Anna Hints’ Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is a quietly engrossing documentary that tells the stories of several women in the darkness of an isolated sauna.
A certainty that comes with life is that we hide things from those around us. Whether big or small, secrets find themselves nested under our skin. We fear when they will come out and yet, when they do, the world moves on. That’s why there’s beauty in sharing what’s inside us. We may believe we’re alone in our experience but there’s always another soul to rest upon when the grips of trauma and anxiety release their hold. Anna Hints’ Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is a story of femininity, the stories we hold within ourselves, and how both come together to make an empowered yet vulnerable experience through the intimate perspectives of several women.
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood follows a group of women who come together in a dark smoky sauna to speak of their inner secrets and experiences. In this series of extended sessions, we see the unleashing of insecurities, stories of sexual exploration, and experiences within the life of a woman as this group comes together in the name of feminine solidarity and hope.
Much of Smoke Sauna Sisterhood relies on conversation. As this group of women share their stories in life, we’re gifted with an intimacy the likes of which we rarely get on film. With stories of sexual experiences, the anxieties that come with puberty, and the struggles of abortion, we gain incredible amounts of knowledge of these people as their life stories all come together. By the time we reach the end of Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, we know these women better than we really know ourselves.
As the women of Smoke Sauna Sisterhood speak of their life experiences, we become a fly on the wall as the grasp of their internal trauma and anxiety are released into the world. Anna Hints directs the film with a gentle touch and often lets the camera breathe in order to let the woman at the heart of the film speak their truth. We see brief flashes of their life and activities outside the sauna but it’s the sauna itself where we truly learn about them as human beings.
As Smoke Sauna Sisterhood continues, it’s utterly breathtaking just how much we learn from these souls exchanging stories. Some are light-hearted and others are tragic and horrifying. It’s a representation of the feminine experience the likes of which few films could explore to this extent. The stories told here are all too familiar to many women around the world but because of this, there’s a touching hold the film places upon the viewer as these tales of shared experiences both positive and negative become known. Whether you relate to these experiences or simply share grief or laughter in the stories that are told, we become one in this isolated space and it’s a beautiful thing to behold.
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is a touching film navigating through solidarity, the relationships one can create and the many traumas that women have to face and navigate through. Anna Hints directs with such a comforting touch that even when faced with its darkest moments, the film comes through as a touching exploration of what ties us all together. Secrets and our experiences have a habit of trapping us but when surrounded by friends and the warmth of isolation, releasing them out into the wild can only be a good thing. This is a truly special film and one that shows off a bright future for Anna Hints as a filmmaker.
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood was released in cinemas in the UK and Ireland from 13 October, 2023. Read our interview with Smoke Sauna Sisterhood director Anna Hints!