A deep bow to a great person March 16, 2011
Kaisa Sammelselg on Worldfilm 2011 pre-event
3rd March 2011, Tartu, exhibition hall in the Estonian National Museum. I get there at 16:45. The hall is already relatively full of people. I find a free place and start observing the event. Still more people are coming in, so in the end there are about 60 people in the hall – some figures from Finno-Ugric study, some respectable gray-haired gentlemen, and some young enthusiastic film lovers. All have come to see the first screening in Tartu of a documentary by Jaak Lõhmus, Dances to the Milky Way: Images from Lennart Meri's Film Travels. The event is introduced by Kristjan Raba, the ENM exhibition hall manager, who will shortly give way to the film author himself. The director mentions quickly that the film was born from a need to bring out Lennart Meri's importance as a filmmaker in Estonian film history. Then the lights go down and we enter a world probably already known to us, but surely not exhausted. The film shows charming frames from Meri's films called The Waterfowl People, The Winds of the Milky Way, Sounds of the Kalevala, The Sons of Thorum and The Shaman. But the most interesting part was certainly the many stories from the expeditions, and also stories about the bureaucracy behind the scenes, told by ethnologists, filmmakers and Meri's co-workers and co-travellers. Lõhmus’s film is a warm emotional piece. Lennart Meri is described as a “delightfully difficult person” who was a very creative personality, an awfully good diplomat, but also as a clever filmmaker who's wit and brightness inspired many around him. The film also allows the main character himself to speak, who comment, “If you can stop a goods train in Siberia, you can be president of a small country,” makes the hall laugh out loud. Lõhmus has found a good balance between showing the bureaucratic fights that follow the filmmaking in the background, and telling funny stories and personal memories.
After the film, Ado Lintrop and Tõnu Seilethal also spoke up to tell more humorous stories from the expeditions. When leaving the hall I see smiles on people's faces, and hear admiring comments.
Jaak Lõhmus’s film is a respectful bow to one of the grand masters of Estonian filmmaking. It is also an honourable film as an introduction to the Worldfilm Festival, because Lennart Meri was also, together with Mark Soosaar, one of the initiators of the festivals of Visual Anthropology in Estonia at the end of 1980s.