The Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) opened in Tallinn on Friday, bringing a little light to the gray season in Estonia. From small beginnings in 1997, PÖFF is now a major event, a time when filmmakers from around the world come to Estonia, bringing new and exciting films.
PÖFF is important to Estonia, as it brings attention from the world's media and independent filmmakers, and also brings something for Estonians to look forward to in the long fall season, when the country sometimes appears to be covered in a permanent grey blanket. Unlike summer, when most people spend as much time as they can outdoors, often in the countryside away from Tallinn, the Estonian fall is a period of reflection and a time when people are more inclined to stay indoors and take in the new ideas a film can bring.
Ten international premieres and nine European premieres will take place at PÖFF, in a sign of the positive impact brought by the event. In fact, it was recently named as one of the world's top 15 film festivals, by receiving recognition from the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF).
The 18th Black Nights Film Festival opened with “Warsaw 44” by Jan Komasa with the introduction by the director Komasa, actor Józef Pawłowski and producer Jan Kwiencinski. With the Polish focus, Black Nights wishes to celebrate one of the most unique film cultures of Europe. 16 Polish films will be screened at the festival.
Tiina Lokk, the director of Black Nights Film Festival, highlights the South Korean director Kim Jin-Moo's 'The Apostle', a fictionalized account of the persecution and danger faced by Christians in North Korea, where following the religion can be punished by death.
"The director transmits the strong feeling of fear and mistrust through the screen, while the true depth lays in the connection of human nature and religion," Lokk said.
PÖFF takes place in Tallinn, Viimsi, Tartu, Pärnu, Narva and Jõhvi, offering the widest variety of films that any of the cinemas will have screened, from debut directors and global names. Of course, with so many films in a crowded schedule, it is not possible to see everything on offer. Film enthusiasts spend time poring over the program on the PÖFF website, and the festival is designed to cater for both the hardcore film buff and the occasional viewer, featuring little-known international gems alongside notable American films like 'Birdman', the superhero parody in which Michael Keaton puts in what is being talked-about as a potential Oscar-nominated performance.
The festival will be closed by 'La Famille Bélier', a new film from French director Eric Lartigau, having its international premiere after a single screening in France. A heartwarming and thought-provoking comic drama, the film focuses on Paula, a 16 year-old girl who acts as the bridge between her deaf family and the hearing world, interpreting for them in sign language. Her world is shaken up when her beautiful singing voice is discovered, bringing the tantalizing prospect of a musical career, which would tear her away from the family that seems to need her.
Like the titular family in 'La Famille Bélier', PÖFF brings people in Estonia together, offering a shared experience different to anything else that can be found in this corner of Europe.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the Estonian President, gave a speech at the opening ceremony, as well as the Minister of Culture and Heritage of Poland, Professor Malgorzata Omilanowska.