Images used with permission from Mae Productions Inc.
Thursday, 23 December 2021 19:00
Estonian Life No. 51/52 2021 - Vincent Teetsov
On a global level, the history of Baltic nations during the time of the Second World War—including the history of why and how Estonians fled from their beloved homeland—has been sparsely represented in cinema. Elmo Nüganen's film 1944
, which was submitted to the 88th Academy Awards, brought clarity to this historical topic in recent years.
Still, there is a lack of knowledge about Nazi and Soviet occupations of Estonia, connected to the notion that, as of Germany's surrender on May 8th, 1945, all of Europe was free and safe. Knowledge of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is even less common.
More local efforts have been made to change this, though. If you've been following the välis-Eesti film scene, it's very probable that you've seen Patterns of Freedom (Vabaduse mustrid
, formerly titled Keepers of the Loom
), which won a 2015 Cultural Endowment of Estonia Annual Award in the category of folk culture. The film demonstrated how textile arts became a way for women in the Estonian diaspora to continue fighting for and celebrating their cultural identity. As Mae Productions Inc. describes the film, “Patterns of Freedom
is a universal story of refugees and their search for identity in the face of loss and exile.”Patterns of Freedom
was developed over 10 years, but it was just the beginning of retelling these important life stories. The film's brother and sister creators, Tom and Reet Mae, are busy producing a sequel, a documentary project titled In Search of Our Fathers
In continued collaboration with the Estonian Studies Centre and in connection to KESKUS International Estonian Centre (where they hope to have some screenings), they are producing multiple documentaries that focus on the stories of men from the Estonian diaspora, who worked determinedly to preserve Estonia's national identity.
The capacities in which this was done were wide-ranging, with stories from “craftsmen, sailors, doctors, soldiers, artists and musicians.” For instance, the project includes short films about pianist Armas Maiste and visual artist Arne Roosman.
As Tom and Reet Mae state, “Some of these stories are harrowing, but all demonstrate the resilience and love of home and country that carried their culture forward in exile.” They continue, “We have conducted interviews which have at times been hard to hear and to tell those difficult stories. We need to respect those who shared their experiences...” They emphasize the value of personal stories that help us understand written history, trauma, and ongoing experiences of people affected by war.
With Mae Productions Inc.'s diverse skills in filmmaking and digital media, the films will illustrate these stories through never-before-seen interviews (in Estonian and English with accompanying subtitles), animation, live-action re-enactments filmed in Estonia, and graphics.Raising the Flag (Lipu Heiskamine)
was the first film of this project that audiences have had the chance to see, since it was first screened at EstDocs in 2017. The 12 minute film follows a young man, Fred Ise, as he took great risks to fly the Estonian flag above Pikk Hermann, during a small period of freedom between the retreat of the Russian army and the arrival of the Germans in 1941.
They state that it's their intention to screen the films across North America and Europe, including the Baltic nations, with “backup plans for virtual screenings... if restrictions remain in effect”, and to submit the completed work to festivals. Of course, these plans are shaped by the amount of funding contributed in North America and from Estonia.
For this project, Tom and Reet Mae have now set out on a round of holiday fundraising.
All donations made before January 1st, 2022 (under $5,000 in value) will be matched by an anonymous donor. Furthermore, it is confirmed that “All donations of $20 or more receive a charitable tax receipt for the maximum amount allowable under Canada Revenue Agency guidelines.” Contributions can also be made by cheque, bank deposit, or in the form of donated securities by contacting the Estonian Studies Centre at (416) 925-9405. It's envisioned that this current stage of fundraising will continue until June 15th, 2022.
Likewise, support is appreciated in the form of volunteering one's time in assisting with pre-production, filming, and the attaining of grants.You can make a donation by visiting www.eestilood.comLearn more about the project by visiting www.balticstories2018.com.
Written by Vincent Teetsov