Driven by Estonia’s 100th-anniversary celebrations, the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival focuses on 12 countries that are celebrating their centenary this year, offering a rich retrospective with films made between 1958-1977.
The map of Europe was radically changed at the end of the 1st World War, dissolving empires and creating new small nation states. Although many of them soon lost their newly gained independence, mostly to the expanding Soviet Union, still 1918 can be considered as a certain zero point in their history.
To commemorate that, Black Nights will screen films from 12 countries – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Georgia, Austria, and Iceland. All of them are films that have gained significance in their country of origin, often due to having been made in unfavorable socio-political circumstances. All films will be introduced by archive experts from the respective countries.
Most of the films have been made during the turbulent 1960s when a new wave rose in film, rebelling against older conventions and expressing stronger criticism towards their contemporary world and the past. Some of these films landed straight on the archive shelves and only became available to the general public years later.
One of the emblematic works here is Madness (1969) by the Estonian director Kaljo Kiisk, a modernist film that had anti-totalitarian messages hidden between the lines and had its distribution both inside and outside the Soviet Union severely restricted: while not officially forbidden, the film had several scenes cut and only nine copies were made, which the director could distribute only by personally traveling the country and organizing the screenings himself. The film was also given a forbidden screening at the Venice film festival, where it was invited, a first ever for a Soviet Estonian film.
Also stuck between the wheels of political censure was Four White Shirts (1967) by Latvian director Rolands Kalniņš – a musical drama capturing the rebellious spirit of youth that was shelved for over 20 years. The film stars Uldis Pūcītis, who also played the lead role of inspector Glebski in the Estonian sci-fi classic Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel (1979). The Witness (1969) by director Péter Bacsó made it to the screens in Hungary only at the beginning of the 1980s, after having screened at the Cannes film festival.
The programme also includes classics like Sergei Parajanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (Ukraine) that won the Special Jury Prize and Grand Critics award in Mar del Plata film festival in 1965 and The Beauty by Arunas Zebriunas, one of the first films in the country to offer a child’s perspective on the world, which just screened for the first time outside of Lithuanian cinemas, being shown in multiple French cinemas this August.
The ticket sale for the focus programme will begin on the 9th of November.
Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival runs from the 16th of November until the 2nd of December.
Romania: Life Does Not Forgive (aka When the Mist Rises) / Viața nu iartă, Directors Iulian Mihu & Manole Marcus, 1958
Czech Rep (at the time Czechoslovakia): Joseph Kilian / Postava k podpírání, Directors Pavel Juráček & Jan Schmidt, 1963
Poland: How to Be Loved / Jak być kochaną, director Wojciech Has, 1963
Slovakia (at the time Czechoslovakia): The Barnabáš Kos Case / Prípad Barnabáš Kos, Director Peter Solan, 1964
Ukraine: The Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors / Tini zabutykh predkiv, Director Sergei Parajanov, 1964
Latvia: Four White Shirts / Četri balti krekli, Director Rolands Kalniņš, 1967
Austria: Moss on the Stones / Moos auf den Steinen, Director Georg Lhotsky, 1968
Estonia: Madness / “Hullumeelsus”, Director Kaljo Kiisk, 1968
Georgia: Pirosmani, Director Giorgi Shengelaia, 1969
Hungary: The Witness / A Tanu, Director Péter Bacsó, 1969
Lithuania: The Beauty / Gražuolė, Director Arūnas Žebriūnas, 1969
Iceland: Murder Story / Morðsaga, director Reynir Oddsson, 1977