Cinema in Estonia (total population 1.3 million) started in 1896 when the first "moving pictures" were screened in Tallinn. The first movie theater was opened in 1908. First local documentary was made in 1908 with the production of a newsreel about Swedish King Gustav V s visit to Tallinn. The first Estonian documentary was created by Johannes P suke in 1912 that was followed by a short film Karujaht P rnumaal (Bear Hunt in P rnumaa) in 1914.
The first movie studio in Estonia, Estonia Film Tartus (The Tartu Studio of Estonia Film), was established by Johannes P suke (1892 1918). P suke produced documentaries, short films and pictures of Estonian nature for the Estonian National Museum. Karujaht P rnumaal (Bear-Hunt in P rnu County, 1914) was the first fictional short film made in Estonia. In total, eight films made by J. P suke have survived and are stored at the Estonian Film Archives.
Konstantin M rska at the Estonian Culture Film in 1936 The first full-length feature film was made in 1924 Shadow of the Past directed by Konstantin M rska and produced by his Konstantin M rska Filmiproduktsioon (Konstantin M rska Film Production). Two feature films by M rska have survived: Vigased pruudid (1929) and J ri Rumm (1929). Theodor Lutsu Filmiproduktsioon (the Film Production of Theodor Luts Studio) was established by Theodor Luts who produced documentaries and feature films. His Noored kotkad (Young Eagles) (1927) is generally regarded as the cornerstone of Estonian cinema  Smaller film production studios in Estonia included Siirius Film and K.Kalamees Tartu.
The major film production company after the Great Depression hit Estonia during 1930s was state subsidized the Estonian Culture Film () that produced mostly documentaries.
In late 1930s, Academy Award nominated Miliza Korjus best known for a role in The Great Waltz (1938), daughter of an Estonian lieutenant colonel in the Imperial Russian Army and later Chief of Staff to the War Minister of Estonia, had a successful career in Hollywood film industry
The first Estonian animated short film Kutsu-Juku seiklusi was made in 1931.
During the first year of Soviet Occupation (1940 1941) Eesti Kultuurfilm was taken over by the Communist Party and renamed Kinokroonika Eesti Stuudio (the Estonian Newsreel Studio). During the first decades of Soviet rule as Estonia became a part of USSR in 1944 after the end of World War II, filmmakers in Estonia were mostly coming from inner Soviet Union whose job was to create propaganda films that depicted the victory of socialism in a form of newsreels and documentaries.
Former Eesti Kultuurfilm was called Kinokroonika Tallinna Stuudio (The Tallinn Newsreel Studio) in 1942 during the German occupation in World War II and Tallinna Kinostuudio (The Tallinn Film Studio) in 1947 again by the Soviets.
During the era two feature films on Soviet themes were produced in Estonia directed by Gerbert Rappaport, an Austrian migr in Soviet Union  : Elu tsitadellis (Life in the Citadel) in 1947, Valgus Koordis (Light in Koordi) in 1951 that was the first color motion picture film made in Estonia.
After the death of Stalin in 1953 a more liberal period in Soviet Union's cultural policies followed. Filmmakers started to enjoy greater artistic control at the same time the Soviet State Committee for Cinematography (Goskino) in Moscow provided the money, state censorship body Glavlit and CPSU Department of Culture had the control over releasing the movies.
The Tallinn Film Studio was renamed Kunstiliste ja Kroonikafilmide Tallinna Kinostuudio (Tallinn Feature- and Newsreel Film Studio) in 1954 and in 1963 was renamed again Tallinnfilm 
Some of the first films produced during the era that were co directed by an Estonian Kaljo Kiisk were Juunikuu p evad (1957) and Vallatud kurvid also known as Opasniye Povoroty, the first dramatic film shot in Kinopanorama (1959).
In the 1960s a story of Prince Gabriel by Estonian writer Eduard Bornh he was turned into a movie script by Arvo Valton. Grigori Kromanov was named to be the director of Viimne reliikvia (The Last Relic) , released in 1969 by Tallinnfilm. The movie set the absolute box office record for the entire Soviet Union at the time by selling 44,9 million tickets. It was successfully distributed by the Soviet film export internationally in more than 60 countries. The film also influenced Estonian literature: 2 short stories listed for the Friedebert Tuglas award in 1970-75 included references to the Last Relic.
Another milestone in Estonian Cinema released in 1969 was Arvo Kruusement's Kevade (Spring) based on Oskar Luts popular novel.
Successful films in the 1980s were "Hukkunud Alpinisti" hotell (Dead Mountaineer's Hotel) by Kromanov and movies made by Kaljo Kiisk such as Nipernaadi (1983).
The most prominent female director Leida Laius who emerged during the era is best known for her K rboja peremees (1979) and Naerata ometi (1985) receiving at the Berlin International Film Festival UNICEF Award in 1985. Peeter Simm's best known Soviet era film is Ideaalmaastik (The Ideal Landscape) released in 1980. Peeter Urbla's Ma pole turist, ma elan siin (I'm Not a Tourist, I'm Living Here) (1988). Jaan Kolgerg emerged by the end of Soviet era with films See kadunud tee (1990) (The Lost Way) and V lausaldajad (Creditors) (1992)
Among the leading Estonian film actors during the Soviet era were Rein Aren with about 30 roles, J ri J rvet and Leonhard Merzin.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union Estonia regained its independence, the cost of filmmaking skyrocketed and the 1990s showed decline in filmmaking that reached its bottom in 1996, the year when no fictional films and only 2 documentaries Lipule... g sile... valvel! and Turvalisuse illusioon were made in Estonia.
In 1997, the Estonian Film Foundation was founded by the Estonian Ministry of Culture. Production of Minu Leninid (All My Lenins) (1997) a parody of Soviet Revolution by Hardi Volmer marked a turnaround for Estonian feature films. In 1998, there were two feature films produced. Georgica directed by Sulev Keedus won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Stockholm Film Festival in 1998 and the Prix Europa Special at Prix Europa in 1999.
Since then, the trend has also been towards joint film productions such as Peeter Simm's Head k ed (Good Hands) (2001) a joint Estonian-Latvian coproduction that in 20025 won the Manfred Salzgeber Award at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Golden Olive Tree Lecce Festival of European Cinema in Italy. K rini (Fed Up) (2005) an Estonian-German coproduction. Arvo Iho' s Karu s da (Hart of the Bear) (2001) nominated for Golden St. George at the Moscow International Film Festival and for the European Film Award at European Film Awards, was a coproduction between Estonia, Germany, Russia and the Czech Republic.
The most commercially successful Estonian film in 2002 was Nimed marmortahvlil (2002) (Names in Marble) by Elmo N ganen and in 2003 a comedy by Rando Pettai Vanad ja kobedad saavad jalad alla (Made in Estonia) that in Estonia topped the international blockbuster The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers with its box office results.
In 2004, two young directors emerged Jaak Kilmi and Ren Reinum gi with their Sigade revolutsioon (Revolution of Pigs) that won the Special Jury Prize and was nominated for Golden St. George at the Moscow International Film Festival, and for Grand Prix Asturias at the Gij n International Film Festival.
In 2007, about 10 feature films were made in Estonia. Most notable perhaps S gisball (2007) by Veiko unpuu receiving among other awards Best Director at the Thessaloniki Film Festival, International Film Festival Bratislava and Venice Horizons Award at the 64th Venice International Film Festival. Georg (2007) by Peeter Simm is a movie about the life of legendary Estonian singer Georg Ots.
Most recent awarded film is Veiko unpuu's The Temptation of St. Tony (2009). In 2011, Estonia made eight full-length films, which included one animated film.
The Estonian feature films Top Ten Poll in 2002 by Estonian film critics and journalists
Kevade (1969) directed by Arvo Kruusement
Hullumeelsus (1968) directed by Kaljo Kiisk
Ideaalmaastik (1980) directed by Peeter Simm
Viimne reliikvia (1969) directed by Grigori Kromanov
Georgica (1998) directed by Sulev Keedus
Nipernaadi (1993) directed by Kaljo Kiisk
"Hukkunud Alpinisti" hotell (1979) directed by Grigori Kromanov
Naerata ometi (1985) directed by Leida Laius, Arvo Iho
P rgup hja uus Vanapagan (1964) directed by Grigori Kromanov, J ri M r
Tuulte pesa (1979) directed by Olav Neuland
Estonian animation tradition dates back to the 1930s when the first experimental films were made. The only surviving short film from the era is Kutsu-Juku seiklusi (Adventures of Juku the dog) (1931). After the Great Depression, WW II and Soviet Occupation interrupted the development, Estonian animation was reborn in 1958. Elbert Tuganov founded a puppet film division Nukufilm in Tallinnfilm Studio. The first film was titled Peetrikese unen gu based on a Danish writer Jens Sigsgaard's children story Palle alene i verden. Joonisfilm a traditional cell animation division of Tallinnfilm was founded by Rein Raamat in 1971. Films like P ld(1978) nominee for Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival in 1979; Lend (1973) the winner of Special Jury Award at the Zagreb World Festival of Animated Films; the Suur T ll (1980) 2nd place at Ottawa International Animation Festival in 1982 and P rgu (Hell) (1983) the winner of FIPRESCI Prize and Special Jury Award at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival made Raamat the first internationally recognized Estonian animation director.
Since Estonia regained independence in 1991 Nukufilm and Joonisfilm continued to operate as private companies owned by the filmmakers. During the era internationally most successful Estonian animation director has been Priit P rn the winner of Grand Prize at the Ottawa International Animation Festival in 1998 for Porgandite (Night of the Carrots). Crocodile by Kaspar Jancis was selected to be the Best European Anima film at Cartoon d'or 2010.
- Cinema of the world
- List of Estonian submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
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