Tallinn Black Nights announces Main Competition lineup

For its 19th edition, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival has composed an adventurous Main Competition presented by Postimees with a varied mix of genres from urban tragicomedy to historical drama and even a documentary co-produced by North Korea. The line-up is showcasing 18 films from 21 countries  - seven of them being world premieres, three international and eight European premieres.

Festival director Tiina Lokk says: “Unlike with the First Features Competition, with the Main Competition we set out to study the relationship of auteur cinema and films with ‘bigger’ commercial potential and productions. Of course, we never make compromises on the quality and originality, looking for an authentic artistic position that has maintained ties to the uniqueness of the cultural environment they come from.”

“I’m really pleased with the selection of countries and the genre versatility of the programme, having directors at very different stages in their career. What we have is a mix of different ways of storytelling coming from different continents and cultures that are competing with each other, but also having a lot in common in terms of values and messages,” she added.

World Premieres

Armenian director-scriptwriter David Safarian returns to directing after a 20-year hiatus with Armenia-Netherlands-Germany co-production 28:94 Local Time - telling a story of a family of theatre workers during the civil war and electricity crisis in Jerevan in 1992. 

Safarian, having once worked on films with Andrei Tarkovsky, creates his own language of cinematic poetry presenting an elaborate mix of reality and fantasy, present and past, reminiscent of the auteur cinema of the 70s and 80s. 

Bulgarian director Iglika Triffonova, whose first film Letter to America won the Special Jury Prize at Istanbul and screened in Tallinn, presents a Bulgaria-Sweden-Netherlands co-production The Prosecutor, the Defender, the Father and His Son.

The film is an emotionally tense Hague court and investigation drama based on the true events of the trial of Serbian military commander Milorad Krstić, showing the moral and judicial challenges of the different parties trying to present their versions of a past that the rest of the world is eager to forget.

Presenting a collection of urban stories about looking for love while at the same time losing touch with other people, Georgian director Vano Burduli, who won a Silver St. George with The Conflict Zone at the Moscow International Film Festival, takes us on a journey through the steets, backyards, porches and bedrooms of the scenic Georgian capital of Tbilisi in the Georgia-Russia co-production The Summer of Frozen Fountains.

A journey - serving as a physical and a religious challenge - is a central motif in the Mexican film Epitaph which follows three conquistadors in 1519, sent on a mission by Hernan Cortez to look for sulfur on an active volcano. 

The writer-directors Rubén Imaz and Yulene Olaizola (who won awards at festivals such as Fribourg and Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema with her film Intimacies of Shakespeare and Victor Hugo) study the three protagonists' physical and emotional struggles and recollections of their violent conquests, resonating with the lush scenery of the volcano that threatens to erupt any second.

In Orizont, the Romanian writer-director Marian Crisan, who won awards at Locarno and Buenos Aires IFIC with Morgen and a Cannes Palme d’Or for short film Megatron, creates an increasingly unsettling sense of imprisonment, as a family that has just opened a roadside guesthouse encounters local mobsters trying to get a cut of the profit in exchange for ‘protection’. 

Witnessing with barely contained unease and shame as his estranged wife is gradually seduced by the charming mob boss, Lucian, the stubborn head of the family plots possible countermeasures. 

A love triangle even more unconventional can be found in Let Her Cry by Sri Lankan director Asoka Handagama, who won awards at Tokyo and San Sebastian for Flying With One Wing and Him, Here, After. A Hindu professor is having an affair with a young student who starts emotionally blackmailing his wife. 

Faced with a threat of social humiliation, she invites the manipulating girl to live with the pair, pushing the domestic situation into unknown territories.

Award-winning Latvian auteur Laila Pakalnina returns to Tallinn with her Latvia-Estonia co-production Dawn, a re-take on the Soviet propaganda story of the young martyr Pavlik Morozov, who turns his state-betraying father in to authorities and then has to face his family's anger. 

A participant in last year's Baltic Event Co-Production Market's Works in Progress showcase in Tallinn, the film studies the subconscious suffering of people living in a totalitarian system that idealizes the image of the hero and everyone's inevitable failure in becoming one. 

International Premieres

The peculiarities of a communist system are also scrutinised in Under the Sun (a.k.a. In the Rays of the Sun) by award-winning director and activist Vitaliy Manskiy  (a.k.a. Vitaly Mansky, Pipeline), presenting an astonishing documentary about the hardships of making a documentary in North Korea. 

After receiving a permit for making a film, the director experienced the North Korean authorities taking over the production, staging all the scenes and dialogues of the characters. He presents a subversively filmed documentary exposing ideo-political machinations of the totalitarian regime, while also building an emotional connection with the repressed people. 

In her second feature Bride, Spanish director Paula Ortiz gives a powerful free adaptation of the play Blood Wedding by Federico García Lorca, telling the story of a triangle of close childhood friends set in confusion by a planned marriage between two of them. 

The filmmaker materializes all the symbolic elements of the play on screen, making a personal, fully allegorical and metaphorical version with a high sense for visual beauty.

In the Russian film Insight, Berlinale-awarded writer-director Aleksandr Kott (Pugalo) balances between drama and melodrama, exploring the ironic twist of fate of a man who has just lost his sight, but might have found the woman of his life. 

European Premieres

Protégé of acclaimed director Abbas Kiarostami, director Morteza Farshbaf who was awarded for Mourning at Busan and Tallinn Black Nights, delivers his second feature - the graceful and intimate drama Avalanche. Hospital nurse Homa is experiencing alienation and insomnia during a snow-heavy winter, with her marriage and social relations getting clogged like the snowy roads while details from her desires and dreams start to present themselves in reality.

In the Netherlands-Sweden-Bulgaria co-production The Paradise Suite and Taiwan's  Zinnia Flower fates of total strangers are intertwined by unfortunate events. 

The former, the Netherlands' submission to the Oscars foreign language film category, directed by Joost van Ginkel, follows six strangers from different parts of the world whose paths cross in the underground sex slave business of Amsterdam. 

Zinnia Flower by Tom Lin, whose Winds of September won prizes at the Golden Horse Awards and Shanghai film festival, is a tale of two people mourning the loss of their loved ones in the same car accident. A highly personal film from a director with similar experiences.

Socially unaccepted love stories are backbones in Belgian film Black by directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah and the US film The Automatic Hate by Justin Lerner. 

Fast-paced, stylised and soaked with violence, Black presents a Shakespearean tragedy of two lovers caught up in a contemporary Brussels gang war, while The Automatic Hate intrigues with a romantic incest tale.

In the bittersweet comedy Happy Hour by German director Franz Miller, a trio of now single middle-aged men go on a bonding trip to Ireland. Their tale is a tragicomic study of the endangered concept of manhood, highlighted by the mens' incapability to have a good time and get along with one another.

South Korea's Oscar foreign language category submission The Throne by Lee Joon-ik and Kazakhstan's submission to the Oscars Stranger by Yermek Tursunov employ historical narratives about individuals in existential conflict with their surroundings. In the former film, based on a true event, a prince falls into disgrace and is punished by his father with fatal imprisonment, while in The Stranger a lone hunter defies the Soviet regime by refusing to participate in WWII with unexpected reactions from his fellow countrymen. 

The 19th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival will run 13-29 November with the awards ceremony on 27 November. Industry@Tallinn will run 16-20 November. 

Full Main Competition Line-up
(english title/original title/director/country)

1. 28:94 Local Time (28:94 Teghakan Zhamanak) - dir. David Safarian, Armenia-Netherlands-Germany
2. Avalanche (Bahman) - dir. Morteza Farshbaf, Iran
3. Black - dirs. Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah, Belgium
4. Bride (La Novia) - dir. Paula Ortiz, Spain
5. Dawn (Ausma) - dir. Laila Pakalnina, Latvia-Estonia 
6. Epitaph (Epitafio) - dirs. Yulene Olaizola & Rubén Imaz, Mexico
7. Happy Hour - dir. Franz Müller, Germany-Ireland
8. Insight (Слепая любовь) - dir. Aleksander Kott, Russia
9. Let Her Cry - dir. Asoka Handagama, Sri Lanka
10. Orizont - dir. Marian Crisan, Romania
11. Stranger (Zhat) - dir. Yermek Tursunov, Kazakhstan
12. The Automatic Hate - dir. Justin Lerner, USA
13. The Paradise Suite - dir. Joost van Ginkel, Netherlands-Sweden-Bulgaria
14. The Prosecutor, the Defender, the Father and His Son - dir. Iglika Triffonova, Bulgaria-Sweden-Netherlands
15. The Summer of Frozen Fountains (Gakinuli shadrevnebis tselitsadi ) - dir. Vano Burduli, Georgia-Russia
16. The Throne (Sado) - dir. Lee Joon-ik, South Korea
17. Under the Sun (В лучах Солнца) -Vitaliy  Manskiy, Russia-Germany-North Korea-Czech Republic-Latvia.
18. Zinnia Flower (Bai ri gaobie) - dir. Tom Lin, Taiwan

For further inquiries: Hannes Aava, BNFF Press Officer (, +372-555-29-211.)

Under the Sun
The Prosecutor, the Defender, the Father and His Son

NGO Black Nights Film Festival
Telliskivi 60A
Tallinn 10412, Estonia
Phone: +372 631 4640
Fax: +372 631 4644


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