“If someone would have told me before  that I would have such a good time in a documentary film festival in a small freezing city in Estonia,  I would probably tell them they stayed to long in the sauna, but it’s all true,“ Isri Halpern, guest of the 9th World Film Festival (2012)

Hello again! The World Film Festival reaches a special milestone – the festival takes place in Tartu in early spring for the tenth time. Therefore, we have already nine festival weeks behind us, full of films and meetings between visitors and filmmakers. Largely, this festival has continued through these years thanks to the audiences, filmmakers and festival volunteers. World Film Festival has been a place to find oneself, make good friends or start new projects, and of other initiatives. We have screened films that you can’t forget, but strangely just seeing all of them is not enough. Before every upcoming festival edition anticipation grows, as there is a possibility to face something entirely new and inspiring again.

The World Film Festival is primarily an event dedicated to documentary cinema. We are especially interested in an anthropological and analytical approach to various cultures and we turn our attention to the everyday life in different places all over the world. Hence the 10th festival screens more than 50 documentaries which show both the diverse variety of culture as well as point out that on a certain general level of humanity we are all very similar to each other.

In 2013, when we celebrate the 10th birthday of the film festival, Estonia celebrates a year of cultural heritage. The slogan of the year - „There is no heritage without a heir” – brings people, the bearers of heritage, to the centre of the heritage process. It also shows that heritage is everywhere around us and thus concerns everyone. Although the World Film Festival is connected through its values and aims to this topic also outside this special year, we decided to dedicate a whole festival day to the issues of cultural heritage. At the opening day of the festival we will bring you a special program „Changing cultural heritage“: twelve films starting with short films grasping just some brief moment or short story  up to feature-length documentaries portraying or analysing one or another topic related to cultural heritage more deeply.

One could ask how important it is to talk about cultural heritage while we strife to find solutions to all the serious everyday problems we face. I for one am sure, that it is important to do so. In the case of cultural heritage, it is being pointed out more and more often that heritage is primarily not related to the past, but it has to do at least as much with the present and the future. Cultural heritage is not a fixed unit of preserved objects or representations of mental life. Heritage creation is an active process, which functions as a mirror of the contemporary society. It represents a set of values which we want to take with us to the future. This means that recognising, using and creating heritage also means actively creating our common future.

The concept of cultural heritage can be used for describing material culture – buildings, heritage sites and culturally significant landmarks in the landscape. On the other hand, cultural heritage involves intangible aspects and elements such as songs, habits and traditions or language. Even though heritage is quite often understood just as something that comes from the past, the concept is open to interpretations and it is obvious that it’s changing in time. Heritage is not ready and given, rather it is constructed and created.  This year’s programme approaches heritage practices: ways of life, rituals as well as phenomenon of vernacular religion (including both Christian and other religions) from different countries of the world. We also present examples of how heritage is actively used and reinterpreted. The opening film of the festival is the film „Charm of Sacred Groves“ by a well known and acknowledged Estonian documentary film maker of nature documentaries, Rein Maran. With the ways of looking which are characteristic to him, he opens up the meanings of natural sacred sites in the lives of contemporary people in Estonia.

Another special program which runs through three festival days and overlaps thus partly with the main film programme is dedicated to the issues of remembering, memory and trauma and the relations between the individual and collective aspects of memory. A film program „Memory and trauma“ has been built primarily around the Stalinist repressions in Estonia as well as other Baltic countries. The experience and repressions of the Second World War has been thoroughly approached in research as well as through autobiographic writings and oral histories. However, thorough overviews do not erase painful imprints on people themselves, their descendants and societies. We have called this film program „Memory and trauma“  also in order to refer to the concept of trauma which has became a central concept during past decades in this stream of research, after it was understood that objective analysis of the historical events alone is not sufficient when approaching wide-scale suffering during large-scale historical events on the level of individuals, groups and societies.

The topic of memory and trauma has been approached in films by several Estonian filmmakers. They represent different generations and various film languages. This enabled us to compose a film program, which deals with this topic in a variety of ways. We decided to approach the issue of trauma more widely, including cases from elsewhere in Europe as well as Israel. The concept of trauma was formed in history and memory studies especially in the context of Holocaust research and points out the significance of personal experiences, opposed to the mapping of big events on a more general level. The film program does not primarily look at the historical events themselves but asks what came after these events and what will happen in the time to come. What do people who have become free from totalitarian systems or dictatorships carry with them? Are they survivors and thus the winners or are they victims of these systems? Can you carry on living through understanding what happened or by forgetting it?

The festival team would like to thank all the persons and institutions who decided to support the festival this year, including our financial supporters and partners: Estonian Cultural Endowment, Estonian Film Institute and Tartu City government. We would also like to express our gratitude to such strategic partners as design studio Fraktal, The Embassy of Spain, French Cultural Institute, The Centre of Excellence in Cultural Theory, Tartu New Theatre, Elektriteater, MoKS - Center of Art and Social Practice, Genialistide Klubi and others. World Film Festival is brought to you by a great festival team, volunteers, coordinators of the special programs and session moderators.

Pille Runnel,
Director of the festival