Estonia submits “The Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” for Oscar consideration

The Estonian Film Institute nominates Anna Hints’ documentary, “The Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” (“Savvusanna sõsarad” in Estonian), a documentary about women who come together in the protective darkness of the smoke sauna – an important part of the Estonian cultural heritage – to the American Film Academy Awards for consideration in the Best International Feature Film category.

According to the Estonian Film Institute’s jury, “The Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” is a film “with a sensitive visual language and a visually captivating style, which manages to capture at once the historical and the timeless, the concrete and the universal, the political and the poetic”.

“The Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” will be released in the US in the autumn, allowing the film to be nominated also for an Oscar in the Best Documentary category.

“I am deeply touched and grateful that my dear colleagues in the Estonian film industry see such great potential in ‘Smoke Sauna Sisterhood’,” the director, Anna Hints, said in a statement. “I have been on a world tour [with the documentary] and I have experienced first-hand how the film speaks to and touches audiences in Europe, Hong Kong, Canada, America and Australia. This film is born from the heart and meant to touch the heart, and I can only hope that the members of the American Film Academy will also be touched by the power of our smoke sauna,” she said.

A trailer of “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood”.

The documentary, a co-production between Estonia, France and Iceland, has already screened at more than a dozen festivals around the world, winning four awards and two jury commendations. In January, Hints won the directing award in the World Cinema Documentary category at the Sundance Film Festival and “The Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” also won the San Francisco Film Festival’s Best Feature Documentary award. Distribution rights have been sold to more than 30 territories from the US to New Zealand and from Canada to South Korea.

According to Viola Salu, who leads production at the Estonian Film Institute, “The Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” is one of the most internationally acclaimed Estonian movies. “I am extremely pleased that Estonia will be represented for the first time in the international film category by a documentary film,” she said.

Anna Hints, the director of “The Smoke Sauna Sisterhood”. Photo by the Estonian Film Institute.

According to the makers, “The Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” is a contemporary and intimate film about women who come together in the protective darkness of a smoke sauna, share their deepest secrets and wash away the shame and pain that has accumulated in their bodies.

The film also highlights the old Estonian smokehouse tradition, which is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The documentary was directed by Anna Hints, produced by Marianne Ostrat and cinematographed by Ants Tammik.

The 96th Academy Awards ceremony is scheduled to take place in Los Angeles, California on 10 March 2024.

Read also: Review: “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood”

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