Ivo Felt: An object of no national importance

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Ivo Felt. Source: Harri Rospu

If funding for Estonian films decreases, the best of us can perhaps find work making English movies in the future, Ivo Felt writes in culture journal Teater. Muusika. Kino.

The Estonian state intends to cut the funding for film production by 42 percent in the upcoming year. Seven million becomes four. Even the current seven seems anything but a large number, since it is used to produce feature and animated films and documentaries. Therefore, we are talking about even less than previously planned.

It only takes a little focus to realize that if this funding is gone, the film sector will not last. Or rather, the sector will manage and maybe even well in a growing economy, but we can only keep operating in the so-called service sector, i.e. providing production services for foreign film and television projects.

This is a positive action in the economic sense, brings new money to the country, covers many different sectors where this money would be spent and taxed so everything seems good. But we would not make any Estonian movies. For better or worse, we too have been a marginal - yes - but still part of Estonian national culture. Some of our works have not been too bad, we have been able to touch on many painful topics, raise awareness, provoke and even open viewers' souls. I dare say that our actions have mattered to some people from time to time. Are we not necessary then?

Best case scenario is that the best of us can produce English movies at market conditions going forward. Perhaps we will escape this tight cultural space of ours and even reach an English audience. But Estonian actors will not act in these movies and the stories are no longer ours. It would all happen in a foreign language and would not be meant for Estonians, but for Estonians among others. This is how Estonian film - or is it even Estonian film if producers can choose other directors as well? - compete with all other English movies produced in the world. An interesting nuance is that Estonian films are subconsciously compared to other movies in the world based on their Estonian language usage; that is not done in theater, for example.

From a film producer's point of view, giving up on yourself is actually considerable: it is how things are done in Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood and if you produce in a large language, you can reach a large audience. Maybe even get rich... But is that what we want? To be part of a foreign entertainment industry? And what will the Estonian viewer say if you can only look at older movies in Estonian?

Culture has never held much importance in this country and the art of film has not been important either. It is a shame and it is currently a little incomprehensible - in the economic abundance that the slave nation of Estonians finds itself in today, there should be enough money to pay attention to culture. It is mighty sad if we dissolve in an open world, only consuming the culture and entertainment of those smarter than us. Do we have any perspective of lasting as a nation in that case?

Another whining piece? What can we do, the future is bleak.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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