In 2022, with the support of the Viru Film Fund, the Integration Foundation’s Estonian Language House in Narva implemented a bold and ambitious language learning project – its own film academy, which was followed by the birth and big screen premiere of a real feature film, Valik (Choice).
The film had its gala premiere at the opening ceremony of KinoFF, a side festival of PÖFF, in Kohtla-Järve. After the premiere, the film will be screened in Apollo cinemas in various Estonian cities.
The film is the result of the language learning and integration project of the Film Academy of the Estonian Language House in Narva and is the first professional feature-length film created in Narva and by its residents. Thanks to the film project, more than 40 people from Narva got Estonian language practice, self-confidence, new skills, and friends from different corners of Estonia.
Inspired by a true story that took place in Narva in the late 90s, Valik (Choice) tells the story of a young border guard who must choose between love and the law. At that time, Narva was mainly a Russian-speaking border city with a high unemployment rate. For many residents of the city, the state border was the only source of income, and not the most honest one. In the midst of rampant smuggling and the building of a new state, it was difficult to be an Estonian border guard. The daughter of a local underworld boss, the small Inna Reinsalu, was working in the Border Guard and wanted to decide for herself, but at one point, she was faced with a difficult choice.
The film was shot with the help of local filmmakers: director Jelena Pazilina, composer and sound director Dmitri Piibe, cinematographer and editor Sofia Kostenkova, artist Tatjana Sonina, lighting designer Aleksei Zemskov, make-up artist Signe Viilop, producer Julia Viirsalu, and head of the Estonian language house in Narva Anna Farafonova as administrative director. The authors and screenwriters of the idea are Julia Viirsalu, a teacher at the Estonian Language House in Narva, and advisor at the Ministry of Culture Krismar Rosin.
The protagonist, Inna Reinsalu, is played by Russian Theatre actress Anastasiia Pylaeva. Other cast members include Tanel Saar, Aleksandr Zhilenko, Gerhard Saks, and Marina Malova, as well as graduates of the Film Academy of the Estonian Language House in Narva.
The original music for the film was created by composer and sound director Dmitri Piibe. In order to emphasise the depth of the plot of the feature film, permission was granted to use the song ‘Kogda umryot Zemlya’, written by the Narva youth rock band Pale Alison.
Film Academy of the Estonian Language House in Narva
Over the course of two spring months, 38 Estonian language learners were able to hone their language skills in a new way. They attended the Film Academy of the Estonian Language House in Narva and gained new knowledge in the field of filmmaking, studied acting, and, of course, practised their Estonian. The lecturers were established professionals in the Estonian theatre and film world, such as Martin Junna, Leana Jalukse, Aita Vaher, Eva Kübar, Sandra Lange and Rauno Kaibiainen.
The birth of the film
On 22 May 2022, participants in the project passed a practical exam, after which the top ten were selected to be cast in the feature film. The culmination of the film project was the shooting of the feature film Valik, based on real events of the late 90s.
The film was made under the auspices of the Integration Foundation’s Estonian Language House in Narva and with the support of the Viru Film Fund.
Photo gallery of the film shoot can be found HERE.
The filming started on 3 June and the film will premiere on 12 November 2022 in Kohtla-Järve as part of KinoFF, a side festival of PÖFF.