Home » Estonian Film Heritage » Estonian film history » 1890 – 1910s: ESTONIAN FILM DEBUT


On December 28, 1985, the Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis, demonstrated their new invention in Paris – a cinematoscope. In less than a year, the miracle could be also seen in Tallinn and shortly after in Tartu. Since October 2, 1896, several performances were given in the hall of Tallinn Stock Exchange Building (today known as the building of Museum of History on Pikk Street, Tallinn) and since November 13, 1896 in Bürgermusse, Tartu.

However, the first film shooting in Estonia took place after several years. On April 30, 1908, a stopoff taken in Tallinn en route to St Petersburg by the Swedish king was recorded on film. About ten days later the film was also screened.

A few weeks earlier, on April 17, 1908, the first cinema „Illusion“ was opened in Tartu (the building is destroyed).

Let's add some more years and we can talk about the birth of Estonian film. Johannes Pääsuke (1892-1918) was the first Estonian filmmaker. The young man in his early twenties filmed the flight of Sergey Utochkin above the city of Tartu on April 27-28, 1912 – these chronicles were demonstrated already on April 30, 1912, in cinema „Illusion“, Tartu. This date can be considered as the birthday of Estonian film.

During the following few years, Pääsuke filmed several pieces of chronicles and short films, including the recordings about the celebrations of firefighters, the views of Tartu, and the great snowstorm in December 1913. He offered his films to the Russian representatives of the newsreels produced by French film companies. Pääsuke's interest towards shooting was also enhanced by his job as a photographer for the Estonian National Museum – he completed the groundbreaking ethnographic film „A Journey Through Setuland“ (1913).

Pääsuke was also the first Estonian filmmaker who made the first national feature film – on February 26, 1914, „Bear Hunt in Pärnu County“ was screened in „Ideal“ cinema in Tartu. The film was not simply an experimental burlesque nor a sentimental drama but a national political satire that was banned for screening in Pärnu.

During a few years, the young filmmaker was able to record nearly forty film pieces, mostly about the life of Estonians and historical events, as he commented on them himself. Less than ten films are preserved today. In 1914, Pääsuke was mobilized by the military forces and he was killed in a train accident.

Recognition of the Database

Eesti parim kolmanda sektori e-teenus 2015

Republic of Estonia Information System Authority jury comprising industry experts selected the Estonian Film Database to be the winner in civil society e-services category for 2015

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Estonian Film Database (EFDB)

The database is maintained by NGO Estonian Film Database. It was opened on 12.12.2012 and is meant for providing information about the whole Estonian film heritage from 1912. We plan fully complete it by 2022 but already now full and partial entries for about 16 000 films, 9000 filmmakers and more than 200 production companies could be retrieved in Estonian and partly in English. Translation of film descriptions and keywords into English is an ongoing process. Read more detailed overview.

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