In 2008, Mae Productions filmed a folk clothing fashion show that was put on by MEERK (a committee of the Estonian Ethnographic Society and the Society of Estonian Provinces). This collaboration formed the impetus for a unique documentary project Keepers of the Loom, the story of several generations of Estonian women who used the skills they depended on for their own survival to preserve the beauty and resilience of an entire people, culminating right here in Canada.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the 1944 mass exodus from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that was triggered by the Soviet annexation of the Baltic republics. For those who still remember the 1940 elections in Estonia, there are some chilling parallels regarding the recent referendum and resulting annexation of Crimea by Russia. In 1940, Soviet armies entered the Baltics, then carried out “elections” in which only communist candidates were allowed to stand. Subsequently, the Batlic states “requested” joining the Soviets. This was followed in 1941 by massive deportations of native people to Siberia. When German armies entered, they drove the Soviet forces out, but when in 1944, the German armies retreated from the Baltics, and the Soviet forces were returning, those who could find a way to escape, fled their homelands.
The focus was initially the stories of women who fled their homeland and came to Canada and the West as refugees with nothing more than a fierce love of their culture in their hearts and the skills in their hands. These women kept their culture alive through creating traditional folk dress for themselves and their children. By doing so, they passed on both the skills and the meaning of these garments to subsequent generations. The story has become broader to encompass textiles and folk arts and the re-connection with a now free Estonia.
We are now looking for corporate and individual sponsorship and will be launching a crowd funding website shortly.
We hope this will enable us to broaden the scope and participation of the project.
We are still seeking stories, both from men and women, who remember their own, or their parents’ stories of conditions before and during leaving in the 1940s.
MPI is now seeking support and volunteers to complete the documentary. MPI has established a website for the project: www.keepersoftheloom.com
We are also looking to film individuals who might be willing to share their thoughts about the current situation in Crimea/the Ukraine, specific historic parallels and the implications for the Baltic nations.
We are creating some re-enactments, but are also looking for additional stories to film, about the keeping of folk art, folk clothing and traditions alive, as well as stories about the meaning and value of these in people’s lives.
Calling Anyone Who Can Contribute!
Everyone who volunteers and contributes, will be acknowledged in the credits. Are you a researcher who could help us seek archival materials? Do you have a similar story to tell about yourself or your parents leaving Estonia and coming to a new country? We are interested in gathering stories from around the globe, so if your family landed in Australia, or South America, or the USA, we’d love to hear from you. Do you have Estonian folk costumes? We are also trying to follow the thread of Estonian identity as expressed through folk costumes, folk clothing and crafts, so we are also looking for examples of work done in Estonia and brought to Canada or the West after the War. Edgy Estonian themed design? Have you found a new way to express your Estonian identity? Or used skills you learned from your folks in an unexpected way? Are you a composer or musician? We are looking to develop a unique score specifically for this film. If you’d like to help, let us know.
Are you a recent immigrant, or do you know people still in Estonia? We are also looking for stories about how this cultural heritage was maintained in Estonia after the War. Are you in film and need some volunteer hours/credits? We are looking for editors who can help piece things together, especially Estonian speaking editors to help with Estonian footage.
Basically we are looking for anyone with something to contribute to this project in any capacity.
Any little bit will help us make it great! If you have a story or skill to share, please contact us at the folowing link:
Be in a Reenactment! Would you like to be in a re-enactment for the documentary, or help us make it look incredible? This is the perfect opportunity for anyone hoping to not only contribute their time and talent, but gain an official credit for their film industry resume.
A MAE Productions INC. Documentary
56 Hambly Avenue, Toronto ON M4E 2R6 CANADA 416 699-0825
Keepers of the Loom: Estonian Women’s Stories of the Baltic Diaspora