The Black Nights Film Festival, better known as PÖFF (Pimedate Ööde Filmifestival), is known to be one of the largest filmfestivals in Northern Europe. This year the filmfestival takes place from the 16th November until the 2nd December.
On the 26th December I went to the Coca Cola Plaza in Tallinn, Hobujaama, to watch an Estonian movie called Vöta või jäta (Take it Or Leave it) directed by Liina Trishkina. The movie tells the story about Erik (Reimo Sagor), an Estonian working as construction worker in Finland who suddenly gets notified by his ex-girlfriend Moonika (Liis Lass) that he is the father of her baby. When he visits Moonika in the hospital in Estonia, she tells him that she doesn’t want to keep the baby admitting that she is incapable of caring for her daughter. However, Erik decides to keep the baby Mai and care for her by himself. All in all, the movie illustrated outstandingly the challenges of a poor single-dad who is trying to care for his daughter Mai as good as possible.
After watching the movie the director Liina Trishkina and actor Reimor Sagor encouraged us to ask questions about the movie itself.
Audience: Liina, what or who inspired you to make this film?
Liina: Any filmmaker has many imputs and it’s difficult to define all of them, but I think I had two main things. One was this that five years ago when the core idea of this film started to grow everybody around me was having children. One way or another or trying to have and coping with having a child or children in a very different way. And it somehow made me think a lot about parenthood and what it takes to be a parent and when does one become a parent. Is it then when the child is born or does it happen overtime through good or bad days?
While having these thoughts, I thought “Okay there’s a lot of books and paintings and songs and also movies about motherhood and not so many about fatherhood. And then I read a short story in a web magazine for women about a guy who was a carpenter, by the way, who was left alone with a two months old baby, because the mother couldn’t cope with the situation. And so somehow all these ideas then formed a story and [the movie is] in a way a compilation of many true stories.
Audience: And you, Reimo, what makes a father a father? As you are not a father in your real life, but a father in this film. Do you have an idea how to answer this question?
Reimo: Well, I can try, but I guess many fathers, who are (…) real fathers in this room will say “you know nothing about it”. (audience laughs) I had many talks with Liina about this subject “What makes a father a father?”. And in conclusion we both, I guess, agreed with one thing (…) that we find is the most important is that you take responsibility to grow with that child and the second one is that by taking this responsibility, you in many ways give up your ego and put the child in the first place. I hope I understood the question correctly.
Audience: Why did you choose Reimo as the father in the film?
Liina: I can tell you how it all started. When I started to look for an actor then we asked Reimo to come to the casting and he fitted. You know, he was just the one that we needed. And nobody else came to the casting, we didn’t ask anybody else to ask to come. (audience laughs). I don’t know if it would sound a little bit corny if I said he’s perfect, but for this role he fitted perfectly.
Audience: Reimo, do you think that working with the kids in the movie has helped you to prepare for possible fatherhood?
Reimo: Well, I hope it has. I have so many practical knowledge know like how to change the diapers and everything (laughs) and also the psychological and emotional side of it. When I went to practice to Nora’s [the name of the baby] house to learn how to do those things but you can see the trust that those little babies have for you. They don’t judge you at any level- or whatever- if you put them on your arms. They are so small and they look you with those eyes that you just feel this weekness. And inside you you’re just like “WOOO!”… It just wipes you off your feet.
But in another way my friends always ask me like “Can you come and babysit?”… (audience laughs)
No…., so, I hope it has given me more courage and strength to make those decisions that Liina was talking early about like when am I good enough to be a parent and these things. But it has been a very emotional and educational trip….
Even like today we saw Nora again after two months when the premiere took place. She is like still amazing and she still recognizes me and that’s kind of a weird thing, but also awesome.
Audience: I was always wondering how this works when you are working with a baby in a film? Like how do you choose a “baby actor”?
Liina: So obviously, there is no agency for baby actors or actors that haven’t been born yet (…). You know, We started looking for families who were expecting a child and we were not very successful. Most of the families said no and they realised how long the process it is, that it’s not “a- few-days-in-a-cute-commercia” type. And we were really in big trouble and then we found one family who agreed. But then their baby was born a little bit early – for us [,the crew,] early- in a way that she would’ve been too big for the hospital scenes. So we would’ve had to have different babies for the hospital and I didn’t want that, so we kept on looking. And then through friends of a friends of a friends of a friends we finally like maybe a week before we started filming found Nora. So it went really close. We were just discussing with Reimo that we were just extremely lucky. Like some sort of beginner’s luck or something. So she was the first real option and she was perfect.
And also the parents. They were a young couple and [Nora] is their first child and they agreed on doing this when Nora was just three or four days old. We met in Narva cafe and they took a few hours to think and they said yes without knowing what filmmaking and without knowing how it’s going to be live with a child.
To answer your question, (…)the most important part are the parents. Their willingness and attitude and motivation. Those two took it as an adventure and of course sometimes they went a little bit tense when the baby was crying, but they saw that we really take care of her (…) and we actually set our timetable according to the baby’s natural schedule. Like you cannot expect a baby to eat when she is not hungry or to sit or pretend sleeping. (…)
And also I must say that it involved a lot of waiting for the right moment and for the right expression. It was not really directing (…). I have a colleague in the audience who is making nature films and I just say that once we were waiting for the child to fall asleep and somebody of the crew said “Okay, so we are now making a nature film here, (…) just slightly a bigger crew, but, you know, 30 people in a small apartment, everybody is very quite, just waiting”.
And also [it was about] being more dynamic like being ready to do a scene that was supposed to be done tomorrow than today because of the mood of the child.
….With a three year old it’s different already because it’s much more complicated. (audience laughs)
2018.PÖFF.ee (last viewed on 27.11.2018); https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6280368/ (last viewed on 27.11.2018)