Estonian director Anna Hints' film "Savvusanna sõsarad" ("Smoke Sauna Sisterhood") has won the prize for best feature documentary at the Golden Gate Awards in San Francisco.
Hints said, that the film had been warmly received by Californian audiences. "Many members of the San Francisco Estonian Society came to see the film and sang a thank you song with us. It was notable, that there was applause from the audience even in the middle of the film, during the parts about a woman's right to control her own body," said Hints.
"Later, when interacting with the audience, it was pointed out that the film explore the theme of nudity in a different way than the usual sexualized way the naked body is portrayed, and that issues such as a woman's right to decide about her own body are extremely relevant in US society."
According to the judges, the film's stunning intimacy fully immersed viewers in the southern Estonian sauna experience:
"Our choice for the Documentary Feature is Smoke Sauna Sisterhood for its stunning intimacy, both with its participants and with its visual style. Anna Hints' subtle, intentional filmmaking transports viewers to Southern Estonia, allowing audiences to be fully immersed in the sauna tradition. Equal parts breathtaking and heartbreaking, Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is a portal, allowing us to feel we are sitting on the bench alongside the women who have come to partake in this sacred ritual to heal."
Producer Marianne Ostrat added, that the award confirms once again that the themes of "Smoke Sauna Sisterhood" are universal and also resonate with American audiences. "The jury pointed out, that the film is intimate, both in terms of its themes and visual language," Ostrat said.
"'Smoke Sauna Sisterhood' is like a portal that allows the viewer to feel as if they are sitting in a sauna in South Estonia with their sisters," she added.
Ostrat, who was in California with other members of the cast and crew to collect the award, said that their U.S. tour is set to continue. "At the end of the week, the film will screen at another Northern California festival, in Alexander Valley. From San Francisco, Anna and I are heading to Los Angeles to make plans with Greenwich Entertainment, 'Smoke Sauna Sisterhood's' U.S. distribution company, for a theatrical release in America later this year," she added.
The San Francisco International Film Festival, which ended on Monday, is the oldest film festival in the U.S. and was held for the 66th time this year.
"Smoke Sauna Sisterhood" previously won the award for best director in the world documentary category at the Sundance Festival Film Festival.
Editor: Michael Cole