"Palusalu" - Film review by Liivi Sandy (1)
EstDocs 12 Oct 2010  EWR
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Film review by Liivi Sandy
Director: Kristiina Davidjants
Producer: Priit Vaher, Erik Norkroos / Umberto Productions

Never mind that he is the size of a tree trunk. Kristjan Palusalu (1908-1987, born Trossman) is the epitome of a gentle soul, whose character upheld Estonia’s spirit in its darkest days.

“Palusalu” chronicles the life of an Estonian wrestler who takes home two gold medals at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. His story is put into the context of Estonia’s unique and oft heartbreaking history.

Though his size alone is symbolic of the strength of a people, Palusalu’s life is by no means easy. The ferocity of Soviet rule is a battle that even the best wrestler in the world has trouble defeating.

The Berlin Olympics in 1936 is an ominous reminder of what is about to unfold in Europe. Footage of the Fuhrer, in all his glory, greeting his athletes and countrymen with a stiff arm out ahead of him, is enough to make your stomach turn.

But this would not be the first or last time that Estonians back home would cry out, “Paluasalu, anna valu”. Palusalu walked away with two gold medals, while Hitler anticipated seeing a three-time Estonian wrestling champion lose to one of his own.

This wouldn’t be the last time Hitler saw defeat but he wreaks havoc on Western and Eastern Europe first.

Estonia gets caught in the crossfire.

Palusalu married, was gifted a farm, and then, like his fellow Estonians, is subjected to the grim reality of war. After being sent to hard labour in Russia, he is captured trying to escape and return to his wife and daughter. He is sentenced to 10 years at a work camp.

From this point forward, it is Palusalu’s strength of character that matters.

The trials this determined wrestler faces while representing and then defending his nation, make this film a must-see. In 1936, he is deemed as the world’s strongest man. Does it take a killer instinct to defeat an enemy? Not for a Palusalu. While Estonians see him as a mythical figure not unlike Kalevipoeg, he humbly remains faithful to his nation. This, his most heroic attribute.

"Palusalu" will be screened at the EstDocs Festival on Tuesday October 19, 2010 at 7 pm at the Estonian House and on Wednesday October 20 at 2pm at Ehatare. Both screenings are pay-what-you-can. For more information go to www.estdocs.com.
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