History of Non-Professional Filmmaking in Estonia

A Short Survey

The very first known and so far survived amateur films in Estonia – mostly film chronicals and tourist films - were made by Hans Võrk, Eduard Riismann, Voldemar Matson, Konstantin Kalamees, Mihkel Õnnis and others in the late twenties.

The first all-Estonian amateur films festival was held under the leadership of cameraman Evald Vaher in 1958 in Tallinn. The Estonian Union of Cinematographers, the Estonian Ministry of Culture and the Estonian Trade Union Council started to supervise amateur filmmaking.

Since 1968 methodological and artistic supervision over Estonian amateur films was executed by the Artistic Amateur Centre of the Estonian Trade Union Council. From 1960 to 1973 Loit Kruusvee was leading an Amateur Film Club in Tallinn.

The Republican Club-Laboratory of Amateur Film Makers of the Estonian Trade Union Council was organized in 1975 under the leadership of Jaak Järvine. It coordinated the work of Estonian amateur film makers until 1991.

In 1991 Estonian Film Amateurs Union was founded as the legal successor of the Club-Laboratory of Amateur Film Makers. In 1991 Estonian Film Amateurs Union (in German: Verband der Filmamateure Estlands) became a UNICA member. In 2016 Estonian Film Amateurs Union was renamed into the Association of Estonian Non-Commercial Cinema

All-Estonian amateur film festivals have been organised every year. Recently the scope of various amateur film festivals held in Estonia has considerably increased. For example, different amateur film festivals were held in Narva, Põlva, Rakvere, Palamuse, Rapla, Tallinn, Tartu, Nöo and other places in 2008/2016.

In 1991-2018 700 documentaries,958 feature and experimental films and 248 animation films were screened at all-Estonian festivals.

Tallinn has hosted two UNICA festivals. The 48th UNICA festival was held in 1986 and in 2001 the Estonian Film Amateurs Union organized the 63th UNICA festival.

In 1970, 1973, 1978, 1982, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1997 and 2002 Baltic Amateur Film Festivals were held in Tallinn (in 1997 and 2002 these festivals were held as open festivals with the participation also from Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and UK).

Each year since 2003 the Estonian Film Amateurs Union has held International Amateur Film Festivals “Tallinn”. 116 films from 16 countries participated at the 14th festival in 2016. In the framework of the festivals “Tallinn`2006-2013“ also the Nordic Festival was held. Each year since 2001 the Studio “Meksvideo” has held the International Amateur Film Festival “Unprecedented Film” at Maardu near Tallinn. Since 2006 the Studio „Rovesnik“ has held 5 young filmmakers international festivals „Tushite Svet“ and since 2008 the Jõhvi Culture Centre each year has held international amateur filmmakers festivals „Laterna Magica“.

Since 1960 to 2018 Estonian amateur films have been shown at international festivals in 27 countries and have been awarded 992 prizes and 194 special diplomas.

The most successful film clubs in Estonia are the video studio „Meksvideo“, the video studio "Kanutiaia“, studio "Rovesnik" (Narva), "Tõnu Aru Video Studio" and others.

In 1971-2016 Estonian film amateurs have won at UNICA festivals the Special Prize for the best film of the festival – 2016, Maria Reinup „Mai“; 7 gold medals (Heido Jänes “Harri”,1992, at the competition “My Land”; Andrew Bond „Russian Size“, 2010; Moonika Siimets „As Time goes on“; 2016,:Maria Reinup „Mai“), 6 silver medals (Jüri Varus, Helgi Kukk ”May the Stones not Cry”, 1976; Martti Helde „Thibaut“, 2009; Vallo Toomla „Morbus“, 2010; Vallo Toomla “Elisabeth von Ungern Sternmeer“, 2011; Anna Hints „The Wall“, Ivan Pavljutškov „Ivan`s Day“), 26 bronze medals (Tõnu Aru, Ülo Keedus “Before Tomorrow”, 1983; Tõnu Aru, Ülo Keedus “Half-Sisters”, 1984; Viktor Siilats “Young Smiths”, 1987; Lauri Aaspõllu, Tõnis Lepik “A Man in the Boat”, 1988; Igor Glazistov “Two Days and Nights of a Painter’s Life”, 1994; Toomas Kukke, Tõnu Aru “Old Road”, 1995; Igor Glazistov “Stone and Water”, 1996; Daniel Müntinen “Redhair Sunshine”, 2002; Elen Lotman “Homo Sapiens”, 2002; Kullar Viimne “Quo vadis?”, 2003; Tanel Toom “2.68”, 2004; Asko Kase “Koma”, 2005; Leeni Linna “Personal Space”, 2006; Joosep Matjus “Summer Documentary”, 2007; Andrew Bond „Obsession“, 2009; Katre Haav „On the wrong side“, 2010; Martti Helde “Burnt Mistakes“, 2011; Anna Hints „Free World“, 2013; Tarvi Roos „Moments“, 2013; Anna Hints „Manifesto of Hope“, 2014; Margus Paju „My condolence“, 2014; Nele Kirsipuu, „Witches loaves“, 2014; Rein Zobel „Awesome“; 2015; Anu-Laura Tuttelberg, 2015; 2016, Tõnis Pill „Counterpoint“; Meel Paliale „Kui tuleb päev“), one Special Prize (Arnold Kiil, Kalju Pruul “Capitulation”) and 6 Special and Honour Diplomas (Igor Jermishin “Make Up for all us”, 1985; Fjodor Sychevskiji „About the sanitary technician Potapov“, 2009; Stella Salumaa „Packed like Sardines“, 2011; Dmitry Domoskanov; „The Last 12“, 2013; Norman Tamkivi „Fairy Tale“, 2014, Dmitry Domoskanov „Touch the Dead inside“ ; 2015; Dmitry Domoskanov; „The Beginning“, 2016; Aleksandr Petra, Timofei Gluhhov, Sergei Markovitš, Veronika Solovjova „The Tale and the Scales“, 2016).

Since 1992 to 2018 the UNICA Committee has awarded Estonia with 21 Year Medals (Jaak Järvine, 1992; Tõnu Aru, 1999; Juri Meštšerjakov, 2000; Olev Viitmaa, 2001; Pjotr Perelmuter, 2002; Igor Glazistov, 2002/2003; Studio “Noorfilm”, 2003/2004; Aavo Kõiv, 2004/2005; Heini Lepa, 2005/2006 ; Raivo Manglus 2006/2007; Erich Mägi 2007/2008; Mikk Granström 2008/2009, Heido Jänes 2009/2010, Hans Vaisma 2010/2011, Marina Naaber 2011/2012, Agnia Dorovatovskaja, 2012/2013, Väino Valdmann 2013/2014; 2014/2015 Eve Ester; stuudio „Meksvideo“ 2016.a.; Stuudio „Rovesnik“ 2017.a.; Toomas Griin, Jaak Eelmets 2018


Estonian Amateur Films I /1927-1985/” (Jaak Järvine, Kaarin Birkan, 102 p., 1986, in Estonian; a survey on the history of non-professional filmmaking in Estonia; summary in English, German and French), “Estonian Amateur Films II /1986-1996/” (Jaak Järvine, 62 p., 1997, in Estonian), “Estonian Amateur Films III /1997-1999/” (Jaak Järvine, 140 p., 2000, in Estonian; the book includes also a list of commented articles on non-professional filmmaking published in the Estonian press in 1927 – 2000), “Estonian Amateur Films IV /2000-2003/” (Jaak Järvine, 66 p., 2003, in Estonian), “Estonian Amateur Films V /2004-2011 /” (Jaak Järvine, 172 p., 2011, in Estonian) ;“A Look into History” (“Vzgljad v Proshloje”, “Der Blick in die Vergangenheit”), a survey on the history of non-professional filmmaking in the former USSR and Baltic States since 1920 to 1991; 546 p., 2005, in Russian; summary in English, German and Estonian).

See articles (in Estonian) filmiamatörism (ENE vol.3.1988) and film ja kino, harrastusfilm (EE vol.11, 2002).

Association of Estonian Non-Commercial Cinema

Estonia, Tallinn, 10125, Fr.R.Faehlmanni str. 32/1-2,

phone + 372 6484 974, +372 55924240

e-mail: jaak.jarvine@mail.ee