Estonia submits “Truth and Justice” for the foreign language Oscar consideration

The Estonian Film Institute has selected Tanel Toom’s drama, “Truth and Justice”, as the country’s nomination for the foreign language Academy Award.

The film, released domestically in February 2019, is based in part on the five-volume book series by Anton Hansen Tammsaare (1878-1940). His pentalogy, “Truth and Justice” (“Tõde ja õigus” in Estonian), written from 1926 to 1933, is considered one of the quintessential works of Estonian literature and “the Estonian novel”.

Adapted from the book’s first volume, the movie presents life in an Estonian village, as farmers battle against the nature during the last quarter of the 19th century. The two main characters, both unique and powerful men, represent the essential conflicts of human nature: not only good vs evil, but also hope vs conservatism and conquest vs pettiness.

Just like the first volume of the book, the film deals with universal issues that are as relevant today. Although set in rural Estonia at the threshold of modernity, it somewhat still characterises modern Estonians – a story of simple people who work endlessly, striving to build a world were truth and justice prevail.

Desperately seeking truth and justice

The film starts with a showing of a young and energetic man, Andres, together with his wife, Krõõt, arriving to their new farm, bought on a loan to start their new life. The household needs a lot of work and consistency – a battle with nature, fate and Andres’s spiteful neighbour, Pearu, begins.

When life deals Andres more sufferings than long-awaited successes, he searches desperately for truth and justice – from court, tavern and the Bible, sacrificing his family, friends and eventually himself in the process. The dream of a prosperous and a nurturing farm – called Robber’s Rise – descends deeper and deeper under the shadow of reality.

The Estonian Film Institute’s commission highlighted in the statement the movie’s well-adapted scenario where tension persists, but also beautiful film language, biblical characters and a good actor ensemble.

In Estonia, “Truth and Justice” has so far had over 265,000 cinema screenings – a record since the country regained independence in 1991. The movie was directed by Tanel Toom and produced by Allfilm – in recent years, the most successful film production company in Estonia.

A documentary also nominated

In addition to “Truth and Justice”, the Estonian Film Institute also nominated a documentary, Ksenija Ohhapkin’s “Immortal”, for an Oscar. “Immortal” won the main documentary prize at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in July.

Filmed in a Russia’s far north industrial city, “Immortal” seeks to understand what is tempting people to voluntarily deny their personality. The documentary aims to answer the question whether a person can ever be free in a society where complex and obscure structures control their way of thinking from an early age.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science will announce a list of eligible films in October. From the longlist, ten finalists will be shortlisted, with the final five nominees announced in January 2020. The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, on 9 February 2020.

Read also: Truth, justice and an outsider’s affection for Estonia.

Cover: A still from “Truth and Justice”.