PÖFF : 2020 : BNFF
These are the winners of the 24th edition of Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival!
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This year, a record amount of films were shown in and out of competition at the festival. Tonight we celebrated the (almost) end of a successful hybrid festival at Vene Theatre in anticipation of the jury verdict. Now, we are very happy to announce this year’s winners!

A special, unprecedented hybrid edition of Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival has come to a festive end at tonight’s Award Ceremony at the glorious Vene Theatre. Although we are sad that not all of this year’s filmmakers could travel to Tallinn, the joy and honour to have shown their films to live and online audiences are ever so big.

This year, a record amount of films were shown in and out of competition at the festival. In the Official Selection - Competition 26 films competed for the award, 18 filmmakers honoured us with the screening of their first feature in the First Feature Competition, 14 films were showcased as the best of the Baltics in the Baltic Competition and 15 Rebels with a Cause shook up our world views and prejudices. PÖFF Shorts and Just Film showed this year's best shorts and youth- and children's films.

The films were viewed by seven juries, who had the task to watch up to 26 films in just a few weeks, discuss, persuade, let their opinions be changed, open their minds, think of opportunities and futures for filmmakers - all from their own homes, instead of the usual communal cinema visits, dinners and get-togethers in Tallinn.

Tonight, the fruits of these efforts were made official. And, we are very happy to announce this year’s winners!

See the full list of this year’s winners and comments from the juries:

Official Selection - Competition

Grand Prix for the Best Film

Grant of 10,000 Euros, shared by the Director and Producer

Winner: ‘Fear’ by director Ivaylo Hristov, producer Assen Vladimirov

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Svetla is a recently unemployed teacher in a village near the border. When hunting hares in the forest, she encounters an African. As a law-abiding citizen, she sends the illegal immigrant to the border guard station, but is told that she should manage on her own and she takes the man in.

Jury comment: “A beautifully-made film that astutely balances dry humor with important contemporary drama, this clever, impressively scripted and wonderfully performed feature manages the rare feat of being compassionate and provocative while also delivering striking moments of absurdist humor. At a period when the subject of immigration is very much in the headlines this feature is very much a film for our times.”

Best Director

Grant of 5000 Euros

Nisan Dağ for ‘When I’m Done Dying’

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Set in a rough neighbourhood of Istanbul, the story follows Fehmi (Oktay Çubuk), a talented 19-year-old rapper who is addicted to bonzai, a cheap synthetic and deadly drug, jeopardizing any success for his music career.

Jury comment: “The vision, passion and personality of the filmmaker shines through in this absorbing, passionate and striking new film that draws out terrific performances from its roster of non-professional actors, and cleverly weaves drama, music and even animation as it delves into the darker underbelly of a social environment rarely seen on the screen.”

Best Cinematography

Grant of 1000 Euros

Noé Bach for ‘Beasts’

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"Beasts" focuses on victims caught in the bureaucratic cogwheels of this agricultural sector, where life is lived to the beat of the activity support handed out by political powers. Where there’s power, there’s fire...

Jury Comment: This striking film presents a clever take on sexual politics set against the backdrop of working class farmers, with its powerful story given a visceral edge as it follows is lead female character thanks to wonderfully framed cinematography that is honest and non-sensationalistic, and also help the story immerse itself into a traditionally masculine pastoral world.

Best Script

Leonardo António for 'Submission'

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A captivating drama of what happens when a woman files a court case against here own husband for rape. The already difficult situation is further complicated by the fact that the husband is the only son of the deputy to the chief prosecutor.

Jury comment: This masterful script has been precisely developed and structured in such a way to never exploit its disturbing storyline and is driven by wonderful balanced performances, real intelligence and dialogue to impressers and captivates. The main story may be around the accusation of a rape in a domestic environment, but it astutely takes different perspectives as it tells a difficult and at times harrowing story.

Best Actor

Ulrich Thomsen for ‘Erna At War’

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Jutland during World War I. Kalle is a childminded boy whose simplicity is so obvious that he would hardly be expected to be invited to enlist in the army. But things go differently. His mother Erna cannot accept it: and decides to follow her son to protect him.

Jury comment: “We wanted to pay tribute to an acting performance that is aware that it’s there to play a balanced yet profoundly dramatic supporting role to an equally fine lead actress, and gives a wonderfully controlled and rich performance that adds massively to a powerful and memorable film.”

Best Actress

Marie Leuenberger for ‘Caged Birds’

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The story of Walter Stürm, the king of prison-breaks, managing no less than 8 times to flee Swiss prison between 1974 and 1995, while - strangely enough - maintaining a sense of anarchic humor throughout.

Jury comment: “Before presenting the award, the jury wanted to formerly recognise the many beautiful and brilliant female performances in the competition selection this year. If we could have had our way we would have awarded seven or eight best actress awards. But we wanted to shine the spotlight on one truly impressive from a mesmerising actress. Her natural, unshowy performance is driven by emotional energy and a fierce intelligence that is truly impressive.”

Best Music

Juanio Javierre for ‘Armugan’

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Armugan is a Finisher. A man in the mountains, accompanied by the vast sky, the sheep and a personal aide. People are afraid of him, as they sense that he knows something they do not. A Finisher has the skills and knowledge to help the ones who are dying.

Jury comment: This beautiful black-and-white film benefits from a hypnotic score that wonderfully complements the mood and tone of the film, managing to help weave together the poetic and poignant moments of an often mesmerizing feature.


First Feature Competition

Grant of 5000 Euros, shared by the Director and Producer

Winner: ‘Great Happiness’ by director Wang Yiao.

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An insightful, ironic look at the challenges and contradictions that young generations are facing in China. Set in Xining, the capital of Qinghai province on the border with Tibet, this ensemble film follows the ups and downs in the lives of three friends from the generation born at the time of China’s one-child policy.

Jury Report: “For his strong social commentary of modern-day China, where our three couples are caught between old traditions and the new ways. The movie is told in an original, refreshing, cinematic language, where drama and humor are elegantly balanced by the director. And this simple yet complex everyday story ends up being both relevant, honest and very heartbreaking.”

Special Jury Prize #1

Director Jan Holoubek for ‘25 years of innocence. The Case of Tomek Komenda.’

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The life of Tomek Komenda was destroyed forever on a tragic night when he was arrested accused of a brutal murder, convicted in court, and thrown into prison for decades. Jan Holoubek’s debut film is a moving thriller drama that is based on this absurdly horrifying true-life story.

Jury comment: “For an incredible directorial debut film, about the horrors of injustice. With a hunting performance by Piotr Trojan.”

Special Jury Prize #2

Scriptwriters Nora Martirosyan, Emmanuelle Pagano, Olivier Torres, Guillaume André for ‘Should The Wind Drop’

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Alain, a French auditor, arrives to appraise the airport of Nagorno-Karabakh - a self-proclaimed republic of the Caucasus - and greenlight its eventual reopening. This airport, with no planes or passengers, opens its doors every morning and welcomes the staff mimicking real activity. The airport crystallizes itself, the hope of an entire territory, fighting for international recognition.

Jury comment: “For its wonderful screenplay, that brings out the sadly still relevant story on how fragile world peace really is. We can’t wait to see what comes next from these artists, and everybody else in this category.”


Baltic Competition

Winner: ‘The Last Ones’ by director Veiko Õunpuu, Estonia

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‘The Last Ones’ explores how in reality the human nature and fate are a mess of reactions, however heroic the stories we weave out of it. In the Lapland tundra, miners pass their days in the expectation of tomorrow. Always looking for something, without understanding what exactly the soul is yearning for.

Jury Report: “We unanimously agreed on this film for the award. It stood out in all senses: The actors’ ensemble performance was consistent. It was a real team creation, an all-around impressive film, where the team truly lifted it to another level: technically, storytelling-wise, and with its artistic elements.

The carefully well-thought-through selection of music was cleverly mixed. Conflicts within and between the characters we found to be universal. The beauty of the tundra is captured with masterful cinematography. The struggles within that vast, desolate territory between tradition and progress challenge the meaning of “belonging” and depict the general loneliness all our characters are living in. A modern-day Northern Western.”


Rebels with a Cause Competition

Rebels with a Cause award

‘Dinner in America’ by director Adam Carter Rehmeier.

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Simon is hiding from the police. A modest but dogged girl offers him a hiding place. But when Patty finds out that the stranger is the singer of her favourite punk band, the random meeting takes on new undertones. After all, she has sent the boy photos you don’t show your parents.

Jury comment: “The first of two Awards for the Rebels with a Cause Competition goes to a wild ride into small-town America, following a couple of misfits whose punk misadventures win the heart and ears of the audience.”

Ex aequo / Shared with

‘La Veronica’ by director Leonardo Medel.

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When a tragic accident from the near past is uncovered and the tensions keep piling up inside Verónica, she is forced to admit that real life does not conform to social media filters. Or does it?

Jury comment: “The second equal Award in the Rebels with a Cause Competition goes to a thought-provoking portrayal of a complex and dark character that finds a pertinent and daring formal device to plunge the audience in the whirlpool of social media stardom.”

Rebels with Their Shorts Award

‘Stories Keep Me Awake At Night’ by director Jérémy Van Der Haegen

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"Are you a girl or a boy?" the psychologist asks the child. The film is the portrait of day-to-day childhood. A village, a family, a little boy who likes to wear dresses, the return of the wolf and everyday life, ordinary, banal. These elements are used to tell of hidden desires.

Jury comment: “The Award for the Rebels with their Shorts Competition goes to a troubling, yet sweet fairytale that shows how sometimes you need to follow the wolf, in order to find the path to accept your true self.”


FIPRESCI Prize

‘Sententia’ by director Dmitry Rudakov.

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The last days of the life of a writer in a desolate home for the elderly. At every allowed opportunity, he is visited by a literary scholar, a dedicated fan of the poet’s talent, who considers Varlam a genius and wishes to record his very last verse.

Jury Report: “For the formalistic, and yet poetical showing of how art can shine a light, even if not in colour, on the world of resistance and hope.” FIPRESCI Prize


NETPAC (NETWORK FOR THE PROMOTION OF ASIA CINEMA) AWARD

Winner: ‘Ulbolsyn’ by director Adilkhan Yerzhanov, Kazachstan.

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Life in Karataş village runs along an untroubled path until its patriarchal way of life is challenged by Ulbolsyn, a woman whose coldblooded heart and blazing temperament are not afraid of setting everything on fire.

Jury Report: "The Netpac Jury at the 24th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival presents the Best Asian Film award to the film Ulbolsyn by Adilkhan Yerzhanov, for being a vibrant, stylized, playfully innovative—genre-based but also genre-bending drama; a subtle ‘women’s’ film with a fresh but sincere take on traditional life in a Kazakh village full of humane humans."


ECUMENICAL AWARD

‘Armugan’ by Jo Sol.

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Armugan is a Finisher. A man in the mountains, accompanied by the vast sky, the sheep and a personal aide. People are afraid of him, as they sense that he knows something they do not. A Finisher has the skills and knowledge to help the ones who are dying.

Jury comment: "The crisp figurative language of Jo Sol’s “Armugan” pierces the flesh like a stake, creating, through the means of cinema, a suggestive sensory equivalent to the unity of the soul, spirit and body. The film confirms that the body is not weak when the spirit is strong and that the spirit can be strengthened through the body. The film reminds us that the talk about death should not be ideological but demands the remembering of death even in our everyday activities and also the importance of not being alone when dying. The message of the value and sanctity of life rings strong."


LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD #1

Margarethe von Trotta (Germany)

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LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD #2

Alar Kivilo (Canada-Estonia)

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DDA SPOTLIGHT AWARD

Francis Annan (UK)

DDA SPOTLIGHT AWARD

Armando Iannucci (UK)


INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM AND ANIMATION FESTIVAL PÖFF SHORTS

BEST SHORT ANIMATION / Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nomination candidate

‘Precious’
Director: Paul Mas
France.

Jury comment: "This film uses the artifice of animation in order to get painfully close to very real topics. The jury loved the simple style and precise storytelling which tackles complicated subjects that stay with the audience even after the credits roll.”

PÖFF SHORTS NATIONAL COMPETITION: BEST SHORT FILM

‘Struck by Lightning’
Director: Romet Esko
Estonia.

Jury comment: "A beautifully crafted homage that mixes personal archive with a playful approach to its medium, making for a haunting and memorable film you will want to rewatch over and over again. This film tells a deeply personal, delicate yet dynamic story about friendship, conveying a message that is equally authentic as it is universal. “Struck by Lightning” is a cinematic celebration of life and creativity that feels ever so timely and needed."

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT / Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nomination candidate

'Between You and Milagros'
Director: Mariana Saffon,
Colombia.

Jury comment: “The jury was impressed by the film’s subtle exploration of the complex dynamic between daughter and mother, its stunning central performance and its gorgeous cinematography. The director also displays a remarkable level of craft, care and confidence as she gradually reveals the many layers that exist in all of the characters’ relationships."

Find full list of PÖFF Shorts winners here


YOUTH AND CHILDREN’S FILM FESTIVAL JUST FILM

Just Film grand prix

‘Slalom’
Director: Charlène Favier
France.

Jury comment: “The Jury enjoyed watching all the films and appreciated that the films tackled important and topical issues. We saw many stories about grownups behaving irresponsibly and children having to act responsibly. In many of the films the question arises - who here actually is a child and who is a grownup? And what happens when a grownup with irresponsible behaviour puts a burden on the shoulders of the one person that trusts it the most? There was one film in particular that stood out for us for its incredibly authentic portrayal of a complicated situation. Told from a teenage perspective without alienating or demonising other characters in the film, it was brave enough to tackle issues of abuse and neglect in a very realistic way. A powerful film with very honest performances. We’re very pleased to present Just Film 2020 grand prix for Best Youth Film to SLALOM.”

ECFA Award for the best European children’s film

‘Glassboy’
Director: Samuele Rossi
Italy.

Jury comment: “Of all the wonderful journeys we were taken on, one stood out for its exceptionally well-acted story of overcoming isolation, and translating one individual’s feeling of ‘otherness’ to become accepted into a group of close friends. Despite a well-meaning but overprotective family, our central character is empowered to take control of their own path through life, and gradually his family learn to adapt together with him. For its rich characterisations in a beautifully designed world, and an engaging and well-written storyline featuring friendship, courage and freedom – the ECFA Award goes to GLASSBOY.”

Just Film Children’s Jury Best Film Award

‘The Fantastic Journey of Margot & Marguerite’
Director: Pierre Coré
France.

Jury comment: “There were a lot of exciting films and each one of them was interesting and educative. Finally we came to a decision and the winning film was selected because of its fascinating story and strong acting. One girl performed two parts and she did them wonderfully! The film was about managing new situations and doing it playfully. Just Film Children’s Jury Best Film Award goes to “The Fantastic Journey of Margot & Marguerite” - a crazy story of how two girls unexpectedly travel in time and cope in the new era.”

Just Film Youth Jury Best Film Award

‘50 or Two Whales Meet on the Beach’
Director: Jorge Cuchi
Mexico.

Jury comment: “This years Just Film Youth Jury Best Film Award is presented, after long and heated discussions, to a film that sparked intrigue days before its screening. It is a film where bold theme of topic meets with fresh cinematography, well-written characters, professional acting and unique montage. The film met our high expectations and we hope it will be screened in many more cinemas. Just Film Youth Jury Best Film Award goes to "50 or Two Whales Meet on the Beach”."