Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) announces the First Feature Competition lineup for 2020

    The festival has selected 18 films in competition and three out of competition, coming from many corners of the globe to be screened at the hybrid edition of the 24th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.

    Featuring ten world premieres, seven international and one European, the programme embodies the festival’s mission to discover emerging creative voices from all over the world, offering them an initial launchpad and catapulting them toward international recognition. Three first features will also screen out of competition: one Austrian, one British and one Spanish/Italian co-production. One film, Why Not You will be screened as a shared premiere with the Zürich International Film Festival, while another, Should the Wind Drop, bears the Cannes Official Selection 2020 label. 

    The competition will be overseen by an international jury of film industry professionals, to be announced in the second half of October. They will give out the award for Best Film and a 5000-euro grant shared by the director and producer of the film, along with two Special Prizes. 

    Festival director and head of programme Tiina Lokk commented: “It’s almost been said too many times that this is a challenging time for the film industry. So, it’s hugely reassuring that we can still present this selection of debut features this year: in cinemas in Estonia and also online. It’s a powerful, challenging and diverse collection, representing everything vital, fresh and revelatory in cinema. When the industry recovers, as it surely will, it will be filmmakers like these who carry the torch forward.” 

    The press screenings and first public screenings of the films will run from the 21st until the 30th of November. 

    Most of the films will be available to watch for press and industry professionals with an appropriate accreditation regardless of their geographic location. 

    The full lineup of Black Nights will be announced on the 6th of November.

    First Feature Competition 

    The Translator 
    Screening as a world premiere, from Syrian co-directors Rana Kazkaz & Anas Khalaf, the story is told with inventive cinematography and a constant low-level tension. Spinning from the normalcy of an optician’s office to the absurdity of background low-level conflict, a relentless narrative drive pushes the audience looping toward the film’s fundamental question: will the translator finally find his own voice? 

    Poppy Field 
    Shot on 16mm film, in the tangle of brutalist Bucharest, Eugen Jebeleanu’s debut feature explores protest, religion, identity and more, as a gay street cop struggles to balance his prosaic professional duties and personal politics. As the film juggles languages and viewpoints, our protagonist states, “It’s complicated” and it’s true. We’re delighted to welcome Poppy Field for its world premiere. 

    Longing Souls 
    Colombian Diana Montenegro follows up a series of female-focused shorts with this coming-of-age drama, constructed on the shoulders of a part-pro, part-untrained cast. A child is initiated into a circle of fatalistic, self-identifying “cursed” ladies. Longing Souls lets us look again at the world of women through the untarnished glass and appears at PÖFF as a world premiere. 

    As Far as I Know 
    Hungarian directors Nándor Lörincz and Bálint Nagy have created a real brain-worm: a morally complex narrative to think and rethink, lingering long in the audience’s minds. The story follows two soon-to-be-parents, in a fractious relationship, as they struggle with slippery truths and their life-changing consequences. This Budapest-set drama screens as a world premiere. 

    Model Olimpia 
    From this year’s festival focus country, director Frédéric Hambalek paints DIY therapy, existential dread and psychological terror across a canvas of German domesticity. The introduction of a new neighbour to the treatment programme makes the system spiral out of control. Up to its final frames, it skillfully skirts the boundaries of fantasy and reality. This deeply unsettling feature also has its world premiere at PÖFF. 

    Great Happiness 
    Set in modern China, Wang Yiao’s youthful ensemble piece follows the fortunes of three friends as they seek their future in a world-changing almost faster than they can recognise. With a backdrop ranging from endless forests of skyscrapers to technicolour mahjong tables, a maze of plotlines tie together friendship, family and, of course, business. Great Happiness appears as a world premiere at Black Nights. 

    Shot on black and white 16mm film, Dmitry Rudakov’s debut is a beautiful, meditative dramatisation of the end of Russian poet and Gulag survivor Varlam Shalamov’s life. Two of his most fervent followers attempt to piece together and decipher his final works, as he maintains his creative output up to his last breath. The film also has its world premiere at PÖFF this year. 

    A co-production between Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Bolivia and Norway, Karnawal, having its world premiere in Tallinn, brings to light the Malambo dance culture. We see a young boy’s training (for the competition of his life) interrupted by the reappearance of his absentee father. Juan Pablo Félix’s direction is exuberant, but with the vibrancy undercut with darkness.   

    The Penultimate 
    All our unsuspecting lead character wants to do is check the water meter, but writer-director Kærup Hjort takes him into a deep and twisting, absurdist black comedy, shot through claustrophobic narrow framing, in a cavernous, labyrinthine bunker. A graduate of the Danish National Film School, Hjort’s background in theatre comes shining through in this PÖFF world premiere. 

    A charming, beautiful and understated piece from Greek-German director Sonia Liza Kenterman. Like it’s lead character, it’s a quietly propulsive tale that doesn’t necessarily reveal all its secrets: a perfect fit for these times of change, challenge and reinvention. We also see PÖFF as a perfect fit for its world premiere. 

    Goodbye, Soviet Union 
    Ingrian-Finnish, Estonian-born director Lauri Randla piles culture-clash upon culture-clash in this recent-period piece. Though on the surface quirky, accessible and blackly comic, it’s a transportive journey and a unique, surprising perspective on the ramshackle collapse of communism and the making of a nation and a man. We’re very proud to host this international premiere in Estonia. 

    The Enemies 
    An intricate and ingenious, fantastical slice of life drama taking in hairdressing, nasty letters from your neighbours and lots of cats. Even while holding up a mirror to a complex, restrictive and sometimes hypocritical society, Ali Derakhshandeh’s film still has a definite sparkle in its cinematic eye and appears as an international premiere at PÖFF. 

    25 Years of Innocence 
    Also having its international premiere at PÖFF, this torn-from-the-headlines story digs deep into one man’s extreme misfortune: the setup, the tragedy and glimpses of the lasting repercussions. After living much of your life accused of an unspeakable crime, how can you live with yourself? Coming from a background in TV, it’s an assured feature debut from Poland’s Jan Holoubek, artfully bouncing between the personal, political and institutional. 

    Madly in Life 
    Thirty-something couple Alex and Noémie find their child-rearing plans upended when Alex’s elderly mother begins exhibiting signs of dementia. It’s a heavy subject, but hilarious storytelling in this role-reversal dramedy. Belgian director duo Ann Sirot and Raphaël Balboni will have the international premiere of Madly in Life at PÖFF. 

    Black Light 
    Bae Jong-dae’s clear-eyed drama sees two women struggle through the stages of grief in the aftermath of a fatal car accident. Along the way, they fight the police, their families and each other to get to a truth that doesn’t really suit anyone involved. Black Nights is proud to host this moving, honest and naturalistic picture for its international premiere. 

    The Flood 
    A film that’s sometimes wrapped in the dream-like spiritual embrace of pure Australian nature, sometimes exploding into percussive action and flashes of ultra-violence. This revenge thriller is a maximalist visual and auditory feast, certainly not for the faint of heart. We are very excited to also host Victoria Wharfe McIntyre’s film for its international premiere. 

    Fortuna – The Girl and the Giants 
    Nicolangelo Gelormini’s suburban fantasy creates a unique, eye-popping and immersive visual world. A six-year-old with magnificent hair and a loose relationship with reality may be an ordinary small Italian child or may be an alien called Nancy. This beguiling dark fairytale, a giallo-with-kids, has its international premiere at PÖFF. 

    Should the Wind Drop 
    French-Armenian video-artist-turned-feature-director Nora Martirosyan charts the unexpected complexities involved in approving the opening of an international airport in a freshly-independent imaginary micro-state. From this peripheral perspective, we follow a universal, life-affirming and frankly absurd story that’s been an official selection at Cannes this year before its European premiere here at PÖFF.

    First Feature Out of Competition 

    Why Not You 
    Co-premiering together with Zurich International Film Festival and winning the Golden Eye award there this October, Evi Romen’s moody drama is a study in grief, loss and the places they can take you. Already an award-winning editor, Romen’s twisty piece deals head on with LGBT+ issues and religion, alongside plenty of dancing.  

    My Heart Goes Boom! 
    Uruguayan Nacho Álvarez makes his debut with this exuberant Spanish/Italian co-production. The very definition of all-singing-and-all-dancing, it’s the story of a woman born to perform and her highly personal experience of censorship in 70s Spain. It comes to us for its international premiere after screening at San Sebastian. 

    Showing out of competition but as a European premiere, American-in-Britain Joe Marcantonio’s debut is a compact and claustrophobic psychological in-law horror piece. It swirls around most varieties of social conflict, inside the creatively lensed dilapidated Scottish country manor owned by Fiona Shaw’s family matriarch.  


    The Translator, 2020, France, Switzerland, Syria, Belgium, Qatar, USA, directors: Rana Kazkaz & Anas Khalaf | World premiere 
    Poppy Field (Câmp de maci), 2020, Romania, director: Eugen Jebeleanu | World premiere 
    Longing Souls (El Alma Quiere Volar), 2020, Colombia, director: Diana Montenegro | World premiere 
    As Far as I Know (Legjobb tudomásom szerint), 2020, Hungary, directors: Nándor Lörincz & Bálint Nagy | World premiere 
    Model Olimpia, 2020, Germany, director: Frédéric Hambalek | World premiere 
    Great Happiness (极乐点), 2020, China, director: Wang Yiao | World premiere 
    Sententia, 2020, Russia, director: Dmitry Rudakov | World premiere 
    Karnawal, 2020, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Norway, director: Juan Pablo Félix | World premiere 
    The Penultimate (Den Næstsidste), Denmark, director: Jonas Kærup Hjort | World premiere 
    Tailor (Raftis), 2020, Greece, Germany, Belgium, director: Sonia Liza Kenterman | World premiere 
    Goodbye, Soviet Union (Hüvasti, NSVL), 2020, Finland, Estonia, director: Lauri Randla | International premiere 
    The Enemies (Doshmanan), 2020, Iran, director: Ali Derakhshandeh | International premiere 
    25 Years of Innocence (25 lat niewinnosci. Sprawa Tomka Komendy), 2020, Poland, director: Jan Holoubek | International premiere 
    Madly in Life (Une vie démente), 2020, Belgium, directors: Ann Sirot & Raphaël Balboni | International premiere 
    Black Light (빛과 철), 2020, South Korea, director: Bae Jong-dae | International premiere 
    The Flood, 2020, Australia, director: Victoria Wharfe McIntyre | International premiere 
    Fortuna – The Girl and the Giants, 2020, Italy, director: Nicolangelo Gelormini | International premiere 
    Should the Wind Drop (Si le vent tombe), France, Belgium, Armenia, director: Nora Martirosyan | European premiere 
    Why Not You (Disco), 2020, Austria, director: Evi Romen | World co-premiere with Zurich International Film Festival 
    My Heart Goes Boom! (Explota explota), 2020, Spain, Italy, director: Nacho Álvarez | International premiere 
    Kindred, 2020, United Kingdom, director: Joe Marcantonio | European premiere


    Film stills and press materials of First Feature Competition

    Film stills and press materials of First Feature Out of Competition

    First Feature Competition programme laurel
    First Feature Out Of Competition laurel


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    Tallinn Black Nights FF Opening Ceremony. Photo by Ahto Sooaru

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    Last modified on 16-10-2020