Discover the focus programme of PÖFF22: the 100-year-olds!
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 a 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 travelling the country and organising 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, dubbed as Latvian Harrison Ford, 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 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.
The Republic of Estonia celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2018. Find out more about the Estonia 100 programme on the home page.
Life does not Forgive (Romania)
Viața nu iartă,
Directors Iulian Mihu & Manole Marcus
Dying in the trenches during World War II, Stefan looks back at his own life and that of his father. Through his memories, the film presents a story that embraces two generations and various eras. It is a film about the tragedy of lives dragged into conflicts against their will, of lives violently ruined or ended – a story about the devastating consequences of war. Interweaving past and present, the flashback narrative depicts the war as a perpetual situation where the “little people” always turn out to be on the losing side.
Iulian Mihu and Manole Marcus’s feature debut is a poetic and pacifist work, relying on a cinematographic vision that is similar to the artistic-political programmes of “new waves” emerging across Europe around the same time. The film fell victim of censorship because its multi-layered temporal structure, expressionist imagery, unconventional narrative form and anti-war message did not fit with the socialist-realist paradigm that prevailed in Romania, as well as in other Eastern European countries, in the 1950s.
Digitised from the 35mm original negative by Abis Studio in 2011. The 35mm original negative is preserved by the Romanian Film Archive.
Joseph Kilian (Czech Republic, at the time Czechoslovakia)
Postava k podpírání
Directors Pavel Juráček & Jan Schmidt
Who is Joseph Kilian? The film does not answer this question because comrade Kilian is nowhere to be found. Similarly vanished without a trace is the cat rental shop from which Herold, the protagonist of the film, hired a shaggy kitty. Trying to avoid the past due fee, poor Harold makes every effort to locate the mysteriously disappeared shop. With the cat stuffed into his briefcase, he enters the maze of corridors, waiting rooms and offices – a labyrinth of absurd where the mundane and the everyday are interlaced with dreamlike irrationality.
Pavel Juráček considers Joseph Kilian his best work and the film earned Juráček a solid place in the pantheon of Czech cinema. One of the most distinctive and provocative representatives of the Czech new wave, Juráček only managed to direct four films before being banished from the film studios in the early 1970s.
Using the 35mm original negative, the film was digitised and restored in 4K by Hungarian Filmlab, under the supervision of the Czech National Film Archive, in 2015. The camera negative is preserved by the National Film Archive of the Czech Republic.
How to Be Loved (Poland)
Jak być kochaną
director Wojciech Has
A plane heading for Paris becomes a time machine for Felicja. She travels back in time to the war-time Cracow where during the Second World War she offered a safe hiding place to her greatest love, actor Wiktor Rawicz, hunted by the German secret police Gestapo. The internal monologue of the main heroine recounts the painful history of their relationship. As it shows, sacrifice was not enough for her to be loved while love could not save anyone.
An excellent film adaptation of the eponymous novel by Kazimierz Brandys. The only masterpiece of the Polish Film School with a heroine, a fact which stresses – through a mocking reference to the famous scene from Ashes and Diamonds in which the main characters recall their fallen friends – the concealment of the war-time drama of women, that was taking place outside the boundaries of the ‘great history’. The most magnificent part in the career of Barbara Krafftówna and Zbigniew Cybulski challenging the myth of Maciek Chełmicki, the protagonist of Ashes and Diamonds.
The Barnabáš Kos Case (Slovakia, at the time Czechoslovakia)
Prípad Barnabáš Kos
Director Peter Solan
In this bitingly satirical film Peter Solan, a continuous source of trouble for the film functionaries of the socialist Slovakia, tackles an evergreen topic – the corruptive effects of power. Barnabáš Kos, a triangle player at a symphonic orchestra, is suddenly promoted to serve as the head of the said institution, even though both he and his superiors deem him completely unfit for the task. Encouraged in equal parts by this unexpected recognition and the servile praise of his colleagues, Kos’s modesty starts to gradually vanish. The erstwhile bashful and aloof percussionist quickly becomes aware of the advantages of his new office, and begins to realise his increasingly ludicrous artistic ambitions. Ultimately, the submissive marionette turns into a source of public humiliation, and his astonishing career finds an abrupt end. Orchestra serves here as a microcosm that grotesquely reflects the absurd and tragicomic mechanisms of the paranoid apparatus of power.
Digitised in 4K and restored in 2K, based on the 35mm camera negative, by the National Film Archive of the Slovak Film Institute. The original film elements are preserved by the National Film Archive of the Slovak Film Institute.
The Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (Ukraine)
Tini zabutykh predkiv
Director Sergei Parajanov
Made in the Dovzhenko Film Studios in Ukraine, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors wasthe first highly original masterpiece by Sergei Parajanov, a filmmaker of Armenian descent born and raised in Georgia. The film quickly became an international critical success, earning numerous awards on the global film festival circuit. Saturated with dream-like mysticism, pagan symbolism and religious iconography, this tragic life and love story defies the boundaries of life and death. Parajanov stuns the audience with extravagant camerawork, expressive colour dramaturgy and intense soundtrack, boldly challenging the conventions of cinematic storytelling, as well as the tenets of socialist realism.
In his Great Homeland, Parajanov faced political persecution due to his stubbornly eccentric artistic vision, anti-Soviet statements and subversive proclivities. He was arrested and sent to a hard labour camp in Siberia, despite an international petition campaign on his behalf involving a number of highly acclaimed creative figures, including Andrei Tarkovsky, Jean-Luc Godard and Federico Fellini.
Four White Shirts (Latvia)
Četri balti krekli
Director Rolands Kalniņš
Cēzars Kalniņš, portrayed by “the Latvian Harrison Ford” Uldis Pūcītis, installs telephones by day and composes pop songs by night. The puritan Soviet censorship deems Cēzars’ lyrics “unsuitable and frivolous”, hence “unfit for the Soviet youth”. In fact, it can be argued that this assessment matches the opinion of the Soviet cinema authorities in regard to the film as a whole, since Four White Shirts was immediately banned and released in cinemas only in 1986. The creative boldness and stubbornness, evident in both Cēzars’ bitingly ironic verses and the film’s unconventional narrative structure and fresh, new-waves-inspired mode of expression, turned out to be equally problematic for the hero and for the film itself, as well as for its director whose representation of the actual mechanisms of Soviet censorship ended up too realistic for his own good.
Presented as a 2K DCP, digitised in 4K and restored in 3K from the original 35mm internegative duplicate and an intermediate positive copy, preserved at the Film Archive of Latvian National Archives, under the supervision of the director, with support by National Film Centre of Latvia and Cultural Capital Foundation of Latvia, in 2017. The 35mm original negative is kept at Gosfilmofond.
Moss on the Stones (Austria)
Moos auf den Steinen
Director Georg Lhotsky
Jutta, the daughter of a baron, is engaged to Mehlmann, a fashion-conscious and energetic, yet shallow, businessman who plans to turn his fiancée’s family estate, a decaying Baroque palace, into an exclusive resort for the social elite. Meanwhile, the old baron, less than enthusiastic about the grandiose ideas of his future son-in-law and the obtrusively loud new world, prefers to wander the physical and mental paths of the past – “the mossy stones of the monarchy”. Over time, Jutta also grows increasingly tired of her lover’s ambitions and begins to harbour warm feelings towards Michael, Mehlmann’s friend and a writer.
The visions of future of the impetuously modernising young republic collide with memories of the once mighty empire and dreary Nazi occupation, vividly reflecting the tensions that haunted the Austrian society and collective self-consciousness of the 1960s. Lhotsky’s feature debut is considered the most remarkable Austrian film of the 1960s and an early example of the local “new wave”.
The screening presents the premiere of a new 2K DCP derived from a 4K digitisation of the original 35mm camera negatives made by Filmarchiv Austria. The original negatives are being kept at Filmarchiv Austria’s vaults in Laxenburg, Lower Austria.
Director Kaljo Kiisk
In the final days of World War II, a Wehrmacht special commando arrives at a remote mental asylum to exterminate its patients. Their mission is postponed due to an anonymous report, according to which a British secret agent hides amongst the inmates. Gestapo officer Windisch is sent to identify the malingerer spy. Instead of unmasking the enemy, the boundaries between sanity and insanity start to blur, and Windisch’s investigation is derailed by increasing doubts about his own mental state.
Considered one of the best Estonian films of all times, Madness presents the psychiatric hospital as a microcosm that externalises the perverted nature of not only Nazi regime, but of any totalitarian power apparatus. It was precisely the overly pronounced criticism of totalitarianism that led the Soviet cinema bureaucracy to suppress the wider distribution of Kiisk’s masterpiece for almost two decades.
Digitally remastered on the initiative of Estonian Film Institute in 2012 from a 35mm duplicate negative preserved by the Film Archive of the National Archives of Estonia. The 35mm original negative is preserved by Gosfilmofond.
Director Giorgi Shengelaia
This Soviet film is a biography of the Georgian artist Niko Pirosmanishvili (1863-1918), usually known as Pirosmani. It won awards from the British Film Institute and the Chicago Film Festival. Pirosmani died of starvation, unable to sell any of his works for sufficient money to support life. Ironically, his primitivist style was later very much in fashion, and huge sums were paid for his surviving paintings. This well-regarded film focuses on Pirosmani’s everyday life in the Georgia of his time, and is photographed in a bold style which echoes the artist’s vision and causes the viewer to enter into it. This is necessary,
because little factual material about the artist was available; most of his biography was composed of legends and recorded gossip.
Niko Pirosmanashvili, a self-taught painter living in Kakheti arrives to the capital and tries his hand at running a shop. He fails to become a good merchant instead he takes up painting and paints almost all diners in the city without knowing anuthing about the value of his paintings. It takes two western educated Georgian painters to appreciate Nikala’s paintings but it leads to his subsequent estrangement from his fellow colleagues and the rest of the society.
The Witness (Hungary)
Director Péter Bacsó
Set in Hungary sometime between 1949 and 1956, The Witness is a pitch-dark satirical
comedy that fiercely ridicules the absurd power apparatus and paranoid atmosphere of
the totalitarian regime. Faced with severe food shortages and trying to save his large
family from starvation, the simple dike keeper József Pelikán has no other option but to
kill his pig, which he has saved from collectivisation by hiding it literally underground.
Unable to keep the illegal slaughter from the ears of vigilant informers, Pelikán lands
behind bars. But instead of being punished, Pelikán finds himself entrapped in political
intrigues. Under the aegis of comrade Virág, a local functionary, Pelikán is promoted to
increasingly higher offices, despite the fact he miserably fails in every new position. In
return to these baffling privileges, Pelikán is expected to deliver a fabricated testimony
at a high-profile show trial held against his old friend, a politician fallen from the grace
of the authorities.
The film was digitally remastered by the Hungarian Filmlab in 2011. The film is part of
the Hungarian National Film Fund – Film Archive’s collection where the 35mm original
negatives are being kept.
The Beauty (Lithuania)
Director Arūnas Žebriūnas
According to her friends, Inga is “beautiful like a fairy tale princess” and “dances like a
snowflake”. The fragile-framed girl leads a carefree life in a slightly crumbling old
apartment block, playing with her friends in the courtyard and running around the city.
The idyll is broken when a sullen-looking and spiteful boy moves to the neighbourhood
and refuses to admire Inga, undermining her confidence.
While The Beauty features children, it is by no means a children’s film. The radiant
atmosphere is haunted by sombre moments reflecting the gloomy shadows of the past
and the tensions, failed dreams and futile hopes of the present. The Beauty consciously
rejects the conventions of socialist realist cinema and prefers to rely on metaphors,
feeling like a breath of fresh air.
The ethereal imagery owes a great deal to the expressive and precise cinematography by
Algimantas Mockus who also served as a cameraman of several Estonian productions of
the 1960s (e.g. Ice-Drift, The Misadventures of the New Satan and Werewolf).
Digitised and restored in 2015 from a 35mm duplicate positive preserved by the
Lithuanian Central State Archives. The 35mm original negative is kept at Gosfilmofond.
Murder Story (Iceland)
Director Reynir Oddsson
Love and hate, pleasure and pain, sex and death intertwine in this soft-hued Icelandic
family drama of the disco age. Boredom has long replaced passion in the relationship of
a middle-aged married couple Róbert and Margrét. The successful businessman keeps a
mistress and flirts with other women right in front of his own wife; the bored lady of the
house sleeps till noon, sips booze while doing chores and has sexual fantasies about a
dishwasher repairman. Anna, their 18-year-old daughter, uses every chance to escape
the household’s toxic atmosphere. Róbert tyrannises both his wife and daughter, but
also starts to harbour rather dirty feelings towards the latter. The long-boiled tensions
erupt in a fatal finale.
Reynir Oddson’s feature debut was the first film made by exclusively Icelandic cast and
crew, and is said to have been responsible for starting the “Icelandic Spring” of
Digitally remastered in 2014 from the Super16mm original and the original 16mm
magnetic film tracks. The original film material is kept at the National Film Archive of