Documentary Film

Documentary Film

Documentary MA programme is focused on the auteur concept of the creative documentary. During the two year studies the students are guided to find their author’s voice and to develop their factual storytelling skills. Each student creates a short documentary each semester.

Study level Master's Studies

Duration of study 2 years

Language English

Study form Regular studies

Cost per semester € 2300


At Tallinn University it is possible to do that in a multicultural environment together with lecturers and coursemates from different countries. On a daily basis our students are able to use a studio complex with modern TV, film and editing equipment.

Who are we looking for?

We are searching for intellectually active, creative, socially and culturally interested people who have previous study or work experience in the fields of film, media or art. 

The aim of the study programme is to develop the knowledge, skills and first and foremost creative capabilities in the filed of creative documentary. The language of study is English, thus a good command of English is needed.

Why study with us?

First and foremost to develop your professional skills, knowledge base and experience in the field of documentary filmmaking and also to develop your creative capabilities.

The Documentary Film MA curriculum has a good balance of general speciality courses and practical work, we place great emphasis on creatively finding yourself. 

The subject specific English acquired here helps you find international jobs. 

Course Outline

The programme has a thematic overlap with the School of Humanities' Visual Anthropology specialization, which gives the students knowledge about cultural anthropology and the methodology of field work.

During the studies the students will produce three short films and a master's production.

See the study programme

Academic Staff

Riho Västrik is a documentary film maker and producer who has been teaching at BFM since 2009. He is Curator of the Documentary MA Curriculum. Riho has produced more than 50 documentaries, more than 20 of which he directed himself. Riho has collaborated with authors such as Audrius Stonys, Ksenia Okhapkina, Vassiliy Sarana, Paul-Anders Simma, Dainis Klava, Martin Meissonnier, and others. His films have received awards from international festivals (including IDFA, Karlovy Vary, Shanghai). Film projects have taken Riho to Tibet, Cambodia, Nepal, Mali, Turkey, Armenia and many other countries. Riho has made the most films about the Arctic, the Far North, both in Europe and Asia. Riho has written articles about the history of Estonian documentary film, he is a co-founder of the Estonian Documentary Guild, and also an alumnus of the annual training program Eurodoc.

Read the interview with Riho Västrik conducted by Documentary Film students at the BFM Film and Media Blog.

Riho Västrik's ETIS profile



Jarmo Valkola is Academic Researcher, Professor and Doctor of Philosophy.  He is Docent at Aalto University, Docent Professor at the University of Lapland, and Docent at the University of Jyväskylä. Jarmo has worked as Professor and Associate Professor of Film History and Theory at BFM for 17 years. He has worked as Professor of Art Education at the University of Jyväskylä, Associate Professor of Media Education at the University of Lapland, and Invited Professor at Chaire Roger Odin, l’Ecole Doctorale Arts et Médias at Sorbonne-Nouvelle University, Paris III. He has worked also as Visiting Professor in about a dozen universities across Europe. Jarmo has written 19 books and over 60 scientific articles, published in ten different languages.

His latest book Hypermodern Documentary Discourse in Cinema can be found here.

Read the interview with Jarmo Valkola conducted by Documentary Film students at the BFM Film and Media Blog.


Associate Professor Marianna Kaat is a distinguished documentary filmmaker and producer. She earned her doctoral degree from the Leningrad State Institute of Theatre, Music, and Cinema (LGITMiK). Within the university, Marianna is responsible for imparting her vast knowledge and experience in the fields of documentary history and documentary practice to students enrolled in both the Audiovisual Media BA study program and the Documentary Film MA study program.

In addition to her academic role, Marianna has made notable contributions as a guest tutor, collaborating with various workshops, film schools, and universities both within and beyond Estonia. Her active participation in the educational landscape demonstrates her commitment to sharing her expertise and nurturing future talents in the film industry.

Furthermore, Marianna is a pivotal figure in the documentary community, having co-founded the Estonian Documentarians Guild. She also serves as a Member of the Board within the Estonian Association of Audiovisual Authors, which attests to her strong involvement in the cultural and professional aspects of the film domain.

Marianna's impressive filmography showcases an array of award-winning feature documentaries, a testament to her remarkable achievements in the field. Her proficiency, coupled with her extensive background, establishes her as a highly respected figure in the film industry, and her presence greatly enriches the academic and artistic environment of BFM.


Madli Lääne-Metsalu is an Estonian film director, writer and editor. Her films have screened and won at various European Film Academy or Oscar-qualified festivals, like Uppsala Short Film Festival in Sweden (Best Children’s Film), Leeds International Film Festival in UK (ScreenDance Competition winner), Busan International Short Film Festival in Korea (Special Mention of the Jury ), In The Palace in Bulgaria (Best Experimental Film), etc. Madli's latest film DEAR PASSENGERS (2022) premiered at Palm Springs Short Film Festival and was awarded as the Best Short at EFTA - Estonian national film industry awards. Madli holds a MFA in Film and Media Production from the University of Texas at Austin, USA (2017). She graduated as a film editor from International Film School in Cologne, Germany (2007), participated in Documentary Directing Summer School at International School of Film and TV in San Antonio de los Baños in Cuba and was selected as a participant to Student Film Camp & Doc Workshop Interaction in Serbia. She has extensive experience shooting abroad (Liberia, Nigeria, Ukraine, Faroe Islands, China, Hawaii, Kazakhstan). Madli is an alumna of Berlinale Talents, Midpoint Shorts and European Short Pitch (Mastering-In-Kind Award). Currently she is working as a lecturer in editing and audiovisual storytelling at Tallinn University Baltic Film, Media and Arts School in Estonia.

Admission Requirements

General requirements

The study programme has 12 student places. A score of 80 points or more in the entrance exam guarantees
the candidate a student place. The remaining student places are filled with candidates who have exceeded
the admission threshold based on the ranking.

Entrance exams

  • A relevant portfolio is required. Creative portfolio presented on a digital platform (Vimeo, personal website, etc.) – the best examples of candidate’s creative works including photographs, short films, videos, essays, scripts, poems, etc.
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Letter of motivation (in English)
  • Interview with the admission committee and creative assignment (a visual story to assess candidate’s creative potential). Creative assignment that assess candidate’s creative potential will be given during candidates 1st interview time. Candidate will have 2-3 days to complete the visual story in the key of documentary film.
  • Additional materials (portfolio, CV, letter of motivation) to be sent to
  • For the purposes of identity verification at the admission procedure the Admission Committee has the right to take a screenshot during the oral part of the admission exam carried out via video bridge.
  • See the admission and application requirements for Master's level applicants.

The Documentary Film admission competition is made of four different elements:

  • CV, Letter of Motivation 10%
  • Portfolio 30%
  • Creative Assignment 35%
  • Interview 25%

Main assessment criteria

• Describe your educational background, work experience and any relevant skills.
• Highlight previous experience in documentary filmmaking or related fields.

CV evaluation criteria
Educational background (20 points):
The relevance of the candidate's educational background for making documentaries.
Completion of courses related to filmmaking or documentary production.
Work experience (20 points):
Work experience in the film industry.
Skills and certifications (25 points):
Demonstration of relevant documentary filmmaking skills (e.g. cinematography, editing, storytelling).
Skills of the software and technical tools used in the filmmaking process.
Previous documentary experience (30 points):
The level of previous documentary filmmaking experiences.
Roles and responsibilities in previous documentary projects (e.g. director, producer, editor).
Recognition or awards received for previous documentary work.
Experience in a related field (5 points):
Any experience in related fields such as journalism, media production or visual storytelling.
Portfolio requirements
• One or more examples of past documentaries.
• Show different skills like storytelling, filming, photography and anything that shows your creativity.
• Consider creating a presentation that introduces your portfolio and provides context.
• Add links to your website, Vimeo, or other online platforms that reference your creative work.
Portfolio’s evaluation criteria
Clarity of documentary narration (50 points)
• the impact of the narrative.
• Using different storytelling techniques and styles.
• Originality and creativity in approaching the documentary subject.
2. Cinematography and photography skills (30 points):
• Cinematography, including framing, composition, camera movement.
• Ability to capture photos.
• Consistency and quality of visual elements across different projects.
• Creative use of lighting and visual aesthetics.
3. Presentation and context (10 points):
• The quality of the portfolio presentation.
• ability to formulate creative and technical decisions clearly and concisely.
• General organization and flow of the portfolio presentation.
4. Creativity and innovation (10 points):
• Innovations in storytelling approaches or techniques.
• Evidence of thinking outside of traditional documentary context.
• Creative solutions in the filmmaking process.
• Unique perspectives demonstrated in documentary work.

The interview is a crucial step in the admissions process to assess the candidate's suitability for the study program. The purpose of the interview is to delve into the candidate's background, experience, motivation and creative aspirations.

Evaluating the interview
In the interview round, the candidate's ability to express his/her thoughts clearly and concisely is assessed. Also, how well the candidate listens to questions and answers thoughtfully. A candidate's level of enthusiasm, passion and engagement is also taken into account. The candidate's ability to reflect documentaries, creative thinking, innovation and original perspectives will be evaluated.

A creative assignment
The creative assignment is given to the candidate in the first interview round. Its purpose is to clarify the candidate's creative potential and the originality of storytelling

Evaluation of a creative task
The creative task assesses the candidate's creative potential and ability to translate ideas into an audiovisual narrative. It is taken into account how clearly the candidate communicates his/her creative concept, whether the candidate's approach to storytelling is original. The effectiveness of the visual elements in enhancing the narrative and the emotional resonance of the work are evaluated.

Post-Graduate Destinations

Further Studies

Master level studies give you the necessary knowledge and skills to find work as a professional documentary filmmaker. Those who wish can continue their studies in PhD studies.

Why BFM?

  • Tallinn University Baltic Film, Media and Arts School (BFM) focuses on professional hands-on training designed for international careers. BFM has over 1100 students, about 230 of them are foreigners from more than 50 countries worldwide.
  • Graduates leave with an extensive portfolio of films and audio-visual content for further career, plus an internationally validated university degree.
  • BFM believes in hands-on approach.
  • Lectures at BFM are given by well-known filmmakers and media professionals in Estonia such as Jarmo Valkola, Kersti Uibo, Riho Västrik.
  • The university provides students with a state of the art facilities and equipment. BFM building houses Estonia’s first 4K cinema hall, film and sound studios, and editing rooms.
  • BFM has over 30 partner universities in Europe and China, which offers a truly exciting mix of cultures that creates an invaluable professional network for your later career.
  • Scholarships available

Contact us

Maria-Silvia Kaarep

Study Counsellor and Specialist

AddressNarva mnt 27, 10120 Tallinn

phone+372 61 99 928


For additional guidelines regarding admission procedure please contact the international admission specialist. 


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