Ivar Murd: Ash Mountains

Yes, we have seen many documentaries from Eastern part of Europe and from Russia about industrial cities that were active, because there was work and now there is no longer work, the cities are dead and have no plan for the future. They can be pretty predictable, and you know it all after five minutes – if you don’t feel passion and originality in the way you are taken to and around.

Estonian director Ivar Mund’s first feature length, produced by Margus Õunapuu, has passion and originality, with a personal starting point, a very good commentary in first person, and some interesting characters. He is – so important for a first film – able to create atmosphere, the film has its own tone and it has several layers.

It starts with an ultra fast montage of private photos that

communicates that this is a film from a place wherefrom the director comes. That’s how I interpret it before I get to see a panoramic image of huge appartment buildings with factories in the background – here we are at Ash Mountains. At the North East part of Estonia near the Russian border.

The director’s voice says: What else is there to do but to sing and dance and walk in Ash Mountains. And the film takes off with dancing Estonian folk dances, one of the red threads in the film around the woman Maret, who dances and organises that a group can go and take part in tournaments. A boy talks, he wants to sing, he has won awards, he lives in an orphanage, we follow him through the film, he represents the future, where Maret is the past. Said in a simplified manner. The director does it much better in his commentary that often has a lyrical tone, like when he explains that in school he was told the meaning of the colours in the Estonian flag as this: Blue is the sky, Black the Ash Mountains, White the snow.

Well into the film there is magnificent archive material, black & white, brought without any explanations. An invitation to look at the miners faces. We don’t need any words here. This sequence is followed by an equally silent tour to beautiful places and buildings of today, with splendour from the past. Dekadence and misery at the same time.

Silent… No, there is a strong sound scrore and the music composed to the film goes well with the essayistic, philosophical tone of a film that definitely brings a new talent to Estonian documentary.

Estonia, 2016, 71 mins., Tower Film

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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