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10 recommendations for Black Nights Film Festival

Tickets for sale for the Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF). November 2016.
Tickets for sale for the Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF). November 2016. Source: (Liis Reiman)

The 20th annual Black Nights Film Festival, better known by Estonian acronym PÖFF, is already in full swing, with a rich program of screenings at various locations in Tallinn and Tartu. As the number and variety of films on offer may be overwhelming for festivalgoers, Helina Koldek of has shared her top ten picks for this year's edition of PÖFF.

"The Untamed" ("La región salvaje")

2016, directed by Amat Escalante

Mexico, Denmark, France

Amat Escalante’s sci-fi-peppered drama "The Untamed" offers a unique insight into the modern society of Mexico, which is continuously suffering from machoism, misogyny and homophobia. Following the scheme familiar from Pasolini’s "Teorema," in which the routine of family life is disrupted by the arrival of a charming stranger, Escalante embarks on a completely one-of-a-kind journey. This masterpiece has, among others, been compared to Andrzej Żuławski’s "Possession."

"The Ornithologist" ("O Ornitólogo")

2016, directed by João Pedro Rodrigues

Portugal, France, Brazil

João Pedro Rodrigues, one of the most interesting Portuguese directors, has made another dreamlike and personal pearl of a film. The action takes place in the wilderness of northern Portugal, where ornithology enthusiast Fernando loses control of his canoe and subsequently his consciousness while watching birds. Regaining consciousness, he encounters a number of weird adventures in a mystic forest full of surprises, in which the everyday and supernatural, religious and sensual worlds intertwine.

"Land of the Little People" ("Medinat Hagamadim")

2016, directed by Yaniv Berman


Children left alone during wartime pass the time in an abandoned military base inventing new weapons and hunting for animals in the forest. They’re not killing for pleasure, however, but to feed the blood-thirsty monster living at the bottom of the well in the base. When the youth gang discovers that their hiding place has been taken over by two deserters, they start a war against the intruders. It is a creepy political metaphor to Israeli-Palestinian relations.

"Psycho Raman" ("Raman Raghav 2.0")

2016, directed by Anurag Kashyap


Brilliant crime films have been coming out of India in recent times, focusing on the dark side of Mumbai. Anurag Kashyap, who is at the forefront of the movement referred to as Mumbai noir, is one of the most influential filmmakers in India today. His "Psycho Raman" follows a mentally unstable, manipulative and ruthless Raman who has decided to emulate the 1960s serial killer Raman Raghav. The incredibly thrilling and corrupt story is accompanied by a refreshingly tasteless soundtrack.

"Zoology" ("Zoologiya")

2016, directed by Ivan I. Tverdovsky

Russia, France, Germany

As Hollywood Reporter shrewdly says, "Zoology" is a sort of mixture of Kafka, Cronenberg and dark Russian humor. It’s a story about a lonely zoo worker named Natasha, who lives with her deeply religious mother and is the object of her colleagues' ridicule. Everything changes, however, when Natasha discovers that she has grown a tail. Turning to a doctor with the problem, she meets the handsome young X-ray department employee Petja, with whom she begins a romantic relationship. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Petja is not so much interested in Natasha as in her tail. Natasha must do something.

"Soul on a String" ("Pisheng shang de hun")

2016, director Zhang Yang


Yang Zhang’s drama takes place in the highlands of Tibet. Former criminal Tabei has been resurrected and sent to take a sacred jewel to a secret destination. On his journey, which takes him across mountain roads as well as paths of his heart, demons, treasure hunters and brothers eager to avenge their father’s death await. The adventurous journey is accompanied by picturesque landscapes, mountain lakes, steppes, snowy mountaintops and, of course, mystic stories and invisible worlds.

"Harmonium" ("Fuchi ni tatsu")

2016, directed by Koji Fukada

Japan, France

This thrilleresque psychological drama, running a silent but explosive course, follows the consequences of the past deeds of a decent family man, Toshio. The family, suffering from boredom and routine, has change brought into their lives by their father’s long-lost friend Yasaka. He starts to work in Toshio’s metal workshop, settles into the family home and gradually takes over the role of the head of the family. The viewers can ponder over sin, revenge, redemption and the mysterious human nature.

"The Void"

2016, director Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski


Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski belong to the film group Astron-6, whose stylish and witty films with a unique vision ("Manborg," "The Editor") have been shown to Estonian audiences before. As is typical of Astron-6 films, the new film's strength is in creating something never been seen before by utilizing skilful and plentiful references and quotations.

"Fantastic Planet" ("La planète sauvage")

1973, directed by René Laloux


An animated fantasy with a very cozy and surreal atmosphere and 1970s vibe about a planet on which humans (Oms) live under the supremacy of blue aliens (Draags). One human kept as a pet manages to escape and starts to fight against the Draag regime with others. It is an allegorical treatment of the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, but the most remarkable part of the film remains the crafted world with its wonderful and unforgettable beings and plants.

"The Kingdom, Season I" ("Riget I")

1994, directed by Lars von Trier

Denmark, Italy, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Holland

Special screenings of Lars von Trier’s "The Kingdom," which was also shown at the first PÖFF 20 years ago, will take place in Tallinn's Sinilind. The hospital series, often compared to David Lynch’s "Twin Peaks," includes elements of mystery, melodrama and horror as well as black comedy. The action takes place in a Danish hospital and follows both the earthly and supernatural cases of the hospital's patients and doctors. As an intermediary, the events are commented on by dishwashers with Down syndrome.


The 2016 edition of PÖFF, which last year boasted over 80,000 admissions to 914 screenings of a total of 650 films, runs in Tallinn and Tartu through Sunday, Nov. 27. For more information about PÖFF, including schedules, info center locations, events and special offers, head over to PÖFF's English-language homepage (also available in Estonian, Russian).

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla


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