Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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First look: Oscar-contending documentary Smoke Sauna Sisterhood

A favorite for the category of Oscar documentary feature, Smoke Sauna Sisterhood takes you into a remote area of Estonia, and the time-honored, sacred, healing space of the smoke sauna.

It’s cold, the world is in turmoil, and it’s awards season! What better way to calm down and feel grounded than with this documentary feature about female bonding through a ritual of cleansing—inside and out?

No story too shameful, no burden too heavy to carry when you share it with your sisterhood…The Vana-Võromaa (region in South Estonia) smoke sauna tradition known as savvusanna kombõ and listed in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, is one of connecting family and friends to cleanse body and soul inside a place of peace and contemplation. Conflicts are left outside. In director Anna Hints’ Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, the history of the smoke saunas as a place of giving birth inspired them to focus on women who “come together in the protective darkness of the smoke sauna, share their deepest secrets and wash off the shame that has accumulated in their bodies”. 

The first documentary by an Estonian director to compete and win at Sundance, Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is a deeply moving, intimate and breathtaking approach to issues of trauma, healing, and community. Filmed almost as if a Vermeer or Rembrandt painting, the camera is never intrusive, never mechanical. Rather, the images move as the smoke – lingering, wafting, suspended briefly before disappearing and reappearing. With an authentic voice and authority born of their own heritage, filmmaker Anna Hints has created a transformative experience of being human within a female body, showing women “as they are” with great emotional veracity and deep empathy. 

Directed by Anna Hints
Produced by Marianne Ostrat
Cinematography by Ants Tammik

Estonia’s Official Entry – Best International Feature Film – 96th Academy Awards

Nominated for Four Cinema Eye Honors

Outstanding Cinematography
Outstanding Sound Design
Outstanding Debut
Audience Choice Prize

Nominated for Two International Documentary Association Awards
Best Cinematography
Best Editing

Nominated for One Critics Choice Documentary Awards
Best First Documentary Feature 

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is out on January 22.

Queer Forty Staff

Queer Forty writing staff work hard to bring you all the latest articles to help inspire and inform.

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