Smoke Sauna Sisterhood – Hot Docs 2023

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood Hot Docs 2023
Estonian filmmaker Anna Hints artfully shoots women baring their souls in a traditional smoke sauna.

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood – Hot Docs 2023

Runtime: 01:29
In the darkness of a smoke sauna, women share their innermost secrets and intimate experiences, washing off the shame trapped in their bodies and regaining their strength through a sense of communion.

A group of women bare their souls in an Estonian smoke sauna in Smoke Sauna Sisterhood. In Southern Estonia, a group of women gather in a traditional smoke sauna to cleanse themselves. Each of the women tells their own personal stories, with subjects ranging from having breast cancer, coming out as lesbian, and being a survivor of rape.


Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is the debut feature documentary by Estonian filmmaker Anna Hints. Having a background in photography, Hints artfully shot the women in this smoke sauna over the course of a five-year period, which includes rituals such as rubbing salt to protect them from evil and using water to take the pain away. In between the very personal stories the women tell, there is a very ethereal ghost-like narrator talking about the importance of the smoke sauna.

My Thoughts on Smoke Sauna Sisterhood

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is an incredibly intimate portrait of the “savvusanna kombõ” smoke sauna tradition in the Vana-Võromaa region of southern Estonia, which is listed in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Anna Hints makes heavy use of shadows and close-ups in her cinematography to avoid sexualizing the naked bodies of the women baring their souls over the course of the film. While some of the stories, particularly the last one, deal with some heavy subject matter, Smoke Sauna Sisterhood ends up being a very artfully shot debut for Anna Hints.

Trailer for Smoke Sauna Sisterhood – Hot Docs 2023

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.