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Awards of the 24th Tallinn Black Nights FIlm Festival

-   Bulgarian film „Fear“ wins the Official Selection – Competition as European cinema dominates the awards of the programme;
-   Chinese „Great Happiness“ wins First Feature Competition;
-   Estonian „The Last Ones“ is selected as the best Baltic film.

At the Award Ceremony of the 24th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) awards were handed to the winners of the four competition programmes of the festival and PÖFF’s sub-festivals Youth and Children’s Film Festival Just Film and International Short Film and Animation Film Festival PÖFF Shorts.
The jury of Official Selection – Competition headed by Mark Adams selected director Ivaylo Hristov’s drama „Fear“ as their favourite, handing the film the Grand Prix of the festival. Blending drama with deadpan comedy, the film’s story is set on the Bulgarian border, on a new route for African migrants arriving from Turkey with hopes to reach Germany. The protagonist, the former school teacher, comes across an African man who will bring a dramatic turn to her life. 

The jury commended the film with the following statement “A beautifully made film that astutely balances dry humour with important contemporary drama. This clever, impressively scripted and wonderfully performed feature manages the rare feat of being compassionate and provocative while also delivering striking moments of absurdist humour. At a period when the subject of immigration is very much in the headlines this feature is very much a film for our times.”
The Best Director award goes to Turkish director Nisan Dağ for „When I’m Done Dying“, a vibrant portrayal of an upcoming hiphop artist struggling with drug addiction. The jury praised her work with the following words: “The vision, passion and personality of the filmmaker shine through in this absorbing, passionate and striking new film that draws out terrific performances from its roster of non-professional actors, and cleverly weaves drama, music and even animation as it delves into the darker underbelly of a social environment rarely seen on the screen.”
The Best Actress award went to Switzerland’s Marie Leuenberger for „Caged Birds“ for the portrayal of a young radical lawyer fighting Switzerland’s antiquated prison system in the 1980s. 
Ulrich Thomsen received the Best Actor award for his role as a Judtland officer serving the German army in the Danish-Estonian-Belgian WWI drama Erna At War.
Spanish film „Armugan“ takes home two awards – for Best Music and the Ecumenical Award handed over by the Ecumenical Jury. The film tells the philosophical tale of a disabled man who works as a euthanizer in a rural community.
Director-scriptwriter Leonardo António received the Best Script award for „Submission“, a tale of a fight for justice and emotional recovery of a woman fighting the Portuguese legal system after she’s been raped by her husband.
Noé Bach took the Best Cinematography award for the film „Beasts“ that follows a political sex-scandal unravelling in a French rural community.
The First Feature Competition
Three awards were given out by the remotely-working jury led by Ulrich Thomsen, as the Chinese drama by „Great Happiness“, directed by Wany Yiao received the Best Film award. The youthful ensemble piece follows the fortunes of three friends as they seek their future in a world-changing almost faster than they can recognise. With a backdrop ranging from endless forests of skyscrapers to technicolour mahjong tables, a maze of plotlines tie together friendship, family and, of course, business. 
The competition has two Special Jury Prizes, the first of which was handed out to Polish director Jan Holoubek for „25 years of innocence. The Case of Tomek Komenda“, a torn-from-the-headlines story that digs deep into one man’s extreme misfortune as he’s framed and convicted for a crime he didn’t commit by the authorities acting under political pressure.
The second Special Jury Prize went to the scriptwriters Nora Martirosyan, Emmanuelle Pagano, Olivier Torres and Guillaume André of the Frenc-Armenian-Belgian film Should the Wind Drop“. Directed by Nora Martirosyan, the story centers on the unexpected complexities involved in approving the opening of an international airport in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the source of conflict between disputing neighbours Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Baltic Competition and Rebels With A Cause
The crew of Estonia’s entry for the Oscars, „The Last Ones“ has more reason to celebrate as the film was awarded the Best Baltic Feature Film Award by the jury led by Paul Thiltges. Director Veiko Õunpuu’s tale is set in a diminishing mining community in Arctic Finland.
The Rebels With the Cause jury led by Paolo Bertolin handed out two feature awards that were shared by „Dinner In America by director Adam Carter Rehmeier for „a wild ride into small-town America, following a couple of misfits whose punk misadventures“ and Chilean director Leonardo Medel’s „La Veronica, that portrays the dark effects of social media stardom on its protagonist.
The jury also presents an award for the Rebels short film programme that went to Jérémy Van Der Haegen’s „Stories Keep Me Awake At Night“.
The International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) watched the First Feature Competition and selected Dmitry Rudakov’s „Sententia“ as their favourite. Shot on black and white 16mm film, Dmitry Rudakov’s debut is a beautiful, meditative dramatisation of the end of Russian poet and Gulag survivor Varlam Shalamov’s life.

The NETPAC (Network For the Promotion of Asian Cinema) jury selected, from among the Asian films in the Official Selection and First Feature Competition, director Adlikhan Yerzhanov’s „Ulbolsyn“ as their favourite. The Kazakhstan-French coproduction is a genre-tinged tale set in rural Kazakhstan, where an urban woman clashes with patriarchal traditions of the community.
Jury: Mark Adams, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, Izabela Kiszka-Hoflik, Ester Kuntu
Grand Prix for the Best Film
Grant of 10,000 Euros, shared by the Director and Producer
 Director Ivaylo Hristov, producer Assen Vladimirov
Jury comment: A beautifully-made film that astutely balances dry humour with important contemporary drama, this clever, impressively scripted and wonderfully performed feature manages the rare feat of being compassionate and provocative while also delivering striking moments of absurdist humour. At a period when the subject of immigration is very much in the headlines this feature is very much a film for our times.

Best Director
Grant of 5000 Euros
Nisan Dağ for „When I’m Done Dying“
The vision, passion and personality of the filmmaker shines through in this absorbing, passionate and striking new film that draws out terrific performances from its roster of non-professional actors, and cleverly weaves drama, music and even animation as it delves into the darker underbelly of a social environment rarely seen on the screen.

Best Cinematography
Grant of 1000 Euros
Noé Bach for „Beasts“
Jury Comment: This striking film presents a clever take on sexual politics set against the backdrop of working class farmers, with its powerful story given a visceral edge as it follows is lead female character thanks to wonderfully framed cinematography that is honest and non-sensationalistic, and also help the story immerse itself into a traditionally masculine pastoral world.

Best Script

Leonardo António for „Submission“
Jury comment: This masterful script has been precisely developed and structured in such a way to never exploit its disturbing storyline and is driven by wonderful balanced performances, real intelligence and dialogue to impressers and captivates. The main story may be around the accusation of a rape in a domestic environment, but it astutely takes different perspectives as it tells a difficult and at times harrowing story.
Best Actor
Ulrich Thomsen for „Erna At War“
Jury comment: We wanted to pay tribute to an acting performance that is aware that is there to play a balanced yet profoundly dramatic supporting role to an equally fine lead actress, and gives a wonderfully controlled and rich performance that adds massively to a powerful and memorable film.

Best Actress
Marie Leuenberger for „Caged Birds“

Jury comment: Before presenting the award, the jury wanted to formerly recognise the many beautiful and brilliant female performances in the competition selection this year. If we could have had our way we would have awarded seven or eight best actress awards. But we wanted to shine the spotlight on one truly impressive from a mesmerising actress. Her natural, unshowy performance is driven by emotional energy and a fierce intelligence that is truly impressive.
Best Music
Juanio Javierre for „Armugan“

Jury comment: This beautiful black-and-white film benefits from a hypnotic score that wonderfully complements the mood and tone of the film, managing to help weave together to the poetic and poignant moments of an often mesmerising feature.

Jury: Ulrich Thomsen, Elfar Adalsteins, Juris Kursietis, Diana Mikita, Rene van Pannevis
The Award for the Best First Feature Film
Grant of 5000 Euros, shared by the Director and Producer
„Great Happiness“
Director: Wang Yiao, Producers: Yofuf Benayoun, Rong Xiao, Wei Lesi
China, 2020
Jury comment: For his strong social commentary of modern day China, where our three couples are caught between old traditions and the new ways. The movie is told in an original, refreshing, cinematic language, where drama and humor are elgantly balanced by the director. And this simple yet complex everyday story ends up being both relevant, honest and very heartbreaking.
Special Jury Prize #1
Director Jan Holoubek for „25 years of innocence. The Case of Tomek Komenda“

Poland, 2020
Jury comment: For and incredible directorial debut film, about the horrors of injustice. With a hunting performance by Piotr Trojan.
Special Jury Prize #2
Scriptwriters Nora Martirosyan, Emmanuelle Pagano, Olivier Torres, Guillaume André for „Should The Wind Drop“

France-Armenia-Belgium, 2020
Jury comment: For its wonderful screenplay, that brings out the sadly still relevant story on how fragile world peace really is.
We can’t wait to see what comes next from these artists,  and everybody else in this category.   
Jury: Paul Thiltges, Marjorie Bendeck, Tine Klint

Best Baltic Feature Film
„The Last Ones“

Director: Veiko Õunpuu
Estonia, 2020
Jury comment: We unanimously agreed on this film for the award. It stood out in all senses: The actors ensemble performance was consistent. It was a real TEAM creation, an all-around impressive film, where the team truly lifted it to another level: technically, storytelling, artistic elements. The carefully well-thought selection of music was cleverly mixed. Conflicts within and between the characters we found to be universal. The beauty of the tundra is captured with masterful cinematography. The struggles within that vast, desolate territory between tradition and progress challenge the meaning of “belonging” and depict the general loneliness all our characters are living in. A modern-day Northern Western.
Jury: Paolo Bertolin, Alina Serban, Matthew James Wilkinson
Rebels with a Cause award
„Dinner In America”

Director Adam Carter Rehmeier
USA, 2020
Jury comment: The first of two Awards for the Rebels with a Cause Competition goes to a wild ride into small town America, following a couple of misfits whose punk misadventures win the heart and ears of the audience.
Ex aequo / Shared with

„La Veronica”
Director: Leonardo Medel
Chile, 2020
Jury comment: The second equal Award in the Rebels with a Cause Competition goes to a thought-provoking portrayal of a complex and dark character that finds a pertinent and daring formal device to plunge the audience in the whirlpool of social media stardom.
Rebels with Their Shorts Award
„Stories Keep Me Awake At Night“

Director Jérémy Van Der Haegen
Jury comment: The Award for the Rebels with their Shorts Competition goes to a troubling, yet sweet fairytale that shows how sometimes you need to follow the wolf, in order to find the path to accept your true self.
FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Prize

Director: Dmitry Rudakov 
Russia, 2020
Jury comment: For the formalistic, and yet poetical display of how art can shine a light, even when not in color, to the world of resistance and hope.
Jury: Annika Koppel, Denise Bucher, Márcio Augusto Sallem


Director: Adilkhan Yerzhanov
Kazakhstan-France, 2020

Jury comment: The Netpac Jury presents the Best Asian Film award to the film Ulbolsyn by Adilkhan Yerzhanov, for being a vibrant, stylized, playfully innovative—genre-based but also genre-bending drama;  a subtle ‘women’s' film with a fresh but sincere take on traditional life in a Kazakh village full of humane humans.
Jury: Andreas Ungerboeck, Kan Lume, Zakir Hossain Raju

Director: Jo Sol
Spain, 2020
Jury comment: The crisp figurative language of Jo Sol’s “Armugan” pierces the flesh like a stake, creating, through the means of cinema, a suggestive sensory equivalent to the unity of the soul, spirit and body. The film confirms that the body is not weak when the spirit is strong and that the spirit can be strengthened through the body. The film reminds us that the talk about death should not be ideological but demands for the remembering of death even in our everyday activities and also the importance of not being alone when dying. The message of the value and sanctity of life rings strong.
Jury: Andres Põder, Rainer Sarnet, Madis Kolk, Marge-Marie Paas, Tõnis Kark


Margarethe von Trotta (Germany)

Alar Kivilo (Canada-Estonia)

Francis Annan (UK)


Armando Iannucci (UK)
BEST SHORT ANIMATION / Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nomination candidate


Director: Paul Mas
France, 2020
Jury Commentary: "This film uses the artifice of animation in order to get painfully close to very real topics. The jury loved the simple style and precise storytelling which tackles complicated subjects that stay with the audience even after the credits roll.”

"Struck by Lightning"

Director: Romet Esko
Estonia, 2020
Jury Commentary: "A beautifully crafted homage that mixes personal archive with a playful approach to its medium, making for a haunting and memorable film you will want to rewatch over and over again. This film tells a deeply personal, delicate yet dynamic story about friendship, conveying a message that is equally authentic as it is universal. “Struck by Lightning” is a cinematic celebration of life and creativity that feels ever so timely and needed."

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT / Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nomination candidate

"Between You and Milagros”

Director: Mariana Saffon
Colombia, 2020
Jury Commentary: “The jury was impressed by the film’s subtle exploration of the complex dynamic between daughter and mother, its stunning central performance and its gorgeous cinematography. The director also displays a remarkable level of craft, care and confidence as she gradually reveals the many layers that exist in all of the characters’ relationships."
Find full list of PÖFF Shorts winners here:
Just Film Grand Prix

Director: Charlène Favier
France, 2020
Jury comment: The Jury enjoyed watching all the films and appreciated that the films tackled important and topical issues. We saw many stories about grownups behaving irresponsibly and children having to act responsibly. In many of the films the question arises - who here actually is a child and who is a grownup? And what happens when a grownup with irresponsible behaviour puts a burden on the shoulders of the one person that trusts it the most? There was one film in particular that stood out for us for its incredibly authentic portrayal of a complicated situation. Told from a teenage perspective without alienating or demonising other characters in the film, it was brave enough to tackle issues of abuse and neglect in a very realistic way. A powerful film with very honest performances. We’re very pleased to present Just Film 2020 grand prix for Best Youth Film to SLALOM.”
Jury:  Guy Davies (UK), Elen Lotman (Estonia), Satu Tuuli Karhu (Finland)
ECFA Award for the best European children’s film

Director: Samuele Rossi
Italy 2020
Jury comment: Of all the wonderful journeys we were taken on, one stood out for its exceptionally well-acted story of overcoming isolation, and translating one individual’s feeling of ‘otherness’ to become accepted into a group of close friends. Despite a well-meaning but overprotective family, our central character is empowered to take control of their own path through life, and gradually his family learn to adapt together with him. For its rich characterisations in a beautifully designed world, and an engaging and well-written storyline featuring friendship, courage and freedom – the ECFA Award goes to GLASSBOY.
Jury: Mike Tait (UK), Mariella Harpelunde Jensen (Denmark), Julia Fleißig (Germany)

Just Film Children’s Jury Best Film Award
"The Fantastic Journey of Margot & Marguerite"

Director: Pierre Coré
France, 2020
Jury comment: There were a lot of exciting films and each one of them was interesting and educative. Finally we came to a decision and the winning film was selected because of its fascinating story and strong acting. One girl performed two parts and she did them wonderfully! The film was about managing new situations and doing it playfully. Just Film Children’s Jury Best Film Award goes to “The Fantastic Journey of Margot & Marguerite” - a crazy story of how two girls unexpectedly travel in time and cope in the new era.
Jury: Kaarel Uueni, Kerstin Kalda, Kuno Wilhelm Rohusaar, Mari Krashevski, Sarah Liis Luha
Just Film Youth Jury Best Film Award
"50 or Two Whales Meet on the Beach"

Director: Jorge Cuchi
Mexico 2020
Jury comment: This years Just Film Youth Jury Best Film Award is presented, after long and heated discussions, to a film that sparked intrigue days before its screening. It is a film where bold theme of topic meets with fresh cinematography, well-written characters, professional acting and unique montage. The film met our high expectations and we hope it will be screened in many more cinemas. Just Film Youth Jury Best Film Award goes to  "50 or Two Whales Meet on the Beach”."
Jury: Anna Linda Elvre, Gerli Rehkalt, Hans Robert Kannukene, Helena Maarja Tarro
The photos and press materials of the films in the festival programme can be found here.
The event photo galleries can be found here.
Film still: Fear
Film still: When I'm Done Dying
Film still: Great Happiness



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About Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Started in 1997, the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival has grown into one of the biggest film festivals in Northern Europe and busiest regional industry platforms, hosting more than 1000 guests and industry delegates and over 160 journalists. The festival screens around 250 features and more than 300 shorts and animations and sees an attendance of 80 000 people annually. In 2017 the festival was covered in 71 languages with a potential global media audience of over 1.1 billion people.

As of 2014 the festival holds the FIAPF accreditation for holding an international competition programme which puts the festival into the so- called A-category of film festivals, alongside other 14 festivals in the world (including Cannes, Berlinale, Venice, Karlovy Vary, San Sebastian, Shanghai, Tokyo etc).  

Black Nights has an umbrella structure with two sub-festivals PÖFF Shorts and youth and children's film festival Just Film taking place concurrently with the main festival,
two off-season festivals - Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival and Tartu Love Film Festival - and a fully-fledged film industry platform Industry@Tallinn, organised jointly with the Baltic Event Co-production market.

Black Nights Film Festival 16 Nov - 2 Dec
PÖFF Shorts 20 Nov - 25 Nov
Just Film 16 Nov - 2 Dec
Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event 26 Nov - 30 Nov



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