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Karlovy Vary Q&A: Toomas Hussar, Mushrooming

Estonian film Mushrooming is an intriguing mixture of satire and drama as a politician, in the midst of being accused of expense fraud, finds himself lost in the woods.

Director Toomas Hussar spoke to Screen about the film, which screens in the East of the West competition.

Given its vein of satire, were there any particular incidents that inspired the origins of the film and its story?

Many different impulses from life have inspired this film. It doesn’t have a specific antecedent. In other words, I’ve written a story with weird aspects of the struggle for existence. I point out two key words as a hint: “charisma” and “vox populi”.

Linked in with the above, what do you think your film says about contemporary Estonian society?

I haven’t consciously emphasised anything particularly characteristic of contemporary Estonian society. My main interest is the relative importance of reason in social behaviour in a more general sense. But that inevitably manifests itself through the local context since I can’t ignore my background.

You play around with genre in the film: there’s satire, hints of horror and some comedy. Was it difficult trying to strike the right balance?

I try not to think about that as a writer and as a director. That would make me start feeling handcuffed because it is quite a complicated question. I have no particular aim to frighten anybody or to make anyone laugh or cry. I dare to claim that contemporary dramaturgy can no longer be taken as corresponding one-to-one to Aristotle’s criterion even though we can notice the attributes he classified in contemporary works. I believe that a similar evolutionary development is taking place in the art of film as is happening in science, where more and more interdisciplinary fields are emerging.

How do you think the film fits in with current trends in Estonian cinema?

I think it fits in well because the topic of trends in Estonian film is a very confusing one. Some sort of changes are constantly expected, new approaches and so on. This expectation can cause some filmmakers to panic. I personally adhere to the simple principle – bake what tastes good to you.

What does it mean to you to be premiering at Karlovy Vary?

The world premiere of my first feature film at Karlovy Vary means a great deal to me. It’s a very respected festival. It increases my self-confidence to continue.

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