Finding cinematic sanctuary in black nights

  • 2004-11-25
  • By Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - The Black Nights Film Festival, the highlight of the year for film lovers in Estonia, is back once again with a welcome variety of feature, animated and documentary films that will be shown in Tallinn, Tartu and Viljandi from Nov. 27 to Dec. 12.
This year the festival organizers got hold of 18 films that are in competition for the European Film Academy 2004 awards, including last year's fascinating drama "The Dreamers," directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.

This nostalgic story of a menage a trois between a young American student and French twins is set against the chaotic background of the spring of 1968 and features several explicit sex scenes. The three young idealists idle away their time by self-indulgently exploring themselves and re-enacting classic movie scenes while Paris simmers with political tension outside.

Another gem that might get the EFA award in Barcelona on Dec.11 is "The Downfall" (Untergang). Set during the final moments of WWII, it shows the German army making a frantic, last-ditch effort to save Berlin from the onslaught of Russian troops.

The movie is especially intriguing because some of the events it depicts are pure fiction while others are real, with the whole film centered around Adolf Hitler. The German director Oliver Hirschbiegel got some of the material for the script from the recently published diaries of Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary from 1942 to 1945. The film is also noteworthy because it's the first German film to actually portray Adolf Hitler, who was formerly a taboo subject.

The Estonian public will finally get the chance to see Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," the overhyped anti-Bush documentary. Anyone with access to the Internet was aware of the film's obvious claims long before its release. The film is nominated for the EFA's Best Foreign Film award.

The festival has always kept an eye on Asian action films and sophisticated butt-kicking movie lovers will be thrilled to see Chanwook Park's "Old Boy." This updated version of Count Monte Cristo tells the story of a man who has been kept in a hotel room for 15 years (on a pelmeni diet!). When he finally escapes he sets out to find out who put him away and why. Also based on a Japanese comic book, "Old Boy" takes a new approach to martial arts scenes. Min-sik Choi delivers a magnificent performance in this multilayered film.

People who have missed out on the latest Estonian feature films such as "We Will not Sleep Tonight" and "The Revolution of Pigs" will get a second chance to watch them on the big screen. Half a dozen new Estonian documentaries and short films will also represent Estonia.

Also of some interest, is the last film of the recently murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, aptly titled "Crime Doesn't Pay," which is being screened in the youth movie program.

Don't miss one of the most interesting recent Russian films being shown, called "My Step Brother Frankenstein." Directed by Valery Todorovsky, it shows how deeply war can traumatize a soldier. A father of a quiet middle-class Moscow family discovers that he has an out-of-marriage son who is now 25 years old and is a veteran of the Chechen war.

The festival is apparently growing in stature every year. The general ticket price has gone up by about 1 euro and this year a Golden Festival Card was introduced. For the breath-taking price of 10,000 kroons (638 euros) a Golden Festival Card holder can get two tickets for any film screening and, if the screening takes place in Hall 1 of Coca-Cola Plaza, can choose a more private suite-type of screening hall.

In addition to the main program, which is traditionally focused on European films, the festival also includes a student film program named Sleepwalkers and a children's film program.

The Eighth Black Nights Film Festival, In Tallinn, Tartu and Viljandi.

Films in original language with English or Estonian subtitles.

More info at:

Tickets 25 kroons (1.50 euros) - 75 kroons, advance sale available, sold in theaters.