19th Black Nights Film Festival, Tallinn

Estonia, November 13 - November 29 2015

The jury

Mike Naafs (The Netherlands), Martin Botha (South Africa), Tristan Priimägi (Estonia)

Awarded films

This year’s Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn (Pöff) was the start of a new beginning for the organisation of the festival. After 18 previous editions, it was recently selected by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAFF) to join the 14 most prestigious festivals in the world as an A-category festival. All of a sudden, Tallinn was on the same level as the likes of Cannes, Venice, Rotterdam, Berlin and so on. And with great power comes great responsibility. So a few things changed in regard to the programming. The American Indie section – which ran from 2009 till 2014 – was replaced by the Tridens First Feature Competition due to the fact that it seemed illogical to have a section for just a particular country instead of focusing on more or less the whole world. This First Feature Competition was also the section our jury focused on.

But there was so much more. The international main competition, of course, which included 18 titles and – as befits an A- category festival – included seven world premieres, three international premieres and eight European premieres. Amongst the titles were Vitaly Mansky’s North Korean documentary Under the Sun (V paprscích slunce), the Iranian Avalanche by Morteza Farshbaf and the Estonian/Latvian co-production Dawn (Ausma), about the well known story of Pavlik Morozov, the boy who turned his parents over to the KGB and, in doing so, became a Soviet hero. The third major part of the festival was the Estonian Film Award, which included six recent films from Estonia, including Roukli, the new film by Veiko Õunpuu.

The festival started with the silent Georgian film My Grandmother (Chemi bebia), with live accompaniment from The Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra, which also kicked off the section that focused on Georgian cinema, past and present. Amongst the films screened was the astonishing Pirosmani (Giorgi Shengelaia, 1969). Furthermore, there was a section devoted to the best of the rest – successful films that previously screened at other film festivals – there was the self explanatory Docs@Pöff, a programme centred on New German Cinema and the international short film section Sleepwalkers. And if that wasn’t enough, and you still had time on your side, you could go to Pöff’s Vitamin Boost, dedicated to humour, something you sometimes need in a city where it gets dark at around four o’clock.

This, on the other hand, made it an ideal place for cinema going. Short days, long black nights. At the end, the FIPRESCI  jury got out of the dark and transferred itself to the Amazon jungle of Colombia, by awarding Delivery (Nacimiento)  by Martin Mejia Rugeles its prize for its mesmerising depiction of birth and death, man and nature. (Mike Naafs, edited by Amber Wilkinson)

Black Nights Film Festival, Tallinn: www.poff.ee