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PÖFF’s First Feature Competition: youthful insights from around the world

This year's exciting debut feature selection offers a vast catalogue of intriguing films set to put emerging filmmakers on the map!

The fall is notoriously busy with film festivals of all sizes and colours, but the prospect of flying out to Tallinn in November, though bracing ourselves for a confrontation with hard weather, represents one of the highlights of the year for many cinemagoers, industry professionals and film journalists. This year, the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival returns for a 26th edition between the 11th and 27th of November.

Starting in 1997 as a platform for Nordic cinema, the festival has grown dramatically, expanding its goals and ambitions, effectively becoming in 2011 the only Northern European festival to hold a Fiapf accreditation for holding an international feature film programme, along with the other ‘big six’: Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Warsaw, Karlovy Vary, San Sebastian. One of the busiest regional industry hubs, every year the festival receives a vast congregation of journalists and industry delegates, marking an attendance number of 80,000 people annually. On this occasion, POFF will screen 250 features, more than 300 shorts and animations, along four competitive strands — Official Selection, First Feature Competition, Baltic Film Competition, Rebels with a Cause & the newly established Critic’s Picks — and a further selection of various in-competition and out-of-competition programmes.

The Tallinn Black Nights festival has always been a vital centre for filmmaking and cinema love, showcasing original, youthful or seasoned, but always fresh talent from Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltics and the world. Having spent two weeks in 2021 in Sitges appraising the Horror & Fantasy Festival, I am incredibly eager to visit the Black Nights and undertake the reviewing of the entire First Feature Competition catalogue. Indeed, this occasion will mark my first visit, not only to the hostess-city Tallinn, but to Estonia itself, the soil which gave Andrei Tarkovsky the locations for his Stalker (1979).To cover the First Feature selection is an ideal task for a young journalist and filmmaker such as myself, as the selection will doubtless introduce me to a vast array of rising and intriguing new directors. Further, POFF is famous for lodging all guests, delegates and journalists in the same hotel, which will surely create the circumstances for the mingling of different personalities, filmmakers and excited visitors.

This year’s curation promises ten World Premieres, eight International Premieres in competition, two International Premieres out-of-competition, with twenty Debut films. The First Feature selection will be a clear gateway into the youthful insights of rising talents across Europe and the world, under PÖFF’s curated supervision, which always strives for the highest artistic standards. Among the films that catch my attention is controversial documentarian Zuzana Piussi’s debut fiction feature, The Unbalanced, a socio-political tragicomedy following a tormented divorcee ; the Croatian minimalistic Pelican, set in a single location, a spa hotel, which hosts a series of unlikely characters facing their respective crises ; the somber historical drama The Land Within, which depicts the exhumation and examination of the contents of a Balkan mass-grave ; the Norwegian family drama Storm, which sets in motion a mysterious plot surrounding the death of a child ; the out-of-competition debut Phi 1.618, a genre-blender with brutalist and punk elements ; but undoubtedly,PÖFF will hold many surprises that one cannot predict.

First Features – in competition:

  • Amar Colony (Siddharth Chauhan)
  • The Unbalanced (Zuzana Piussi)
  • Pelican (Filip Heraković)
  • The Accident (Bruno Carboni; pictured at the top of this article)
  • The Land Within (Fisnik Maxville);
  • The Man Without Guilt (Ivan Gergolet);
  • Parade (Titas Laucius);
  • Upon Entry (Juan Sebastián Vázquez and Alejandro Rojo);
  • The Other Widow, Ma’ayan Rypp
  • Amusia (Marescotti Ruspoli);
  • Klokkenluider (Neil Maskell);
  • The Hatcher (Grzegorz Molda);
  • Punch (Welby Ings);
  • Everybody Wants to Be Loved (Katharina Woll);
  • Double Life (Enen Yo);
  • Until Branches Bend (Sophie Jarvis);
  • The Other Child (Kim Jin-young); and
  • Storm (Erika Calmeyer).

First Features: Out-of-competition

  • Phi 1.618 (Theodore Ushev); and
  • Barren (Vardi).

Make sure to keep checking our website from the 11th to the 27th of November for up-to-date reviews and articles from the Black Nights.

By Liván García-Duquesne - 21-10-2022

Livan Garcia-Duquesne is a UK-based French-Spanish filmmaker and writer. He holds an MPhil in Film & Screen Studies from the University of Cambridge and his academic work has been centred around t...

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