The STORIES of WOMEN: film director and scriptwriter Anu Aun

Role in public life: Mighty Woman, international and national award-winning film director and scriptwriter.

Well-known works: “Vahetus” (Shift), “Polaarpoiss” (The Polar Boy) and “Eia jõulud Tondikakul” (Eia’s Christmas at Phantom Owl Farm)

Anu Aun wearing WildMe jewellery "Wise Rebel"

The WildWoman’s WildMe collection talks about how we as women face challenges in our lives, but the DNA from our ancestresses also gives us as women a survival kit, which includes creativity, love, intuition, self-confidence, self-love, connection, and stubbornness that help us cope with everything. Anu, when looking at you and your works, one can feel the depth from which the subtle knowledge of the human soul, the love of nature, the ancient wisdom of the ancestresses, the fine feminine perception of the social environment shines through. Have you consciously cultivated it in yourself, or is it something that you were born with?

I believe that my childhood gave me a very deep connection to nature and my roots. I spent all summers and school holidays with my grandmothers and grandfathers in Pärnu, and my days were spent climbing trees with friends, jumping in the river, swimming in the sea, weeding in the grass, and picking berries. My mother’s parents used to visit their birthplaces at least once every summer with the whole family. Their roots are in Muhu and South-Estonia. One of them still had a sister living there, another had a brother and their family with whom we spent a whole week. But we went on picnics in my mother’s home place near Vändra despite the fact that not even ruins remained of the house. There was just one huge stone that had once given their farm its name and that my sister and I always climbed onto to listen to the stories of my grandmother’s childhood. It all seemed so natural as a child that I only realised when I was an adult how lucky I was that my grandparents had introduced me to my roots and helped me to stay connected to them.

I was told already as a child that I was like a little old person because I loved to listen to the stories of adults and I was never bored in their company. Growing up, I was fascinated by psychology. I have read quite a lot on this subject and tried to unravel the secrets of the human soul.

What is primal femininity, or a feminine secret weapon, for you, and how can it be preserved in the contemporary urban environment?

I think femininity is a topic that I didn’t even think about at all ten years ago. I suppose I had come by some feminine traits naturally, for example my huge love of dresses, skirts, jewellery, and long hair. But if I were to be disconcertingly honest, I would have to admit that, deep down, I wasn’t really connected to my femininity. As a director, I tried to compete with men with their own weapons in that rather male-dominated field at the time. Which, of course, did not yield any results. It wasn’t until I started to think about what I as a woman could bring to the film industry that men could not that all doors suddenly opened for me. At the moment, I feel that one of my missions is to share the stories of mighty women through my films so that they could inspire countless women around the world.

I became very interested in the topic of femininity about seven years ago when I came up with the idea to make a documentary about Kristiina Ehin. I knew straight away that “Vetelkõndija” (Walker on Water) would not be a simple portrait film of a talented poet, instead I wanted to specifically talk about being a woman through her personality and work. In my opinion, Kristiina has managed to unhack the formula of how to succeed as a truly feminine woman in today’s world. You look at her, listen to her poetry, and she’s soft like melted butter, like an unearthly fairy from another reality. But the next moment, she’s standing up for what she believes in like a lioness – that the water of Emajõgi would not be polluted by a pulp mill, that a single mother deserves the title of the mother of the year, that the government of the republic should bury the hatchets and deal with what’s actually important... And she does it all in her own feminine, witty, beautiful, and clever way. To me, that’s primal femininity and the secret weapon of femininity.

From the point of view of a bystander, an artist/creative always has to face a big paradox – on the one hand, in order to create, one needs to undress their soul and give something very personal. On the other hand, this personal is then open to public opinion and criticism. Anu, where do you find the strength for this self-confidence and self-love so as not to let public opinions and criticism grind yourself and your work into dust, in a manner of speaking?

One of my tricks is that even though I write a lot based on my life and experiences, I can rewrite all people and situations in a way that, in the end, even they won’t be able to recognise themselves.

I’m certainly not immune to criticism, but I’m very selective about whose opinions I care about. I understood a long time ago that people who create and do important things themselves don’t have the time to spit poison somewhere on the Internet. Besides, they have far too much respect for others like themselves to say a bad word about someone’s work or creations. They know all too well how much time and energy has been put into it, so they wouldn’t put someone else down. So, why should I care about the opinion of someone who is too scared to open themselves up and do something instead of wasting time on criticising others? But, of course, I do care about the opinion of people I myself respect and admire. I listen to their criticism, I take it into consideration and try to learn from it.

You’re an award-winning creative, you’re successful, you’re a mother, you’re socially active, you travel, you’re open-minded... like a Superwoman, looking from the outside! Yet, you have mentioned somewhere that 2020 was one of the most difficult years in your life... What do Superwomen do when life knocks them on the head?

2020 was, indeed, a very crazy yet very important year for me. I understood that absolutely everything that happened to me happened for a reason. All the wounds that were torn open became visible so that I would become aware of the pain points and could heal them. I thought for a long time that if you’ve had a nice family and happy childhood, didn’t have alcoholic or drug-addict parents, and you’ve never been abused or harassed, then you can’t have childhood traumas that need healing. Turns out I was wrong. After going through the holistic quartet, I can say that it is unbelievable how small the things can be that leave a wound in a child’s soul that affects their beliefs and creates self-destructive patterns of behaviour even decades later. And I saw how we subconsciously carry the traumas of our ancestors and even traumas from past lives. Becoming aware of those wounds alone will help to change these patterns. This may sound very fantastical to some people, but because I’ve seen it all with my own eyes thanks to the journey method, I trust this experience.

If life now “knocks me on the head” or I just find things difficult, I know that I can get myself to function again to my full potential if I’m able to open my heart, increase my vibration, and get the energy to flow freely in my body. I have my tried and tested methods for this, which I then use as needed. Mediation, raw cocoa, singing, and essential oils work very well for me to help me to open my heart. For example, rose, jasmine, neroli, and magnolia are my favourites. At the level body, yoga and dancing, for sure. And various massages.

My family and friends have also been a great support to me. If there’s something worrying me, I won’t keep it to myself but discuss it with them instead. Sometimes all it takes is talking to a friend to see the situation from a whole new perspective. They always give me useful advice and offer up good solutions.

Your award-winning short film “Vahetus” (Shift, 2010) talks about psychological violence in a relationship. Despite the growth of freedom and equality, the topic has not diminished, instead surfacing with increasingly startling stories. Have you researched this topic, do you have any advice or solutions in this regard?

I believe that no human being is bad by nature. If one person hurts another, it means that there is so much pain inside them that they’re unable to cope with, so they pour this unbearable feeling onto someone else. Above all, it’s a sign that they themselves need a great deal of healing. But no one can take responsibility for healing another person. Especially if the other person doesn’t even admit that they need help and isn’t ready to deal with themselves. My advice, then, for anyone is that as soon as you notice signs of danger, as soon as your partner treats your poorly, pack your bags and get out of there! I know how difficult it can be, particularly if you love the person, but unfortunately if you stay in the relationship, you’re not going to help them heal, instead they’re going to break you. If you have the courage to exit an unhealthy relationship, you will realise at some point that the relationship was a lesson in self-worth for you. And if you put yourself first and make sure that you yourself heal, you will soon attract a new partner into your life who will respect and care for you.

“Polaarpoiss” (The Polar Boy) talks about depression, the pandemic of the recent times. How do you maintain your mental health?

I haven’t had problems with mental health myself, but I have seen very closely what depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are like. I don’t know where they come from, but I’ve noticed that they often result from unresolved traumas. That’s why I think it is important that if something like this happens in life, the traumas have to be dealt with immediately. I would recommend promptly seeking help from a psychologist or therapist.

I have collapsed once due to overworking, which is why I’m very careful to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. I had this strange misconception that if you do the work that you really love and enjoy, it’s not possible to overwork. I very clearly remember the moment when the feature film “Polaarpoiss” (The Polar Boy) that I had been working on for about a year and half at full steam had just come out and I called the producer to discuss something about the film when there was a sudden crack inside me. I heard the producer talking to me on the other end of the line and I realised that I’m not understanding anything that they’re saying. It was a completely surreal moment where you hear the words but aren’t able to comprehend the meaning behind them. Like they were speaking Chinese. Like my brain suddenly wasn’t working as it should. I was actually quite scared. I then immediately called my energy massage therapist who had lifted me out of such a more difficult place a couple of times. They immediately saw me and had a very serious conversation with me. They said that they have several clients, young people, who had not listened to their body at such moments, had continued at the same pace and then simply dropped dead of a heart attack. It instantly made the picture clear to me. I then simply cancelled all my pending work and promised myself that I would rest for as long as needed. I was very uneasy about those uncomfortable conversations because how do you admit to your employer or colleagues that you’re in a place where you’re just not capable of working for even a minute longer and you don’t even know when you’ll get to a place where you’re able to continue. But it had to be done. And really, all the people were incredibly understanding and accommodating. Nothing was left undone and some things were done by other people.

In the end, I rested for half a year! But it paid off thousandfold. When I got back to work, I had so much energy, so many ideas, so much motivation and ability that I didn’t know what all I could do! I’m one hundred percent certain that if I hadn’t taken the time for myself, “Eia jõulud Tondikakul” (Eia’s Christmas at Phantom Owl Farm) would never have happened. And I also learned to very consciously plan time for recovery between work, and now I always remind myself that in order to share with others, my own cup must be full first.

What emotions does ageing cause in you?

I still feel so young that ageing doesn’t cause any emotion in me yet. When I think about that someday in the distant future I’ll tie my hair up like Old Mother Kunks, gather my grandchildren on a rug in front of my feet and read to them, it makes me feel this sort of calm peace. I believe that old age can also be very beautiful.

Do you have a wisdom of life that has helped you to pass on to other women?

For me, the most exciting and interesting journey has been the journey to myself. It’s a journey that I would recommend to anyone. To get to know, accept, respect, listen to, and trust yourself. And to trust life. If you can do that, everything else will come by itself.

Who inspires you as a woman?

There are a number of women whose work has inspired me, from Astrid Lindgren to Sofia Coppola. But when I think about women who inspire me with their whole being, they are actually my own girlfriends. I am extremely fortunate that my life is full of extraordinary women whom I sincerely admire. And that admiration therefore has a totally different quality to me because I really know these people. Because it’s one thing to admire your idea of someone or an image of them painted by the media. But it’s another thing to know someone through and through with all their strengths and weakness and to still admire them – that, to me, is true admiration!

What is your relationship with jewellery?

When I think about it now, I have always had a very special relationship with jewellery from the beginning of time. While some collect stamps or model cars, I could say that I collect jewellery. I just don’t collect them somewhere in a drawer, I collect them to wear. And only the ones that are to my taste and suit my style. Of course, the style has changed over time, too. But I’ve always been attracted to author jewellery and special editions.

I have bought a piece of jewellery from every trip I’ve ever been to. When I go somewhere new, jewellery stores and galleries are the first places I search out. I remember exactly where I’ve bought something, and each piece of jewellery is associated with special memories.

This fascination with jewellery dates back to my early childhood when I could spend endless hours exploring my grandmother’s jewellery boxes as a little girl. I still have vivid memories of jewellery that are long gone.

I got the deepest and most peculiar scar on my body from putting a metal ring from a broomstick on my finger like a ring as a 4-year-old, but because it just wouldn’t come off any way you tried, the doctor had to cut it off my finger. Curiously, I still wear all my rings on that particular finger.

I remember very clearly the feeling when a classmate gave me a red pearl necklace for my birthday in second grade. Only the pearls were made of plastic. And I never could get over it. I didn’t let it show to anyone, but deep down I felt so sad. Because I knew that I would never wear plastic pearls. I was 8 years old!!! For as long as I remember, I have believed that my jewellery needs to be genuine. I would rather have fewer of them, but the ones I have should be genuine.

At the age of 16, I went to talk to a jewellery designer whose work had caught my eye in an Old Town gallery to have them teach me. I wanted to make silver jewellery to give my girlfriends as gifts with my own hands. And they did decide to instruct me, and the jewellery turned out incredibly beautiful. And I really enjoyed the process. I think that if I weren’t a film director or a writer, I’d like to be a jewellery designer.

Do you have any talismans or power rituals that help you in difficult times?

Absolutely! I have my own power dresses, power jewellery, talismans, and rituals. And they’re by no means just for difficult times. I’d say that I try to live as if my whole life were a ritual. And me wearing power jewellery every day. I believe that you can give power to absolutely every item and every activity. It’s the intent that gives it the power.

* * *

Questions: Marika Tamm, WildWoman
Answers: Anu Aun
Photo: Karen Härms
MUAH: Laura Salla Make Up
Jewellery: WildWoman

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