Latvian director Viesturs Kairišs depicts a small Estonian island community

Viesturs Kairišs and the camera crew.
Viesturs Kairišs and the camera crew. Source: Nele Tammeaid

The award-winning Latvian opera, movie and theater director Viesturs Kairišs is making a film about an isolated community of Russian Old Believers on a small Estonian island.

The film "Border Island" (working title) is about the concealed world of Russian Old Believers on a small Estonian island, Piirisaar, located between Estonia and Russia at the confluence of lakes Peipus and Lämmi in Tartu County.

The director asks, "How does an almost isolated community of old-believers live at a time when their nation of origin has caused a bloody war in Ukraine?"

Historically, people fled there to avoid religious reforms and military mobilization. They hid on the island and vanished from the sight of authorities. Kairišs says that the film is his attempt to "reflect on contemporary conflict and its unchanging nature, as well as the possibility of harmony and coexistence."

The population of the island is steadily decreasing and the lake's waters have substantially shrunk its size, which is now about 7.5 square kilometers. The island's population is 30 Estonian and Russian speakers who live there all year.

There are Orthodox and Lutheran cemeteries next to each other on the island, as well as a time-ravaged Orthodox church.

The Tartu 2024 Survival Arts Doc Program selected eight Estonian and international filmmakers, whose films will be produced and screened as part of the Tartu 2024 main program on May 4, 2024.

The other selected filmmakers are Andrey Paounov (Bulgaria), Ülo Pikkov (Estonia), Eva Kübar (Estonia), Jaan Tootsen (Estonia), Maria Aua (Estonia), Carl Olsson (Sweden/Denmark) and Andris Gauja (Latvia).


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Editor: Maiken Tiits, Kristina Kersa

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