Esto TV

At first, Esto TV was the title of a series of social satirical documentaries, which were shown on Estonian state TV in 2000. Satirical and provocative entertainment does not have a big space in the Estonian media, so Esto TV created great commotion in the public debate. In Esto TV, public space is transformed into a carnivalistic arena, where everything is turned upside down and no taboo is too holy to be broken. Politicians become clowns and porn-stars are turned into figures of authority.

Since then, Esto TV has developed into being the name of a small group of people who are responsible for a series of anarchist documentaries and provocative actions. In 2003 Esto TV infiltrated a pro-war demonstration in front of the American embassy in Tallinn. Dressed in harlequin-costumes they carried a banner with the words: ‘We want World War III!’ – while the two actors associated with Esto TV, Ken and Tolk, dressed respectively as a priest and cowboy, shouted into a megaphone: “George Bush is our God and Siim Kallas (then Prime Minister of Estonia) is his prophet!” Esto TV succeeded in turning the demonstration into a farce – to the great annoyance of the real demonstrators.

Esto TV mime investigative journalism, but they always go one step beyond it. They turn the statements and attitudes of politicians against themselves. For example, in reaction to a political proposal to make the amount of maternity allowance dependent on income, Esto TV invited the politicians who supported the idea to meet in a kindergarten. There Esto TV tells the children that all poor people in Estonia have to be sterilised, in order to eliminate poverty. This surreal scene comes from the film Choose Order from 2004, which is an investigation of the new, nationalist tendencies in Estonian politics under the right-wing government led by the party Res Publica, whose slogan is ‘Choose Order’.

Paradoxically Esto TV has not had problems making the politicians participate in their documentaries. They have profited much from the one-sided Estonian media situation. And Esto TV has no mercy for the politicians, as they see them as public persons, who get paid for talking with people. If a politician asks them to turn off the camera, they do not obey, but instead they let the statement stand as an image of the situation and the person. In Choose Order, one can even see the Prime Minister run away from Esto TV. But as Esto TV says: “Politics is ugly people’s show business.”

By Pernille Albrethsen, translated by Eva May


Stills from the film “Choose Order” (2003)
Director: Andres Maimik