Two films and two athletes kick off EstDocs 2010 on October 15, 2010, the week that showcases Estonian documentary filmmaking to Toronto audiences. The athletes’ differences are age and sport. One is an 83-year-old pole-vaulter and the other is a 25-year-old sumo wrestler. Their similarity? They both are Estonian.
Director: Moonika Siimets Producer: Mari Kallas / Osakond
EstDocs 2010 will open with the delightful “World Champion”, directed by Moonika Siimets (whose “Report, Green Estonia” charmed EstDocs audiences in 2008). The film chronicles Herbert Sepp’s bid to be crowned best in his sport at the World Senior Championships in Helsinki. He won a silver medal in the European championships, so why not take a crack at conquering the world? Helsinki is but a short ferry ride away.
The film is structured around the adorable yet stern old man who is in nearly every shot, More than a meditation on sporting, the film captures the determination of a solitary character whose attitudes toward life focus on health, action and discipline.
“Never let an hour pass without gaining something. That hour - it could bring you luck or mishap,” Sepp says, repeating a rhyme his father once recited to him.
Unsurprisingly, this film just won the Best Baltic Documentary Award at the Riga Arsenals Festival. Viewers can’t resist cheering for Herbert!
An Estonian in Japan – lost in translation
Director/Producer: Artur Talvik / Eetriüksus
The second film of the night is the thoroughly enjoyable “An Estonian in Japan – Lost in translation”. The sumo wrestling world is ruled by tradition. In Japan, where sumo wrestling is considered the national sport, sumo is far more than fat men running into each other and the wrestlers are considered superhuman celebrities.
The film, directed by Artur Talvik, known to EstDocs audiences as the producer of films that have been in almost every EstDocs program since festival inception, including two of the gala films, observes the seemingly bizarre rise to fame of the fair-haired Kaido Höövelson, known in Japan as sumo’s DiCaprio.
The film chronicles the hierarchy and obedience in training, the celebrity and commercial endorsements in the public sphere, and the homesickness and isolation in the Far East.
The narrative, spanning three years, splits time between Estonia and Japan craftily changing pace between the two settings. The film portrays sumo wrestling culture, while also recognizing the personal costs. Höövelson’s mother in her cameo appearance captures the latter particularly compellingly, allowing us reflection on the question: fame and glory or love and freedom? Meanwhile, Kaido’s star continues to rise - on October 3 of this year, he won yet another first place title for professionals, in the Tokyo Kokugikan Sumo Palace.
The opening night films screen at Tartu College, 310 Bloor Street West (entrance off Madison Ave); tickets $15 include reception at 6pm, films at 7pm. For more information on EstDocs and ticketing, go to www.estdocs.com.
EstDocs 2010 opens with two engaging sporting films (1)