Karlovy Vary film festival East of the West competition I Was Here

By Martin Aadamsoo
    The second feature by Estonian director Rene Vilbre, I Was Here is continuing the recent wave of Estonian cinema on the international arena with the world premiere in Karlovy Vary's East of the West competition programme.

    The film tells a somber story of a well-meaning elite school boy who is dragged into a mess for pushing dope in order to raise money to living in his own. The film cost €600,000 to make, a relatively modest budget even by Estonia's economical standards, and was financed by the Estonian Film Foundation, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Estonian Ministry of Culture's international co-production fund, Finnish Film Foundation, and TV channels Nelonen and ETV.

    The film is based on a novel of the same name by Sass Henno, who is still a student at the Baltic Film and Media School in Tallinn. The debut novel was awarded the first prize in the Estonian literary competition in 2004.The script was written by Ilmar Raag whose similarly gloomy school violence-themed The Class was also featured in last year's Karlovy Vary East of the West programme.

    I Was Here is a brusque departure from Vilbre's first feature Mat the Cat, a playful children's film which performed reasonably well in domestic cinemas and received the Children's Film Prize of the Nordic Film Institutes at the Lubeck Nordic Film Days in 2005.

    I was here was produced by Riina Sildos of Amrion, Estonia, and co-produced by Aleksi Bardy of Helsinki Film OY, Finland, joining a long line of Estonian-Finnish co-productions over the last decade. The film will be released in cinemas on September 12.

    The film was shot in just over a month in the autumn of 2007 in Estonia on XDCam and 16mm. The cast includes Estonian actors Rasmus Kaljujarv, Margus Prangel, Hele Kore, Marilyn Jurman, Tambet Tuisk, and Lembit Ulfsak, some of whom were also cast in Vilbre's first feature. The film was developed with the support of the Media Programme of the European Community and i2i Audiovisual.