Retro Estonian commercials in Borat movie

November 13, 2006

I haven’t seen the Borat movie yet. I’ve seen the clips and have mixed feelings, but don’t think I’d add anything unique to the discussion. But there’s one cool thing about the movie.

Some of the visuals in the end credits actually come from really old Estonian TV commercials. By “old”, I mean end of 80-s and early 90-s. The originals are available here for watching and download (the later ones are from the more recent period and thus not so iconic, but the earlier ones are the true gems). It doesn’t matter that you don’t understand the language [UPDATE June 2009: many of the YouTube clips are now subtitled], I recommend to watch them for the audiovisual language used and for a fascinating look into what products were used and promoted at the time and what the life was generally like. For example, there was a constant shortage of fruits due to the fucked up Soviet economic system, so the fact that oranges were available on sale at a particular store warranted a whole ad campaign. (Most Estonians and indeed most Soviet people had never eaten a banana before the end of 80s.)

My favourite is the one promoting minced poultry meat. It’s just so surreal. And this ice cream one is legendary for reasons you’ll understand when you watch. (Amazingly, it still made it to the screen through the draconian censorship system that was always a backdrop. But it was mostly focused on making sure there were no “nationalist” or anti-communist references, and got much more relaxed towards the end of 80s.)

I actually remember watching some of these myself on TV when I was a kid some 20 years ago. Oh times they change, but I think these clips are a pretty cool cultural landmark from that era.

UPDATE: the Windows Media versions on may not be so accessible to everyone. See the ads on YouTube now. For example, how about this one where the music is a shameless ripoff from Jesus Christ Superstar musical :) [update 2013: apparently this ad is removed from YouTube public viewing. Buy the DVD to see it.]