The European film festival year ends at Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn. October is the month for London and Warsaw; November, Mannheim and Stockholm. December is the time for Black Nights.
The EurAsia competition programme will kick off for the sixth year. This year it features 21 films, which is close to the upper limit for a festival week, yet we wanted to give a concentrated overview of the year’s trends and represent our region as comprehensively as possible.
For audiences, Black Nights is a window on the world. Internationally, it draws interest to a place close to the European Union’s eastern border, as suggested by the name of the competition programme – EurAsia – and places Baltic film in that context. Given that the Karlovy Vary film festival has an Eastern European film programme called East of the West, our geographic position would be East-East of the West.
What’s astonishing is film-making has really gained its stride artistically and financially in this region, which was the Eastern bloc only last century. These films reflect how life has changed and cineastes can look back and make sense of the developments.
The best-known name at this festival is Kira Muratova from Ukraine (“The Melody of Street Organ”). Kazakhstan’s “Kelin” (directed by Ermek Tursunov) is debut. Moldova’s “Wedding in Bessarabia” (directed by Napoleon Helmis) is a world premiere.
The films from Poland, Kazakhstan, Israel and Finland are Oscar nominees in their respective countries. There are seven debuts: Poland, Kazakhstan, Denmark, Great Britain, Israel, Lebanon, and a de facto Iranian film.
The oldest is 75-year-old Muratova; the youngest, 32-year-old Vimukthi Jayasundara from Sri Lanka, who won a Caméra d'Or for best first feature four years ago in Cannes.
Returning to EurAsia are the Finn Klaus Harö (“Letters to Father Jacob”) and the Hungarian György Pálfi (“I Am Not Your Friend”). All are new 2009 films, mainly premiering in the second half of the year, and they give a good idea of today’s cinema here and now and at its most vivid.
We have omitted grands prix from major festivals, with a few exceptions (Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat’s “Women without Men” for which she won for best director in Venice this autumn). Many festivals have screened Great Britain’s “Moon”, and we couldn’t forgo it due to its original synthesis of the sci-fi genre. A number of this year’s European Film Award nominees have already “defected” from the cinema.
European films are in a conspicuous majority. But the films of today, if they aren’t from the US; are rarely produced with financing from just one country. German producers have been especially active, funding films competing at Black Nights in Farsi, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, Quechua, Japanese and Mongolian. Similarly, Estonian producers have funded and produced Belarusian and Russian films.
In terms of approach, the selections are a varied bunch. The standout selections are perhaps French film-maker Gaspar Noé’s eccentric “Enter the Void”, and the Hungarian director György Pálfi’s (the director of “Taxidermia” from three years ago) improvisational “I Am Not Your Friend”. The Austrian entry “Lourdes” is quite neo-Hitchcockian. Kazakhstan’s “Kelin” is almost a silent film. India’s “Window” counterpoises lyrical and social conscience using a sensitive touch. Perhaps only the Nordic films exhibit a traditional approach.
Hyper-stylized and global to its core, Belgium’s “Altiplano” takes us on a journey that passes through Iraq to Peru. Helping make sense of the Middle East conflict is Israel’s “Ajami”, directed by an Arab, Scandar Copti, and an Israeli, Yaron Shani. The film “No One Know About Persian Cats” reveals how pop music is underground in Iran. Like the above films, Mongolia’s “Two Horses of Genghis-khan“ also rests on a documentary foundation.
A total of seven films are from women directors – a strong showing. Drug abuse seems to be the issue for Nordic countries (Norway’s “The Angel”, Gay themes are also represented (Denmark’s “Brotherhood”). And the Moldovan comedy “Wedding in Bessarabia” will make us laugh at ourselves as we were over ten years ago.
To audiences, I recommend that you pretend you are at an art auction, asking yourselves: what is real, what is fake? Which film is the truly the best, something that would impoverish our lives if it were left unseen?
competition programme director