Smoke Sauna Sisterhood
Sundance Award-Winning Feature Documentary in UK and Ireland Cinemas from 13 October, 2023
No story too shameful, no burden too heavy to carry when you share it with your sisterhood…
Conic is thrilled to announce the release of filmmaker Anna Hints’ Sundance Award-winning feature documentary SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD in UK and Ireland cinemas from 13 October.
In the darkness of the smoke sauna, a group of women tend to each other’s bodies as they share their innermost secrets and experiences. Their candid and cathartic conversations about body image, family and social expectations, illness, sex, sexuality, childbirth and violence give a sense of communion as the women wash away the shame trapped in their bodies and regain their strength.
The first documentary by an Estonian director to compete and win at Sundance, SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD is Estonia’s official entry for the Best International Feature Film category at the 2024 Oscars.
Hints’ debut feature is shot with extraordinary intimacy and care as it approaches issues of trauma, healing, and community. Filmed with an intense but unobtrusive familiarity, the camera lingers and moves with the sauna’s smoke, capturing the tactile and at times complex relationship between the sisterhood.
With an authentic voice and authority born of their own heritage, Hints has created a transformative experience of being human within a female body, showing women “as they are” with great emotional veracity and deep empathy.
The wood-fired smoke sauna tradition of the Vana-Võromaa in Southeast Estonia is part of the UNESCO List of The Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The ritual is a way of life to the men, women and children of the region, connecting family and friends to cleanse body and soul inside a place of peace and contemplation.
Talking about her feature film debut, director Anna Hints says:
“My roots are in South-East Estonia, in the specific culture of Võromaa and Setomaa where the tradition of smoke sauna is still very much alive. The smoke sauna is a place where women used to give birth, wash the dead and heal. My Võro granny, who was like a mother to me, passed on the heritage, chants and knowledge and also the transforming power of smoke sauna culture. Since childhood I knew that on this Earth there is a place where all our emotions and experiences can be shared without judgement or shame. In the protective darkness of the smoke sauna everything can come out. No experience is too harsh or too embarrassing, every voice has the right to express themselves. My own deep experience with smoke sauna comes from the time I was 11. My grandfather had died, his body was in the farmhouse and I along with my granny, aunt and niece went to the smoke sauna a day before the funeral. It was there that my grandmother shared with us for the first and the last time the truth that my grandfather had cheated on her. Granny let the hurt and anger out, made peace with grandfather and the next day she could bury him in peace. It was then when I realised that a smoke sauna is not just for cleaning the body, but also the soul. I wanted to give this experience and encouragement to the audience with Smoke Sauna Sisterhood.
I hope the time in a dark cinema gives the audience an experience as if they are also part of the Smoke Sauna Sisterhood and experience this kind of safe space to be vulnerable. This need to really connect with each other goes beyond genders and cultures.”
The film premiered at Sundance 2023 and was the winner of the Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary. It had its UK premiere at Sheffield DocFest and has also played in festivals around the world including in competition at CPH:DOX, Hong Kong Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival and Seattle Film Festival.
SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD is produced by Marianne Ostrat at Alexandra Films.
Special Preview Screenings with live intro and Q&A from Anna Hints in association with Reclaim The Frame:
Tuesday 10 October Hackney Picturehouse 8pm
Wednesday 11 October Duke of York Picturehouse Brighton 6pm
Thursday 12 October HOME Manchester 6.15pm
Then released in cinemas across UK and Ireland from 13 October, 2023. Full listings will appear at Conic Films SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD will then be released on at home streaming services in early 2024.
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