15 films to compete in Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival’s Baltic Competition

Tallinn Black Nights aka PÖFF unveils the 15 films that are representing the three Baltic states at the 23rd edition of the festival. The programme consists of nine features, five documentaries and one animation.

Running for the second time, the Baltic Competition programme is a selection of the year’s finest films from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as selected by the festival’s non-Baltic programming team members. The competition’s mission is to highlight and introduce Baltic cinema for the International industry and film critics, promote it for the festival’s audience and to build ties between the region’s filmmakers. The programme will be overseen by a jury comprised of international film professionals who will be announced in November.

Festival director Tiina Lokk commented: ’The idea of the Baltic Competition is an old one that we were once forced to drop since the cinematic output of the three countries dropped rapidly during a financially difficult period in the 90’s and a big part of the ’00s. When re-establishing the Baltic Competition last year in the context of the centenary celebration when all three countries had financed bigger productions, we were actually quite scared that maybe it will be a one time deal and the output and quality will drop again. We are extremely glad to admit that not only did our fears not realise, but actually all our hopes were surpassed – this is a wonderfully diverse programme with so many great films that have either seen considerable international success already or will hopefully do so after their premieres at PÖFF!“


Estonian-Latvian co-produced Immortal reveals a contemporary Russian social mechanism that produces obedient state patriots and feels not unlike the methods used in the political systems of the last century. Ksenia Okhapkina’s film has won the documentary Grand Prix at Karlovy Vary IFF and several other festivals around the world and was submitted for the Academy Awards in the Documentary category.

Manfred Vainokivi presents his latest documentary biography In Bed With A Writer, a portrait of the controversial Estonian writer Peeter Sauter, right after his divorce. We follow Sauter in Estonia’s art and underground scene as he contemplates marriage, women, sex and ageing.

Vladimir Loginov’s second documentary Prazdnik chronicles an event that has been organised for nearly twenty years now in a small Estonian town: a Ukrainian-themed fair, during which a beauty pageant is held. While observing a community made up of a mostly ethnic minority in Estonia, the film also explores whether beauty can be an object of competition, and how we should understand the phenomenon of beauty contests in the modern-day.

Having travelled the globe with his debut In the Crosswind, Martti Helde returns with Scandinavian Silence, a feature film that tells, using an unusual narrative device, the tale of a man reunited with his sister after having spent years in jail. The film has screened at Karlovy Vary IFF and Busan IFF.

Becoming the biggest box office hit in the country’s history, the adaptation of the literary classic Truth and Justice is the first feature film of Tanel Toom, who won the Student Academy Award with his short film The Confession. The story follows the decade-spanning feud of two neighbours during the second half of the 19th century.

A comedic depiction of the global and local startup culture, Unicorn is the second feature of Rain Rannu, who himself is active as a startup investor and entrepreneur. The film is just finishing its successful run at the Estonian box office.


A culmination of one artist’s creative journey that lasted 3,5 years, Away is a fantasy animation directed, animated and composed by Gints Zilbalodis. The film has screened at numerous festivals around the world, including Annecy, Tokyo, Fantasia and Sitges.

Chronicling the tumultuous times in Post-Soviet Latvia, Jānis Ābele’s feature film Jelgava 94 shines a light on the period where teenagers were obsessed with heavy metal.

Juris Kursietis’ second feature Oleg premiered at the Quinzaine des Realiseteurs section of the Cannes film festival. It’s rough, gripping tale of Latvian migrant workers searching for a better life in Belgium, not always on the right side of the law.

Having screened numerous times in the PÖFF programme, twice in the Official Selection, director Laila Pakalnina presents the documentary feature Spoon that follows the ’life-cycle’ and the geographical path of a plastic spoon in the globalized economical system.


Aistė Žegulytė presents Animus Animalis, an observational documentary about a taxidermist, a deer farmer and a museum employee who guide us around a bizarre world in which the line between reality and artificiality becomes imperceptible. The film has screened at numerous festivals across the world, including Leipzig and Brussels IFF, where it won the European Competition Grand Prix.

Director Ignas Jonynas’ second film Invisible presents the story of a former dancer Jonas pretending to be blind to enter a TV dance competition, as an intimate and emotional relationship builds between him and his dancing partner. He is soon reconnected with someone from the past with whom he shares a dark secret. The film premiered at the San Sebastian film festival.

Following the International premiere at Busan IFF, Tomas Vengris’ debut Motherlandrevisits the year 1992 in a Lithuania, right after the collapse of the Soviet Union, as a single mother and her 12-year-old return to Lithuania after a long stay in the US, to claim the property that was taken from the woman’s parents when they were sent to labour camps decades ago.

Karolis Kaupinis’ historic drama Nova Lithuania is set in 1938, the year when the young Lithuanian state celebrates twenty years of independence, while the situation in Europe is becoming increasingly tense. Geographer Feliksas Gruodis comes up with a novel solution proposing to create a “backup Lithuania” overseas, where the country’s inhabitants could move in case of danger and starts looking for support from the political elite.

A legend of Lithuanian cinema, Algimantas Puipa presents the film Other Side of Silence, a tale inspired by the book Bumblebee Honey by Swedish writer Torgny Lindgren, talking about two brothers living in the same village, on the same lake, by the same forest, but their mutual hatred is so strong because of a once shared love interest, that they cannot die out of fear of losing to each other.

The 23rd Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival runs from the 15th of November until the 1st of December.


Immortal (Surematu), 2019, Estonia-Latvia, director: Ksenija Ohhapkina | Estonian premiere
In Bed With A Writer (Kirjanikuga voodis), 2019, Estonia, director: Manfred Vainokivi | Estonian premiere
Prazdnik (Праздник), 2019, Estonia-Belorussia, director: Vladimir Loginov | Estonian premiere
Scandinavia (Skandinaavia vaikus), 2019, Estonia-France-Belgium, director: Martti Helde 
Truth and Justice (Tõde ja õigus), 2019, director: Tanel Toom 
Unicorn (Ükssarvik), 2019, Estonia, director: Rain Rannu 

Away (Projām), 2019, Latvia, director: Gints Zilbalodis | Estonian premiere
Jelgava 94, 2019, Latvia, director: Jānis Ābele | International premiere
Oleg (Oļegs), 2019, Latvia-Belgium-Lithuania-France, director: Juris Kursietis | Estonian premiere  
Spoon (Karote), 2019, Latvia-Lithuania-Norway, director: Laila Pakalnina | Estonian premiere

Animus Animalis (Istorija apie žmones, žvėris ir daiktus), 2019, Lithuania, director: Aistė Žegulytė | Estonian premiere
Invisible (Nematoma), 2019, Lithuania-Latvia-Ukraine-Spain, director: Ignas Jonynas | Estonian premiere
Motherland (Gimtine), 2019 Lithuania-Latvia-Germany-Greece, director: Tomas Vengris | Estonian premiere
Nova Lituania, 2019, Lithuania, director: Karolis Kaupinis | Estonian premiere
Other Side of Silence (Kita Tylos Pusė), 2019, Lithuania, director: Algimantas Puipa | Estonian premiere

The film stills and presskits of the programme can be found HERE

Festival TEASER.

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