11 films to compete in the Baltic Competition programme of Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

The Baltic Competition programme of PÖFF is being brought back to life this year, after a seven year hiatus. Three out of the 11 films announced are having their international premieres in Tallinn.

Estonia will be represented by three films. The feature-length animation Captain Morten and the Spider Queen, an Estonian-Belgian-Irish-UK co-production by director Kaspar Jancis, which premiered at Animafest Zagreb this summer. The film, dubbed by renowned actors such as Brendan Gleeson and Ciarán Hinds, presents a tale of a young boy who learns to take control over his life when he is shrunk to the size of an insect and has to sail his own toy boat through a flooded café.

The feature-length debut by Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo, Take it or Leave it, is Estonia’s candidate for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. The story, striking acutely at several social cords of Estonian society, follows a struggling construction worker who unexpectedly has to take on the role of a single father. The film was produced by Ivo Felt, who received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Tangerines in 2014.

Director Moonika Siimets offers a moving perspective on Stalinist terror through a child’s perspective in The Little Comrade, that was warmly received by local audiences as well as those at the Busan IFF, where it won the Public Choice Award.

Latvia’s documentary To be Continued, chronicles three children with different social backgrounds during their first year at school, it is the country’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. Another documentary Bridges of Time, co-produced with Lithuania and Estonia, studies the poetical world created by the new wave of documentary filmmakers in the Baltic countries during the 1960’s.

The feature films from Latvia include Bille, set at the end of 1930’s, the childhood years of the writer Vizma Belševica, that will have its international premiere at Black Nights, and Foam at the Mouth, a tale about an ex-cop whose new project involving three service dogs goes awfully wrong.

Lithuania is represented by four films. Making its international premiere, Ashes in the Snow presents a tale of a group of people deported to the Siberian taiga during the Stalinist repressions of 1941. The other titles are Summer Survivors, a story of an ambitious young psychologist who accepts the responsibility to transport two patients to a seaside psychiatric unit, that premiered at Toronto IFF, Breathing into Marble that arrives from a busy festival run that included Karlovy Vary and Busan IFF, and the documentary 100 Years Together, following several Lithuanians celebrating the country’s centenary. The film won the Public Choice Award at Vilnius IFF.

The ticket presale for the Baltic Competition begins on the 9th of November.

FILMS100 Years Together (Lithuania)

100 metu kartu
Director Edita Kabaraitė
International Premiere

One can think of Lithuania as a companion to Estonia and Latvia on the winding road of history, all three sharing similar faits during the 20th century. For example, Lithuanians declared their independence 8 days before Estonians in 1918. In 100 Years Together the story of Lithuania is being told by people who have grown together with the country. This sensible documentary introduces people who were the youngest citizens in the newly formed Lithuania and who have seen several regimes and changes of power during their lifetime. A worthy film for the centenary celebrations of the three Baltic countries.

Watch the trailer here!

Ashes in the Snow (Lithuania-USA)

Director Marius Markevičius
International Premiere

June, 1941. The horrors of war have not yet reached all the countries of Europe. Not until the mass deportations begin. 16-year-old Lina is one of the people deported to Siberia with her family. She documents the horrible journey and her experiences in her drawings, it is her way of coping with the situation and maintaining hope.

The film, based on the historic novel by Lithuanian-US writer Ruta Sepetys, features several people acting as extras in the film who have a personal relationship with people who were deported. It is a return to a space and time that cannot be forgotten, that has become a part of the identities of all those who endured it and of the collective identities of the Baltic countries.

Watch the trailer here!

Bille (Latvia-Lithuania-Czech Republic)

Director Ināra Kolmane
International Premiere

Based on the novel by the renowned Latvian writer Vizma Belševica, Bille brings to life Latvia in the 1930’s, when the economic recession didn’t leave much time for dreaming big and people lived their lives with no illusions. There is one girl however, who’s dreams are too big for the world she lives in. We see her intrepid faith crash with the harsh reality of a world that splashes her in the face like the icy rains in November. However, even the most utopian dreams may come to life. At least that was the case with Vizma Belševica, on whose story the film is based on…

Watch the trailer here!

Breathing into Marble (Lithuania-Latvia-Croatia)

Kvėpavimas į marmurą
Director Giedrė Beinoriūtė

Lurking on the border of a sombre drama and a psychological thriller, this story follows a family that tries to bring new life into the home by adopting a second son. Not knowing that the new boy is a among the devious ones in the orphanage.

Growing darker gradually as it documents the downfall of the family, the first time director Giedrė Beinoriūtė delves into deepest and darkest depths of human psychology. This is paired by the poetic cinematography, giving the film the feel of a somewhat mystical journey.

Watch the trailer here!

Bridges of Time (Latvia-Lithuania-Estonia)

Laika tilti
Directors Kristīne Briede and Audrius Stonys

In the 1960’s, when cinéma vérité ruled the art of film in France, the new wave of the Baltic documentary-making was born. It opposed itself against the Soviet propaganda apparatus and censorship. Operating behind the iron curtain, it found its language in the poetry of everyday life. A similar, poetic-romantic take on life has been infused within this film, which documents several of the talented Baltic filmmakers of the period, including the Estonians Mark Soosaar and Andres Sööt.

Made as a co-production between the the three Baltic countries, Bridges of Time is an abstract play on patterns and lives, blending the past with the present, asking how much has really changed during the last half century.

Watch the trailer here!

Captain Morten and the Spider Queen (Estonia-Belgium-Ireland-UK)

Kapten Morten lollide laeval
Director Kaspar Jancis

Being the most expensive film ever made in the restored Estonian republic, the stop motion animation film Captain Morten and the Spider Queen presents a tale about 10-year-old Morten who builds a toy ship and uses insects as crew. This is his dreamworld, an escape from the reality of life in the rundown pub of a small harbor town. The insects turn out to be not very nice and remind Morten of the people from real life. He is forced to re-evaluate his attitude towards people to save his ship from sinking.

This is the first chance to see the film in Estonia, months ahead of its theatrical run that begins in March.

Watch the trailer here!

Take it or Leave it (Estonia)

Võta või jäta
Director Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo

On a sleepy Saturday, 30-year-old builder Erik receives a shocking bit of news: his ex-girlfriend Monika who he hasn’t seen in over six months, has just given birth to a child. She is not ready to become a parent and Erik needs to decide, whether to raise her alone or hand her over to social services. This kicks off Erik’s journey, complicated and at times comic, to grow up, into a father, an every-day superman ready to fight for and care for his daughter.

This is Estonia’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards.

Watch the trailer here!

The Little Comrade (Estonia)

Seltsimees laps
Director Moonika Siimets

Soviet Estonia in 1950, the Stalinist terror machine is operating at full speed as six-year-old Leelo witnesses how her mother, a school director, gets arrested by soldiers. She promises to return if she’s a good girl, but as weeks go by that does not happen. Gradually a fear takes hold of Leelo, what if she is to blame for this? Other strange things her father warns her about add to the confusion: why is the blue-black-white tricolor forbidden? Who is an ‘enemy of the people’ and why do these strange scary man return to their house constantly to search for things? What are they looking for? Is it honorable to become a pioneer?

The first feature-length film by Moonika Siimets is an adaptation of two novels by the beloved writer Leelo Tungal. The film has already won several awards at international festivals, including the the Bank Award at Busan IFF.

Watch the trailer here!

Foam at the Mouth (Latvia-Poland-Lithuania)

Ar putām uz lūpām
Director Jānis Nords

The awarded director Jānis Nords continues on the thrillerish paths taking us to a Latvian village hidden in the forest. An ex-cop who has lost his leg, trains police service dogs, while his wife, emotionally and physically detached from the man, seeks romance from elsewhere. The man whose thoughts are occupied with his decaying family relations, does not see the changes occurring in his four-legged subjects caused by rabies. The aggression soon unleashed in the dogs becomes a metaphor for the family’s breakup and the poisonous village life where humans also act like bloodthirsty predators.

Watch the trailer here!

To be Continued (Latvia)

Director Ivars Seleckis

Offering a quintessential introspective portrait of everyday life in its small, sweet richness, this documentary follows five school children growing up in different parts of the country. Through a close study of the family, a social-economic cross-section of society emerges - we see youth who’s roots are deep in the countryside, as well as families where the parents work abroad. In the process, existential questions about the 21st century arise: should I stay in my birthplace, move to the city, stay with my family or go and chase after wealth and experience abroad? It is a portrait of Latvia, easily compatible with Estonia and many other societies, that discusses the past, present and future.

It is the Latvian entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category for the 91st Academy Awards.

Watch the trailer here!

Summer Survivors (Lithuania)

Išgyventi vasarą
Director Marija Kavtaradzė

A road movie in many senses, Summer Survivors chronicles a voyage undertaken by a psychologist Indre who takes on the responsibility to drive two patients, Paulius with a bipolar disorder and Juste, recovering from a suicide attempt, to a psychiatry hospital on the coast. While on the road through the country, we are introduced to the inner worlds of the characters, with all their fears, doubts and unknowingness.

While on the surface, Summer Survivors seems like a road drama that has the a spirit of an indy-comedy, we are also confronted with the wounded inner worlds of the mentally ill and witness the contagious nature of them, showing that all members of society are, in one way or another, interconnected in this web.

Watch the trailer here!