“Kaunimad laulud pühendan sul”: How Baumanis Grant Contributed to the Making of Roman Toi Documentary

Nov 20, 2019

The Baumanis grant enabled the production of reenactments in Estonia based on Roman Toi’s autobiography, “Kaunimad
laulud pühendan sul” (“My most beautiful songs I dedicate to you”). We filmed scenes from Roman Toi’s early life from his autobiography in Tallinn and in the neighboring farming community. Early in the development of this music biography I adapted a monologue from the autobiography for ACTRA performer A.C. Peterson to perform in both English and Estonian. We recorded the monologue in English and it forms the skeletal structure of this film.

The documentary uses many archival materials, such as photography, music recordings, news footage and public domain materials to make a compelling biography. The film features Roman Toi’s own compositions, his conducting of songs, his musical influences from teachers and mentors and new works of composers under Toi’s influence in the Toronto community. Reenactments with actors bring alive scenes from Roman Toi’s autobiography and make this film a compelling documentary.

Kalli Paakspuu, Recipient of 2018 Baumanis Award

The Baumanis grant with other funders enabled five days of production in Estonia to film the reenactments and two days of filming documentary interviews with conductors Neeme Järvi, Hirvo Surva and composers Rene Eespere and Riho Esko Maimets. There is now a closer connection to the book by the title change to “Maestro Roman Toi Beautiful Songs
Dedicated to You”. The original title needed to be changes as our earlier five minute film “Awakening – as told by Roman Toi”, intended to be the sizzler of the longer documentary, has had a successful festival life and was awarded a Gold Remi at WorldFest Houston International Film Festival.

The Baumanis grant was used for production in Estonia in July 2018. Estonian actors played a young Roman Toi and Roman Toi as the 26 year old broadcaster and various contemporaries at ERR (Estonian Public Broadcasting). Scenes were carefully chosen for dramatic storytelling potential in a three act structure that allowed the archival materials to tell the contextual history. As Roman Toi was in a Displaced Person’s camp in the American zone, some archival film used in our current 54 minute rough cut comes from American public domain materials. The current rough cut of the film is the first 2/3 of the documentary and has evolved over a full year of editing as we have collected and are still collecting archival materials from various international
private and public sources. I have just digitized several reels of 8mm footage of Roman Toi’s business partner’s personal archive (from Tobias, a manufacturer of fabric products) which will soon be cut into the third act of the North American story. I have also shot three days of interviews in Toronto with Roman Toi’s former students, singers, Andres Kasekamp, 18 year old
composer Erik Kreem and the daughter of his former Tobias partner. Two more days of reenactments for the North American story are to be shot in February 2020, and I am continuing to work closely with Roman Toi’s son Ants Toi on the completion of the film which likely will be in June 2020.

Thank you again for your support of this project in 2018. Baumanis support enabled this project to reach the highest goals.

Kalli Paakspuu

Recipient of 2018 Baumanis Award