Dismal figures, promising prospects. This sums up Estonian film industry's going in the turbulent 2010 year. While public financing, domestic rollout and admission stats have been in a nadir for years, there are encouraging signs for a robust recovery in 2011 and beyond.
Box office and premiers
The number of admissions for domestic films in 2010 was at the lowest in more than 5 years (exact figures not available at the time of publication). And no wonder, too, with just two Estonian features premiering in the course of the entire year, also a low point for the decade. Of the two rollouts, Snow Queen by Marko Raat somewhat undeservedly fell into almost complete and instant oblivion, while Red Quicksilver by Andres Puustusmaa managed to rack up some interest on the coattails of the police thriller it is based on. Neither made it to the top 10. Overall admissions, however, seemed to be doing well, with the second multiplex in Tallinn, Solaris, contributing its fair share.
The scarcity of domestic premiers can largely be attributed to the reduction in public film financing caused by the global economic downturn that ravaged Estonia particularly hard. The year-on-year reductions amounted to 0.5M EUR, or some 10%, leaving the industry gaping at the near-2006 figure of 5M EUR. One of the results was the delay of several features in production; they will now brighten up the box office in 2011.
2010 saw the first ever Estonian filmmaker receive an Oscar, Tanel Toom's (28) The Confession picking up this year's student film award. Toom, a graduate of Baltic Film and Media School, had his previous short, Second Coming¸ in the Venice Corto Cortissimo section in 2008.
A further record three Estonian films were nominated for the Oscar: Divers in the Rain by Priit and Olga Pärn, and Inherent Obligations by Rao Heidmets, both earning the honour by winning A-list animation festivals, and The Temptation of St.Tony by Veiko Õunpuu as Estonia's entry for the foreign-language Oscar. The latter, by coincidence, was Estonia's first film ever to feature in the Sundance festival's official competition.
Animation had another bright spot, when The Crocodile by Kaspar Jancis won the prestigious European Cartoon d'Or.
The award season wrapped in style with the hosting the European Film Academy annual awards gala in Tallinn, in cooperation with the region's fast-growing Black Nights Film Festival in December.
The Central and Northern Europe international co-production market, Baltic Event, continued to prosper with the highest number of industry guests and new territories covered, notably Russia. The event got a boost from the presence of the European Film Academy guests in town during the event
Work started on setting up Estonia's first post-production house, the Estonian Digital Centre, funded by Enterprise Estonia and planned to open by the end of 2011. Construction started on the new 5M EUR premises of the Baltic Film and Media School, Northern Europe's only international film school, to be completed by the end of 2011.
Preparations were stepped up for the celebration of Estonian film's centenary in 2012. Work was initiated to compile and launch the online Estonian Film Database in 2010, which will be one of the most complete online national film catalogues with a full list of all Estonian features produced. The project is funded by the EU and public sources.
In 2011, a minimum of 6-7 domestic features will be released, a strong recovery from 2010. Several potentially competing plans for constructing studio facilities are also floating around, in no small part by tacit government instigation.