The output of Estonian filmmakers has seen new highs in the last few years, and according to a new report by Statistics Estonia, there were 235 films of various kinds produced in the country in 2013.
There were 195 short films of less than an hour in length that have been carried on television, and their numbers have seen a gradual boom since the creation of the Baltic Film and Media School, part of Tallinn University, in the last decade. The school has more than 400 students, 80 of them foreigners from 25 countries.
Dirk Hoyer, an instructor at the school, told ERR News that despite the increase in numbers, Estonian filmmaking still suffers from limitations in both financing and distribution.
"There's a cake of funding, and I'm not at all sure that we aren't just dividing up smaller and smaller pieces of it," Hoyer said. "We are not France, where the film industry is heavily subsidized. We are not the United States, which has the distribution infrastructure and a global market all over the world."
Forty full-length films of one hour or more in length were produced in 2013, a slight drop from the 46 films produced in 2012, but a great increase over past years; in 2010 only 14 full-length films were made. Eighteen full-length films were screened in Estonian cinemas, which included nine feature films, seven documentaries, one animated cartoon, and an experimental film.
In 2013, the 101st year of Estonian filmmaking, a total of 376 films were screened in Estonian cinemas. There were nearly 2.6 million visits to Estonian theaters, a slight increase compared to 2012.
The most popular Estonian films in 2013 were “Kertu” directed by Ilmar Raag (42,500 visits), the Estonian and Georgian co-production “Tangerines” ("Mandariinid“) directed by Zaza Urushadze (nearly 33,000 visits) and “Living Images” ("Elavad pildid"), directed by Hardi Volmer (more than 25,000 visits).
Among all films, the most popular ones were “Despicable Me 2” (nearly 97,000 visits), “The Croods” (nearly 62,000 visits), and “Fast & Furious 6” (58,000 visits). All three were produced in the United States.
Hoyer said that there are some young filmmakers that are rising stars in Estonia, and occasionally an Estonian film will get some international recognition, such as this year's Estonian-language film "Crosswinds" ("Risttuules"), a film directed by former Baltic Film and Media student Martti Helde. But the funding issues are the most difficult problem standing in the way of the the industry's growth.
"We're a small country, and with the language barrier, we can't distribute and get the cash flow. Where is the money going to come from?" Hoyer said. "We're going to have more modest statistics."