One of the most intimate, moving documentaries I had the opportunity to see at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year was Anna Hints’ Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, which went on to not only picked up the Directing Award of World Cinema Documentary at the festival but also secured Estonia’s official selection as their Oscar entry for Best International Feature. Now set for a U.S. release on November 24 by Greenwich Entertainment, the new trailer has arrived.

Here’s the official synopsis: “Women share their innermost secrets and intimate experiences inside an Estonian smoke sauna. Cleansing their bodies and baring their souls, they embrace the healing power of sisterhood. Anna Hints’ Sundance-winning documentary celebrates the centuries-old smoke sauna tradition, recognized on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”

“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,” the director said.

She added, “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.”

See the trailer and poster below.

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood opens on November 24 and arrives digitally on January 23.

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