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FILMIST Stuudio – five stories in one week

Update # 210

Storytelling has not gone away, but with ever fewer among us who were born in Estonia and recall the need to flee in 1944 when the Soviets returned to Estonia 80 years ago this fall, capturing their stories so that they endure in the hearts of the next generations has become urgent.

Enter FILMIST Stuudio, a March break filmmaking experience for high school students, presented by Estonian Arts Centre (EAC), the charity associated with KESKUS International Estonian Centre.  Six students participated in this pilot project, and ruudi productions, formed of four recent Toronto film school graduates with Estonian connections, rounded out the student teams with equipment and guidance. 

The FILMIST Stuudio idea was hatched and executed by Liina Särkinen in Tallinn (Kinomaja Filmikool) and Ellen Valter in Toronto (EAC), to invite A-generation interviewees from the local area, ie. those who were born in Estonia, to speak about their 1944 escape through an item that they brought with them from Estonia.

More A-generation community members responded to the call than expected, and Maie Ilves (89), Jaan Klaas (96), Anne Mai Kaunismaa (85), Leida Kilu (81), Tamara Norheim-Lehela (91) came to Tartu College in the middle of the week to be interviewed.

The week progressed in increasing intensity, with students first learning camera work, shot formats, production, set design, animation, lighting, and audio.  All tried their hand at stop motion animation, and all were involved as the art department, generating B-roll, lighting.  Siiri Ruccella-Puri prepped the on-camera talent with a full hair & makeup department and Ingrid Randoja guided the research for the student interviewers.

“I felt that I was in good and professional hands,” said Maie Ilves of the experience, “it is so very important that our history live on in the next generations, and this was a delightful way to meet this goal.  I am very glad of this experience, the students were lovely.”

Then came editing, where students tapped away furiously at computer screens distilling the stories down into short portraits, and ruudi productions created a ‘behind the scenes’ and helped at every turn:

“This was a great way for a non-esto speaking kid to learn about their culture—that it was a bonus to the main activity, and discovered in a fun way,” was the feedback from Allissa North, whose son took part, and 15-year old FILMIST Stuudio participant Matthew Leppik noted “I realized there’s a lot more to my culture than I thought.”

A big thank you to Katrin Kütti-Otsa who kept the teams fed and Elli Kipper for her support on that front too – cinnamon and ‘kringel’ buns every morning were a popular treat!  Thank you to Tuula Hopp, Ingrid Randoja, Krista Koger, Reet Mae who came to share their experience and knowledge with the students and to faculty and advisors Tiina Soomet, Paul Intson, Heilikka Pikkov, Urmas Rosin.  Thank you to Keila Kopvillem who provided a tour of VEMU archives and loaned items with which students practiced their hand at stop motion animation.

The resulting films were screened at FILMIST Estonian Film Festival (read more about the festival in another article in this paper) and a jury was assembled to adjudge the final work product.  The jury comprised Ambassador Laird Hindle, Canada’s Ambassador to Estonia, filmmaker Kaisa Pitsi, and Estonian Arts Centre board chair Liisa Käärid. 

At the FILMIST Estonian Film Festival, jury chair Kaisa Pitsi presented the jury views on the compiled films, saying “it is truly astonishing to experience this quality of filmmaking among the youth of our community, and in such a compressed timeframe”, and made special mention of 18-year old Säde Sibul for her editing. “Every story was a little bit different,” Kaisa noted on behalf of the jury, “yet together they form one compelling narrative.” 

The jury award went to “Minust saab voorimees. /// When I Grow Up”, a heartfelt account by Tamara, of how her 11-year old self loved horses in Estonia and of fleeing Estonia with her parents through the eyes of a child.

All participants were involved in the making of all of the films, and Säde Sibul, Rasmus Pärnpuu, Owen North, Matthew Leppik, Lyza Jarvis, Hedy Läets, Nick Morsillo, Alex Ruiz Birke, and Ashley Marciano, were called to the stage to receive their due applause and recognition.  A special shout-out was made to 11-yr olds Hugo Pikkov and Samuel Särkinen for title credits.

All of that said, without the support of Northern Birch Credit Union, Estonian Foundation of Canada, Tartu College, ruudi productions, Kinomaa Koolifilm and Cultural Endowment of Estonia, FILMIST Stuudio would not have been possible – thank you to the sponsors!

Estonian Arts Centre will look to screen these films and make them available very soon.  Please sign up for the KESKUS newsletter on the homepage to follow the latest on construction progress and on the programming that will fill KESKUS once it opens in the middle of next year.


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Please join the growing list of KESKUS capital campaign donors to help bring KESKUS to completion. KESKUS leadership donors are recognized here.

There are many ways to make a contribution to KESKUS. 

  • To donate, click here, or call +1.647.250.7136 or email Donations may be made as a family gift, or in honour of an individual or family. All donations are issued a tax receipt, in Canada via Estonian Arts Centre, US tax receipts via Myriad USA and Estonian tax receipts via Eesti Rahvuskultuuri Fond. Donations by credit card may be made here.

  • Legacy gifts made to the Estonian Arts Centre, the charity associated with KESKUS, are creative and tax-effective ways to provide support. These are known as “planned gifts” because with thoughtful planning, we create a win-win situation that benefits both you and our community for generations to come.  Find out how to provide a bequest in your will by going to

  • For information on making other types of planned gifts, including gifts of appreciated securities or insurance policies, or if you have any other questions, please contact EAC Donations Manager Taimi Hooper via email at or phone +1.647.250.7136.

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