Regilaul - Songs of the Ancient Sea

On the shores of the Gulf of Finland, the ancient Finno-Ugric peoples originated a singing tradition of mysterious power called the Regilaul. These songs are the roots of Estonia’s renowned singing culture. Based on the continuous repetition of eight-syllable verses, they produce a haunting sound able to connect the fleeting present with the eternal circle of life. Against the stunning setting of modern Estonia, this film explores how Regi songs still fire the imagination today, weaving together people and nature through song.

One of the most important Estonian composers, VELJO TORMIS, has died in Tallinn on January 21, 2017 at the age of 87. He leaves behind a huge corpus of innovative choral compostions based on traditional songs of what he called „The Forgotten People“ along the Baltic shores. His use of ancient runic style chanting initially inspired the making of the film „Regilaul – Songs from the Ancient Sea“ by Ulrike Koch where he let us gain some insight into his work and his thinking.

Ulrike Koch
Ulrike Koch was born in Birkenfeld/Nahe, Germany. She studied sinology, Japanology and ethnology at the University of Zurich as well as Chinese literature and philosophy at Beijing University/China. Her journalistic activities include writing articles and film reviews for various publications, e.g., Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Weltwoche, Positif (Paris), as well as project consulting and lecturing on China, Tibet and Buddhism. Before directing her own films she worked as casting director for The Last Emperor and Little Buddha, both by Bernardo Bertolucci; and as assistant director for Johanna d'Arc of Mongolia by Ulrike Ottinger and Urga by Nikita Mikhalkov. She lives and works as an independent filmmaker in Zollikon near Zurich.

2011, Regilaul – Songs of the Ancient Sea, 104 min.
2008, Confidence - The Life Journey of a Tibetan Monk in Switzerland, 65 min.
2006, Guge – Restoring for the Buddhas, 14 min.
2003, Ässhäk – Tales from the Sahara, 110 min.
1997, The Saltmen of Tibet, 108 min.
1996, Traditional Medicine in Asia: Qigong in China, 30 min.

104 min. and 53 min.


German or English or French

A Coproduction:
Doc Productions GmbH, Zürich/CH
Rühm Pluss Null OÜ, Tallinn/EE


Veljo Tormis, Lauri Õunapuu, Meelika Hainsoo, Urmas Sellis, Jaak Johanson, Jaan Kaplinski, Lea Tormis, Mikk Sarv, Urve Lippus, Jane Priks, Märt-Matis Lill, Pfarrer Harri Rein, Eva Mitreikina, Ando Kiviberg, u.a.

Written and Directed by Ulrike Koch
Cinematography Pio Corradi
Trainee Camera OperatorSebastian Weber
2nd Unit Camera Arvo Vilu, Erik Norkroos, Kullar Viimne
Original Sound Mart Kessel-Otsa
2nd Unit Sound Antti Mäss, Jevgeni Berežovski
Editing Magdolna Rokob
Assistant Editor Konstantin Gutscher
Translations Ursula Zimmermann
Composition Märt-Matis Lill
Sound Editing and Mix Florian Eidenbenz
Sound Studio Magnetix AG
Colour Grading Paul Avondet, Andromeda Film AG
Postproduction Andromeda Film AG
Artwork Jan-Eric Mack
Producer Rose-Marie Schneider
Coproducer Erik Norkroos

With the support of
Bundesamt für Kultur (EDI)
Zürcher Filmstiftung
Kulturfonds SUISSIMAGE
Elisabeth Brunner
Peter Eugster
Holdit, Ruedi A. Wassmer
Ruedi C. Bechtler
Succès Passage Antenne
STAGE POOL FOCAL und Ernst Göhner Stiftung Übersetzung mit Unterstützung der stiftung corymbo
Eesti Filmi Sihtasutus - Estonian Film Foundation, Raimo Jõerand
EV Kultuuriministeerium - Estonian Ministry of Culture, Meelis Muhu, Edith Sepp
Eesti Rahvusringhääling - Estonian Public Broadcasting, Heidi Pruuli
Eesti Kultuurkapital - Cultural Endowment of Estonia

Under the joint patronage of
Swiss Commission for UNESCO
Estonian National Commission for UNESCO

Distribution Cinema Switzerland
Columbus Film AG

Distribution DVD Switzerland
Praesens Film AG

Distribution Estonia
Rühm Pluss Null OÜ

Distribution Benelux
Contact FIlm

World Rights
Doc Productions GmbH

ISAN 0000-0002-C817-0000-3-0000-0000-S