Kaspar Viilup: PÖFF-goers should choose carefully which films to go see

PÖFF Source: Liis Reiman

In just a few days' time, this year's annual Tallinn Black Nights film festival (PÖFF) will start, providing a great opportunity to retreat from the dreary Estonian autumn and into a darkened cinema hall for two weeks, ERR Kultuur portal's Kaspar Viilup writes.

If one now undertakes this extremely extensive plan, those people who normally keep away from film may start to see their head spinning over the sheer range of choice; what to see, what to pass on…maybe I'll go see the new "Black Panther" movie instead.

One might immediately want to answer, in a rather desultory fashion, that one should still go for the most "exotic" films, because then you can "travel" around the world for just a few euros, experiencing foreign cultures while on the way, but this is somewhat of a slippery slope as it only serves a narrow audience. I am certainly not saying that no one should go see these movies. Film buffs and specialists in the field could blindly leaf through the PÖFF catalog and put their finger on any film; considering the competence and professionalism of the festival team, the chosen film will have earned its place in the program for a reason, and one can certainly get an experience from that.

However, it must be borne in that since mid-November, the media space has been filled with PÖFF news on a daily basis, some days more than others.

This also means that the spectrum is constantly expanding of culturally distant people who are consciously or unconsciously starting to think: PÖFF is something important that we should also be a part of. 

Now imagine that a person who goes to the cinema twice a year, and this year has perhaps only watched [sports drama] "Kalev" and [trilogy] "'Melchior the Apothecary", unsuspectingly finds themselves viewing Latin American experimental cinema? An unexpected experience like that might make the viewer pass on PÖFF for many years to come.

I would recommend that these viewers first choose something from the Screen International critics' program: There are many Hollywood masterpieces amassed there, most of which will reach our cinema distribution at the latest next year, and you can be sure that these films will figure at the Oscars, so you will not be disappointed. 

If you get one such positive experience - looking at the schedule of the festival's opening days it seems that the biggest hits are wisely placed there - then at least a strong foundation has been laid for a wider festival experience. 

At this stage, the first critics have probably already made their own recommendations, which can also be a good guide for all.

Although the festival's program team has done its job in sifting out the best offerings from hundreds of films, critics will venture to take more risks than the average viewer and help point the finger even more precisely, to the effect that this film is perhaps better than the other. 

During the PÖFF, Estonian film critics actually act as one team, who make their own decisions on what to see based on each other's recommendations, since the fact is that the PÖFF program is so extensive that it is not possible to orient oneself through to the end of the program by oneself.

It is equally the case however that the PÖFF program will show the right film to suit every viewer, but finding it often means watching dozens of trailers, reading endless synopses, plus a lot of gut feeling that will develop over the years. Sometimes it's just nice and somehow carefree to go see a movie that you're convinced will be good.

This year's PÖFF runs from Friday, November 11 to Sunday, November 27 inclusive. The main event page is here.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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