Smoke Sauna Sisterhood

Dec 9, 2022

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood by Estonian director Anna Hints to world premiere at Sundance 

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, the debut feature documentary by Estonian film director Anna Hints, has been selected to premiere in the Sundance Film Festival 2023 World Cinema Documentary Competition program. A co-production between Estonia, France and Iceland, this is the first time a documentary by an Estonian director is selected to one of the top five film festivals.

101 feature-length films will be screened at the Sundance Film Festival, and only 12 films will be screened in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. Ania Trzebiatowska, a documentary programmer of Sundance Film Festival on why this film was chosen for the festival: “It’s a real privilege to be able to premiere Smoke Sauna Sisterhood at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Its original, audacious style, and incredibly moving and intimate approach to the issues of trauma, make this into an unforgettable watch. Now more than ever we need a film about the healing power of communities and sisterhoods.”

The director Anna Hints said that it is a great honour to have her documentary film premiering at Sundance Film Festival: ”Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is my first feature length film which I started making seven years ago. The film is born from my South Estonian roots and personal experiences in smoke saunas. In Estonian cultural history, for centuries smoke saunas used to be the places where women gave birth, therefore my film focuses on women who come together in the protective darkness of the smoke sauna, share their deepest secrets and wash off the shame that has accumulated in their bodies. I firmly believe that women need the support of sisterhood to have the courage to face their traumas and regain their power and voice. When there is support from the sisterhood, then no experience is too harsh or too shameful to be shared.”

The producer Marianne Ostrat from Alexandra Film was convinced in the potential of Smoke Sauna Sisterhood from the very beginning: “The issues and experiences related to womanhood our characters open up about in the smoke sauna are universal – every woman on the planet can relate on some level. Smoke sauna at the same time is a rare phenomenon although one can find similar safe spaces in other indigenous cultures. Through the medium of film we invite the viewer to experience the South Estonian smoke sauna that is listed in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The film is also very cinematic – Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is a theatrical documentary in its best sense hence we’re happy the festival is taking place in person this year. We’re excited and so honoured to start sharing this film with the world from Sundance – it was our dream and goal for many years while making Smoke Sauna Sisterhood.” Ostrat added that the film wouldn’t have been possible to produce without co-producers and financing from France and Iceland. 

Filipp Kruusvall, Documentary Film Commissioner at the Estonian Film Institute believes that the selection of Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is an acknowledgement of filmmakers’ dedication and an inspiration to the Estonian documentary community – as well as a sign for things to come: “The Estonian Film Institute has been happy to support the film in the different stages of development and production and we are proud that the prominent Sundance Film Festival values the uniqueness of Estonian culture and experience. We are also delighted that Estonia has a new and strong generation of filmmakers, storytellers, and producers, who aim to tackle important topics.“

The Sundance Film Festival is an annual high-profile film event organised by the Sundance Institute. It is the premier independent film festival in the United States and one of the top five film festivals in the world. Upcoming edition of the festival will be taking place both in person and online from 19-29th January in Utah in the US. 

Anna Hints is an Estonian film director, scriptwriter and composer with a background in contemporary art, photography and experimental folk music. Anna has deep roots in the distinct culture of South Estonia, yet for 6 years her second home has been India. Her debut short fiction Ice (2017), which received the “Best Short Film” award at the Estonian Film and TV Awards, has been screened at more than 95 film festivals and won 14 awards worldwide. As an active dumpster diver, Anna’s short documentary For Tomorrow Paradise Arrives initiated public discussion and growth of new grassroot movements against food waste in Estonia. She is currently pursuing a Masters degree at the Department of Drama of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre.  

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is Alexandra Film’s third feature length film with founder Marianne Ostrat as the delegate producer and the second co-production with Icelandic production company Ursus Parvus. Their first collaboration – Driving Mum, a dark comedy by Icelandic director Hilmar Oddsson – won a Grand Prix at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 2022 just a few weeks ago. 

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is a co-production between Estonia, France and Iceland.

Length: 89 minutes

Director: Anna Hints

Screenwriter: Anna Hints

Featuring: Kadi Kivilo

Producer: Marianne Ostrat (Alexandra Film, Estonia)

Co-producers: Juliette Cazanave (Kepler22 Productions, France) and Hlín Jóhannesdóttir (URSUS Parvus, Iceland)

Cinematographer: Ants Tammik

Editors: Hendrik Mägar, Tushar Prakash, Qutaiba Barhamji (France), Martin Männik, Anna Hints

Sound recordists: Tanel Kadalipp, Patrick McGinley

Original score: Edvard Egilsson (Iceland) and EETER (Anna Hints, Marja-Liisa Plats, Ann Reimann)

Sound designer: Huldar Freyr Arnarson (Iceland) 

World sales: Autlook Filmsales (Austria) 

The production of the film has been supported by Estonian Film Institute, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, Sacem, Sundance Institute Documentary Fund, Icelandic Film Centre and Tartu Film Fund. Project was developed within the Ice and Fire Docs development program, presented at IDFA Forum and Nordisk Forum. 

Additional information:

Eneli Rohtla

+372 555 93 009

OÜ Agenda Public Relations

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