Sweating Out The Toxins: Our Review of ‘Smoke Sauna Sisterhood’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - January 26, 2024
Sweating Out The Toxins: Our Review of ‘Smoke Sauna Sisterhood’

We all need that safe space…

In theatres now, the new documentary Smoke Sauna Sisterhood revels in and celebrates the need to be able to talk about problems en masse as it allows us to realize how similar so many people’s stories are to our own.

Women share their innermost secrets and intimate experiences inside an Estonian smoke sauna. Cleansing their bodies and baring their souls, they embrace the healing power of sisterhood.

The smoke sauna tradition of Vana-Voromaa in south east Estonia is part of the UNESCO list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity and as a man, watching Smoke Sauna Sisterhood made me a little jealous that this doesn’t exist for more people and even men all across the globe.  It’s an intimate look at the raw safe space that is occasionally needed for us as human beings to unburden our souls and bear our true spirits.

Writer/Director Anna Hints does something truly amazing here in her verite fly on the wall style allowing for her subjects the maximum comfort level to share these stories.  Hints herself puts herself (and her camera) in this sweatbox as the artifice of the outside world strips away in the strength of seeing these women share and relate in their stories of hardship and abuse.

Through the nude and sweaty images of these women cleaning themselves and talking to each other as human beings we aren’t getting something that invites a male gaze.  It rather empowers a female gaze while allowing us as male viewers to understand what that prototypical “male gaze” actually is, and more importantly to understand how harmful it can actually be.

This is ultimately one of the most beautiful and arguably one of the most honest pieces of cinema in recent memory.  In its sweaty, natural and occasionally uncomfortable glory, Smoke Sauna Sisterhood not only celebrates its subjects and the pure human bravery that is on display with these women sharing their individual stories during this experience, but it holds the camera up to the viewer to ask some very important questions.

It’s rare for a documentary to be a call to the human spirit, to empower us all to be better and to draw strength not only from our successes but also our shared pains.  Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is a mental health message to not only women across all cultural lines, but men as well.  There’s ways to for us all to take better care of ourselves, and we need to start sweating out some of the toxicity that brings us all down.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
Comments are closed.
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-61364310-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');