Posts Tagged ‘Tallinn Black Nights Festival’

And Yet We Were All Blind (2022) Tallinn Film Festival 2022

Dir.: Beatrice Pollet; Cast: Maud Wyler, Geraldine Nakache, Gregoire Colin, Fanny Cottencon, Pascale Vignal, Pascal Demolon, Ophelia Kolb; France 2022, 95min.

Based on real events, French writer/director Beatrice Pollet recreates a courtroom drama centred on Claire Morel, a lawyer and mother of two daughters, whose denial of her pregnancy nearly led to the death of her newborn son and landed her in front of a court, accused of infanticide.

Claire (Wyler) is a happy mother of two and lives a contended middle-class life with husband Thomas (Colin), a tree surgeon. One night, when Thomas returns late home from work, he finds his wife bleeding heavily, her life hanging in the balance when the police arrive. But rather than help, they accuse her of infanticide after a neighbour found a new born baby in a dumpster opposite her house.

Claire’s best friend, a lawyer called Sophie (Nakache) takes over her case. But it’s not going to easy. Claire was in denial of her pregnancy, she the court and jury take a dim view of her, pressing a harsh sentence. The Judge (Demolon) takes a sympathetic view, the prosecutor (Kolb) asks for the maximal custodial sentence of seven years. Sophie researches Claire’s medical history. It seems she was only aware of being pregnant with her daughter Babou three months into the term. But nobody really believes Claire has “repressed” the birth of her baby son – and she cannot remember dumping him on the container. Even Thomas has his doubts. Yet Sophie remains convinced of her friend’s story. In the end, it falls to the medical experts.  The public – and particularly women – aggressively calling Claire “a Sorceress” and asking “for the protection of the womb”.

There are echoes of Alice Diop’s recent Venice winner Saint Omer another example of filicide with no rational motive. Claire is in a much stronger position being a lawyer, and aware of how the system works. But she is reluctant to exercise her professional knowledge incase she loses her status as a lawyer. But more than anything, she fears her new baby, Simon, will never bond with her.

Pollet tries very hard to avoid any sentimentality, and she succeeds most of the time, although we don’t feel get a strong impression of the characters, they seem to fade into George Lechaptois washed out aesthetic. A worthwhile drama but one that could have certainly benefited from more more emotional cut and thrust and a less academic approach. AS

World premiere at the Tallinn Festival | The 23rd of November at 6.30pm

The Poet (2022) Tallinn Film Festival 2022

Dir.: Giedrius Tamosevicius, Vitautas V. Landsbergis; Cast: Donatus Zelvys, Dainius Gavenonis, Indre Patkauskaite, Martynas Nedzinskas; Lithuania 2022, 111 min.

The Poet is not just another epic drama about the grim days of Russian- occupied Lithuania in the late 1940s. First time director Giedrius Tamosevicius and veteran Vitautas V. Landsbergis avoid cliches, derring-do and bloody battlefields, instead opting for a cerebral look into the mind of a talented yet emotionally unstable creative spirit, the poet Kostas. This is a drama that turns on a moral dilemma and explores heroism from another angle. And to make things really authentic the directors have gone for a Soviet realist aesthetic – popular in many Eastern bloc countries after the fall of communism.

Kostas (Zelvys) has been sent down from university for his Anti-Soviet poetry that undermined the ‘great leader’ Stalin. He gets a second chance by agreeing to be a double agent for the KGB, into the bargain saving his family from deportation to the infamous GULAG. His first assignment involves infiltrating a group of partisans fighting the Soviet occupation forces from their hideouts in the woods. Under the guise of a teacher, he falls for librarian Jule (Patkauskaite), unaware she is in league with the partisans and is put off  by Kostas’ opportunism. But life gets complicated when Kostas is asked by Taurus (Gavenonis), the leader of the partisans, to become a double agent in their own ranks. He agrees, hoping to win Jule back.

At a Teacher’s Congress in Vilnius Kostas meets up with an old friend Eduardos (Nedzinskas), who has found a way of working the system and making a living from his anti-Soviet poems. He wants Kostas to do the same and move back to Vilnius. But Kostas gets embroiled with his KGB case officer, and finds himself being blown off course work-wise and emotionally. His double life starts to implode after the partisans come under attack from Russian forces during a night’s celebration in the woods. Kostas and Taurus dive for shelter in an underground bunker where they explore the enormity of their decisions during a dark night of the soul. AS


Songs for a Fox (2021) Tallinn 2021

Dir: Kristijonas Vildžiūnas | Lithuania, Drama 125′

There’s a magical lyrical quality to Songs for a Fox which seems to echo the director’s previous life as a rock musician before becoming a filmmaker with a string of features, winning the special jury prize at Tallinn for You Am I (2006).

Set in the glorious summery meadows and swampy woods of Lithuania Songs follows emotionally vulnerable rock singer Danius who escapes to the bucolic paradise to get over the death of his girlfriend. He may run but can’t hide from the haunting memories of their time together and she appears in woozy dream sequences as he slips in and out of reality, in a script loosely based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and also inspired by Lithuanian folklore.

The story gradually unravels inside his subconscious while reality is firmly tethered to the wild landscapes of this post soviet nation lucidly captured by Jurgis Kmins’ camera blending 3D animation, VFX and evocative wildlife images to echo Greek mythology, medieval folklore, paintings by Pieter Bruegel and Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s’ Dream.

This imaginative visual backcloth is accompanied by a surreal soundscape of newly recorded songs by cult Lithuanian band ‘Šiaurės kryptis’ in a fable about love, longing and the circle of life. MT



The Conscience (2021)

Dir.: Aleksey Kozlov; Cast: Vladislav Komarov, Alexandre Kononets, Vasily Shcipitsyn, Natalya Sveshinova; Russia 2021, 93 min.

Already winning awards for screenplay and artistic achievement this compulsive crime drama from Russian director/co-writer Aleksey Kozlov takes place in the early 1920s Petrograd where Boris Letush, a law professor at the university, becomes embroiled in a dark underworld of politics and secret police while investigating the death of his brother and sister in law, – his nieceMargo survived, but was struck dumb by the traumatic experience.

Letush (Komarov) is a busy man. Teaching his university students, and actively working for the Police, his boss Matveer (Shcipitsyn) is an unscrupulous and greedy little man, who steals food and sleeps with women who are in thrall to, fully aware he has syphilis. So far the chief murder suspect is a well known felon and gang leader Lyonka Panteleev (Komonets). The police boss is convinced he has his man but Letush suspects Matveer himself of the crime, and his lover, a cabaret singer, is ready to denounce him. But the fly in the ointment is that Panteleev was also working for the police as undercover agent. But the do decide to go ahead with Matveer’s plan to have Panteleev ‘escape’ from prison, being shot “whilst escaping”.

Of course it all goes wrong on the night and Panteleev escapes for real, leaving Letush and Msatveer in the lurch, and attracting the attention of the Cheka (Secret Police) after  Letush’s lover Vera (Sveshinova) falls foul of the law trying to escape to Paris.

Paranoia seethes throughout a city where everyone seems to be untrustworthy, not least the Cheka on the regular Police. Letush, for all his scruples, is caught up in these over-lapping spider-webs of deceit. He may be a goodie with the best of intentions but somehow the climate conspires against him, leaving him no alternative but to participate if he wants to save Vera and Margo.

Throwing shadows all over the place, DoP Viacheslav Tyurin creates a German expressionist underworld of subterfuge and sculduggery where it never seems to get light as the characters struggle to survive the atmosphere of menace. There is no quarter given for mitigation or self doubt, the only way forward is to hunt with the wolves, as Letush will find eventually find out to his chagrin. AS

THE CONSCIENCE is showing as part of the London Russian Film Festival, currently being held for the first time in the UK – from November 12 to December 10, 2021. New customers can enjoy the festival films on BFI PLAYER as part of an extended Subscription free trial using the voucher code RFF21.




Stanislavski. Lust for Life (2020)

Dir.: Julia Bobkova; Documentary with Declan Donnellan, Renata Litvinova, Katie Mitchell, Nikita Mikhalkov, Marina Brusnikina, Yuriy Butosov, Oskaras Korsunovas, Lev Dodin; Russia 2020, 82 min.

A new film explores the pioneering work of Russian actor and director Konstantin Stanislavski (1863-1938) who became synonymous with a performance style based on his ‘Actor’s Manual’ in three parts, published during the 1930s.

The ‘Stanislavski Method’ is the bible of all progressive theatre artists, and still hotly discussed in all the best dressing rooms, even though Stanislavski himself is quoted saying “Create your own method, don’t rely on mine. Keep on breaking traditions”. Stanislavski himself managed to maintain his inner freedom and true artistry within the harsh boundaries of the Soviet system, all thanks to the power of his prodigious talent.

The MHAT (Moscow Arts Theatre, which Stanislavski founded with Vladimir Nemerovich in 1898), seems an appropriate setting for a series of interviews with leading proponents on this method immersive feature documentary directed by Julia Bobkova. We meet Lithuanian director Oskaras Korsunovas who claims sitting in Stanislavski’s chair, rehearsing ‘The Seagul l’, gave him the inspiration for his performance. Marina Brusnikina, also a stage director, talks about the master’s polemic writing “Theatre is Dying”, which was published when he was still alive in the late 1930s. She sees the modern actor as a journalist and explorer, crossing the borderline of regular theatre. She laments the fact that Shakespeare is no longer on the curriculum in London acting schools. The general consensus nowadays is that studying the bard is unlikely to help you a get slot on HBO as a filmmaker.

Katie Mitchell, Artistic Director of the ‘Globe Theatre’ (and stage director of a Virginia Wolfe novel based purely on the reflections of the main character) goes a step further: “Cinema deprives the audience of imagination. It replaces imagination with itself. Theatre happens not so much on the stage, but in the imagination of the audience”. Russian film and stage director Nikita Mikalkov (Burnt by the Sun) talks about his adaption of Stanislavski’s approach to rehearsals: “During rehearsals, with five or more cameras active, I ask one of the actors to do something which is not in the script, like putting a cup of tea forcefully on the table where the rest of the cast is sitting. Their reaction is priceless and gives me ideas.”

An exhibition at the MHAT shows stills and other memorabilia of all “Seagull” productions the theatre has ever staged, from Stanislavski’s (it did not open the theatre as commonly reported) to the most recent, directed by Oskaras Korsunovas.

Stanislavski’s tour of the USA from 1922-24 was a great success, and “was the best thing that could have happened to Hollywood. Many Russian directors and actors left the hunger they faced in Stalinist Russia, and emigrated to the New World”. Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren are seen heaping praise on the Russian innovator. Renata Litvinova, who teaches at the ‘Actor’s Studio’ is adamant, that “Genius is 95% work. You have to throw yourself away every day.” And Ivana Chubbuck, who has taught countless Oscar and Emmy winners, underlines Litvinova’s sentiments: “It is not just one day, where you have to give everything, it is your life”. There are some pessimistic thoughts raised at the MHAT events: “Now the office dictates to actors and directors. But it should be the other way round. People become more and more irrelevant, as we head to a virtual life. It’s a kind of de-personalisation, with a lack of direct, intimate connections. Today everything is becoming a sort of a product measured in currency.”

At the end of the film, the actors and directors are given some writing by Stanislavski to read out in front of the camera. Declan Donellan, Artistic Director of ‘Cheek by Jowl’, is annoyed when he reads the Master’s advice not to copy him, and goes spontaneously on strike.

Bobkova keeps talking heads to a minimum, thus avoiding hagiography, instead her more radical approach focuses on the lively camera crew of six and entertaining archive clips of the master, bringing the past and the present together, and keeping Stanislavski’s independent spirit alive. AS

If you’re in the UK you can discover the best in contemporary Russian cinema as part of an extended free trial to BFI Player Subscription – simply sign up here using voucher code RFF21 to claim an additional free month.


Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 2021

Hungary is to be the focus of this year’s Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) announces Hungary as the Focus Country for this year’s 25th edition of the festival. The 25th celebration will open with Ildikó Enyedi’s ninth feature The Story of My Wife, which premiered in competition at Cannes this year, with 18 more Hungarian films screening as part of the In Focus: Hungary programme, including 10 films in a special archive section and 8 new films representing the best of current Hungarian cinema.

Eight current feature films will be shown at PÖFF25, including Gábor Fabricius’ Erasing Frank, which premiered in Venice this summer, Kornél Mundruczó’s Evolution, which premiered in Cannes, and Péter Bergendy’s Post Mortem, Hungary’s entry for the Academy Awards. The archive programme includes cinematic gems from acclaimed directors including Ildikó Enyedi, Miklós Jancsó, Márta Mészáros and István Szabó.

The Story of My Wife is set in the 1920s and sees a middle-aged Dutch seaman betting his cynical business partner that he will marry the next woman who comes into the café they’re sitting in, and unfolds from there in an adaptation of the Hungarian poet Milán Füst’s novel of the same title – oosely based on the legend of the cursed Flying Dutchman.

The Hungarian theme continues with György Pálfi’s Perpetuity. And another, Wild Roots, will screen as part of the Just Film sub festival.

Opening Film / In Focus: Hungary

The Story Of My Wife / A feleségem története (2021, Hungary/Germany/Italy/France, Director: Ildikó Enyedi)

Official Selection – In Competition / In Focus: Hungary
Perpetuity (2021, Hungary, Director: György Pálfi)

In Focus: Hungary Programme

Erasing Frank (2021, Hungary, Director: Gabor Fabricius)
Evolution (2021, Germany/Hungary, Director: Kornél Mundruczó)
Post Mortem (2021, Hungary, Director: Péter Bergendy)
Things Worth Weeping for (2020, Hungary, Director: Cristina Grosan)
Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time (2020, Hungary, Dir: Lili Horvát)
Cream (2019, Hungary, Director: Nóra Lakos)

In Focus: Hungary / Just Film Programme

Wild Roots (2021, Hungary, Director: Hajni Kis)

In Focus: Hungary Archive Programme

Merry-Go-Round / Körhinta (1955, Director: Zoltán Fábri)
Current / Sodrásban (1963, Director: István Gaál)
The Round-Up / Szegénylegények (1965, Director: Miklós Jancsó)
Love / Szerelem (1970, Director: Károly Makk)
Sindbad / Szindbád (1971, Director: Huszárik Zoltán)
Nine Months / Kilenc Hólnap (1976, Director: Márta Mészáros)
Mephisto / Mephisto I-II. (1981, Director: István Szabó)
Son of the White Mare / Fehérlófia (1981, Director: Marcell Jankovics)
The Midas Touch / Eldorádó (1988, Director: Géza Bereményi)
My 20th Century / Az én XX. századom (1988, Director: Ildikó Enyedi)

Tallinn Black Nights | 12-28 November 2021

Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (2019) PÖFF

Tallinn Black Nights runs from the 15 November until 1 December 2019 offering an extended celebration of international films. For the second year running the festival will also showcase the latest in Baltic cinema with a special sidebar dedicated to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The idea is to offer industry professionals and film critics a wider experience and offer the festival audience a taste of local talent.

Tom Sullivan’s Arracht (Monster) is told in Gaelic and set in Ireland in 1845 where a small community fisherman is persuaded to offer board to a sinister stranger. Another world premiere is German filmmaker Hüseyin Tabak’s Hamburg set Gypsy Queen, Konstantin Lopushansky’s Through Black Glass and Narges Abyar’s When The Moon Was Full.


After her success with Come Back Free, documentary filmmaker Ksenia Okhapkina won this year’s Grand Prix at Karlovy Vary with Immortal exploring a Russian social mechanism that feels a lot like the political systems of the last century.

Manfred Vainokivi presents his latest documentary biography In Bed With A Writer, a portrait of the controversial and newly divorced Estonian writer Peeter Sauter. We follow Sauter in Estonia’s art and underground scene as he shares his thoughts on women, sex and ageing.

In a small Estonian town largely inhabited by ethnic minorities, Vladimir Loginov’s second documentary Prazdnik explores the age old phenomenon of the beauty pageant and whether they still have a place in modern society.   .

Having travelled the globe with his debut In the Crosswind, Martti Helde returns with Scandinavian Silence, a thriller that makes use of an unusual narrative device: the tale of a man reunited with his sister having spent years in jail.

One of the biggest box office hits in the country’s history, Tanel Toom’s literary based feature debut Truth and Justice follows the decade-spanning feud of two neighbours during the second half of the 19th century. Toom previously won the Student Academy Award with his short film The Confession.

Hot from a successful run at the Estonian box office, the comedic depiction of the global and local startup culture, Chasing Unicorns, is start-up entrepreneur Rain Rannu’s sophomore feature.


A culmination of one artist’s creative journey that lasted 3,5 years, Away is a fantasy animation directed, animated and composed by Gints Zilbalodis.

Chronicling the tumultuous times in Post-Soviet Latvia, Jānis Ābele’s feature film Jelgava 94 shines a light on the period where teenagers were obsessed with heavy metal.

Juris Kursietis’ second feature Oleg premiered at Quinzaine des Realiseteurs during this year’s Cannes. It’s a gritty tale of Latvian migrant workers searching for a better life in Belgium, not always on the right side of the law.

The life cycle of the Spoon in the globalised economy is Laila Pakalnina’s documentary follow up to her award-winning drama Ausma (2015) that won Jury Prize Best Cinematographer for DoP Anrijs Krenbergs.


Taxidermy, deer-farming and museum curatorship are the focus of this fascinating documentary from Aistė Žegulytė. Animus Animalis, guides us around a bizarre world where reality and artificiality blur.

Meanwhile, Ignas Jonynas’ second film Invisible presents the story of a former dancer Jonas pretending to be blind to enter a TV dance competition, as an intimate and emotional relationship builds between him and his dancing partner. He soon reconnects with the past and a dark secret.

Tomas Vengris’ debut Motherland revisits the year 1992 in a Lithuania, right after the collapse of the Soviet Union, as a single mother and her 12-year-old return to Lithuania, after a long stay in the US, to claim the property that was taken from the woman’s parents when they were sent to labour camps decades ago.

The late 1930s is the setting for Karolis Kaupinis’ historic drama Nova Lithuania where in 1938 the young Lithuanian state celebrated twenty years of independence. Meanwhile situation in Europe is becoming increasingly tense so geographer Feliksas Gruodis sets about raising finance for his novel solution to creating a “backup Lithuania” overseas, where the country’s inhabitants could move in case the whole scenario goes pear-shaped.

Legendary director Algimantas Puipa presents The Other Side of Silence, a tale inspired by the book Bumblebee Honey by Swedish writer Torgny Lindgren. It sees   two brothers living in the same village, on the same lake, by the same forest, but sharing a mutual hatred sparked by their love of the same woman.

The 23rd Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival runs from the 15th of November until the 1st of December.


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