Film recommendations for the Cultural Diversity Year



Film recommendations for the Cultural Diversity Year

Sources: Arkaader, Jaak Lõhmus, Estonian Film Database, Estonian Film Institute


As we celebrate the Cultural Diversity Year, it is also a good time to take a look at the greatest Estonian films. The history of Estonian filmmaking is replete with a diverse array of directors and their unique films.

If you are looking for a guide to the most memorable and important films, you should check 101 Estonian Films by Tristan Priimägi.

Below, we have listed some of the films that have captured our cultural diversity in a striking way. Arkaader, the visual home of Estonian film, as curated by the Estonian Film Institute and the Film Archives, has lent a helping hand and is eager to open its treasure trove to all film enthusiasts.

In the words of Jaak Lõhmus, we invite you to travel the path of visual anthropology.

The lights go out in the hall, you can hear a film reel whirring and clicking somewhere. The film will start soon.


The first steps of Estonian cinema

Estonian cinema and filmmaking has a long history. On 28 December 1895, brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière demonstrated their new invention, the cinematograph, to the public in Paris. Less than a year later, the wondrous machine could be seen in Tallinn and then in Tartu.

The first film shootings in Estonia, however, took place several years later. When the King of Sweden visited Tallinn on his way to St Petersburg on 30 April 1908, it was filmed and the short film was shown on local cinema screens a few days later. From that year onwards, the magical expedition began, with Johannes Pääsuke as its pioneer.

Journey through Setomaa by Johannes Pääsuke (1913)

The first Estonian filmmaker was Johannes Pääsuke (1892–1918). The young Pääsuke, who had just turned twenty, recorded Sergei Utochkin’s aerial flight on 27 and 28 April 1912 in Tartu and these documentary shots were shown a few days later, on 30 April 1912, at the Illusion Cinema in Tartu. This date can be considered the birthday of Estonian cinema.

During the next few years, Pääsuke produced several documentary films and short films and the first full-length feature film Bear Hunting in Pärnumaa.

In the context of the Cultural Diversity Year, we recommend watching his anthropological documentary Journey through Setomaa (1913).

It can be found at

Self Made Cameraman by Hardi Volmer (2019)

It is a true homage from one filmmaker to another. Hardi Volmer portrayed Johannes Pääsuke and Setomaa in a contemporary feature film starring Ott Sepp and Märt Avandi.

You can find it at

Waves of Passion by Vladimir Gaidarov (1930)

This film by Vladimir Gaidarov, which talks about the adventurous lives of alcohol smugglers, is the first German-Estonian collaboration. Estonian actor Ants Eskola, ballet dancer Robert Rood, and the local coastal folk play the roles of sailors. 

You can find it at

The Winds of the Milky Way by Lennart Meri (1977)

It is a cultural-anthropological documentary on the ethnography and ethnogenesis of the Finno-Ugric peoples and the sequel to another film by Lennart Meri, The Waterfowl People (1970). Meri interprets the kinship as well as linguistic and cultural relations of Finno-Ugric peoples. Finns, Vepsians, Votians, Setos, Erzya Mordvins, Mansi, Hungarians, Sami, Nganasans, and Estonians were recorded in 1977 in Northern Finland, Lapland, the Vepsa region, the Votia region, Mordovia, the Khanty-Mansi region, Hungary, the Taymyr Peninsula, Setomaa, Saaremaa, and Muhumaa, and in 1970, in the district of Nenets.

Lennart Meri, President of the Republic of Estonia, worked as an editor, screenwriter, and director at Tallinnfilm from 1963 to 1971 and from 1986 to 1988.

You can find it at .