Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival announces the complete lineup of the Official Selection Competition

Geographically, stylistically, and culturally diverse: Final 17 films added to the Official Selection Competition. Five of the new films have their world premieres in the Official Selection Competition of the 24th edition of the festival.

From a feministically empowered perspective on the World War II narrative to sports betting in an Iranian dairy factory. The newly announced films of the Official Selection Competition blaze through genres, topics, and locations like the tropical storm does through the streets of Bogota in one of the pictures.

Several films shed a light on the end of the Soviet era, or visit places that seemingly have never even left it behind. And, for the first time since 2017, an Estonian majority production will screen in this competition.

As festival director Tiina Lokk commented: “It is a miraculous feeling to announce such a large and geographically, stylistically, and culturally diverse program. These are strange times [...] and we hope that by screening a bigger selection than usual, we will at least provide the filmmakers a platform to exhibit their creations. And what marvelous, artistically, and culturally diverse creations they are!”

Adding five world, eleven international, and two European premieres to the previously announced selection, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival is very happy to announce its biggest and freshest lineup of the Official Selection - Competition. The first screenings of the films will run from the 17th until the 27th of November. Ticket sales of the first physical screenings of the Official Selection – Competition will begin this Friday.
The full programme of the festival will be announced on the 6th of November.

The 24th edition of Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival will be a hybrid event, running from the 13th until the 29th of November. The press and industry will have access to films and events regardless of their geographical location.


A Distant Place (International Premiere)
Set in a bucolic rural province called Gangwon, South Korea, second-time director PARK Kun-young presents a drama centered around a former art student from the capital, living with a local family. The man is soon paid a visit by significant people from the past, unrolling, with gentle grace their stories and interactions with locals, as we gradually learn about the past traumas of the characters and how these events will come to affect their lives, emotions and their relations to the community in the present.

The film’s executive producers are PARK Kun-young and JANG Woo-jin, who is a director himself, having won the Black Nights Best Director award with his film Winter’s Night in 2018.

Armugan (World Premiere)
Offering a powerful experience through a philosophical study of the mental paths of life and death, Spanish directo Jo Sol studies the legend of Armugan, told in a remote valley in the Aragonese Pyrenees. Working as a euthanizer, disabled Armugan moves through the valleys, carried by his aide Anchel who hopes to learn his dark trade.

Sol has a background in visual anthropology and has developed diverse experimental productions in both Central America and Asia. His feature-length films and documentaries have been largely produced in Spain and presented in major Film Festival including Locarno, Bafici, Guadalajara and San Sebastian, where he won the Best New Director award for The Taxi Thief (2005).

Baby (International Premiere)
A young upper-class, drug-addicted woman, gives birth totally alone in the middle of one of her breakdowns. For days, she precariously breast-feeds the baby and calms its uneasiness with an old family pacifier. Unable to give proper care to her newborn child, she finally sells him to a disturbing woman who works in the child trade business. Soon regretting her decision, she tries to get her baby back, having to face her deepest fears in the process.

Some of the distinctive features of Spanish director Juanma Bajo Ulloa’s cinema are his boldness and the original and iconoclastic character of his proposals. His previous films have received significant domestic and international recognition as Butterfly Wings (1991) won the Golden Seashell in San Sebastian IFF and three Goya Awards, while La Madre Muerta (1993) picked up awards in Montreal IFF (best director), Stockholm IFF, and Fantasporto, among others places.

Beasts (European Premiere)
Focusing on the victims caught in the bureaucratic wheels of the agricultural sector and its dependence on political endowments, we are introduced to the 25-year-old Constance, forced to take over the economically ruined family business operating in cattle breeding. Things take a truly unexpected turn of events after her encounter with the local agricultural grants manager who sees her as easy prey.

Second-time director Naël Marandin’s studies the spheres of life where social and intimate power and desire mingle in a dangerous dance. Beasts wears the Cannes Semaine de la Critique label and has also won the grand prize at the Saint-Jean-de-Luz IFF.

Bedridden (International Premiere)
Following a 26-year-old writer during his existential crisis Mongolian director Byamba Sakhya offers a fresh artistic voice into Mongolian cinema as he follows the passive protest of a young man who is grappling to come to terms with the emotional void that is the result of having grown up without having an emotional relationship with his parents.

Sakhya’s first feature Remote Control (2013) was premiered at Busan IFF and received the New Currents Award, while his documentary Passion (2010) screened at numerous festivals, including Busan IFF, Taiwan IDF, Dubai IFF, and Goteborg IFF.

Caged Birds (International Premiere)
Barbara Hug is a young radical lawyer fighting Switzerland’s antiquated prison system in the 1980s. Walter Stürm is a charmer and chancer. Taunting the establishment with his outrageous thefts and media savvy he’s in and often escaping out of jail and becomes known as the Jailbreak King. When the two meet an unlikely alliance is formed.

Since winning the Best Short Film award at Locarno with his first film Lilien, Swiss director Oliver Rihs’ released several feature films, such as the Berlin-cult-film Black Sheep (2006) and Ready, Steady, OMMM!, the commercially most successful Swiss film of 2014.

Erna at War (International Premiere)
Set in Southern Jutland, occupied by imperial Germany during the last year of the First World War, Erna Jensen witnesses her simple-minded son being conscripted into the Germany army to fight in the horrendous trenches of the Western Front. Will she allow her only love to be taken to fight for a cause that neither of them believes in?

Danish director Henrik Ruben Genz offer adds an angle of feminist empowerment to the WW I narrative, that was shot in a large part in Tartumaa, Estonia as a co-production of Danish, Belgian and Estonian production companies. The director has been nominated for an Academy Award for his short film Bror, Min Bror (1999) and has won the Karlovy Vary IFF’s Crystal Globe for Terribly Happy (2008). He has also directed episodes for the series DNA and Borgen.

Fan Girl (European Premiere)
16-years-old high school student Jane manages to sneak into the villa of the teen idol Paulo Avelino – the object of her obsession. When finally encountering the man, the picture of the perfect star begins to alter. But as we gradually learn more about the conditions in which Jane has grown up, we realise why she so desperately tries to cling on to her fantasy.
The previous films of Filippino director Antoinette Jadaone have been winning awards and screened at festivals such as Busan IFF and Bucheon FFF. Fan Girl, having its European premiere in Tallinn right after screening in Tokyo IFF, is considered by the director to be her way of paying homage to and extending her critique of Philippine cinema.

Fear (International Premiere)
Svetla, a widow, loses her job as a teacher as there are not enough pupils left in the village. Set on the Bulgarian border and on a new route for African migrants arriving from Turkey with hopes to reach Germany, Svetla comes across a man who will bring a dramatic turn to her life.
Director Ivaylo Hristov uses deadpan humour and well-executed art direction to paint a bleak picture of a fading society that is unable to overcome its prejudice and racist xenophobia due to all-encompassing illusions of patriotic performativity. His previous film Losers (2015) brought him the top prize at the Moscow IFF and several other accolades on the international circuit.

Gracious Night (World Premiere)
Working without a written screenplay and shot using improvisation as a method, Finnish director Mika Kaurismäki tells the tale of three men, each of them in the middle of a personal crisis, who meet by chance in a local Bar in Helsinki during May Day night, while the whole country is under lockdown due to the pandemic.
Mika Kaurismäki’s long career includes directing festival favourites such as Three Wise Men, which, among other prizes won the Jury Prize at Black Nights in 2008, while his 1991 hit Zombi and the Ghost Train won the Silver Seashell for Silu Seppälä at San Sebastian IFF. In the 90s Mika established his base and second home in Rio de Janeiro, resulting in several international productions such as the thriller Condition Red (1996) with James Russo, Cynda Williams and Paul Calderon, and in 1998, the comedy L.A. Without A Map, with David Tennant, July Delpy, Vincent Gallo and Johnny Depp. He has also directed several music documentaries, including Mama Africa (2011) that won the Audience Award at Berlinale.

On the Water (World Premiere)
Set during the stagnation period of the 1980’s we are introduced to Andres, a sensitive teenager raised by his strict grandparents in a small bland Soviet Estonian town. He is being bullied at school and his only friends are the drunkards, whores, and thieves living next door, making his coming of age story a mixture of brutality and tragedy, but also humor, warmth, caring and love.

Veteran Estonian director Peeter Simm presents the world premiere of On the Water at Tallinn Black Nights. Throughout his lengthy career, he has directed many highly regarded films such as the 1990 Quinzaine des Réalisateurs entry The Person That Didn’t Exist (1990) and Good Hands (2001) that won the Panorama programme, receiving the Manfred Salzgeber Award, tied with the film Guardian of the Frontier.

Stars Await Us (International Premiere)
Set in a Russian-Chinese border town where time has seemingly stopped since the Soviet Union we are introduced to a well-meaning, gifted Chinese car mechanic who has just been released from Prison. Searching for his lost love, he has to come to terms with the brave new world and its inhabitants.

Stars Await Us arrives in Tallinn for its international premiere, straight from the Pingyao IFF. Director Dalei Zhang's first feature film Summer is Gone was screened out of competition at Black Nights in 2016 to praising reviews, from where it moved on to a row of festivals and awards in China and elsewhere.

Sanremo (International Premiere)
Living in the same nursing home, Bruno and Duša, enjoy their encounters that clearly leave a clear romantic spark in the air, only to be cancelled by the loss of near-term memory. Balancing the tragedy of memory loss with delicate humour, Bosnian director Miroslav Mandič has created a hazily mesmerizing and intellectually haunting spectacle studying the power of memory.

Mandič’s previous films have screened at international festivals such as Locarno, Chicago, Santa Barbara, Munich, Sarajevo, Melbourne, and Cairo.

The Sign Painter (International Premiere)
Set during the tumultuous years of the WWII, we meet a young Latvian man Ansis with simple dreams: to marry the free-spirited and beautiful daughter of a local Jewish merchant and to pursue a career as an artist whilst supporting himself as a sign painter. But his dreams are repeatedly swept away in the tumultuous tides of serial totalitarian occupation of his home, as he becomes the lens through which we perceive the relentless and increasingly absurd march of this brief but momentous period in history from a Latvian dictatorship to Soviet occupation to Nazi conquest to the ultimate Soviet return.

Working in the genre of tragicomedy this time around, Director Viesturs Kairišs returns to the period he visited with his previous film Chronicles of Melanie that was screened in the Official Selection (then called the ‘Main Competition’) of Tallinn Black Nights in 2016 where it won the Best Cinematography award.

The Road to Eden (World Premiere)
A retired writer, Kubat Aliev, is living his last days as a famous and poor writer in a society increasingly concerned by wealth. A widower, he has no children and his only wish is that literature continues to bring enlightenment to his small and disillusioned nation. He sees the possibility of a continuation in his friend, a younger and an equally talented writer, Sapar, who is, however, in need of expensive treatment. Kubat soon finds himself torn between his overwhelming desire to save the sick writer’s life and the pressure to help his kin.

Offering a melancholic, yet urgent portrait of society that’s losing its ties with its cultural foundations, writer and director Bakyt Mukul and Dastan Zhapar Uulu present the world premiere of The Road to Eden in Tallinn. The directing duo’s previous film, also their debut A Father’s Will won numerous awards on the international circuit, including the Golden Zenith at Montreal WFF.

Thread of Return (World Premiere)
A tropical storm unleashes an avalanche in a poor neighborhood of Bogota, destroying the house where Marina lives, forcing her to journey back to the home she had left behind. The journey revives buried traumatic memories of her life in the countryside: adding to the natural disasters, the attacks of guerillas and paramilitaries. But Marina’s return also gives her a chance to locate another survivor from her family – her adopted sister.

Having worked in the Columbian film industry on more than 40 films in different roles, director Erwin Goggel finds hope in a land that has been plagued by violence in his first feature film. His documentary film Del Palenque de San Basilio won the Best Documentary award at the Cartagena de Indias Film Festival.

Tooman (International Premiere)
Offering a riveting spectacle on the addiction of betting and gambling, Tooman introduces us to two Turkmen – Aziz and Davood – working in a dairy factory in Northern Iran, while building a professional sports betting team. With ambitions grows greed, gradually taking their toll on the social relations, emotional balance, and safety of everyone involved.

Iranian director Morteza Farshbaf returns to the Official Selection of Black Nights with his highly entertaining third film, after having participated in 2015 with his second film Avalanche.


Final Report (Zárójelentés), 2020, Hungary, director István Szabó | International Premiere
In the Mirror (Spogulis), 2020, Latvia-Lithuania, director Laila Pakalnina | World Premiere
Parquet (Паркет), 2020, Russia-Poland-UK-Romania, director Aleksandr Mindadze | World Premiere
Submission (Submissão), 2020, Portugal, director Leonardo Antonio | World Premiere
The Dawn (Zora), 2020, Croatia-Italy, director Dalibor Matanić | World Premiere
The Three, Russia, Director Anna Melikyan | International Premiere
Ulbolsyn (Ұлболсын), 2020, Kazakhstan-France, director Adilkhan Yerzhanov | World Premiere
When I’m Done Dying (Bir Nefes Daha), 2020, Turkey-USA, director Nisan Dag | World Premiere

Official Selection Trailers