09 I'll Not Forget the Blue Sea of Tallinn

Naomi Kawase
Film Director

Tallinn, the capital of the Republic of Estonia, is a city with a population of about 400,000 located on the banks of the Gulf of Finland in the easternmost part of the Baltic Sea. It is very much like my hometown of Nara in that its historic center (Old Town) is listed as a World Heritage Site. My son's elementary school is the oldest in Nara and will celebrate its 140th anniversary this year. The school often takes the kids to learn about Nara's World Heritage Sites such as Kohfukuji Temple, Todaiji Temple, Gangoji Temple, and Kasuga Taisha Shrine--all within walking distance from the school. They also go on a field trip to the Kasugayama Primeval Forest including Nara Park, where the children can explore wildlife. Since my son is learning about these historical monuments, I thought he would enjoy visiting such places in a foreign country and decided to take him with me.


Tallinn was selected as a European Capital of Culture for 2011. During the year, the designated city holds various cultural and arts events to promote the cultural development of the member states of the European Union. For the cinema portion of the program, 60 directors from all over the world were invited to create one-minute films. The project aimed at paying homage to 35mm film by expressing love for this disappearing medium. The works were shown on a screen specially constructed on Tallinn Bay; immediately after the showing, the films were burned and the screen was allowed to sink into the sea. Initially the event was scheduled for the summer, but due to various reasons it ended up being held in the freezing month of December.


For most of the past 100 years, Tallinn was ruled by either Germany or the Soviet Union. So the influence of these countries is still evident in the streets and church buildings. I enjoyed walking on the beautiful stone-paved streets with my son as the snow fell gently. Christmas was just around the corner and there were many Santa Clauses in town. The vendors sold hot wine and roasted salt peanuts at carriage-like stalls and we liked munching on them while walking around town. Tallinn's main theme for the year was "Stories of the Seashore," encouraging people to rediscover the culture of this seaside city.

After gaining independence in 1991, Estonia transformed itself into a capitalist society. When the country joined the European Union, money rushed in from the West, invigorating the economy. And with a booming tech sector, the country is now known as the Silicon Valley on the Baltic Sea. Sten, who was one of the organizers of the event, carried two laptops with him constantly, and used them to get all the information he needed. Incidentally, I also learned that Skype was developed in Tallinn.

I wonder what lies ahead for Tallinn. The one-minute film I created for the event was a recording of my son gazing at the sunset in Nara and murmuring "How beautiful!" What kind of stories will people engrave in history in the next 100 years? In the film, I wrote the words "I LOVE YOU" over the background scenery. Loving somebody, thinking of someone, entrusting your hopes...; a rich future awaits us after we foster these feelings. I bought a blue cup in a small shop on a street corner in the Old Town as a memento of the blue sea of Tallinn. It was the kind of shop that may well vanish as more big money flows into the region, but I will never forget it.

kawase01_00.jpgNaomi Kawase
Kawase continues to work out of her hometown Nara. She was awarded the Camera d'Or at the Cannes International Film Festival in 1997 for her film Suzaku (1996) as the youngest winner in its history. Her The Mourning Forest was awarded the Grand Prix at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2007. She has directed many documentary films including Genpin. She lobbied for and is now executive director of the Nara International Film Festival (http://www.nara-iff.jp/en/), which will mark its second year from September 14 to 17, 2012. Nippon Archives series, for which she filmed her beloved Nara and many other sights of Japan, is currently broadcast online. (http://nara.utsukushiki-nippon.jp/)

Official website:http://www.kawasenaomi.com/
Official twitter: http://twitter.com/kawasenaomi

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