The 2021 Canadian European Union Film Festival goes virtual this year which means Canadian’s coast to coast can all attend.
“Chasing Unicorns” is both a satirical and comedic journey on the attempts of Estonians Õie (Liisa Pulk) and Tõnu (Henrik Kalmet) to create a start up that will make them wealthy. Given that there are over 500 start ups in Estonia and that Skype was an Estonian start up anything seems possible.
Õie is a former CFO of an Estonian bicycle helmet manufacturing plant. She has just been promoted to CFO but sexually harassed by her CEO she quits and pairs up with Tõnu a repeat start up failure in an attempt to create an algorithm that will create a self drive bicycle. The only initial capital they have, besides their dreams and ambitions, is € 2,500 from Õie’s father.
The framework of the film sets the 5 factors for a start-up that will make its creators wealthy;
- Bigger Investors
- Exit (selling your start up and making a fortune)
The film follows the steps that Õie and Tõnu follow and the characters they encounter are often bigger than life if not caricatures. Bankers, venture capitalists, investors, lawyers and all manner of hustlers all looking for a cut on the big payoff day.
Their initial sales manager Norris is a bit of a comical character full of hot air and bravado but essentially an incompetent but he provides comic relief.
As they climb up the chain of success the investors and venture capitalists become more ruthless and less comedic. Off they head to San Francisco and the Silicon Valley to realize their Muskian dreams. They do find an organized sales manager in San Francisco that wants a huge fee of $450,000 to promote their deal and bring investors in. He needs the money to rebuild his heliport at his Aspen winter home!
While some of the characters they run into are greedy and ruthless some are bigger than life deserving of a hearty laugh.
Then they get a $20,000,000 offer to buy their company and they accept but having shoddy legal representation they agree to a 4 times liquidation preference meaning investors are paid off 4 times their initial investment leaving them with nothing or less than nothing as they have a €3,600 legal bill to pay. Was all this for nothing?
For Õie not really as she has made contacts and receives lucrative offers to stay with the lead venture capitalist to head up their Estonian office and from an Estonian bank to turn the now bankrupt bicycle helmet factory into a powerful international manufacturing enterprise. But there is Tõnu who has moved on to a new start up being creating a robotic dog.
What is Õie going to select as her future option? Given her taste for possibilities of fabulous wealth and her drive and ambition I think I know where she is heading. And her father’s €2,500 investment in their company is now rewarded with a $250,000 payout.
If you think Estonia is bush league in film production you are dead wrong. This is an eye-opening biting sarcastic and educational look at the life of an Estonian start up. It is highly professional, creative and well acted.
It is a 2019 film directed by Rain Rannu with a great Estonian classical, traditional and hip-hop soundtrack. Thoroughly enjoyable and with a perspective and sese of humour you will not find in an American film.
The 2021 European Film Festival runs from November 12-28th. You can check out the website at https://www.cfi-icf.ca/euff