Walmart to start selling Estonian war movie

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.

International interest

“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.

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Cover: Screenshot from “1944” (courtesy of Eyewell.)

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About the author: Silver Tambur

Silver Tambur is the cofounder and Editor-in-Chief of Estonian World. He has previously studied journalism at the University of Tartu, and Politics & Society at the Birkbeck College, University of London. Silver has been the editor at the Estonian Public Broadcasting’s news service in English, as well as contributing for the Business Sense magazine in the UK, Deutsche Welle and Radio New Zealand. You can also follow him on Twitter. You can write to Silver at silver@estonianworld.com.

  • Siôn Jobbins

    It’s a very good film.

  • RedBaron9495

    Typical Estonian russophobic film…..get over yourselves.

    • LSK

      We will never get over. We will never forget the history. We will never forgive the horror that was caused to our people by idiots like you.

  • Lauri Kreen

    Why the hell it is sold on DVD? 12 years after Blu-Ray arrived to market and 10 years after Blu-Ray (BD, BRD) kicked off HD-DVD … In Europe it is sold on Blu-Ray.

  • AJR

    “Get over it”??? Really??? Perhaps the Jewish people should “get over” the holocaust? Maybe the Japanese should “get over” Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Is there any reason to discuss the Viet Nam war or the atrocities committed by ISIS? To quote (more or less accurately) someone much smarter than I, “those who refuse to learn from history are compelled to relive it.” I’m sure the words are not exact, but the concept is as true now as it was when first penned.