“We sweat out all this pain! We sweat out all that fear!”
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is the International Feature submission for Estonia. The latest documentary from Anna Hints is a film focused on a small group of women who disclose their secrets and fears to one another inside a smoke sauna. This safe space is sacred and it’s a place where these women are open to all conversations and feelings.
These nameless subjects bond over topics such as family expectations, sexuality, maternal labour, dating, trauma and sexual abuse. The sauna is a space of community for these women. And in this safe place, they share their pain, hopes and regrets, and their ability for healing. Through water and smoke, the sauna activates tenderness and catharsis between these women, creating a sense of care from one woman to another. The sauna cleanses them. It exalts them both inside and out.
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is an ode to the female body and a celebration of stories between women. The film is framed in a way that every body part is shown: arms, legs, stomach folds, breasts, and body shapes from every size, and they’re photographed with affection. The film feels so liberating and safe. It doesn’t objectify. The camera allows privacy when it’s warranted. And it’s incredible how joyous this film can feel despite feeling so mournful at the same time.
The film is centred around an Estonian tradition, a smoke sauna, where women are allowed to be themselves, to be vulnerable, not only in front of others but also in front of themselves. This safe haven allows these women to share their emotions that they’ve kept buried inside. Through their sweat, blood and tears the hours spent inside the sauna has created a life long bond between these small group of women.
Then I started the journey to accept myself. And with that sisterhood is forever.