipa (The Fortress of Sleeping Butterflies). Set in 2023, when Lithuania has become a desirable country for immigrants and wealthy elderly Lithuanians who are returning to their homeland to spend their last years living in respectable care homes, it features the main character of Linda, a nurse. She has a tough job fulfilling unusual requests – for example, that residents are to be addressed by their full professional titles and their whims are to be fulfilled unconditionally. Interacting with the old and ailing people also forces her to face dramatic changes in her own life. Budgeted at €670,000 (with only €30,000 still lacking), the STUDIJA 2 and UP Records film is in post-production, and looking for distributors, sales agents and festival exposure.