MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 1, 2023: SISTERS (MASAS)

Raw and documentary-like in its realism, Linda Olte’s coming-of-age drama Sisters (Masas) is the moving story of a Latvian teenager who seems older than her years but in many ways is still a vulnerable child. It hinges on the powerful performance of Emma Skirmante, who makes her feature debut as 13-year-old Anastasija, a tough-acting group-home veteran who finds herself conflicted over the chance of a fresh start in America.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 24, 2023: SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD

Women of all shapes and sizes come together in a traditional Estonian sauna to sweat out their pain and fear in filmmaker Anna Hints’ meditative documentary Smoke Sauna Sisterhood. As the steam swirls around them, the women tell their stories, sharing joys and sorrows, trauma and triumph. Underlying everything is the reality of what it means to be a woman — and how essential it is for women to support one another.

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SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD – Review by Cate Marquis

Estonian filmmaker Anna Hints’ intriguing documentary gives us a glimpse into the ancient South Estonian tradition of the women’s smoke sauna, a kind of blending of a smokehouse to preserve meats and a sauna of preserve the bonds between women, as well as ancient folkways and the women’s own sanity. The purpose of the smoke sauna is the relax the body and the mind. Smoke Sauna Sisterhood shows us this world by immersing us in it.

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SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD – Review by Jennifer Merin

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is an intimate feminist documentary from Estonian filmmaker Anna Hints. We are invited to observe a group of women who’ve come together to cleanse their bodies, minds and spirits by celebrating the ritual of a traditional Estonian sauna. The sauna’s dimly lit interior is actually considered to be sacred. It is a place where women come to give birth, to prepare the dead for burial and to relieve themselves from stressful situations in their lives.

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ANNA HINTS on SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD (HotDocs2023) – Liz Braun interviews

European saunas have existed since about 2,000 BC. In the Southern region of Estonia, where Hints grew up, the smoke sauna has been added to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Smoke Sauna Sisterhood unfolds against a backdrop of women talking. Naked physically and emotionally, the women unburden themselves of secrets and tough experiences in the security of the small, womb-like sauna space. From initial talk of beauty and body image the women slowly begin to talk of deeper issues: love and death, sex and violence, health and childbearing.

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SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD (HotDocs2023) – Review by Liz Braun

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is a movie about women talking and celebrating the matriarchy, an excellent entry in that rare hey-fellas-this-is-not-about-you film genre. Award-winning Estonian filmmaker Anna Hints offers an inside look at the age-old ritual of steam baths in her country in Smoke Sauna Sisterhood. These traditional sauna huts offer a safe space for women to gather to cleanse body and soul. The documentary explains that in the past the sauna was where women gave birth and where they washed dead bodies in preparation for burial. They are sacred places.

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Sydney FF 20 : A YEAR FULL OF DRAMA – Review by Sarah Ward

Marta Pulk’s A Year Full of Drama, documenting a year in a young theater critic’s life, embraces an idea that’s as basic as not judging a book by its cover, but just as often ignored: that, while engaging in art is a universal experience that can evoke shared overall responses, everyone still interacts with everything they consume in an individualistic manner.

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