• Golden Globe Awards

On The Water (Estonia)

Based on the book of the same name by Olavi Ruitlane (who also serves as screenwriter), the story of On the Water revolves around the adventures and misfortunes of Andres (Rasmus Ermel), a shy teen growing up under the guidance of his caring grandmother (Maria Klenskaja) and his cynical and grumpy grandfather (Kalju Orro) because his father disappeared in Russia and his mother fled to Sweden.
Andres lives in Vörud County, in Soviet-occupied Estonia in 1982, at the end of Leonid Brezhnev´s rule. With no one of his age around him that he can talk to, and in a time when teenagers didn´t get sucked into the Internet, the only sources of information for Andres are his books and some of the “bigger kids” in his neighborhood (a former convict, an alcoholic fisherman and his best friend Kolla whom he regards as “the smartest guy considered as a loony”). He and his grandparents live by the scenic Tamula Lake and the boy´s only escape from a dull life is to go fishing, which constitutes a better world for him, the world found on the water.
On the Water is veteran Estonian film director Peeter Simm’s eleventh feature film. Simm was attached to the project for quite some time since Marju Lepp, the producer, read the book and thought of him to direct the film. “I was approached by the producer who was surprised by the warmth and sincerity in the material,” remembered the director, whose directorial debut, Ideal Landscape, a film banned in the Soviet Union for its critical view of Soviet intervention in rural Estonia, is now considered one of the best Estonian films of all times.
“When we talked about making the film, we anticipated that it would be only for the local people, and we were greatly surprised that actually other people outside Estonia cared for it as well,” said Simm in an interview with members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
For him, making his coming-of-age story was an opportunity to show the life many people live in Estonia but don´t care to talk about. “One of the main reasons I accept to make the film is because my daughters, in 1982, had pretty much the same age as Andres, but their life was different. And I like to remember that time with them,” explained Simm.
Shot in Vöru County (Southern Estonia), with a budget of $835,000, trying to revive the aftermath of the Soviet state was a trip to the past for the director, who managed to recreate the atmosphere in detail. “Luckily, in our crew, there were many people who had personal memories of that time. We found the main location where, after removing a parked car, the year 1982 was pretty much present. We had no idea that this place was only a few hundred meters from the former residence of Ruitlane, so there were all the prerequisites needed for the materialization of his memories,” said the director.