Photo journey: Ülo Pikkov’s “Sewing Machine”, recorded with a 16mm camera, tells the story of Pechory through the fate of his great-grandmother

27. Jul 2023 | Photo journey

Author: Ülo Pikkov / Photos: Hanna Bender

The text is written by the film director Ülo Pikkov.

Sewing Machine is a film about the town of Pechory (Petseri) and its people, told through the life story of my great-grandmother. She was born in 1899 in Pechory, and in 1917, the revolution threw her world into a complete upheaval. My great-grandmother’s father, who was the deputy mayor of Pechory, was killed by the Bolsheviks because he refused to give the keys to the town monastery to the revolutionaries.

A few months later, the armoured trains of the Estonian War of Independence reached Pechory, and the town was liberated. One of the soldiers of the armoured train, a Danish volunteer, had a film camera with him, and he recorded the oldest film footage of Pechory, and somewhere on that film is also my great-grandmother. 

The film will be recorded with a 16 mm hand-held camera, imitating a similar filming style carried by a Danish volunteer’s footage of Pechory filmed a hundred years ago. The result of filming with an old-fashioned film camera is sometimes jumpy and enriched with unexpected colour spots and other “effects” created during film exposure, but the light on the film strip is magical!

How to film longing? Do we need anything else besides magical light? Maybe magical darkness? There is a lot of discussion in the film community about whether there is any difference between filming digitally or analogue. And opinions still differ, but for some reason, if you film the darkness digitally, the result is only black pixels, but if you capture the darkness on film, the result is the eternity of a tunnel.

Ülo Pikkov (1976) is an internationally renowned filmmaker, producer and film scholar. Pikkov studied animation at the Turku Arts Academy in Finland and, since 1996 has directed several award-winning animation films (“Empty Space”, “Tik-Tak”, “Body Memory”, “The End”, “Dialogos”). He has published articles on film and written fiction books for children and adults. In 2005 he graduated from the Institute of Law in the University of Tartu, focusing on the media and author’s rights. Pikkov is the author of “Animasophy, Theoretical Writings on the Animated Film” (2011). For 10 years, Pikkov was the associate professor of the Animation Department at the Estonian Academy of Arts supporting new talents in the Estonian animation scene.