Documentary film

Documentaries have not had the need to pander to the expectations of the public. After the former economic system collapsed, several phenomena were revealed that had not been talked about before. In The Christmas of a Moth (Ööliblika jõulud), a prostitute speaks quite frankly about her work and dreams. The nouveaux riches, prisoners and the so-called dustbin people appeared on screen. Cogito, ergo sum shows the only inhabitant of an abandoned village who lost all his property for refusing to join the kolkhoz, but retained his optimistic way of thinking. The story of a female prisoner that started as simple reminiscences in the film In paradisum turns into a Dostoyevskian tale about life with a serial killer.

Besides numerous films, there are many authors with their own established style and with always something to say. Rein Maran's nature films or Andres Sööt's observations of society seen from different angles have often touched the very nerve centre of society. In its speed and readiness to react, the documentary cinema finds itself in a privileged position, although even in this field the legends of past times have sometimes been recorded without any critical approach. The natural environment, untouched by industrialisation, still influences the way of thinking. Closeness to nature in Estonian classical literature, and hence in films, is evident in Rein Maran's work which besides the behaviour of animals also presents the forest environment as a natural condition. In Andres Sööt's Death of the Mother Fish (Emakala surm), the famous story of catching a rare sturgeon christened Maria in Saaremaa that was presented as a most extraordinary event in the press, acquired a slightly mythical touch. He shows the background of that secondary summer media message as an archetype of a news item, the influence of which reaches far and wide — from fishermen to the natural history museum and the best restaurants of the capital.

The documentary film maker Mark Soosaar always focuses on people — whether more widely known or not. Revealing their world, he casually breaks conventions, be the person an internationally renowned conductor, a jolly lorry driver or a Siberian shaman. Soosaar's one-man festival in Pärnu has developed into one of the most reliable international events in Estonian film, always causing lively debates and polemics.

The topics of nature and historical roots in Estonian documentaries, merge into an almost independent genre in films which follow the traditional Finno-Ugrian way of life in Siberia. Their rituals, customs and world outlook, untouched by technical progress, never cease to interest film-makers. The tribes, only partly settled nowadays, each reduced to only a few hundred people, are not merely exotic objects, but represent a deeper and more distant layer of identity. The bear wake, one of the most fascinating Khanty rituals gives maybe quite another meaning to the history of feature film in Estonia also.

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