Estonia Film 100 Lifts Local Productions

Edith Sepp, director of the Estonian Film Institute, is happy. The Film Estonia 30% cash rebate system she launched last year as a pilot program for foreign companies doing production in Estonia has been funded for 2017 at €1 million ($1.09 million), and the Ministry of Culture has pledged $2.2 million for 2018.

Meanwhile, Estonia Film 100, a special initiative honoring the centenary of the republic in 2018, brought an extra $10.5 million into the domestic production coffers. With that money, the EFI is supporting the features “Truth and Justice,” directed by Tanel Toom (Academy Award-nominated for his short film “The Confession”); “The Little Comrade,” directed by Moonika Siimets; “The Riddle of Jaan Niemand,” directed by Kaur Kokk;“Take It or Leave It,” directed by Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo; kid pic “Eia’s Christmas at Phantom Owl Farm”; and a feature-length animation, “Lotte and the Lost Dragons,” directed by Janno Põldma and Heiki Ernits.

Tiina Lokk, director of the Black Nights Film Festival and a member of the expert committee that assessed the funding applications, stresses the quality of the scripts and the high level of preparation of the winning projects.

“We are seeing a new generation of filmmakers who are young, talented, original and oh-so-hungry. It has been a long time since I had the fortune to read and see such interesting and well-prepared projects,” she says.

Estonia Film 100 is also supporting the feature documentary “Land Shaped by Winds,” directed by Joosep Matjus and the short documentary “Roots,” completed as a joint work by nine Estonian female directors. The films should reach theaters between February 2018 and February 2019.

Ivo Felt’s 2014 film “Tangerines” drew Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. His company, Allfilm, is behind “Truth and Justice,” a period adaptation of one of Estonia’s most famous literary novels, and “Take It or Leave It,” a contemporary tale about a young man becoming a single father, also has two other features currently in post.

One is “The Confession,” made with his “Tangerines” directing partner, Georgian helmer Zaza Urushadze. It centers on a former film director who lives a reclusive life as a priest in the Georgian mountains until he encounters a local music teacher named Lily. Picture Tree Intl. is selling. The second is “Portugal,” an adventurous love story with comic elements, which marks the feature debut of acclaimed actor and stage director Lauri Lagle.

Producer Riina Sildos, CEO of Amrion, has high hopes for “The Little Comrade,” which she presented in 2016 at the Berlinale Co-Production Market, where it received a Eurimages Special Jury Award. The affecting drama, now in post and set for a February release, is set in the 1950s and seen through the eyes of a 6-year-old, whose mother is sent to a prison camp during the Stalinist repressions. Amrion serves as minority co-producer on the noir drama “Mihkel,” the Icelandic-Estonian-Norwegian feature debut of Icelandic documentarian Ari Alexander Magnusson, expected this fall. They are also preparing a new children’s fantasy adventure called “Erik Stoneheart” to be helmed by Ilmar Raag in 2018 and “Masters of the Sea” from Martti Helde for 2019. Both will be bigger budget productions and packaged as multi-country co-productions.

Producer Katrin Kissa of Homeless Bob Productions is celebrating Mart Taniel’s cinematography kudo from the Tribeca fest for Rainer Sarnet’s “November,” as well as the film’s sale to U.S. distributor Oscilloscope. Her Estonia 100 title, “The Riddle of Jaan Niemand,” is a suspenseful period mystery set in the bleak times after the Great Northern War.

Felt, Sildos and Kissa, along with compatriot producers Aet Laigu of Meteoriit (producer of Kadri Kõusaar’s “Mother”) and Kristian Taska of Taska Film (producer of the box office hits “Class Reunion,” “1944” and “Names in Marble”) will join the EFI in France for a Cannes Producers’ Network breakfast. The EFI will also sponsor various other networking events in Cannes.

Even though no Estonian film is in the official Cannes program this year, the EFI has carefully planted the seeds so that 2018 will definitely be their year. Nine features are expected plus one feature-length animation. Meanwhile, after “November’s” strong performance in Tribeca, hopes are high for the rest of 2017’s features.

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