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Kiur Aarma

Producers on the Move 2013 – Estonia


- Kiur Aarma is most notable for co-directing Disco And Atomic War, the affecting documentary about life in Soviet-controlled Estonia

Kiur Aarma

Kiur Aarma is most notable for co-directing the massive festival hit Disco And Atomic War (with Jaak Kilmi), the affecting documentary about life in Soviet-controlled Estonia and the joy of picking up TV signals from free Finland.

Cineuropa: Tell us about your early career?
Kiur Aarma: After ten years in television, I applied to film school to study screenwriting. This meant I started doing the things in the film world my contemporaries had been doing for ten years already.

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Most of the films I’ve been involved with so far have used archival material. I’ve thought about the immense amount of living pictures I’ve found and how it often can say so much more than made up footage. A film archive doesn’t sound very sexy, but it holds a certain strange and intriguing attraction.

Estonia is a tiny country where everyone does everything. So when you make a film, you have the chance to do everything – from carrying boxes to writing the script. I think it’s important to be hands-on about filmmaking.

Were you surprised by how audiences across the world seemed to take Disco and Atomic War to heart?It was surprising because at all of the different pitching forums we attended we were told that the story is too local. Telling those stories was sort of like sitting on a psychiatrist’s couch. All kinds of funny details swim to the surface when you imagine back to being nine years old.

What are your views on contemporary Estonian cinema?The problem is the small number of films made. Of course, the size of a country sets boundaries, but Iceland, Finland or Denmark prove that small countries can have strong film industries.

What do you think makes Estonian cinema unique, particularly in documentaries?Lack of resources, facilities and people – which all means you have to be more resourceful.

And new projects?
I’m presenting my first full-length feature The Hoppers at Cannes, which I’m making with director Jaak Kilmi. I’m co-writing the script with writer Tiit Aleksejev. It’s set in 1913 on the island of Hiiumaa – a Russian army unit lands on one side of the island, a boat of missionaries lands on the other. The seemingly local story that takes place on a small, Estonian island is really situated between two powerful narratives – the story of salvation and the one of Estonia in the context of WW1. I see the story as having substantial international potential and I’m searching for co-producers. The budget is planned at €2 million. I hope to start shooting in late summer 2014.

My second project is feature documentary The Gold Spinners (budget: c. €300,000). Currently in the final stages of postproduction, it will be completed by May 2013. It tells the story of the birth, glory days and downfall of a strange, but powerful business empire – the film studio Eesti Reklaamfilm. It was the only studio producing commercials in the Soviet Union, headed by one man. The hundreds of people working there in its heyday made film clips that may now seem humorous but won the hearts of millions back then. I’m the film’s producer and co-writer, the other co-writer and director is Hardi Volmer.

What have do you hope to gain from being a Producer on the Move?
I hope for very practical things. We’re looking for co-producers for The Hoppers. I hope to make connections at Cannes that will prove inspirational and useful as we work on the film. With The Gold Spinners we are looking for TV sales and festivals. 


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