Su, 1.10.2023

Estonia submits «Smoke Sauna Sisterhood» for Oscar consideration

Estonia submits «Smoke Sauna Sisterhood» for Oscar consideration.
Estonia submits «Smoke Sauna Sisterhood» for Oscar consideration. Photo: Filmikaader

A committee convened by the Estonian Film Institute (EFI) has chosen Anna Hints' documentary «Smoke Sauna Sisterhood», in Estonian «Savvusanna sosarad», to represent Estonia in the Best International Feature Film category at the Academy Awards.

The selection committee included cultural critic Andrei Liimets, producer Johanna Maria Paulson, chairman of the Cultural Endowment's Audiovisual Arts Foundation Kaarel Kuurmaa, director and editor Madli Laane-Metsalu, directors Marko Raat and Ove Musting, and head of EFI's production department Viola Salu. According to committee members, the documentary boasts a sensitive visual language, capturing both the temporal and timeless, the specific and universal, and the political and poetic.

«Smoke Sauna Sisterhood» awaits a US cinema release in the fall and winter, which allows it to also vie for an Oscar in the Best Documentary Feature category. The film will be distributed in the United States by Greenwich Entertainment.

Director Anna Hints expressed profound gratitude for the national Oscar candidacy.

«I am deeply moved and thankful that my beloved colleagues in the Estonian film world see such vast potential in 'Smoke Sauna Sisterhood.' With the film, I've embarked on a true world tour and have personally felt how it resonates with audiences in Europe, Hong Kong, Canada, America, and Australia. Born from the heart, this film is designed to touch hearts. I can only hope that the power of our own smoke sauna also speaks to the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,» Hints stated.

The documentary has enjoyed remarkable international success. It has screened at more than twenty festivals worldwide, winning four awards and receiving two jury mentions. Notable accolades include Hints winning the directing award in the World Cinema Documentary category at Sundance Film Festival, the Best Feature Documentary Award at San Francisco Film Festival, and the Eurimages Audentia Award for Best Female Director from the European Commission. Film rights have been sold to over 30 territories ranging from the United States to New Zealand and from Canada to South Korea. In Estonia, «Smoke Sauna Sisterhood» has drawn 27,000 cinema-goers to date.

Producer Marianne Ostrat of Alexandra Film celebrated the committee's decision.

«It's a tremendous honor! Sundance-premiered and awarded documentaries often find themselves among Oscar nominees, and we've prepared our spirit for this Oscar journey. We're not just trying our luck at the Oscars but aiming to fully realize the potential of 'Smoke Sauna Sisterhood' in two categories,» Ostrat said.

«Smoke Sauna Sisterhood» provides a contemporary, intimate portrayal of women gathering in the protective darkness of the smoke sauna, sharing their deepest secrets, and washing away accumulated shame and pain. The documentary also introduces the smoke sauna tradition of Voromaa in South Estonia, recognized on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The film is directed and scripted by Hints, produced by Ostrat, with Ants Tammik serving as the cinematographer. The soundtrack was composed by Iceland's Edvard Egilsson and performed by the band Eeter.

The movie is a co-production involving Alexandra Film from Estonia, Kepler22 Productions from France and Ursus Parvus from Iceland. Co-producers are Juliette Cazanave and Hlin Johannesdottir.