First Feature Competition programme is unveiled and on sale!

Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival presents eighteen films that are competing in the First Feature Competition of the festival this year. Tickets for the premieres are now on sale!

Running since 2015, the First Feature Competition is the festival’s international competition showcasing films that are the feature debuts of talented new filmmakers. The programme embodies the festival’s mission to discover emerging creative voices from all over the world, offering them a first launchpad and help them to gain international recognition.

The competition will be overseen by an international jury of film industry professionals, that will be announced in the second half of October. They will hand out the following prizes: Best film and a 5000 euro grant shared by the director and producer of the film, along with two Special Prizes.


2019, Lithuania, Director: Jurgis Matulevičius | World premiere

Lithuanian director Jurgis Matulevičius goes artistically deep into the darkness of 20th-century history, offering a decades-spanning tale of a Lithuanian political activist Andrius Gluosnis who kills a Jew – Isaac – at the Lietukis garage massacre in 1941. Years later in Soviet Lithuania, his friend, a well-known film director returns from the USA with a screenplay of a film that depicts the massacre in detail and a situation where Isaac is being killed becoming the main suspect of a KGB investigation, opening the floodgates to repressed guilt for the protagonist.

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2019, Iran, Director:  Soroush Sehat | International premiere

Director- co-scriptwriter Soroush Sehat’s drama-comedy stages a reunion of old friends for Jahangir’s birthday, when everyone is informed of his fatal illness. An inevitable confrontation with the current situation and the past leads to a series of tensions and reconciliations – it is a story about death, serving as a light-hearted ode to life. Soroush Sehat has been active as an actor and scriptwriter in several Iranian films and a director of Iranian TV series.

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2019, Italy, director: Emanuela Rossi | International premiere

Director and co-scriptwriter Emanuela Rossi offers a “fairy tale for grown-up children”, a fantasy tale about a seventeen-year-old girl living with her father and two younger sisters in an isolated house under a strict rule not to exit the building under any circumstances. Her father,  the only one able to go outside, claims the outside world is apocalyptical, but something about the story doesn’t quite add up for the protagonist. Using a fictional setting as a backdrop, Rossi is interested in the power play between parents and their children and the spatial and psychological repression a growing psyche can feel at home.

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2019, Ireland, director: Dathai Keane | International premiere

Irish Director Dathaí Keane presents a drama with mystical sub currents, subtly blending lines between fantasy and realism in the tale of Micí Finky, a musician with a tragic past, is crippled in an accident and given a chance at redemption when recruited by an avant-garde circus. Keane has directed two successful drama-documentary series The Irish Mob – that has been internationally sold to Netflix and Easter 1916 – that is available on Amazon Prime. Another Netflix title by him is the drama series Dominion Creek that also ran for two seasons on Irish national television under the name An Klondike. Finky won the award for Best Cinematography at Galway Film Fleadh.

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2019, Hungary, director: Zoltán Nagy | International premiere

Set in the present-day Hungarian countryside, director Zoltán Nagy’s debut introduces 18-year-old Dávid, the lead violinist in his music conservatory’s orchestra. His mentor and the teacher, also somewhat a father figure for Dávid, is a veteran conductor. A freshman, 14-year-old student Nori joins the orchestra at the end of the school year and soon enjoys the attention of both men. At one point she confesses to Dávid that the 60-year-old man is making intimate approaches to her. Nagy plays skillfully with the ambiguities of truth, prejudices and miscommunication of the situation, as he keeps the audience in a similar position with the protagonist, who, while looking for the truth, starts to spiral out of control emotionally.

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2019, USA / China, director: Kunlin Wang | International premiere

Managing to combine sensibilities that usually tend to oppose each other – surreal and naturalistic – director and writer Kunlin Wang presents a coming-of-age journey of a teenage boy, who sexually awakens after discovering the sexual relationship between his father and sister figures. While trying to repeal the psychological repression of the father, he builds a yearning for his sister’s sexual attention. Having a background in Gender Studies, director Kunlin Wang has a passion for telling stories of subcultures and marginalised people. She has directed more than 10 short films that have won awards including the New York and Los Angeles Film Awards.

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2019, Germany, director: Elisa Mishto | International premiere

Julie is a rich and sarcastic patient in a mental clinic with a history of seducing men and setting things on fire. She meets Agnes, a nurse and young mother with little know-how or emotional capabilities of being either. The meeting of the two wild spirits sparks a rebellion or a spree of severe vandalism, depending on the perspective. Director-scriptwriter Elisa Mishto presents a stylised, poetic and witty portraiture of an ambivalent rebellion in the contemporary world. While destructively nihilistic on the surface, there is also a sense fighting back against the fetishisation of productivity in our world. Her previous film won the best short film award at the Max Ophüls festival and screened at Palm Springs. 

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2019, Slovenia / Italy / Germany, director: Gregor Božič | European premiere

In a decaying forest on the Yugoslav-Italian border in the years after World War II, a stingy, old carpenter and a lonely, young chestnut seller share imaginative memories of the past as they weigh fateful decisions for the future, in this touching homage to a lost way of life. Director and co-writer Gregor Božič shot the film in the rural area on the border of Italy and Slovenia where he grew up. The story is based on the stories he heard there while conducting research on pomology. The film had its world premiere in Toronto.

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2019, Poland, director: Bartosz Kruhlik | International premiere

Showcasing remarkable skill at flowing smoothly between genres – drama, thriller and disaster cinema – Polish director Bartosz Kruhlik tells the story of a few hours in the life of a rural community affected by an accident that changes the life for several of the characters while raising questions about the essence of chance and destiny. Kruhlik’s short films have won over 150 awards and been included in The selections of San Sebastian IFF Karlovy Vary IFF, Montreal WFF, Sarajevo FF and IDFA.

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2019, Germany, director: Hossein Pourseifi | International premiere

Setting his powerful historical drama about the difficult choices average people have to make during history-shaping events, director-screenwriter Hossein Pourseifi presents a story from Iran in 1979. In the wake of the Islamic Revolution, a young woman from East Germany follows her Iranian-born husband to Tehran. Driven by the will to create a free and equal society they plan to start a new life with their little daughter. But eventually, the young family has to make the biggest sacrifice imaginable. Adding an autobiographical nuance to the selection of the topic, the film’s director was four years old when his family moved from Iran to Germany after the events depicted in the film.

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2019, UK, Director: Rene Pannevis | World premiere

Born in the Netherlands, working in the UK, director-co-scriptwriter Rene Pannevis’ first feature-length work follows a working-class youngster caring for his bedridden father, trying to find legal work to pay the bills, while also getting dragged into illegal activities as the household’s financial situation gets more dire by the day. The director’s success lies firmly in his ability to work with the talented lead actors Charley Palmer Rothwell (DunkirkLegend), Thomas Turgoose (This is England), Tom Fisher (Amazing Grace) and Morgane Polanski (Vikings).

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Mater, 2019, Croatia / Serbia / France / Bosnia-Herzegovina, director: Jure Pavlović | World premiere

Director Jure Pavlović’s short films have screened at numerous festivals including Berlinale and Clermont Ferrand, with his film Pinkik earning him the European Film Award in 2015. Black Nights Film Festival presents the world premiere of his debut feature Mother, the first-person-told story of a Yugoslav expat Jasna, returning to the home of her dominating mother in Croatia, after learning she’s terminally ill. 

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2019, USA, director: Cory Santilli | World premiere

Labelled as ‘lo-fi sci-fi’ US director Cory Santilli introduces an original vision of a world that has gone to extremes to secure proper sleep cycles for its citizens. Kentucker Audley (Christmas Again) and Cannes Un Certain Regard-winning actress Suzanne Clement (Laurence Anyways) carry the story forward as characters isolated from the rest of society as part of a voluntary experiment. Instead of grand socio-political narratives, we get an introverted vision of the future where the all-controlling power is an abstract and fully anonymous entity.

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O Buscador, 2019, Brazil, Director: Bernardo Barreto | World premiere

Working actively as an actor, writer, producer and Brazilian director Bernardo Barreto’s first feature-length direction The Seeker follows a 30-something couple living in a commune of free spirits on a nerve-wracking Father’s Day visit to the girl’s parents home. The gathering of the wealthy family belonging to the societal elite is under severely stressful circumstances as an angry crowd has gathered behind the villa’s gates to protest against the family head’s corruption charges that have just emerged.

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La muerte de un perro, 2019, Uruguay / Argentine / France Director: Matías Ganz | World premiere

Uruguayan director Matías Ganz showcases his skill of off-kilter storytelling, presenting a veteran dog veterinarian whose decision to hide his fault in the death of a client’s dog leads to unforeseen results for him and his family, as they enter into psychological warfare with an unknown opponent.

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(축복의 집), 2019, South Korea, director: Park Hee-kwon | World premiere

Having screenwriting experience from several series and film projects already, including the disaster thriller The Flu, South Korean director-scriptwriter Park Hee kwon’ s debut is a completely different affair. The minimalistic documentary-like character study follows the socially isolated 20-something Hae su doing rough jobs, while also organising her mother’s funeral and the legal processes that goes with it, gradually unravelling the secret social tragedy that is behind it all.

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 2019, India, director: Wanphrang Diengdoh | World premiere

Indian director Wanphrang Diengdoh presents the story of Shem (played by Adil Hussain of Life of Pi fame), an out of work private investigator with a sharp sense of the streets who gets a chance to escape the lethargy of his current life when he is asked to investigate an unusual robbery. Navigating narrow streets and dark alleys, he embarks on an emotional and mental journey as he navigates the city of Shillong – in far-flung North East India – an area rife with acute race tensions and an even more diverse cultural identity when compared to the rest of the country.

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2019, Bolivia / USA / Canada / Iran, director: Bahman Tavoosi | World premiere

Born in Iran,  working in Canada and South America, Bahman Tavoosi’s poetically quirky first feature studies the effects of political nostalgia and personal cult in a rural area of Bolivia that is preparing for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s death. As an old countryside teacher is invited to share her historical story with the world: giving a bowl of soup to the captured guerrilla in her classroom, a few hours before his death. The invitation is withdrawn soon after, as other women step forward claiming the story of “the soup and the flower” as their own.

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© 2019 NGO Black Nights Film Festival