4 Best Movies to Watch From Estonia

Staff & contributors

, 2021

When Amin sits down for a tell-all interview about his troubling past, his memories come to life in vivid animation. Sometimes they are sweet and intimate, like when he recounts his time as a playful boy in a much freer Afghanistan. But often, they’re marred by the unbelievable horrors of refugee life. Now a successful academic and soon-to-be husband, Amin discovers the inescapability of his status and identity, the reality of which continues to threaten his safety to this day.

Relevant and vital, Flee sheds some much-needed light on an often-overlooked phenomenon. More than just displaying factoids and numbers, it relays the specific unease and constant vigilance that comes with fleeing one’s home. But as Amin’s story, it is also richly detailed and wonderfully personal; for all its harsh exposés, the film leaves enough room for Amin’s stirring realizations about love, identity, and sexuality.

Genre: Animation, Documentary

Actor: Behrouz Bigdeli, Belal Faiz, Bo Asdal Andersen, Daniel Karimyar, Elaha Faiz, Fardin Mijdzadeh, Jean-Pierre Pernaut, Mikhail Belinson, Milad Eskandari, Rashid Aitouganov, Tormod Ringnes

Director: Jonas Poher Rasmussen

Rating: PG-13

Nakedness has been demonized or at least, has been considered inappropriate outside of certain situations. One such situation is the sauna, as the steam and high heat is considered therapeutic, especially in colder regions. In her directorial debut, Anna Hints documents the Estonian smoke sauna, not just as a cultural tradition, but as a sanctuary for women to bare their bodies and their troubles. The women are, of course, naked, but the sauna’s smoke and darkness obscures and keeps identities hidden, focusing on their stories and allowing a glimpse of women’s bodies at their most natural, without the sexualization often placed with the male gaze. Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is a refreshing take, one where plenty of women can finally see themselves in.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Eda Veeroja, Elsa Saks, Eva Kübar, Kadi Kivilo, Maria Meresaar, Marianne Liiv, Merit Kask

Director: Anna Hints

In Compartment Number 6, two different people strike an unlikely friendship during a train ride from Moscow to Murmansk. One is Laura, a Finnish student looking to observe ancient rock carvings at their destination, and the other is Ljoha, a gruff miner who hopes to secure a job once there. While the pair are initially unable to get on the same page, their friction eventually lends way to curiosity and empathy, especially as they learn more about each other and life itself.

It’s a great film to put on if you’re a fan of smart but subdued movies like the Before trilogy and Lost in Translation, and there is a lot to mine beyond their already-rich conversations, especially in terms of class and romance. It’s little wonder then that this delightful two-hander shares the 2021 Grand Prix award with another brilliant piece of art, Asghar Farhadi's A Hero.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Denis Pyanov, Dinara Drukarova, Galina Petrova, Konstantin Murzenko, Mikhail Brashinsky, Natalia Drozd, Polina Aug, Seidi Haarla, Sergey Agafonov, Tomi Alatalo, Valeriy Nikolaev, Yuliya Aug, Yuriy Borisov

Director: Juho Kuosmanen

Rating: R

This adaptation of a foundational work in Estonian literature is about an idealistic 19th-century farmer who is determined to turn his piece of land into a fruitful homestead. Things don’t go as expected because once confronted with his neighbor’s antagonistic nature he transforms from a loving family man to a bullying patriarch. 

Directed by the talented Tanel Toom and shot by Rein Kotov (the cinematographer behind the war drama 1944), Truth and Justice is a beautifully made adaptation Combining elements like a classic plot, radiant images, with a modern score from Mihkel Zilmer, this film-mirror of the Estonian's soul is not to be missed.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Aarne Soro, Aksel Ojari, Andero Ermel, Andres Lepik, Andres Mähar, Andres Renke, Andres Tabun, Ester Kuntu, Indrek Sammul, Kalju Orro, Karmo Nigula, Katrin Kalma, Külliki Saldre, Laura Kukk, Liisa Aibel, Loora-Eliise Kaarelson, Luule Komissarov, Maiken Pius, Margus Prangel, Margus Tabor, Maria Ehrenberg, Maria Koff, Marika Vaarik, Marta Riisalu, Mikk Kaasik, Ott Aardam, Ott Raidmets, Peeter Tammearu, Priit Loog, Priit Võigemast, Risto Vaidla, Simeoni Sundja, Uku Uusberg, Ursel Tilk

Director: Tanel Toom