Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is to start selling the Estonian war film, “1944”, on DVD.
The movie’s US distributor, Film Movement, announced “1944” will hit the Walmart stores on 1 August. “Walmart will sell it exclusively for 60 days and then it will go to other accounts as well,” Michael Rosenberg, the president of Film Movement, told Estonian World.
The Elmo Nüganen-directed film, that premiered in Estonia in 2015, depicts the events of the war in 1944 as Estonia faced advances from both the Red Army and the German Wehrmacht.
The true story draws inspiration from the period during the Battle of Tannenberg Line, when volunteer infantry battalions within the Waffen-SS fight off the Red Army’s thrust at Germany. Half of the SS infantry consists of local Estonian conscripts motivated to resist the looming Soviet re-occupation of their small country. They stay motivated until they meet their brothers in the Soviet Army – Estonian men, deported by Stalin in 1939, now brought out of the Siberian labour camps and returning home in enemy uniforms.
The story, scripted by a former military officer Leo Kunnas, is shown through the eyes of Estonian soldiers who – faced with these two opposing armies – found they had to pick sides and fight against their fellow countrymen. Difficult choices had to be made, not only by the soldiers, but also by their loved ones.
“1944” was selected by Estonia as the country’s submission for the foreign language Academy Award in 2015, hence catching the attention of some international film critics and reviewed by the Hollywood Reporter and Variety magazine – albeit neither was overly enthusiastic.
The Hollywood Reporter said the film’s huge domestic success is unlikely to translate into heavy demand overseas, largely because pretty much every other nation on Earth has its own World War II horror stories. “Nüganen’s film is intelligent and generally gripping, but not original enough in form or content to join the extensive canon of essential wartime dramas,” the magazine said, adding that beyond its local region, “1944” seems more likely to interest festivals and historians than mainstream movie fans.
Nevertheless, “1944” has so far been sold to almost 20 countries, including Germany, France, Japan and China. In 2016, it was released with English subtitles in the United Kingdom and is available through the Amazon UK website, amazon.co.uk.
The “1944” DVD for the US market features the original Estonian language version with English subtitles, as well as an English dubbed track.
The US-based Walmart is the world’s largest company by revenue.
Cover: Screenshot from “1944” (courtesy of Eyewell.)