FNE Market Analysis 2021: ESTONIA

    Compartment no 6 by Juho Kuosmanen Compartment no 6 by Juho Kuosmanen

    TALLINN: The COVID-19 pandemic continued to shape the local film landscape in 2021. Both the ticket revenue and attendance hit a new low for the past 10 years, partly due to a 2.5-month period in the spring when all the cinemas were in lockdown from 8 March to 25 May.

    For the first time ever, Estonia was present in the main competitions of both Cannes and Venice film festivals, albeit with minor coproductions, Compartment No. 6 by Juho Kuosmanen, produced by Finland’s Aamu Filmcompany in coproduction with Germany’s Achtung Panda, Estonian Amrion, Finnish Elokuvayhtio Komeetta Oy and Russian CTB Films, and with Captain Volkonogov Escaped by Alexei Chupov and Natasha Merkulova, produced by Russia’s Look-Film / Place of Power in coproduction with France’s Kinovista and Estonia’s Homeless Bob Production.

    The year 2021 will also be remembered by the public scandal around the planned budget cuts for film production that were vehemently opposed by the whole film industry, and largely deflected. Instead of a temporary addition of 2 m EUR that the local film industry had hoped would have become permanent, 1 m EUR was finally added to the base budget on a permanent basis.

    Estonian Funeral by René VilbrePRODUCTION

    The year 2021 was quite active when it came to shooting domestic films.

    Rainer Sarnet’s Invisible Fight / Nähtamatuvõitlus, a fable about Orthodox kung fu monks, started shooting in September 2021. The film is an Estonian/Greek/Latvian/Finnish coproduction produced by Homeless Bob Production in coproduction with Greece’s Neda Film, Latvia’s White Picture, and Finnish Helsinki-Filmi.

    Triin Ruumet’s Dark Paradise / Tumeparadiis, focusing on the excesses of youth, also started shooting in 2021. The film is produced by Three Brothers.

    Totally Boss / Tähtsadninad directed by Ingomar Vihmar and produced by Nafta Films, went into production in the summer of 2021. The film is a children’s comedy with a snappy script and a criminal twist.

    Another feature film shot in the summer of 2021 was Stairway to Heaven / Taevatrepp, a hippie time machine nostalgia trip directed by Mart Kivastik and produced by Filmivabrik.

    After several name changes,Tanel Toom’s new feature film has currently become known as Sentinel (allegedly still about to change). Its shooting wrapped in October 2021. The film is a UK/German/Estonian coproduction, produced by Allfilm in coproduction with British Sentinel Entertainment and Stigma Films, and Germany’s Kick Film. This post-apocalyptic psychological thriller features Kate Bosworth, Thomas Kretschmann, Martin McCann and Lucien Laviscount.

    Minsk by Boris Guts, an Estonian/Russian coproduction, was also shot in 2021. It is a one-take film where Tallinn stands in for the Belarus capital during the 2020 riots. It is produced by Estonian Leo Films, with some financial backing from a Belarus private source that wishes to remain anonymous for the sake of safety.

    The historical sports drama Kalev had the shooting period partly postponed from 2020, due to COVID-related complications. The film wrapped after additional shooting days in May-June 2021. Kalev is produced by Allfilm.

    The ecological documentary Completely out of Fashion / Täiestimoestväljas started shooting in Kenya in October 2021, and the filming will probably continue until 2023. Directed by Jaak Kilmi, the film is produced by Pimik.

    A biographical documentary Citizen of the Sun, about a Soviet-time dissident and troubadour Toomas Urb, also started shooting in 2021. The film is produced by Vesilind.

    Estonian freestyle skier Kelly Sildaru gets her own bio-doc Kelly, which went into production in 2021, and the shooting is continuing in 2022. The film is produced by Estonia’s Oree Films and coproduced by France’s PVC Company.

    Fight for the Future, directed by Kadriann Kibus and produced by Rebel Frame, tackles the theme of climate change via the Fridays for Future movement, climate-aware youth and the new eco-anarchism of the Z-generation. 

    A Loss of Something Ever Felt BY Carlos E. LesmesDISTRIBUTION

    Overall, the number of theatrically released films reached 299 titles, 203 of them new ones. There were 1.39 m total admissions, which led to 8.22 m EUR total gross (with 1.05 admissions per capita).

    A total of 25 new Estonian films were theatrically released in 2021, with six more continuing their cinema run from 2020. Estonian films had 197,015 admissions and cashed in 1.15 m EUR. Local market share of Estonian films, which had reached an amazing 26.72% in 2020, fell back to 14.2% in 2021, which is still quite healthy as the theatrical release of several big films was postponed for 2022.

    The number of studio films (Disney, Warner Bros., Fox, Sony and Universal) almost doubled in 2021 compared to 2020, and together with domestic films they took an 85% share of the annual box office, leaving only 15% to the rest. In conclusion, the market share of international films not produced by the big studios went down from 42% to 15%.

    The segment of non-local Russian films that have performed reasonably well in the past, took a big hit. The reason was largely tied to the Coronavirus restrictions that went in conflict with the cinema-going habits of the Russian-speaking cinema audience. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, a total ban on distribution of Russian films was implemented in Estonia, so it remains to be seen if this statistic will be existent at all in 2023.


    We saw the emergence of a couple of bigger players in 2021 in VOD and online distribution, namely Viaplay, which joined the ranks of international VOD providers, and Apollo TV, a newly formed VOD branch of the local media conglomerate Apollo, consisting of cinemas, bookstores, a film production house, and some other activities.

    In all, the VOD market is still emerging and thus volatile, with no clear division lines between local and international, art house and commercial, TV and film-based providers.

    Regarding the international exposure and awards for Estonian films in 2021, the most attention fell on the two coproductions that were mentioned in the introduction. Compartment No. 6 ended up with Cannes Film Festival’s Grand Prix and a Special Mention from the Ecumenical Jury, and it was later chosen as the best international film in Jerusalem and audience favourite in Cottbus. The male lead Yuri Borisov collected best actor awards from Valladolid and São Paulo, the cinematographer Jani-Petteri Passi got a Camera 300, the main award from the cinematography festival Manaki Brothers in Macedonia. Compartment No. 6 was also nominated for three European Film Awards, and also for the Golden Globes. Furthermore, it was Kratt by Rasmus Merivooshortlisted for the Academy Awards in the Best International Feature category.

    Captain Volkonogov Escaped premiered in the Venice IFF competition in 2021 and has had a high-profile festival run since, winning Mujer de Cine Award at Gijon for the best film directed by a woman, the Grand Jury Prize at Les Arcs European Film Festival, and Best Narrative Feature Prize at the Philadelphia FF, among others.


    The most attended international film in 2021 was No Time to Die with 98,095 admissions, followed by F9 (56,555 admissions) and Dune (53,545 admissions).

    The most popular domestic film in cinemas in 2021 was Estonian Funeral / Eestimatus directed by René Vilbre, with 43,083 admissions. This black slapstick comedy is an adaptation of an immensely popular theatre play and it was completed without the financial support of the state. Estonian Funeral is coproduced equally by three companies, Apollo Film Productions, Taska Film and Filmivabrik.

    Largely the same production team (Apollo Productions, Taska Film), creative team (director Ergo Kuld, screenwriter Martin Algus) and distributor (Hea Film) are also behind the third most popular domestic entry, The Hunting Season / Jahihooaeg, which had 31,368 admissions.

    Between them came Estonia’s most prolific and experienced working director Peeter Simm with On the Water / Vee peal, that gathered 31,577 admissions. On the Water was produced by Filmivabrik, which was also one of the coproducers of Estonian Funeral. The film was distributed, once again, by Hea Film.

    Other Estonian feature films to premiere in 2021 were Rasmus Merivoo’s kid splatter comedy Kratt, produced by Tallifornia and distributed by Hea Film, with 23,105 admissions, the youth film Children of the Night / Öölapsed by Priit Pääsuke, produced by Alexandra Film and distributed by ACME Film, with 22,339 admissions, and Estonian first ever gay drama Firebird by Kalev by Ove Musting, photo: AllfilmPeeter Rebane, coproduced in the UK by No Reservations Entertainment and The Factory, with 9,380 admissions.

    Two domestic documentaries made it to the top list. A film by a Colombian director Carlos E. Lesmes, A Loss of Something Ever Felt / Üht kaotust igavesti kandsin had 3,269 admissions and went on to achieve critical acclaim, being awarded Neitsi Maali (the annual film award of the Estonian Film Journalists’ Association EFÜ), DokiKild (the annual award of the Estonian Documentary Guild), and the Estonian Film and Television Award for best documentary. A Loss of Something Ever Felt was produced by Alasti Kino.

    Another documentary, UK-filmed The Body Fights Back / Kehavõitlus rounds out the top list of Estonian films in 2021, with 2,038 admissions. The film directed by journalist Marian Võsumets and produced by Lola Productions tackles the complex theme of body shame and the stigmas that characterise eating habits in modern society.

    The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc in cinemas, marking 2021 as the year with the lowest attendance numbers of the decade: 1,387,186 admissions, compared to 1,800,900 in 2020 and 3,685,522 in 2019.


    The Estonian Film Institute gave out 7,070,576 EUR in support of film projects in 2021: 3,612,000 EUR to the production of seven feature films, 412,000 EUR for the development of nine feature films, 178,000 EUR to the production of six short films, 709,000 EUR for the production of 15 documentaries, and 155,000 EUR for the development of 13 documentaries.

    Additionally, 123,876 EUR was given to the Estonian Stories short documentary series (10 projects), 1.1 m EUR for animation production (14 projects) and 100,000 EUR for development (nine projects).

    Click HERE and HERE to see the grants.

    A total of 844,700 EUR was given to 10 minority coproductions, complemented by some smaller support decisions. The minority coproduction grants went to the following feature film projects: Instru-Mental by Dean Radovanovic, produced by Serbia’s Zero Point in coproduction with Estonia’s Münchhausen; Hit Big / Täistabamus by Jukka-PekkaValkeapää, produced by Finland’s Komeetta in coproduction with Estonia’s Stellar Film; Minsk by Boris Guts, produced by Estonian Leo Film with financial backing from an anonymous private source from Belarus; The Souls by Tallulah H. Schwab, produced by Dutch PRPL in coproduction with Estonia’s Homeless Bob Production; Soma by Miklos Keleti, produced by Belgium’s WFE Production in coproduction with Estonia’s Nafta Films and Luxembourg’s Deal Productions, and Wet Monday / Lany Poniedziałek by Justyna Mytnik, produced by Poland’s Lava Films in coproduction with Estonian Alexandra Film.

    Coproduction grants went also to the animated film A Greyhound of a Girl by Enzo d’Alo, produced by Luxembourg’s Paul Thiltges Distributions in coproduction with Estonia’s Amrion, UK’s GFM Animation, Italy’s Aliante and Ireland’s JAM Media, and also to the documentaries Sumba, Slave by Jeremy Kewuan and Jimmy Hendrickx, produced by Belgium’s Harald House in On the Water by Peeter Simmcoproduction with Estonia’s Baltic Film Production; Nord Express by Kārlis Lesiņš, produced by Latvia’s Mistrus Media in coproduction with Estonia’s Allfilm, Poland’s Staron Film and Germany’s Gebrüder Beetz; and Lynx Man by Juha Suonpää, produced by Finland’s Wacky Tie Films in coproduction with Estonia’s Alasti Kino.

    The Film Estonia cash rebate programme supported 12 projects with the amount of 3.04 m EUR in 2021.

    Among the supported projects were feature films: Memory of Water by Saara Saarela, produced by Finland’s Bufo, with Allfilm as Estonian partner, with 50,686 EUR; the horror film The Twin by Taneli Mustonen, produced by Finland’s Don Films, serviced by Baron Noir, with 361,580 EUR; Kill the Child by Roy Lee Kunz, produced by American World’s Fair Pictures, coproduced by Homeless Bob Productions, with 360,033 EUR; Omerta 8/12 by Aku Louhimies, produced by Finland’ Cinematic Inc., coproduced by StellarFilm, with 729,759 EUR; Chatterjee vs Norway by Ashima Chibber, produced by India’s Zee Films and Emmay Entertainment, serviced by Cuba Films, with 401,128 EUR; Burial by Matthew James Wilkinson, produced by UK’s Fields Park and Stigma Films, coproduced by Allfilm, with 278,908 EUR; Light. Light. Light by Inari Niemi, produced by Finland’s Lucy Loves Drama, coproduced by Menufilmid, with 148,154 EUR.

    Additionally, Film Estonia supported the production of three TV series projects: Besa 2, produced by Serbia’s Telekom Serbia, serviced by Nafta Films, with 91,708 EUR, Cell 8, produced by Sweden’s Miso Film Sverige, serviced by Allfilm, with 482,810 EUR, and Bad Apples, produced by Finland’s Fire Monkey Productions, serviced by Stellar Film, with 24,896 EUR.

    Two animated films were also supported by the Film Estonia cash rebate programme: the long animated film Checkered Ninja 2, produced by Denmark’s A.Film Production, with 39,060 EUR, and the animated series Bibi and Tina with 73,787 EUR, both serviced by A Film Estonia.

    In the spring of 2021, it became known that there was a 2 m EUR cut of film financing planned in the preliminary draft of the annual state budget to be passed in the autumn. The 2 m EUR in question had allegedly been added to the base financing by the former Minister of Culture, but since he was substituted soon after that, there was no written proof of this.

    In an unprecedented show of unity, the whole cinema sector made this information public in the media and started protesting the cuts. The nation-wide debate became a hot topic and the budget was finally passed with 1 m EUR added to the annual film budget.

    In November 2021, the production company Tallifornia launched Estonia’s first private film fund. Tallifornia Film Fund plans to make at least 15 equity investments in local and international film projects annually, for the next four years. The first three projects to be supported have also been announced and they are Tanel Toom’s Sentinel, produced by Allfilm, Rainer Sarnet’s Invisible Fight, produced by Homeless Bob Production, and Spanish-Estonian director Miguel Llanso’s Infinite Summer, a wild science-fiction film involving artificial intelligence and coproduced by Tallifornia itself and the US company Savage Rose.

    Traitor seriesTV

    There are three main TV broadcasters in Estonia: the Estonian Public Broadcasting, which operates ETVETV2, and the Russian-language ETV+. The two leading commercial broadcasters are Kanal2 and Viasat-owned TV3.

    TV production was quite slow in 2021 and the notable productions were rather made by VOD providers than regular TV broadcasters.

    The hit series Traitor changed hands, and the second season was directed by Ove Musting. The series is a thriller about a high-profile Russian spy in Estonian secret police and it was filmed in the summer of 2021. Traitor opened in October-November 2021 on Elisa Huub.

    The eight-part mini-series Still Waters opened in March 2021. Taking place in the largely Russian-speaking North Eastern part of Estonia, it is a story of a complicated family, which has to deal with a variety of problems like bullying at school, depression, involvement with organised crime, etc. The dual-language series was directed by a renowned director of music videos, Hindrek Maasik, and it premiered on ETV+, the Russian channel of the Estonian National Broadcast ERR.


    Uus 3, Tallinn 10111
    Phone: +372 627 60 60
    Fax: +372 627 60 61
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Suur-Karja 23, Tallinn 10148
    Phone: +372 699 9150
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Nord Express by Kārlis LesiņšESTONIAN ANIMATION UNION
    Roo 9, Tallinn 10611
    Contact: Mari Kivi
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Vilmsi 53g, 10147 Tallinn
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Uus 3, Tallinn 10111
    Phone: +372 646 4068
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    Contact: Kadri Vaas

    Uus 3, Tallinn 10111
    Phone: +372 5825 8962
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    Contact: Aet Laigu

    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    Contact: MarjuLepp


    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    Contact: MoonikaSiimets and LiinaTrishkina-Vanhatalo

    EestiStsenaristide Gild:
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    Firebird by Peeter Rebane, credit: The FactoryContact: Lauri Lippmaa

    Uus 5, Tallinn 10111
    Phone: +372 646 4517
    Fax: +372 646 4516
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Narvamnt 11e, Tallinn 10151
    Phone: +372 669 8210
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    Contact: Andrei Liimets

    Vikerlase 13-62, Tallinn 13616
    Phone: +372 632 4662; +372 55 46042
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    Contact: RaivoOlmet

    Pirita road 56, 10127 Tallinn
    Phone: +372 6 968 600; +372 5620 8875
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    Contact: Karlo Funk

    Koidu 17-1, 10137 Tallinn
    Phone: +372 6015982
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Ristiku 84, Tallinn 10318
    Phone: +372 693 8613
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Report by Tristan Priimägi (2022)
    Sources: the Estonian Film Institute, the Cultural Endowment of Estonia