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The Big Fall Between Two Heavy Stools

Helga Merits


Though I regard the documentaries I make as films to be shown in cinema as well as on television, it has been especially the Black Nights Film Festival which made clear to me that they regarded my films as more appropriate for television and for this reason did not want to show these. Why they felt the need to make this division to start with has always puzzled me.


Clearly the experience of a film on a screen in a cinema or at home on a television set is entirely different. So, for me the question is: what kind of experience do you want your audience to have? But sadly enough, this is not something, which I, as an independent small budget filmmaker, am able to make. Others decide for me.


‘Follow the money’, would be one way to answer the question, which has been in all cultural sectors the reason to divide fields that used to be one.


I would like to explore somewhat and in a free way on the social-philosophical level of this question referring to Bourdieu and Benjamin, Foucault and Sloterdijk. And there is also my own experience, as a Dutch filmmaker, wanting to make films about the Baltic countries and not having either an Estonian, Latvian or Lithuanian passport. There are much more pigeon-holes to reckon with when making films.


So where does the decision about the end-product already start? At what stage does the parochialism enter the realm of ideas and creativity of the filmmaker?


Helga Merits is a documentary filmmaker with Estonian roots living in Holland. After a study of philosophy at the University of Amsterdam she started working as a journalist for Dutch and Belgium major newspapers as well as for Dutch and Belgium national radio. In 2007 she made her first documentary film Dear Paul (Kallis Paul), about the youth of her Estonian father, for which she received the Theodor Luts Award. A documentary film about her father’s school class Class of 1943: Remember Us When We Are Gone (2012) followed. She received the medal of the Baltic Assembly for The Story of the Baltic University: Adventure and Struggle (2015). She is also the author of Sam Freiman: Memories of a Lost World (2010) and Coming Home Soon: The Refugee Children of Geislingen.

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