The New York Times has chosen the Estonian movie, “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood”, as one of the best films of 2023.
Two film critics of the newspaper, Manohla Dargis and Alissa Wilkinson, compiled lists of their favourite movies of this year, and Wilkinson, who’s been writing about movies since 2005, picked “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” as her seventh most liked film of 2023.
“A number of good and much buzzier films from this year – ‘Barbie’, ‘Poor Things’ – chronicled women’s journeys toward becoming their own heroes in a world still tilted toward patriarchy. But the Estonian documentary ‘Smoke Sauna Sisterhood’ is the one that’s stuck with me most,” Wilkinson said.
“Women gather in a smoke sauna (we see their tightly framed nude bodies, shot from the neck down, for most of the film) repeatedly throughout a calendar year. They discuss the painful and joyful realities of their lives: fears and hopes, romances and abuses, weaknesses and strengths. Visually striking and uncommonly frank, it gets at an authenticity that few fiction films can fully capture.”
The Estonian movie is in a very distinguished company as Wilkinson also picked Chris Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” and Marty Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon”, among others, as her favourites of the year.
Estonia’s Oscar nominee
“Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” was directed by Anna Hints, who also won the directing award in the World Cinema Documentary category at the Sundance Film Festival. In August, the Estonian Film Institute nominated the movie to the American Film Academy Awards for consideration for an Oscar in the Best International Feature Film category.
According to the Estonian Film Institute’s jury, “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 filmmakers say “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” is a contemporary and intimate movie 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.
Read also: Review: “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood”