A montage of women of various ages, speaking different languages, and sharing their unique stories—this is the first glimpse audiences are shown of Estonia’s national women’s hockey team in the first promotional video for a new documentary film being produced by Vita Pictura.
“On Silver Heels” will be a feature length film sharing the story of the rebuilding of Estonia’s women’s national team and their return to the IIHF Women’s World Championship program, which the country last competed in in 2008.
Vita Pictura CEO Georgius Misjura first got the idea for the film after coming across an article on how Estonia’s women’s team was preparing for the 2022 Division III tournament. A de vout hockey fan himself, Misjura called producer Karolina Lahti up immediately to ask if she would be interested in producing a documentary on the team.
“The director of the film [Aleksey Siman] happened to be in the office as well and working on something, and [Misjura] got both of us involved on that Friday morning,” Lahti said of the call she got from Misjura on July 31. “By the end of the day we already were like, yeah, this is going to be a film. This is definitely going to happen.”
The subject matter holds personal significance for Lahti, who believes that her background working on gender equality and sex education programs in Ghana will serve her well as she now examines gender equality in sports through film.
“For me personally, I feel like the gender equality question is the main drive or the main purpose of this project, and seeing that there are not so many documentaries produced about the topic makes me think more that it definitely has to be done.”
Being from Finland, Lahti also feels like she has an innate understanding of hockey’s culture that will be be valuable, especially as hockey is still very much a niche sport in Estonia.
As they follow the team’s journey to the World Championships, one theme Lahti and Vita Pictura will be focusing on is the array of languages—Estonian, Russian, Latvian, Finnish, English and German—spoken by the players and coaches and how this impacts their ability to communicate.
Not everyone on the team speaks Estonian. There are a number of players from Estonia’s Russian-speaking community as well as several who are originally from Estonia, but grew up in Finland. Adding to the mix is the fact that the coaches are not Estonian—head coach Inguna Lukašēviča is from Latvia and assistant coach Ahto Kärnä is from Finland.
As Lukašēviča says to the team in the promotional video, “You may be speaking Finnish, English or German, but most important is that all these languages come to one—the ice hockey language.”
Currently Lahti is focused on exploring different storylines and determining which players will become the film’s “main characters,” a process which she says has given her an opportunity to get an intriguing glimpse into the lives of the women on the team.
“My first impression is that I want to know more. I want to know so much more about their personal characters and their lives and what they do. What’s the driving force, why are they [playing hockey] in Estonia—because the culture itself doesn’t support you at all to go into hockey.”
“Why these girls have been really into hockey, I still don’t have an answer for that, but at the same time I feel like the girls that I’ve been talking to, they seem so interesting.”
In addition to sparking discussion around women’s sports and addressing gender inequality, a main goal of “On Silver Heels” is to help raise money to allow the self-funded team to properly train and prepare for the World Championships.
The film’s crowdfunding campaign, which runs until January 25, 2021, has two fundraising targets. The first is to raise 18,000 Euros (9,000 for film production and 9,000 for the national team) and the second is to raise an additional 8,000 Euros (4,000 for editing and post-production and 4,000 for the national team).
Filming will officially begin once pre-production wraps up at the end of February and will run through to the end of the 2022 Women’s World Championships, with the film slated to debut in winter of 2022.
For the team at Vita Pictura and Estonia’s female hockey players, this is a story that they cannot wait to share with Estonia and the rest of the international sports world.
“[A female hockey player] can be very strong on ice, and be a loving mother at home,” Lukašēviča says in the promotional video. “That’s beautiful, and that needs to be shown.”