Estonia, France, Iceland


In the darkness of smoke sauna, women share their innermost secrets and intimate experiences. Through a sense of communion, women wash off the shame trapped in their bodies and regain their strength.

Director's Statement

In SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD, I embarked on a transformative journey to uncover the raw and vulnerable stories that lie within the sacred space of the smoke sauna, where women share their experiences without judgement or shame. The film is an exploration of aesthetics, form, and technical approach that seeks to capture the essence of this ancient tradition, while fostering a sense of feminine solidarity and empowerment.

Aesthetically, I aimed to convey the intimacy and authenticity of the smoke sauna experience. The decision to focus the camera on the women's bodies rather than their faces was intentional, allowing the viewers to connect with the shared humanity and vulnerability, transcending the barriers of individual identities. This choice echoes the dark, safe, and transformative nature of the smoke sauna itself, where bodies become memory landscapes, and collective experiences are embraced.

The form and creative process of SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD were driven by intuition and trust. I approached filmmaking as an intuitive process, allowing stories to emerge organically during the smoke sauna sessions, without pre-scripted narratives. This approach allowed for genuine and unfiltered emotions to surface, creating a collective narrative of what it means to be born into a female body, transcending cultural boundaries and resonating with universal experiences.

Collaboration played a crucial role in the artistic vision of the film. Working closely with the women featured in the film, I fostered a space of trust, respect, and vulnerability. Each participant had autonomy over their stories, ensuring that the film was a true reflection of their experiences. The smoke sauna became a confessional, where no experience was too harsh or painful to be shared, and where the power of listening and witnessing became a transformative force.

Technically, filming inside a real heated smoke sauna was a challenging endeavor, but one that was crucial to capturing the genuine atmosphere. The decision to endure the physical hardships allowed us to delve deep into the transformative power of the smoke sauna. It was important to me that the camera work remained intimate and genuine, devoid of the male gaze, reflecting the true essence of the experience.

As a filmmaker, my curatorial vision was centered around creating a safe and inclusive space for women to share their stories. In doing so, I wanted to challenge the traditional norms of society, where topics like sexual assault and terminal illness are often silenced or relegated to the shadows. By shedding light on these issues, I sought to break down barriers and encourage open conversations.

The impact of SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD on the communities represented in the film has been profound. Viewers have connected emotionally with the stories, finding solidarity and empowerment in the shared experiences of these brave women. The film has become a catalyst for dialogue and healing, encouraging a broader conversation about the need for safe spaces and compassion in society.

Inspired by my roots in the South-East Estonian culture of Võromaa and Setomaa, and the profound teachings of my Võro granny, SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD is a tribute to the transformative power of the smoke sauna tradition. It is an ode to the sacred space where women have given birth, washed the dead, and healed for generations. Through this film, I hope to encourage a collective journey towards vulnerability and self-acceptance, where all voices are heard and valued, and where healing and empowerment flourish within the embrace of sisterhood.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Anna Hints

Written by: Anna Hints

Main Producer: Marianne Ostrat, Juliette Cazanave, Hlín Jóhannesdóttir

Cinematography: Ants Tammik

Editing: Hendrik Mägar, Tushar Prakash, Martin Männik, Qutaiba Barhamji , Anna Hints

Original Score: Edvard Egilsson, EETER

Sound Design: Huldar Freyr Arnarson

Nominations and Awards

  • European Documentary 2023
  • LUX Audience Award 2024
  • Documentary Selection 2023