We make documentaries on the theme of refugees and dislocation after the Second World War. Though the stories are tragic, the will of the people to rise above these experiences and start a new life is powerful. Despite everything, they still find a way to enjoy life; to celebrate it.

Merits Productions is a film company founded by Helga Merits.

In the end, this is what it’s all about: to convey the story and make people enthusiastic, hopeful and give them inspiration.
Helga Merits
Eesti Elu 21 October 2017

Helga Merits is a documentary filmmaker with Estonian roots living in Holland. After completing a successful study of philosophy at the University of Amsterdam, she went on to work as a newspaper and radio journalist in Holland and Belgium. It was during this period that the idea of making documentaries began to grow; image and sound, as well as words, were to influence her work from then on.

Her father was to be the focus of the first film. He had been forced to leave Estonia and it was while interviewing his friends and contemporaries that she realised his story was not the only one that she felt needed telling. Each story led to another, crossing borders and generations, each more intriguing than the last, and so her growing compulsion to tell the stories of post-war refugees began.

Suffering and pain are universal and her films, about specific people in a specific time, awaken an awareness that struggle and adversity make them ever stronger and more determined to thrive and prosper; something we can all take courage from.


Shawn Chia

Camera Assistant

Shawn Chia is currently in his final at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), working towards a BFA degree with a major in Film and Video.

His works mostly exist on the narrative plane, more so short films at the present moment — small windows into larger stories that he would like to delve in deeper someday after college. Shawn’s favourite spot on set is behind the camera. Shawn tinkers around with production gear during his down time at the JHUMICA Film Centre Equipment Cage, because he is a huge nerd with lights and cameras. He believes that in an alternate reality somewhere, there exists a Shawn that went to culinary school instead.


Jaan Kolberg

Editor, cinematographer

Maaki Nurmeots


A movie comes to life for the first time in the editing room. The invisible work that happens there all of a sudden brings together the filmmaker’s vision, the research, ideas and pieces of material. For me, this is the most exciting part of film-making.

I cooperated with Helga on her documentaries Classof 1943 and Sam Freiman. As an Estonian expat in the Netherlands, working together with Helga gave me possibility to learn and contemplate about the past of my country - this time from a new perspective: Post-Soviet and an outsider.

With Helga I experienced how the best movie research is done. She corresponded for years via letters and phone with the leads in the movie, creating such a personal connection, becoming close to their past and memories. She constantly worried about their health and hoping that she would not be too late to hear their voices, meanwhile visiting archives with the samede dication and eye for detail, finding documents and archive footage that had long been untouched. Ask her how she discovered the boxes of unregistered documents from the Baltic University in the Uppsala University Library.

Her passion for visualising these unwritten stories and fragments of history is a gift to our collective memory.



Egbert van Hees


Egbert van Hees (Lichtenvoorde, 2 May 1946 - Amsterdam 8 January 2017)

Egbert studied law, but broke off his studies to go to work in television.
His career started with the pop music series Toppop. He worked with artists such as Neil Young, Golden Earring and Shocking Blue. Eventually he became the director of the programme. He also worked as a free-lancer, making specials on the music of Dutch singers as Boudewijn de Groot and Robert Long. For 25 years he was connected to the TV Show of Ivo Niehe, as well as to other programmes like Sonja Barend’s talkshow, Sonja's good news show and Sesame Street.
He gained international fame by recording a concert by Lionel Richie (1987). At that time, other artists such as Tina Turner, Madonna and Prince (he received the International Monitor Award for the registration of his concert Love sexy) wanted to use his services. He even managed to work with the very reclusive Frank Zappa. In his later years he also directed (both as a hobby and helping friends) short documentary features.

When Egbert heard about Helga Merits’ first filmproject and saw the footage she intended to use, he offered his help. Egbert became the editor of Kallis Paul – which received the Teodor Luts Pricein 2007.

Together they started to work on a project about three Latvian soldiers who had hid on a farm in the eastern part of Holland, rented at the time by Egbert’s mother. The research is still ongoing, and the project is being continued by Helga Merits.

With special thanks to Martijn van Hees.



Peeter Urbla


Peeter Urbla graduated from Tartu University with a B.A. in history and languages, and passed the Advanced Courses in film directing and scriptwriting at the Cinema Committee in Moscow. Since 1992 he has worked for Exitfilm as film director, producer and general manager.

As a film director and script writer he made the following films, among others: Schlager(1982),  I am not a tourist, I live here  (1989), Baltic Love Stories (1994), Travelling Potters (2004), Shop of Dreams(2005), The Masterpainter and blended colours (201

As a producer and co-producer he has made among them: Lija 4 ever (2002), Agent Wild Duck (2002) An awesome tale (2009), Visitor (2009), Horror Anthology (2017) and Goodbye Soviet Union (2020).

Peeter Urbla has made over 20 documentaries and short films.

As co-producer Peeter Urbla worked together with Helga Merits on Class of 1943. Peeter felt she had done fantastic archive research and found a unique way of telling the tragic history of a small nation during World War Two.

The documentary Classof 1943 tells the touching personal stories of five classmates during the war and explores with great sensitivity an unknown aspect of the history of forcibly mobilized youngsters into the German Reichsarbeitsdienst – of particular significance is the fact that one of the characters was Helga Merits’ father.


Alan Morris

actor and voice-over

I am an English actor who has been living and working in the Netherlands since 1981. Since my early childhoodI have been involved in theatre though, till I met Helga Merits, I had not done any thing quite like the docu-drama that was Class of 1943.

Right from our first meeting when she told me about her project I became intrigued by the fate of her father’s country. The story is so moving; I couldn’t help but to bedrawn in.

Working together on the script we discovered a character that could carry the narrative and reflect the ‘reality’ of the present day situation for these victims of war. Of course a story of this importance could not be fully told in one Docu-drama. Helga had a number of projects in mind to cover different aspects of her story and asked me to help her to edit the spoken texts. She was also kind enough to ask me to narrate. We worked together on The Story of the Baltic University and also Coming home Soon-The Refugee Children of Geislingen.  


Helga Merits

Director, producer, researcher and scriptwriter

Coming Home Soon is my fifth documentary film. All my films are related to people who are uprooted due to the war and need to build a new life in unfamiliar places. How do you keep on going? How do you build a new life? Do you keep connected to the past or is it better just to focus on the future? These are questions which interest me.

My first film was about my Estonian father, who also had to leave his country. My debut film was a trial to see if I could bring to life my father’s unknown past by the few texts and letters I had inherited. For this film, Kallis Paul (Dear Paul) (2007) I received the Theodor Luts prize.

I felt that I was not done, and needed to explore my dad further and made a film about the high school class of my father, Class of 1943- remember us when we are gone (2012), is about the fate of boys who were all constricted to German army of 1943.

While doing research in Poland for Class of 1943- remember us when we are gone, I discovered Sam Freiman, a Polish Jew, living in Britain, a man who was born and raised in a small village near Warsaw. From my relationship with Sam a documentary about his youth: Sam Freiman – memories of a forgotten world (2010) was born.

My last film was about a remarkable institute: the Baltic University. This was a university created by refugees of the three Baltic Countries: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in Hamburg in 1946. Although they didn’t have a penny to their name and Hamburg was in ruins, even though they were homeless, they still had the courage to think about a way to organise education for students of the Baltic Countries. The film is titled: The Story of the Baltic University (2015). I received the medal of the Baltic Assembly for this film.

Now I’m working on a film about Estonian refugees who lived all together in camp Geislingen during 1945-1950. It is a film about the history of Estonia, but also about refugees in post-war Germany. It is a film about people who needed to go on and live with the consequences a war had forced upon them. The film has a strong link with the current situation in Europe.

My background is a study of philosophy (University of Amsterdam). I worked for years as a journalist for national radio both in Belgium and Holland and wrote for newspapers in both countries. But what I missed was a way to visualise the stories, to bring these to life, to work with another dimension. This is the reason I started to work on my first documentary; working with image, sound, and text allows me to create powerful stories while still continuously learning how these mediums influence one another.


Peter van Os


I have been playing the accordion since I was eight years old and graduated from the Hilversum / Amsterdam conservatory. Besides the accordion, I’m a passionate player of the trombone and of course the piano.

I master a wide range of musical idioms and skills, and the scope of my musical preferences ranges from contemporary classical to Balkan and theatre – music.

I’ve performed contemporary orchestral music with several Dutch symphony orchestras. I have also accompanied several Dutch singer-songwriters and theatre plays and wrote music for documentaries and theatre plays.

As composer and improvisor, I´m used to add music to performances and texts.

Very much interested in the history and music of the 20th century, I combine contemporary composing techniques with folklore influences.

For instance, in Helga Merits previous film: “The story of the Baltic University” and my latest composition: “Novecento”. (For orchestra and performer after A. Barrico’s novel).

As an accordion-player, I was touched by the Estonian folklore-music Helga Merits gave me, as inspiration for her previous film: “The story of the Baltic University”.

Familiar with all kinds of folklore-music from over the world, this was new for me at that time. Acquainted of course with (choral) music of Pärt and Tormis; (Estonian contemporary classical music), I transformed folklore melody’s to “wide tonality” or even atonality.

For the new project Helga Merits is working on, I’m again challenged to find sounds, melody’s, musical colours and silence that will support text and images of the film. Therefore I’ll try to catch, in an associative way,  “motions and emotions” of persons and their surroundings in the film and put them in a score.

The instruments: a string quartet, because of the wide range of tonal possibility’s and non-tonal expressions and accordion. Together they will connect Estonian, German, folkloristic and contemporary classical sounds.


Ranno Kasemaa


Ranno Kasemaa is a London-based Estonian filmmaker with a soft spot for history, current affairs, and telling stories about how we, humans, slot into this complex and ever-changing chaotic world.


Over the years Ranno has obtained a skill set of a small production crew.

He is a confident director, cinematographer and editor with experience ranging from documentaries to feature films and TV series. 

With a degree in video directing he has worked on projects commissioned by Estonian National Television and numerous independent productions.


Leo van Emden


I have been trained as a classical dancer and worked as a dancer and performer for 20 years. I worked for a few years as a production and performance manager, but then decided to get training to be a filmmaker. Since 2012 I have worked as an independent film maker and I make films by commission, and also free productions. My company is called Roemfilm.

The edit for the documentary “The Story of The Baltic University” was my first edit for a long documentary, it was also my first cooperation with Helga Merits, a beautiful adventure where I first came into contact with stories of refugees from the Baltic states and what they experienced during and after the Second World War.

I saw a lot of common ground with my own background, but it was also almost disconcerting to discover that there is a lot of common ground with refugees today. The stories are still very up-to-date: black-and-white images made way for colour and people are fleeing from a different direction, but every story has so many similarities:  the impact on the lives of the people is enormous and history seems to be constantly recurring. All stories are far from being told and these badly need to be told.

Working with Helga is good, we have a  harmonious and cooperative relationship and it has led to personal substantive enrichment. It has given me new insights into how you look, and think about, history.

The research work and the work Helga is doing to make all the ends meet is enormous. To bring together, and bundle, all material is a beautiful adventure. You slowly see a sketch become a fully-fledged painting that, as it were, slowly comes to you from afar.

It is also nice that people are usually very old, which means for me empathizing with a completely different dynamic and searching for a rhythm and timing that fits. And no matter how often you look at a part of the interview, you always see more and more layers. There is so much behind those eyes and there is so much said without words.


Amaré Becker-Wheatley


Film is an intersection where image, movement, sound, and the depth of our human experience meet. It's a medium unlike any other that demands the maker to be fully present in the moment. Before I started working with film and video, I trained as a painter with a foundation in drawing and painting from life. My studio practice has recently evolved to working with needle, thread, light, found objects, and trash to create masquerade masks and free-hanging sculptures that imitate fences and walls. My art practice informs my work as a cinematographer.

The paradox of Seabrook Farms will be the third feature documentary I have worked on. I first learned about documentary from working as an assistant editor on Amy Scott's film Oyler: One School One Year from 2013-2015. Watching, organizing, and prepping the footage taught me not only about the post-production process, but also what shots are needed to make the editor's job easier. In 2016, I started filming my own documentary, Middleman. In 2017, I started Mad Queen Productions, a video production company, which partners with other companies with a goal of growing a strong and sustainable film community in Baltimore City.

I learned the ropes of the film industry by working as a production assistant in New York City and Baltimore. Productions ranged from features, such Benh Zeitlin’s upcoming film Wendy (2019 ), to Matthew Porterfield’s Sollers Point (2017), to commercials, PSAs, and music videos for artists such as Arcade Fire, Maggie Rogers, and Beach House. After years of working in production, in 2019 I joined the International Alliance of Theatre and Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 487. I work in the electric department on large sets for network television.

The paradox of Seabrook Farms film is the first time I have worked with Helga. Seabrook, New Jersey is a hidden gem. Our first week filming there was a surreal and deep experience. The stories of the Estonian refugees, immigrants from around the world, and the detained Japanese Americans are humbling and inspiring. The level of research and the depth of the relationships Helga has built to tell the story of Seabrook is astounding. Many of our interviews were with different generations of refugees, immigrants, and Japanese interns. It is important to capture these stories before our oldest generation passes. Helga is capturing time and history by piecing together the insight of ages. I am excited to continue working with Helga and follow where the winding path leads.

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