Government exempts PÖFF festival from any potential new Covid restrictions

PÖFF's signature animal is the wolf, hence the masks.
PÖFF's signature animal is the wolf, hence the masks. Source: PÖFF

The government has exempted an annual international Tallinn film festival, starting next Friday, from any additional restrictions which may arise this month, citing the event's overriding societal and national interest.

The festival, the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, known colloquially as PÖFF, is still subject to the current restrictions, which include a bar on any screenings beyond 11 p.m., but would not be subject to any further measures imposed generally throughout the rest of November.

The government announced its decision via its website early on Friday, stating that canceling PÖFF would cause irreparable damage to Estonia's reputation.

The possibility of legal action being taken by cooperation partners involved in the festival, at domestic and international levels, was also cited as a factor.

Organizers must adhere to the measures set out in the state risk management plan, plus apply additional risk mitigation measures as prescribed by the Health Board (Terviseamet) where necessary, the government said.

The festival starts on Friday November 12 and runs for just over two weeks, to November 28. It is classified as a "Class A" festival and, the government says, is one of the world's most prestigious film festivals.

In concrete terms, PÖFF screenings can continue to 11 p.m. - which is the current curfew in any case, but this will remain unchanged should the government opt to bring forward the time at which entertainment and catering venues must close.

PÖFF cinema halls are also guaranteed a minimum 20 percent audience capacity regardless of any further restrictions which may take effect.

PÖFF staff and volunteers are fully vaccinated, the government says, while a minimum number of staff needed to keep the festival going at all times is also guaranteed, should general restrictions impose the requirement for remote work or curtail working hours.

Close to a thousand international guests are expected this year, with over 200 movies from all around the world on offer.

The PÖFF official website is here.

The current coronavirus restrictions are here.

Cinemas may still operate, but the cabinet is currently discussing further, more stringent restrictions should the latest round – which came into effect on Monday – not have the desired effect.

The government is unlikely to have sufficient data on this until next week, just days before the festival is due to start.

A somewhat scaled-down version of PÖFF went ahead last November, the first festival following the arrival of the pandemic, with movies available to view online, but movie hall viewings were also permitted.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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