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Baltic Film Series: "The Fencer" (2015)
6:45-6:50pm: Opening words by Richard Allan Horning, Estonian Honorary Consul in San Francisco
6:50-7:00pm: Introduction by Uve Poom
7:00-8:30pm: Screening of the film
Klaus Härö's The Fencer is a touching drama about a man who finds meaning in his life through children who need him. The film was the Finnish entry for the Academy Awards 2016 (Best foreign language film).
Fleeing from Stalin’s secret police, an ambitious young fencer finds himself teaching small town children in a godforsaken Estonian coastal village, only to realize that this is exactly what he wants to do in life.
A young man, Endel Nelis, arrives in Haapsalu, Estonia, in the early 1950s. Having left Leningrad to escape the secret police, he finds work as a teacher and founds a sports club for his students. Endel becomes a father figure to his students and starts teaching them his great passion – fencing, which causes a conflict with the school’s principal. Envious, the principal starts investigating Endel’s background...
Endel learns to love the children and looks after them; most are orphans as a result of the Russian occupation. Fencing becomes a form of self-expression for the children and Endel becomes a role model. The children want to participate in a national fencing tournament in Leningrad, and Endel must make a choice: risk everything to take the children to Leningrad or put his safety first and disappoint them.
Uve Poom is the former CEO of the Unitas Foundation, an Estonian educational charity aimed at raising awareness of history and human rights in the 20th century. He is currently a Masters candidate at Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at Stanford University.