Nature on the big screen

  • 2010-09-15
  • By Ella Karapetyan

TALLINN - Spring and autumn are considered to be the best seasons of the year in Estonia. However, most travelers think the best time to visit Estonia is in the fall, as it is also a perfect time to take part in different autumn festivals held in various cities all over Estonia. Matsalu Nature Film Festival has become a traditional autumn event, taking place every year in different parts of Estonia. Nature films makers from Estonia, Europe and the entire world will participate in the festival, which this year is launched from Sept. 15-19.

As the idea had been hatching in many minds over the years, it’s hard to tell who was the first one to think of organizing a nature film festival in Laane County. What is certain, though, is that it was in spring 2003 when the people of Lihula parish, The Matsalu Nature Reserve, The Estonian Fund for Nature, with the help of filmmakers, started making it a reality,” says one of the organizers of the festival. The first Matsalu Nature Film Festival was held in October 2003 in Lihula, with a competitive program of 23 films from 7 countries, when more than 2,500 people visited the festival. According to the event organizers, since the festival gained great public response, the founders decided to make it an annual event. Every year, 150-200 films from approximately 50 countries are sent to the festival. The target audience of the festival includes those interested in nature and people who live according to a traditional lifestyle. In 2009, almost 7,000 people visited the festival.

Besides the competition program, the participants and spectators will be offered retrospectives of Estonian nature films, undergraduate film program workshops, master-classes and hikes in nature. Photography fans can enjoy a number of exhibitions in Lihula and Penijoe. Nature photography workshops for grown-ups will take place in Lihula and also in the nature reserve of Silma.

The goal of the festival is, in addition to a two-way promotion of nature films (“We to the world, the world to us”), to add an increasingly growing cultural dimension to Matsalu and all of Laane County, drawing the international awareness of the National Park.

In addition, the goal is to spread the green philosophy, confer the value of traditional living, an environment respectful of nature, inform the population of the etiquette for moving around in nature, provide information about the natural assets and protected areas of Laane County and draw attention to environmental and nature conservation issues.

A great tradition has grown out of group visits from schools, and in recent years turned to a “Children’s Day,” when filmmakers introduce their work and tools to children, and children take photographs of nature and draw nature, based on themes from films. Matsalu International Nature Film Festival is organized by the non-profit organization MTU Matsalu Loodusfilmide Festival. This year Estonian State Forest Management Center (RMK) and MTU Matsalu Loodusfilmide Festival signed a cooperation agreement on holding the Matsalu International Nature Film Festival and organizing environmental education events within the framework of the festival.

According to the latter, this year RMK is planning to run children’s programs in Haapsalu and Lihula, photo exhibitions, various workshops and other events aimed at the general public.
Tiit Mesila, chairman of the board of MTU Matsalu Loodusfilmide Festival, welcomed the decision by RMK to start supporting Estonia’s only international nature film festival, and is expecting from the incipient collaboration a great benefit for both parties. According to him, throughout the years the forest, as Estonia’s hallmark natural environment, together with its rich animal and plant life, has also been the frequent subject of film festivals.

“RMK will be furthering awareness of nature through events and workshops aimed at the general public, by promoting principles that support sustainable development and by providing information about forest environments, forest conservation and the practices and options for moving around in the forest and in protected areas,” says Marju Pajumets, RMK’s Visitor Services Manager for the Western Estonia Region.

The organizers of the festival hope that this year the festival will be even bigger and better and will gather a record number of visitors. “We had a wonderful time at the festival last year and were absolutely delighted that we attended. I wanted to thank the organizers for the incredible attention to detail, professionalism, organization and personal interaction that they showed before and throughout the festival. Although there can be many larger film festivals, it is hard to imagine any that are more special and personal than Lihula,” says Anita Chaumette, producer of Liquid Motion Film.

“The organizers made us feel so welcomed and we were absolutely honored to present the world premiere of ‘The Perfect Reef’ to such a fantastic audience. The high quality of the competing films and the preparation that went into the entire event, from the screenings to the buffets, the meetings and excursions to the stage set and musicians made it a wonderful, unforgettable experience. I hope and strongly believe that the festival will grow in size and prestige and will continue to be the incredible success that it was last year,” Chaumette added.