Aangrijpend drama over de deportatie van 40.000 inwoners uit Estland, Letland en Litouwen in 1941, op bevel van Josef Stalin. Vrouwen en kinderen werden naar Siberië getransporteerd, de mannen verdwenen naar gevangenenkampen. Erna is één van de vrouwen die wordt gescheiden van haar man en samen met haar jonge dochter naar Siberië wordt gestuurd. De tijd werkt vanaf dan anders: ze moet zich bezighouden met overleven in deze nieuwe, barre omstandigheden. De brieven die ze aan haar man schrijft brengen wat licht. In the Crosswind verbeeldt deze historische episode in prachtig zwart-wit, afgewisseld met indrukwekkende tableaux vivants.

Een prachtig stuk van Erik op de site van filmhuis Den Haag:

Verpletterend fraai regiedebuut dat de schrijnende, historische werkelijkheid van de Tweede Wereldoorlog in de Baltische staten omtovert tot een onvergetelijke, poëtische herinnering… lees verder op de site van

filmhuis den haag


In the croswind – Risttuules

14 June 1941. Without warning tens of thousands of people in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were removed from their homes. Without any sort of trial men faced being sent to prison camps and women and children were deported to Siberia. The aim of this extraordinary operation – carried out on the orders of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin – was to purge the Baltic countries of their native inhabitants.
Erna, happily married and the mother of a young daughter, is sent to Siberia. For her, time takes on another dimension. Fighting starvation and humiliation in inhuman conditions, her soul seeks and finds freedom in the letters she sends to her husband who has been sentenced to prison camp. Even so, the years in Siberia rob Erna of something much more precious than just her youth.
This film is based on a true story and uses extraordinary visual techniques and language to tell the heart-wrenching tale of the fate of thousands of Estonians.

Vanaf 4 mei 2017 is IN THE CROSSWIND – RISTTUULES te zien in de filmtheaters:
EYE, Amsterdam; De Filmhallen, Amsterdam; Filmhuis, Den Haag; 't Hoogt, Utrecht; Filmhuis O42, Nijmegen, Focus Filmtheater, Arnhem; NatLab, Eindhoven; Lieve Vrouw, Amersfoort; Filmschuur, Haarlem

Vanaf 3 oktober 2017 op DVD verkrijgbaar!

filmposter in the crosswind

Estland; 2014; zwart-wit; 87 minuten; Dolby 5.1;
Ests gesproken; Nederland ondertiteld.


Acteurs: Laura Peterson, Tarmo Song, Mirt Preegel, Ingrid Isotamm, Einar Hillep
Productie: Allfilm
Camera: Erik Põllumaa
Muziek: Pärt Uusberg
Montage: Liis Nimik
Awards: Toronto IFF 2014, Canada Warsaw IFF 2014, Poland - Ecumenical Jury Award Thessaloniki IFF 2014, Greece - Artistic Achievement Award Mannheim Heidelberg IFF 2014, Germany - Auszeichnungen der Empfehlungsjury der Kinobetreiber Black Nights FF Tallinn 2014, Estonia - Prize for the Best Cinematographer, the Estonian Film Award, the FICC [International Film Clubs] Don Quixote Award for Best Film
Scenario: Martti Helde
Sound-Design: Janne Laine

Over de regisseur:

Martti Helde was born in Tallinn, Estonia. He graduated from the Baltic Film and Media School at Tallin University and is currently attending the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. His short films are Päev, mil ma kasvasin (08), and Külm on (10). In the Crosswind (14) is his debut feature.



Nederlandse pers:

“Hartverscheurend zwart-wit en verbluffende tableaux vivants voeren je mee naar een vergeten genocide.”
De Filmkrant 5*****
“Misschien wel de perfecte visualisering (…) filmschilderijen die je soms de adem benemen.”
Trouw 4 ****
“Uitgekiende mix tussen film en fotografie (…) verbluffende tableaux vivants.”
NRC 4****
“Visueel verbluffend werk (…) Zowel het realisme als de levendigheid van de taferelen worden versterkt door de geluidseffecten.”
Het Parool 4 ****
“De choreografie is knap, de manier van vertellen soepel; het geluid en de muziek vullen het beeld schitterend aan.”
De Volkskrant 4****
“Indrukwekkend relaas Russische holocaust.”
AD 4****
“Indrukwekkende, ingetogen cinema met prachtige originele soundtrack.”
Cinema.nl 4****
“Springt met stip in de top vijf van films die je gezien moet hebben. Tranen van ontroering voor dit juweel van een film.”
Cinemagazine.nl 5*****
“Zeldzaam esthetisch.”
Indebioscoop.com 5*****
“Wacht ook tot de aftiteling als het haast hypnotisch melodisch repeterende Estse volkslied Ohtu Ilu in een meeslepende koorversie uit de speakers klinkt.”
Filmtoaal.nl 4½ *****
“Naarmate de film vordert, kruipen de schilderachtige, zwart-witte taferelen steeds verder onder de huid; een film van een tijdloze schoonheid.”
Filmvandaag.nl 4½ *****


The Soviet Holocaust is chillingly recounted in an Estonian woman’s letters from Siberia

A landmark film and a bitter reminder of Stalin’s ethnic cleansing of 40,000 Baltic citizens at the outbreak of WWII, In the Crosswind is a not only a patriotic memorial financed by major Estonian institutions, but a timely topic in the year of Russia’s incorporation of Crimea. Here the horrors that followed the USSR’s annexation of the Baltic States in 1940 are memorably recounted in a story inspired by a real woman’s deportation to Siberia with her small daughter, while her husband was sentenced to a gulag.

What makes the film special and worthy of study in film classes is its visual language. In his impressive feature debut, Martti Helde makes the bold if controversial choice to tell the story in an unbroken series of tableaux vivants, a technique in which the actors stand stock still in dramatic poses while (in this case) the camera weaves through them.

Tableaux are not such an unusual technique to underline a highly charged moment in time, and action films in particular love to follow a bullet in slow-mo as it flies past a frozen crowd. Chris Marker and Raul Ruiz have told idiosyncratic stories this way. But it’s hard to imagine a narrative film composed entirely of stop-action, where the only discernable movement is the wind flapping a coat or an involuntary eye blink. Though the constantly roving camera and off-screen voices and sounds move the story ahead, such a massive visual experiment, in black and white to boot, demands much adjustment on the audience’s part and will limit the film’s appeal outside of festivals. Above all, it undercuts the natural emotion of the scenes, turning the horror into still pictures and distancing the characters and action. The viewer ends up marveling at the ability of more than 400 actors to freeze in position, instead of emotionally participating in Erna’s (Laura Peterson) inhuman fate in a Siberian labor camp, living on one slice of bread a day.

In the opening scenes, Erna and her beloved young husband Heldur (hyper-dignified stage thesp Tarmo Song) live an idyll in their pretty house in the country, which they share with little Eliide (Mirt Preegel) and a maid. But it’s June 14, 1941, the Soviet Union is occupying Estonia and Stalin has ordered the massive deportation of ordinary citizens. And thus, just one week before the German army invaded the Baltic countries, some 10,000 Estonians (including over 400 Jews) were rounded up without warning and sent to Soviet labor camps and prisons, while others were shot. The same thing was happening in Latvia and Lithuania with the aim to purge the Baltics of their native inhabitants.

Suddenly the family idyll turns into hell.

Based on the letters the real-life Erna wrote to her husband, without knowing where he was, the story is told through Peterson’s brave, off-screen reading voice and staged scenes which are by turns dramatic, poetic and mysteriously sinister. Along with 50 other women and children, Erna and Eliide are crammed into a cattle car, which they will ride for 26 days without changing clothes or washing. Nine people don’t make it through the journey, and Eliide weakens from dysentery even before they reach Novosibirsk. There the women, called “enemies of the people,” are forced to perform the work of lumberjacks and meet tough work quotas. Surrounded by infinite space, they are “prisoners of nature” with nowhere to run, and punishment awaits those who try to slip away. Like others, Erna has to come to terms with the local collective farm boss to avoid starvation.

Even if they’re outwardly frozen, Peterson’s expressions seem animated and courageous, showing the inner strength of a survivor. It is her face the viewer anxiously searches for in each shot. Erna’s letters ask simple but profound questions as they promise to search for Heldur as soon as she’s released.

The director has said it took two to six months to set up each tableau, climaxing in a single day of shooting. The vast cast of extras project themselves through their expressive body language, yet it’s hard to respond directly to these terrible scenes. An eerie, stylized effect is created by Erik Pollumaa’s lyrical, painterly cinematography and the free-wheeling camera that weaves through immobile groups of actors from a dreamer’s point of view. It’s a shock to find actors moving around again in the final scenes in Estonia, as though this was the present and all that went before mere memories. At this point, heart-breaking emotion floods the screen, proving how important moving faces and bodies are in the cinema.

This mix of live-action with living tableaux provides a requiem for the inhabitants of the Baltic countries whom Joseph Stalin ordered deported or killed.

Alissa Simon
Offering a unique take on the moving picture, “In the Crosswind” is a black-and-white slice of history that mixes live-action with living tableaux to provide a requiem for the inhabitants of the Baltic countries who, in the summer of 1941, were deported to Siberia or killed on Stalin’s orders. Estonian helmer Martti Helde’s debut is an art film in every sense of the word; the extraordinary visual techniques he uses to convey a sense of being frozen in time won’t be to all tastes, but those open to a different sort of cinema will find it a very poignant experience.

Although the film depicts events from more than seven decades ago, the recent Russian annexation of Crimea lends it a sense of urgency. If history truly does consist of patterns that repeat themselves, then “In the Crosswind” serves as a timely warning.

Through well-modulated voiceover narration, the pic adopts the perspective of a pretty Estonian wife and mother, Erna (Laura Peterson), whose Siberian diary, with its acute observations, provides the inspiration for the film. There is no dialogue; instead, Helde employs a highly crafted sound design that includes affecting music, imagined diegetic background sounds and the occasional muffled murmuring of voices in Estonian or Russian.

Before June 14, 1941, Erna lives in a rural idyll with her husband, Heldur (Tarmo Song), a farmer and member of the Estonian Defense League, and their young daughter Eliide (Mirt Preegel). Although some of their friends and relatives, more prescient about the fate of Estonia during the war years, urge them to flee, they decide to remain in their homeland.

From the moment that the Soviet forces arrive at their farm, time takes on another dimension for Erna. To underscore this radical change, the style of the pic changes, too. As Erna’s voice describes events and her feelings, the camera slowly pans, circles and snakes in between groupings of people, frozen in a moment of chaos and panic. Mothers reach out to their children, men grasp weapons, Soviet soldiers snarl. The tableau vivant style remains in effect until 1954, when Erna is allowed to return home.

We see women and children on their way to Siberia by train, suffering in crowded cattle cars. Unbeknownst to them, their men, bloodied and filthy, endure torture in prison camps and eventual execution. By the time Erna reaches the remote, snowy kolkhoz (Siberian collective farm) where she and the other “enemies of the people” are stationed, their ranks have thinned through hunger and disease. They are forced to perform difficult and dangerous lumberjack work and given only a mere 200 grams of bread a day, with no special allowance for the children. One of the most emotionally wrenching tableaux depicts Erna in the act of stealing some bread for the ailing Eliide.

Per press notes, each of the 13 tableaux required two to six months of preparation and only one day of shooting. In addition to obtaining or creating historically accurate costumes and props, Helde and lenser Erik Pollumaa studied paintings, sculptures and even the Alexander technique to mold the actors’ postures and expressions in the most dynamic way.

Responding brilliantly to a different sort of acting challenge, stage and screen performer Peterson evokes a full range of emotions with her voice and static body. The innovative craft package fully supports the director’s intent, with the impressive widescreen lensing a standout.


It is 1941. Much of eastern Europe is under Soviet rule.
On June 14, authorities in Russia gave the command to deport more than 40,000 Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians to the cruel climes of Siberia.
Fast forward to 2010, when Estonian director Martti Helde began to piece the story together in cinema form. Using letters, from relatives and friends and other archive material, the young filmmaker created ‘Risttuules’ (‘In The Crosswind’).
It tells the story of Erna, a 27-year-old philosophy student who is separated from her husband; he is sent to a prisoners camp, while she and their small daughter are deported to the uninhabited territories of Siberia.
Helde took the bold, if potentially controversial, decision to tell the story using an unbroken series of still images. The actors stand stock still in dramatic poses, while the camera weaves through them.
It took three and a half years to put together and makes for an impressive feature debut for the 27 year old.
Euronews’ Anja Bencze spoke to Martti Helde about the film at the Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn.

Anja Bencze, euronews:
“You are the youngest director at this year’s Festival edition and present a movie that deals with a very dramatic historic event in a very original way. It is also your feature debut. How did this project come up?”

Martti Helde:
“It all started four years ago, as a project for a contest… Actually, for a documentary film about the June deportation. In the first place, it was a documentary film. And it won this contest.
“We went to Thessaloniki, a documentary festival forum, (and) people said it is not a documentary. You should shoot it as a full length feature. So it was an accident.
“But the idea: my grandfather was in prison camp. In my relatives, I knew there were some letters circling around which are family relics, so to say. I had some really strong connections about the topic, plus the documentary thing. It was a perfect platform for me to make the film.”

“Can the trauma of the deportation of Baltic populations by the Soviets in 1941 still be felt in modern society?”

Martti Helde:
“It is really hard to find a family who is not attached to the history. I think the deportations have changed the Estonia of today. In that sense it is really sharply in our hearts. We still remember it, we still talk about it. In June or March, when the media talks about it…
“It is one piece of how Estonians are today. It is really hard to put into words. But basically, if you look at what Estonians are doing today, then it is a reflection of what happened. Because we are keeping this topic closely in our hearts. It’s natural, so to say.”

“The movie is based on real events. Can you tell us a bit more about the background?”

Martti Helde:
“About 60 percent of the letters are from my relatives. Erna Tamm (the name of the main character in the film) is a changed name, of course. And 40 percent of what you can hear in the film is archive material and biographies all mixed together. I wanted to put in something from other Estonians. So I decided to mix those two mediums, to create something universal that would show the event more widely.
“The idea was to make an Estonian film in that sense. Many Estonians can relate to the story. To make it wider than the letters, that came from my side, my relatives’ letters.

“You staged a movie in stop-action pictures, can you explain your artistic choice?”

Martti Helde
“The idea actually came from one precise letter, quite the first one I read. There was a line: ‘I feel like time has stopped here in Siberia. That my body is in Siberia, but my soul is still in my homeland.’
“Then it struck me that a wanted to make a film, where everybody and the time has stopped. To recreate the feeling; what those people in Siberia felt.
“The reason was, I wanted the audience in the cinema to feel the same way, how people in Siberia felt. I wanted to take away the freedom of the audience, so they can’t choose where to look, where is the focus point. So this kind of recreation of this feeling was the main idea.
“But to create the film, I would never recommend it to anybody. It took us two to six months to prepare one scene. Then we had one day for shooting. Then we had like two or three days off and we started to prepare another scene. So the whole process of the shooting period was three and a half years. So it’s quite nerve-wrecking!

“How did the actors react?”

Martti Helde:
“It was so crazy, this idea, they loved it. When I went to meet Laura Peterson who is the main actress, she said: ‘It’s so crazy this idea, I want to make it.’
“But of course the topic was important. It was easy to get actors because for them the topic was important to tell. And there was no such film as the June deportation film in Estonia. They wanted to put their energy into the film to make that happen.”

“And what does the public say?”

Martti Helde:
“It was surprisingly successful in Estonia, even though it is a real art-house film. We thought that a maximum 2,000 people were coming to see it. But the topic was so important for everybody, and a real good buzz started to circle around the film. So many, many people went to see the film. And also some people went with their grandparents. It’s really rare today that grandmothers and fathers are going to the cinema. But youngsters took their grandparents to talk with them afterwards.
“It is a really nice thing. Especially for the older generation, it was important, that this kind of film exists.
“So, I got many emails and even real letters from older people and they wrote: ‘Thank you, for making this film. I was waiting for it’. It was the biggest compliment I could ever expect.

“It was shown in Toronto, Warsaw, Thessaloniki, Mannheim… Any other festivals or international releases?”

Martti Helde:
“In March 2015 it is going to premiere in France.”

euronews: “Any others?”

Martti Helde: “I can’t tell you anything.”

“And your next project?”

Martti Helde:
“Hard question, I’m writing an idea at the moment. I’m writing a psychological drama. Everybody is moving, they are talking, life action!
“But I like psychological violence. Not physical. But something inner and something that can hurt you more than just physical violence. So I’d like to work on that. To go deeper.
“My goal is to make the next film even more touching and deeper. I don’t want to go crazier. But I want to go not outside, but inside. That’s my goal.”


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