Estonia submits basketball movie “Kalev” for Oscar consideration

The Estonian Film Institute has submitted Ove Musting’s movie “Kalev”, inspired by the true story of when Estonia’s national basketball team won the last Soviet Union Cup in 1991, to the American Film Academy Awards for consideration in the Best International Feature Film category.

“Kalev” is the story of a legendary basketball team’s tense journey through the last championships of the crumbling Soviet Union, as merciless opponents and turbulent times intertwine with fierce battles on the court. The Estonian basketball team won the last Soviet Union Cup on 6 May 1991. Less than four months later, the Soviet Union collapsed – following a failed coup in Moscow – and Estonia regained its independence.

“Despite knowing the film’s denouement, the tension remains until the very last moment. The director and the editing work well together, which makes the scenes aptly resolved and the story extremely interesting to follow. This is complemented by exciting lighting and cinematography. Mait Malmsten’s – who plays the team’s demanding head coach, Jaak Salumets – acting also stood out,” the Estonian Film Institute’s jury, which chooses the country’s Oscar candidate each year, said in a statement. “The movie conveys the most important events in the recent history of Estonia – the restoration of independence, the movement towards it, and the problems and solutions that accompany it.”

A still from the “Kalev” movie.

According to the jury, the film’s director addresses themes that resonate today: the right to national self-determination, national pride, resistance to an imperialist world view and, finally, sport as a universal ideal that transcends political clichés. “The strength of ‘Kalev’ is that it is also a team film that looks at the formation of a team and the role of the individual in this process”.

“Kalev” was produced by Allfilm and Ugri Film and is distributed by Hea Film. The international premiere of Kalev will be announced on 29 September, the Estonian Film Institute said.

An Estonian trailer for “Kalev”

The Estonian Film Institute also submitted Sander Joone’s animated film “Sierra” for consideration in the short animation category at the American Film Academy Awards. The film is about a boy who turns into a tyre during a rally. However, underneath a layer of absurdity lies a personal story, inspired by the author’s relationship with his father.

The 95th Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, will honour films released in 2022 and is scheduled to take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California on 12 March 2023.

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