A jury convened by the Estonian Film Institute (EFI) has selected Ove Musting's film "Kalev" for the Academy Award for Best International Feature. In addition, "Sierra", written and directed by Sander Joone, competes in the short animation category.
"With each passing year, it becomes more difficult to nominate a single film that best represents Estonia," said Edith Sepp, CEO of the Estonian Film Institute (EFI) and the leader of the independent committee that chose this year's winner from a shortlist of 11 documentaries and feature films.
In addition to Edith Sepa the committee included film journalist Tõnu Karjatse, filmmaker Eugen Tamberg, who has won multiple awards both domestically and internationally, cinema programmer Tõnis Lõhmus, film producer Kaupo Liiv, film critic and director of the Dark Nights Film Festival Tiina Lokk and film journalist Johannes Lõhmus.
"Kalev" tells a story of the dramatic journey of a legendary basketball team through the last championship of the crumbling Soviet Union. In turbulent times, the unpredictable mentalities of both compatriots and adversaries provide a backdrop for fierce basketball battles.
The film is based on real events that occurred in 1991, when the Estonian basketball team won the last Soviet Union Cup.
"Even though the film's ending is predictable, the film's climax maintains suspense. Due to the director and editor's excellent collaboration, the major plot arcs have been resolved in an incredibly fascinating way, aided by captivating cinematography and lighting. Equally impressive is Mait Malmsten's performance," the committee argued in support of its decision.
"The ball game has been used to tell the story of the most significant events in Estonia's recent history, including the regaining of independence, the progress towards it, and the problems and solutions that accompanied it."
The selection committee explained that the filmmaker, through the story of the 1991 victory of the Kalev basketball team, told a story that is still relevant today: about the right to national self-determination, national pride, resistance to an imperialistic worldview, and sports as a powerful universal metaphor that transcends political clichés. "Kalev" is also a team film that examines the building of a team and the role of the individual in this process.
Pille Rünk, one of the producers of "Kalev," said that having a compelling plot and a creative team that works well with it is a matter of good fortune.
"I genuinely hope that the Estonian public, the film's primary audience, will be able to see it on the big screen," she added.
She said that great joy and a little fear went hand in hand while making the movie. "This was soon followed by a profound sense of appreciation for all the film's creators, who contributed an exceptional amount of skill and talent. This is the tales of our small nation of Estonia - its history, identity, and (sporting) legends," said Rünk, adding that it's unpredictable how the film will resonate with a cross-atlantic audience. "Let's hope the members of the American Film Academy will appreciate this coarse-luminous, made with love film."
The international premiere of "Kalev" will be announced on September 29.
In addition, Sander Joone's animated short "Sierra" will compete for an Oscar in the category short animation. The movie is about a youngster who literally becomes a tire during a rally. Underneath a layer of absurdity lies a personal story, inspired by the author's relationship with his father.
"Sierra" is in the running for an Oscar in the Best Short Animation category thanks to its wins at the San Francisco and Palm Springs International ShortFest film festivals.
Editor: Kristina Kersa