Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival announces its 2022 Baltic Competition lineup.
Presenting the very best and freshest output from the festival’s home region, this year’s Baltic Competition programme includes one world premiere and four international premieres, along with a host of previously critically-acclaimed releases.
This year’s reconfigured programme includes non-Baltic directors leading Baltic co-productions, lining up with Industry@Tallinn and Baltic Event’s co-production market’s selection criteria and featuring films from Armenia, Iceland and Croatia. This year also features only fiction and animation, with Baltic documentary films stepping into the festival’s DOC@PÖFF strand.
The competition will be opened by the world premiere of Lithuania’s The Poet and a screening of Estonia’s Kalev. Both hark back, from quite different perspectives, to pivotal moments in Baltic history, which continue to cast a long shadow over current events.
The 26th edition of Tallinn Black Nights will introduce one new competition programme, Critics’ Picks, led by critic and programmer Nikolaj Nikitin. Critics’ Picks joins the established Official Selection, First Features, Baltic Competition and Rebels with a Cause programmes. Critics’ Picks was introduced to highlight more arthouse fare in the PÖFF lineup, starting with around 15 features in its first year. Rebels and First Features competitions will continue to represent their respective niches - experimental works and fiction debuts.
For the first time, most programmes also have their own lead curators - with Triin Tramberg handling First Features, Edvinas Pukšta on Baltic Competition duty, Javier Garcia Puerto heading the Rebels programme, Helmut Jänes leading Midnight Shivers and Tiit Tuumalu responsible for DOC@PÖFF.
Israeli film will be in Focus in this year's 26th edition, alongside Showcase of Brazilian cinema. The festival runs from November 11-27, 2022.
Co-directors Giedrius Tamoševičius and Vytautas V. Landsbergis bring the world premiere of The Poet to this year’s Baltic Competition. In this historical drama, the titular poet must choose his allies and his words carefully as he finds himself an intermediary between Soviet authorities and rebellious partisans. Landsbergis has directed a huge number of acclaimed documentaries, as well as two fiction features. Tamoševičius previously worked as an assistant to Sergei Loznitsa, before completing this, his debut feature.
Icelandic-Dutch-Estonian co-production A Letter from Helga comes to this year’s Black Nights as an international premiere. The transportative historical drama is a swirling storm of strong emotions: passion, love and longing in the raw and beautiful nature of 1940s Iceland. Ása Hjörleifsdóttir’s second feature, adapted from Bergsveinn Birgisson’s novel, was part of Industry@Tallinn and Baltic Event’s Script Pool programme in 2019.
Staņislavs Tokalovs’ sophomore feature Loveable is also an international premiere in Tallinn this November, after previously featuring in I@T&BE’s Works in Progress programme. Lead actor Karlis Arnolds Avots also stars (in a very different role) in January and will participate in this year’s Black Nights Stars programme for young Baltic Sea acting talents. The plot sees a wayward younger man confronting the challenges and opportunities of new single-parenthood.
Matiss Kaža’s colourful comedy drama also has its international premiere in Tallinn. Things become rather more complicated for a journalist investigating a would-be cult, when her own daughter starts drinking the kool-aid (or “specially structured water” in this case). The story is told in one long shot with many surprising, amusing and surreal twists and turns.
Lithuania’s Pensive is the nation’s first slasher horror, coming to the Baltic Competition for its international premiere. It’s also a first feature for director Jonas Trukanas. A party in a remote cottage gets a little out of hand, as a group of youngsters disturb something deeper and darker in the forests of Lithuania.
Ove Musting’s first feature is a film about basketball and much, much more. After world premiering in competition in Warsaw, it quickly topped the Estonian box office upon domestic release. Kalev was also recently put forward as Estonia’s Oscar candidate. It tells the true story of an Estonian sports triumph, a victory over the Soviets while Estonia was on the cusp of its own independence.
Lithuanian sci-fi fairytale Vesper had a strong festival run including Karlovy Vary, Neuchatel, Bucheon, and Montreal, before a similarly strong showing in French and now global cinemas. Set post-environmental-collapse, a young girl is drawn into a dystopian adventure that may just change the world.
Signe Baumane’s funnily feminist animated feature, co-produced between Latvia, the US and Luxemburg, world premiered in Tribeca, before heading to Annecy and Guadalajara. It’s a story of love and rebellion. And neuroscience. It’s inspired by director Baumane’s own life experience, in and out of love. The film is already nominated for the European Film Awards as Best European Animated Film.
An Armenian-Lithuanian-German co-production, Inna Sahakyan’s animated documentary feature has its Baltic premiere at POFF this year and is Armenia’s nominee for this year’s Oscars, as well as being nominated for the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. It’s a powerful and profoundly affecting story, based on the interview recollections of an Armenian genocide survivor: then, a 14 year old girl who escapes to America.
Parts one and two of Melchior the Apothecary will be programmed together this year as one longer film. Based on the popular novels by Indrek Hargla, both have been released and well received domestically in Estonia. An exciting and accessible medieval mystery, Melchior was also developed partly in Industry@Tallinn and Baltic Event’s Script Pool programme.
January had its world premiere, coupled with a historic international prize win, in Tribeca this year. Viesturs Kairišs’ feature also won Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor in Rome last week, as well as the best directing award in Warsaw. The director’s previous The Sign Painter previously screened at Black Nights. January tells the story of a 19 year old film student caught up in the tumult of early 1991, when Soviet troops attempted to quash the Latvian independence movement.
A co-production between Croatia, Lithuania and Serbia, Traces had its world premiere in the first and second features competition in Warsaw. An archaeological drama, Traces focuses on a young scientist, following on from the death of her father, examining themes of loss, dislocation and eventual recovery. Director Dubravka Turić’s debut short won the Orizzonti Award in Venice 2015 and her second premiered in Cannes.
Like The Taste of Water, Minsk is also comprised of one, unedited (and intense) long shot. Boris Guts’ dramatic thriller weaves together personal and political, as a young couple get tangled up in a night-time anti-government street protest. In light of the politically-charged subject matter, Minsk was entirely shot in Tallinn.
Austeja Urbaite’s debut feature Remember to Blink examines the power (im)balances in relationships. When a French couple adopts two Lithuanian children, the translator who accompanies them brings new complexity to the arrangement.
Estonia’s Ergo Kuld blends romance, thriller and drama in a historical novel-adaptation. Set in 1917, against a backdrop of war and revolution, an Estonian artist returns from France to the titular bog - he finds himself attracted to a local girl and drawn into a conflict with a brutish rival.