It was very exciting for us to meet an artist from Estonia. I was fascinated to learn that the Estonian people still keep traditional values alive. A romantic notion, to meet a girl so closely connected to the old Europe. The fantasy of how things used to be, before we lost emotional contact with nature. When we felt its magic and treated all living things as sacred and as medicine.
I knew very little about puppet animation, as a form of Fine Art and learnt how closely the process links in to – light contrasts in photography, sculptural forms and the emotional movement of painting.
It is plainly obvious when you meet Anu-Laura, that she is a perfectionist. It takes dedication and persistence to make her art. It appeared to me – through watching her struggle and how she made things happen, with so much passion – that her films were going to be something profound.
The jungle is perfect in its imperfection and sure made Anu-Laura cry – with the rain, unpredictable-rising River, insects, humidity and all.
The final film, created at Sachaqa is called ‘Winter in the Rainforest’ and will be completed in 2018.
A little clip of the material Anu-Laura shot in San Roque –
‘On the other side of the woods’ will be screened for the second time during festival Patrona 2017. –
How has being part of a residency in the Amazon rainforest effected your art practise?
Staying at Sachaqa gave me the chance to communicate with other artists. I mostly work alone in a studio, so this aspect was really different. It was nice to meet good people from around the world with a common interest. It takes a certain type of person to do an artist residency in such an extreme jungle setting.
The Amazon was perfect for my work, as I went with a nature film in mind. After spending a few weeks in the jungles of Brazil and Mexico, I became inspired to make a short film in a tropical setting.
Although there were many challenges in the jungle, which I had not considered while preparing my trip. I usually work in a controlled studio and the natural environment is completely different in Estonia. There is such a difference in light in San Roque and the day starts and ends at 6. The humidity is relentless on electrical equipment. My puppets which use a lifetime resistant glue, melted in a couple of weeks. So I had to constantly repair them, which are delicate and take time.
So what did the jungle teach you?
To surrender, to live with it! After carrying my 10kl backpack full of equipment, uphill, through forests swarming in mosquitos, in strong sunshine and sometimes a 40 minute walk. After setting up my equipment and positioning the puppets. It could sometimes start to rain, or the river could rise in a matter of minutes. I was constantly on edge, in fear of damaging my equipment. In the end I let go, swam in the river and waited for the rain to stop – what else could I do?
How did this environment effect your film?
Every natural place has its magic and the jungle brings another kind of magic. The Amazon is like a magical land, the night sky was special with brilliant stars and moon. When I first awoke early to do a morning shoot, I looked up and couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t tell because there were no familiar stars or constellations to be found in the sky – it was though I was on another planet, and could have been looking from Mars.
Does nature play an important role for the Estonian people?
We are still connected to our traditions and we are definitely more connected to nature than Western Europe. We still collect and use herbs for healing. We spend a lot of time in the forests and collecting wild berries and edible mushrooms is common practise.
Estonia is by statistics the least religious country in the world. If you ask people about their connection to religion they will say ‘No, I’m not religious, I don’t like the church.’ Then there is a few seconds pause and they will tell you. ‘Well… I like to go to walk in the forest.’ 🙂
We are still kind of pagans here. We never accepted Christianity. This spot was the last in Europe to be Christianised, but only because it was done by enslaving the people for long centuries by German, Swedish, Russian rule. The official religion of the rulers was never accepted by people. Pagan beliefs have always coexisted with the church traditions. Now since our independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 the old pagan religion is being revived again by some people.
What are the shamanic practises in Estonia?
Women mostly continue the traditions, most grandmothers in Estonia, drink many herbal teas and know about basic plant medicines. In our pharmacis there are many herbal treatments, labelled with instructions.
You were part of festival Patrona in San Roque De Cumbaza, 2016, how does this compare to festivals in Estonia?
In San Roque the people were mostly celebrating for the village, not too many outsiders. In Estonia people gather from many villages. We mostly celebrate for Christmas and St Johns day. We all leave the cities and go to the country side. I have had friends who were in the city for St Johns day, who said the whole city was deserted.
Festival Patrona was very exotic for me. It was great to meet so many local people, who are usually in their Chacras (farms.) Everyone comes together during the festival which was a really special experience. As I was walking, to shoot my film one day I passed the family home of the Cabizonas (organisers.) Everyone was dancing to music at 2pm in the afternoon, like it was a disco.
How did people react to your film showing during exhibition ‘Elementos:Fuego?’
It was one of the best screenings I have had, of this film. There was only a few spectators but to be presented in a house made of natural materials, in an attic, felt magical and part of the experience. Which fit in perfectly with the setting of the film, in a European forest. I liked the fact the film repeated over and over. One spectator said he watched the film five times, then fell asleep for about an hour. It was dark and quiet and cosy.
Three words to describe festival Patrona 2016?
#happy #loud #crowdy