Filming stalemate continues as mayor says many more road closures requested

Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Centre).
Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Centre). Source: ERR

Filming of a major Hollywood movie in Tallinn is to lead to many further street closures, should it go ahead, and not only that of Laagna Road, Tallinn mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Centre) told ERR's online Estonian news Friday.

The announcement last month that scenes from an upcoming Christopher Nolan-directed thriller, "Tenet", were to be filmed in Tallinn was soon met with controversy on the issue of the Warner Bros. production team wanting to close a lengthy stretch of Laagna Tee, a major arterial route linking central Tallinn with the residential district of Lasnamäe, for up to a month.

Kõlvart and the city government felt that this would cause too much disruption for public transport, commuters and residents, and would hamper emergency service crews as well. As reported by ERR News, a compromise was announced Thursday whereby temporary road closures and detours would allow the major artery to remain at least partially open to traffic, during the filming period.

According to the mayor, in addition to Laagna, closures on Pärnu Highway and several major central Tallinn thoroughfares including Liivalaia, Sakala, Roosiktrantsi, Hariduse, Tõnismäe and Tehnika streets, is also requested for filming.

In the case of Laagna Road, the production company's intention is also to temporarily close bridges crossing the multi-lane route.

"Imagine that, not only the main highway gets closed, but also all possible alternative routes at the same time," Kõlvart said.

"The city can't make the decision to halt traffic on important streets and roads without the necessary analysis. It will thus also be necessary to do feasibility studies on these additional requests. The way it seems to me is there is not much time left for us to negotiate," Kõlvart added.

According to Allfilm, the Estonian production company involved in the movie, the latest agreed closure of Laagna Road would run from July 10-28.

The quinquennial Song Festival, which will bring heightened traffic, takes place on July 6-7. The Song Festival grounds in Kadriorg are close to the western end of Laagna Road, including the so-called "Lasnamäe channel", a cutting blasted into the limestone when the road was built during the Soviet era and a locale mentioned as favorite for filming scenes. Additionally, construction of the Reidi Road, from the harbor area eastwards to Kadriorg, has caused congestion in the area.

Christopher Nolan himself, along with lead actor John David Washington, arrived earlier in the week in connection with the project, which is also said to be making use of the Linnahall for filming.

Advertisements for roles as extras have also been appearing in social media.

"The truth is that as it seems to us, we have come a long way in reaching an agreement, but since so much more extra information arose, we had to do the analysis. We have made our own decision and this will be the final one," Kõlvart said.

Kõlvart noted it is the responsibility of the city government to carry out the risk analysis on the proposals. 

"Despite the fact that it is a very tense and difficult project for the city and its residents, we continued to try to analyze it and find ways to fulfill the project in Tallinn," said Kõlvart, who added a concrete proposal for a decision is needed early next week.

Traffic management boss: A lot of technical questions

According to Talvo Rüütelmaa, head of traffic management at the city government's transport department, there is still no actual permission in place to carry out filming.

Rüütelmaa met film company representatives on Thursday, and said that technical discussions were held which still need to be resolved, adding that no further meeting had been set.

"There is no end solution in place at the moment; the work continues. There is a huge range of technical issues," Rüütelmaa told ERR.

"We are reviewing the application as it is presented and the examination of this application will end with some sort of decision, but no decision is to be made today [Friday]."

"We will continue to review and analyze things. If authorization is to be granted, it must be justified and, equally, if authorization is refused, it must also be justified. But it is not clear today whether this is possible," he went on.

Rüütelmaa also implied that Thursday's announcement by AllFilm that the city government had made a decision was not in fact the case. Mihhail Kõlvart also issued a press release stating the announcement had been premature, and no such agreement had been made.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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