By Karin Ivand
Where can you see Japanese students singing and dancing in Estonian, a kiln the size of a small ship bursting with burning flames and a poignant look at the isolated but satisfying life of a senior woman?
At the EstDocs Short Film Competition, of course.
EstDocs, Toronto's dynamic and always surprising documentary film festival, got off to a creative start Saturday night with the screening of its short films at the Stephen Bulger Gallery on Queen Street West.
Short Film Competition Director Tauno Molder said this year's theme seemed to be "seven" as seven films of seven minutes in length were submitted. This is also the seventh (and final) year that Tauno will lead this popular EstDocs tradition.
"There are a lot of interesting angles in this year's short films," he said.
What is fun about this evening is that the audience gets to be judge and jury and vote on their favorite film. The three top choices will be featured at the festival on Friday, Oct. 16 at the Gala Presentation evening that features the film "Those Who Dared" at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.
As we settled in to watch this year's submissions, I realized how thoroughly I enjoy EstDocs every year. Not only is it a chance to find out new dimensions of the Estonian culture, it is just a great opportunity to see very fine filmmaking.
As always, the hard-working EstDocs committee, led by Festival Director Kristi Sau Doughty, had its work cut out in mounting this year's offerings.
"We looked at a lot of films," she said, in preparation for this year's festival. Nine were chosen in total and will be shown at various venues from Oct. 15 – 20. "This year's theme seems to be Baltic connections. It is so interesting how the Estonian-Latvian-Lithuanian connection has been so strong."
Kristi said that the film "The Story of the Baltic University" is a perfect example. Refugee professors created a university in 1945 without a penny to their names. It is a story of immense resilience and features rare footage and interviews.
Back to the short films. What makes a good short film? For me, it is the ability to capture not just a story, but also an emotional connection in the space of a few short moments. It is a rare skill to do this and, when it works, extremely satisfying to watch. It is like the perfect small, beautifully presented appetizer. Gone in a few bites, but highly memorable.
I was very taken with the film "Vabadus" or "Freedom." It was a light-hearted yet introspective look at how two young women who live in the city escape to a country property on days off to get away from urban life.
It perfectly captured the feeling of freedom that comes from simply breathing fresh air, swimming in a lake and just being silly with your best friend. They talk about how great it is to disengage from the relentless monotony of electronics that permeates everything we do. I can relate!
Estonians love nature, and it seems to permeate our very being. Just last week I found a photo of myself as a two year-old, which was taken at our family cottage. I was sitting on a log, with my bare feet dangling in the water, very intent on a flower that was pressed up to my nose. It must have been one of my first experiences of the freedom that comes from being outside. I still feel that way, but for some reason it gets harder and harder to do.
That is what is great about EstDocs. It reminds us of who we are and introduces us to new experiences that somehow – magically and wonderfully - feel very familiar.
See you at the movies. Go to www.estdocs.com to find out what's playing.
Photos, all the short film entries and more: http://www.eesti.ca/short-film...
EstDocs appetizers: seven small gems launch this year's festival