Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival announces the first competition titles


Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (aka PÖFF) announces 13 titles from its two international competition programmes. The remaining films from each lineup will be announced in October.

The festival has renamed the Main Competition the Official Selection, retaining most of its previous awards and regulations. The eight films announced are set to compete for the festival’s Grand Prix, alongside with the rest of the programme, that will be announced on the 17th of October.

The titles include the world premiere of an Estonian feature film The Manslayer. The Virgin. The Shadow and the international premiere of the Finnish-Estonian- Swedish co-production The Eternal Road, a historic drama, that received a favourable response from the Finnish critics and box office after the film launched in domestic cinemas last week. Among the four Asian films is the South-Korean Excavator, written and produced by Kim Ki-duk and directed by Lee Ju- Hyoung.

The First Feature Competition selection includes entries from South-Korea, Costa Rica, Kosovo and Belgium. The full lineup of the First Feature Competition will be made public on the 24th of October.

Flanders is the focus region of the festival this year.

Official Selection - Competition

The Manslayer. The Virgin. The Shadow
Mehetapja. Süütu. Vari, Estonia
Director Sulev Keedus
World Premiere

The Estonian author Sulev Keedus returns with a three-part tale of love and the shift of women’s societal positions across three different time periods and contexts of Estonia’s history: 19th century farm life, the working class of the postwar Stalinist era and the present day. The film was presented at the Baltic Event Works In Progress in 2016. The director’s previous films have won or been nominated for numerous prizes, including the Prix Europa Special Prize for Georgica (1998); the best director award at Cottbus Film Festival and the Rotterdam IFF VPRO Tiger Awards Competition nomination for Somnambulance (2004).

Khafegi, Iran
Director Fereydoun Jeyrani
International premiere

Presenting a rare case in the blooming Iranian cinema, this ‘love noir’ by veteran director Fereydoun Jeyrani tells a story of a mental hospital nurse who is drawn into a potential murder plan. She is forced to choose sides between a wealthy woman pretending madness and her husband who she claims is planning to murder her for the inheritance. Film director and screenwriter Fereydoun Jeyrani was nominated for the Best Film award at the Cairo IFF for The Last Supper (2001).

Poclain, South-Korea
Director Lee Ju-Hyoung
International premiere

The second film by director Lee Ju-Hyoung, written and produced by Kim Ki-duk opens a painful chapter in Korean history studying the post-traumatic stress of soldiers involved in the Gwangju student uprising in 1980. One of the low-ranking soldiers seeks out his former comrades and supervisors to try and make peace with the painful memories. The director Lee Ju-Hyoung won the Audience Award at the Tokyo Film Festival for his previous film Red Family (2013), he was also nominated for the Grand Prix at the same festival.

Little Tito
Tito il piccolo, Italy
Director Paola Randi
International premiere

The second feature film of director Paola Randi is a playful and heartfelt study of an introverted astronomer forced to raise the son and daughter of his deceased brother, while trying to prove that it is possible to contact with deceased loved ones through space. The visually lush art direction blends with sci fi elements offering a ‘dramedy’ that evokes the feel of 80’s family films. Her previous film Into Paradiso (2010) was nominated for several awards, including the Controcampo Italiano Prize at the Venice Film Festival.

A Thought of Ecstasy
Germany-USA- Switzerland
Director RP Kahl
International premiere

Inspired by the writings of Georges Bataille and Jean Baudrillard, this art house title is a haunting study of a man’s journey to find a lost love in the US in the year 2019. Director RP Kahl obscures the viewer with a chronologically broken timeline and blends memories, sexual desires and fears with a distorted sense of ‘reality’ to present a story of a person psychologically succumbing to illusions and self destruction. The film was nominated for the Best Production and Screenwriting awards at the Munich Film Festival.

Ajji, India
Director Devashish Makhija
European premiere

After her granddaughter gets raped by a local politician’s son, Granny sets out on a dark odyssey of retribution, coming across corrupt law enforcement and public servants in the process. For his second feature film director-scriptwriter Devashish Makhija has created a haunting and claustrophobic depiction of India’s systemic social injustice with memorable visual imagery.

Bangzi Melody
Cun xi, China
Director Dasheng Zheng
International premiere

Depicting the tumultuous years of post-Mao China with witty allegory, Zheng Dasheng’s latest feature is set in Northern China in 1982, right after the Cultural Revolution has ended and brought about the mass privatisation of land in China. To celebrate the reform, the Party secretary asks the villagers to prepare a classic Bangzi Opera - a move that is generally met with enthusiasm, except for Mad Kui, a guard of the communal piece of land who refuses to give up his position, becoming a nuisance to the community and the new system. Film and theater director Zheng Dasheng A Tao (2000) and Death of Wang Bo has won awards at several Chinese festivals and his film Useless Man (2012) was in the Official Selection of Montreal WFF.

The Eternal Road
Ikitie, Finland-Estonia- Sweden
Director AJ Annila
International premiere

Set during the Great Depression years of the 1930’s and based on a true story, this adaptation of Antti Tuuri’s novel of the same name follows a Finnish emigrant who unwillingly enters the Soviet Union and is forced to join a Finnish-American colony of settlers who have followed Stalin’s call to come and build up the socialist state, only to realise that it will soon turn against them during the years of Red Terror. The film was directed by AJ Annila (Sauna, Jade Warrior), produced by Ilkka Mattila (9th Company, 1944, Pioneer) and co-produced by Estonia’s Kristian Taska (Purge, 1944) and received support funding from Finland 100 – the Finnish Republic’s centenary celebration, Estonia’s cash rebate and the Ida-Viru Film Fund. The film participated at the Baltic Event co-production market in 2014 and at the Works In Progress showcase in 2016.


Director Kim Jong-woo
International premiere

Director Kim Jong-woo’s drama sets a rather unique premise: a man’s current and former wife get into a car accident and are both left in a coma. The man finds it easy to accept the daughter he had with the ex-wife, but a more problematic issue is the boy - the protagonist of the film - whom the ex-wife had from a previous marriage. What follows is a moving study on the meaning of family, acceptance and having a safe place - a home.

Director Kristof Hoornaert
International premiere

Representing the focus region of the festival this year - Flanders, Belgium - Resurrection follows a young man who has just murdered his companion and is united with a reclusive man who offers him a hideout. Director Kristof Hoornaert’s presents a quiet, touching tale of the repercussions of violence and of overcoming one’s past demons. The director’s short films have been screened at numerous festivals, including Berlinale, Tallinn Black Nights, Montreal, Busan and BFI London.

The Heat after the Rain
El calor después de la lluvia, Costa Rica
Director Cristóbal Serrá Jorquera
International premiere

Cristóbal Serrá Jorquera’s first feature film follows 30-year- old Julia trying to restore her mental balance after a miscarriage and the ensuing breakup from her companion. It is a rare case of a male director studying a female subject with subtle delicacy, offering a film that serves both as a meditative journey and a moving character piece. The director has previously been awarded at the Valdivia IFF for his short film Todos los lugares y yo.

The Marriage
Martesa, Kosovo
Director Blerta Zeqiri
World premiere

Kosovan director Blerta Zeqiri’s fascinating character study centers on two friends who were separated after the Kosovo War and are reunited on the eve of the marriage of one of them. After a successful first encounter with the friend and his bride to be, the events and revelations take an unexpected turn that threatens to alter the triangle’s current state of affairs. The director’s short films have won awards at international festivals such as Sundance, Sarajevo and Tirana.

The full lineup of the First Feature Competition will be announced on the 24th of October.