First Colour Footage of Estonia Found in Canada

December 2, 2010

Two historically significant films, believed to be the first ever colour footage shot in Estonia in 1939, have been discovered in Canada by documentary filmmaker Marcus Kolga.

The films were found as part of a 2 year project to research, identify and catalogue films of historical significance to the Estonian community in Canada and Estonia in general. The project was funded by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research (Compatriot Program) and in a working partnership with Toronto based, Realworld Pictures, The Library and Archives Canada, The Tartu College in Toronto and The Estonian Film Archives.

The colour films were found by Kolga in the Andre family archive in Toronto and in the Tartu Institute´s Dr Endel Aruja Archives and Library (Tartu College). The films were housed in unmarked cans with no indication of the historical treasure they held inside: “I had heard that there might be some historically important footage in Toronto and discussed this with former project manager of the Estonian National Museum, Piret Noorhani, who suggested that we start a project to research Estonian community footage in Canada,” explains Kolga. ”Thanks to her, the Ministry of Education and Research in Estonia and Andris Ķesteris at The Library and Archives Canada, we’ve now uncovered what we believe is quite likely the only existing copy of the first colour footage shot in independent Estonia, just a few months before the Soviet occupation.”

The first reel contains colour images of general life in Estonia in 1939 and of the Second All Estonian Games in Tallinn. A second reel seems to be shot by an amateur cinematographer and contains detailed colour images of everyday life in Estonia’s capital city. The films were viewed at the Library and Archives Canada and will now be digitized in Washington D.C. by Kolga’s Realworld Pictures and then restored by the Estonian National Film Archives in Tallinn.

Other footage discovered, contains colour images of the Estonian diaspora in Canada and their activities during the 1950s-1970s. Current Chief Archivist of the Estonian Studies Centre (Tartu College), Piret Noorhani, explains that the “project has helped research and document footage of significance to both the Estonian community in Canada and Estonia itself. Such archival material will constitute the most valuable fonds at the planned Museum of Estonians Abroad (VEMU) in Toronto.”

Andris Ķesteris, a senior archivist at the Library and Archives Canada (LAC), who has been actively working with the project for LAC, said that “such projects are of historical importance to Canada, as they research and uncover the visual record about the growth of our country over the past 60 years as well as the significant contributions of our diverse immigrant and ethnic communities.”

An evolving database containing information and clips of the researched footage can be found at

For more information contact:
Piret Noorhani
Estonian Studies Centre, Tartu College
T. +1 416 925 9405

Marcus Kolga
Realworld Pictures
T. +1 416 833 5553