EstDocs Short Film Competition launches this year’s festival (5)
Eestlased Kanadas 16 Oct 2016 Karin IvandEWR
Karin Ivand
EstDocs got off to a feisty start on Friday with the screening of this year’s Short Films Competition. A total of 12 creative submissions came in, and a standing-room only crowd packed the Stephen Bulger Gallery to take a look and vote for their favorite.

Short Film Competition Director Tauno Mölder was pleased with this year’s submission of films – several of which came in from Estonia – and equally delighted with the audience turnout.

“We had seven short films submitted last year, and 16 the year before,” he said. “We’re really happy with the response this year.”

Watching short films is a lot of fun. It’s like getting a box of chocolates and getting to taste each one.

Canadian-born to Estonian parents, Sylvi Oja produced a short film on what it means to be Estonian and how her memories of summer camp, guides and friends have shaped her life.

“I have Canadian friends, but they are nothing like my Estonian friends,” Sylvi says in her film. How many of us can relate to that? It’s like your Estonian friends know your soul.

Estonian film-maker Sari Sari submitted three films. “It Flies to the Hive” featured images set to the words of the emotional song “Ta Lendab Mesipuu Poole” about how Estonians fled their country and searched for a home.

And where but at an Estonian film festival would you see two films called “Leib”? (Bread). No wonder we are so carb-obsessed.

One of the films featured a bakery in Tartu, Estonia, where a special recipe of rye bread from the island of Muhu is made. The bread sells out as soon as it’s made and the intrepid bakers often have to share space with other cooks using the same ovens that they have access to – making for some nail-biting baking experiences.

The other film was a how-to on baking your own bread, including how to cultivate the “juuretis” or sourdough starter that flavours the bread and gives it that special tangy taste. Extra points for the tongue-in-cheek subtitles from the filmmaker, who obviously has a wicked sense of humour.

The audience loved the charming “Saaremaale!” about what people do to while away the time while waiting for the ferry to island of Estonia’s Saaremaa. The film featured two good-natured Estonian young men who came to the ferry terminal to watch the comings and goings, which featured a folk-dance troupe who practised while waiting and a couple of young men towing their own portable sauna. You know, because where they were going did not have a sauna, and a trip is just not complete without a sauna experience. We get it, we really get it.

Estonia has a rich and quirkily creative arts community and the film “Silent Night” featured a young woman who is living her life as an artist while raising two young children, one of whom has special needs. Her art features the dismantling of old cars, and these are recreated into vignettes on stage.

So, as always, no lack of imagination from the Estonian film-making community. The Short Films Competition is the “appetizer” to the full EstDocs Festival, which gets underway on Nov. 4 and continues to Nov. 8.

What can we expect this year?

Festival Director Kristi Sau Doughty promises “a lot of fun!”

The EstDocs team has put together a really interesting program. There seems to be something for everyone.

Opening night at the Hot Docs Cinema on Bloor St. in downtown Toronto on Nov. 4 has a political theme with the screening of “The Master Plan” that chronicles Russia’s cross-border info war. Joining this year’s EstDocs moderator Riho Västrik, associate professor in the Baltic Film, Media Arts and Communication School in Tallinn will be former Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander for a discussion following the film.

This evening will also feature the winners of the Short Film Competition.

On Nov. 5, again at Hot Docs Cinema, the topic turns to fashion and how one enterprising Estonian artist has embraced the world of “upcycling”, which brings textile waste back into the production cycle. This evening will feature a pop-up fashion show and artist Reet Aus will be with us for the evening.

Film fans, rejoice. The Sunday full-day program at Tartu College on Nov. 6 features four great films that cover everything from a profile of writer Mati Unt, metal band Metsatoll and the saving of a small, wooden church built by newly-arrived Estonians near Chicago.

For me, EstDocs is a wonderful opportunity to connect with my roots, see some old friends and bring some new friends to learn about Estonian culture. I always learn something new and interesting and I always leave feeling grateful that I am part of a very special culture.

Oh, and there is kringel – included in your ticket price - at each and every screening.

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