While it wasn't always easy acting in a film about the difficult Soviet era, in her year-end interview with journalist Anna Pihl, 8-year-old lead actress Helena Maria Reisner, who played a young Leelo Tungal in the award-winning Estonian film "The Little Comrade," admitted that it's pretty cool being called a child star.
Helena, what has been the biggest change in your life following this film?
I think it's that, after having attended a lot of festivals and so on, I have developed as well, and I have gotten more work. When I was little, I think I wanted to be a chef [when I grow up], but now I feel like I definitely want to become an actor.
What's it like at those festivals? Are there red carpets and big limousines?
I have been to Brussels and Lübeck. When we went to Brussels, then we had to act really fast. When we made it to the airport, a woman came to meet us, and then we got into a black car where a man opened the door for us. The car was marked VIP. We took it to the festival, where two men waited outside and opened the doors for us. It felt very luxurious to me, and then we went inside and there was a red carpet and we started being photographed right away.
Do you like the red carpets and limousines?
Well who wouldn't? It's very cool and a very rich experience and enjoyable going with my film crew. I really enjoy myself.
Can you be considered a child star? Do you like being called one or not?
Well, how would you call it... Sometimes I tell my dad that I am a grownup child. I feel like I am a grownup child because I practically go to work. But it's pretty cool being called a child star.
How was it working with Estonian stars? Did Tambet Tuisk, with whom you acted together quite a bit — did he teach you how and what to do as well?
Sometimes he did teach me, yes. I remember I felt like such a pro — we were filming and then Tambet did a bunch of takes, but then I did it in one take, and then I felt so good. So awesome.
You did a better job than Tambet?
Do people recognise you on the street now?
That has happened a lot. One time I missed the bus because I ran to the bus stop and then a lady started talking to me, and my bus arrived, but I didn't want to interrupt her, and then I finished talking to her. It's fun when people come up to me and recognise me. I like the positive feedback that they give me.
Have you gotten negative feedback sometimes as well?
Yes. I had one job with Delfi, and that went up on Youtube, and that received hate comments. A lot of people thought that I was a boy. I don't know why, because it said my name was Helena. Sometimes people cursed about me.
How much have you encountered bullying in school?
We have a bullying-free school. It's good that generally nobody is bullied there. But sometimes my classmates have said negative things. One boy said that the entire point of my film was me eating ice cream. But he hasn't even seen for himself what happens there. I don't want to offend my class or talk badly about them.
But it got to you?
Yes. One time that same boy said something very rude about me, and then during recess I went to the lavatory and cried a bit. I'm very sensitive when it comes to stuff like that, but I'll get over it, I think. Such is life.
What would you say to others who have been victims of bullying?
I feel sorry for them. But they definitely have to tell someone if something like that happens. I have had that happen before, that I was scared at first. If classmates said something mean, I would go talk to the school psychologist, because we have a very good psychologist. I would recommend anyone who has also been bullied to talk to their teacher or a psychologist.
I think you played an excellent role, in any case. But you haven't just acted in films, you've tried your hand at being a journalist a little as well. In Delfi you asked politicians tricky questions. How would you like to try me asking you these tricky questions?
Well I'd definitely like to give it a try.
First question: if you were to write your own biography, what would you call it?
"Helena's biography"? Well, I have always wanted to write an English-language book, and then I think I'd call it "My Lifetime: Helena Maria Reisner," for example, and then I'd include a portrait of myself where I am sitting with a very important look on my face.
If you could trade lives with anyone for one day, as in you would be in their body, who would that be?
I think I would trade places with [US President] Donald Trump, because then I'd put an end to me being president, and then a new president could come.
Why is that?
Because I don't really like Donald Trump. I liked [Barack] Obama more, and I really like his wife Michelle Obama. I am reading her book right now.
But let's talk about the film some more. How much did you know about the Soviet era beforehand?
I think that beforehand I didn't really know anything [about it]. I didn't even know what happened back then, but I think I knew that my grandmother has said that there was such an era during the 1950s. I think I knew just a little bit. But during the film I asked a lot of questions about what was done then, or why someone said what they did, or why everyone smoked back then.
What did your grandmother think of this film?
My grandmother hasn't watched the film, because she thought it was too sad and doesn't want to cry in front of others, and so she'd rather watch it alone. So she hasn't even seen the film yet.
Really? But why did she think it would be too sad?
Because she lived through this entire era herself. Even I started crying.
If you think now about the Soviet era and this film, and how you portrayed it, what is the most horrible thing about this era?
Perhaps the fact that Leelo's mother was deported. In the film I was six years old, but in real life, Leelo was three. It would be pretty terrible if my mother were just taken away for some unknown reason. That was so horrible for me.
As you have already achieved so much at such a young age, have you thought about what's next?
My plan is — and I say this everywhere — is to play in more roles than [87-year-old Estonian actress] Ita Ever. Ita Ever started acting later, but she has still played in so many roles. I began at a younger age. So, there's hope.
Thank you, Helena!
Editor: Aili Vahtla