Film directors' guild: Govt's austerity plan means end of Estonian film

  • 2021-09-06
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – Estonian film directors believe that the government's plan to reduce funding for Estonian films by 42 percent next year means the inevitable disappearance of Estonian film culture.

"We are confused and outraged by the government's plans to reduce the already noticeably meager subsidies for Estonian film by almost half. The warm handshakes and festive smiles of politicians in the event of the international success of our films are not the currency in which films can be made. The culture of a small country needs the support of its own country. If a country refuses to maintain its national culture, the culture will disappear," the film directors said.

According to them, Estonian film has been constantly underfunded since the restoration of independence, and today, Estonian film production receives more than three times less money from the state budget than, for example, theater.

"We only have seven million euros a year for making films, which would need to be increased several times, but which they want to cut by three million euros instead. In 2022, the state plans to support us with an amount enough to make one and a half feature films, a couple of short animations and some documentaries," the film directors said.

According to the directors, one feature film a year means the inevitable disappearance of domestic film culture, and film actors, cinematographers, screenwriters, artists and technical staff will only find application in chewing gum commercials and politicians' election campaign clips.

"Film education becomes meaningless because those who start studies in the BFM [Baltic Film, Media and Arts School] film department have no future. Cinematic works that deal with Estonian history and identity, the existence and dreams of modern Estonians, offer excitement, catharsis or reconciliation will no longer reach cinemas -- they can only be seen at nostalgic cinema evenings where old Estonian films are shown. Because there are no more new movies," the film directors said.

"Estonian film is consistently underfunded. The one-off money injection for EV100 brought film funding to almost normal levels and the results were visible immediately. A number of new films were made, which brought hundreds of thousands of viewers. Unfortunately, the government now plans to leave the money injection as a one-off and permanent immunity against lack of money will not be created," the film directors said.

"Nevertheless, the film industry itself has been active and determined. We have reached major festivals and won important awards there. We have created a number of successful international cooperation projects. We are valued partners in the international arena, our contribution is expected and needed. Today, the only one who does not expect or need the contribution of Estonian filmmakers is the Estonian state. Imagine a day when no more poems are written in Estonian. When no Estonian-language production is performed or the work of no Estonian composer is performed. Imagine a day when the last Estonian writer goes silent and when the last building by an Estonian architect collapses. No one makes Estonian-language films except us. If the state refuses to support Estonian films, we will soon see the day when the last Estonian film is screened. From then on, we are only subcontractors to the film industries of other countries. Those countries that have understood, value and consider their own language film culture important," the film directors said.

The manifesto was signed by Estonian film directors Tanel Toom, Moonika Siimets, Veiko Ounpuu, Jaan Tootsen, Ilmar Raag, Triin Ruumet, Martti Helde, Marta Pulk, Anu Aun, Rainer Sarnet, Peeter Simm, Joosep Matjus, Kadri Kousaar, Priit Parn, Marko Raat, Janno Poldmaa, Margit Lillak, Sulev Keedus, Liina Trishkina-Vanhatalo, Oskar Lehemaa, Terje Toomistu, Aljona Surzikova, Priit Tender, Kullar Viimne, Katri Rannastu, German Golub, Olga Parn, Ulo Pikkov, Kersti Uibo, Maria Aua, Toomas Hussar, Raimo Joerand, Vladimir Loginov, Anna Hints, Liis Nimik, Rain Tolk, Toomas Jarvet, Martinus Klemet, Kaspar Jancis, Vallo Toomla, Kaupo Kruusiauk, Madis Ligema, Andres Maimik, Heilika Pikkov, Krista Jutt, Katrin Tegova, Jaanis Valk, Madli Laane, Anu-Laura Tuttelber, Evar Anvelt, Martinus Klemet, Sergei Kibus, Kadriann Kibus, Andres Tenusaar, Nora Sarak, Riho Vastrik, Meelis Muhu, Priit Paasuke, Eeva Magi.