Black Nights – proud parent to a group of brilliant film festivals

  • 2010-11-10
  • By Laurence Boyce

CARTOON NETWORK: The Baltic region’s biggest film festival presents a wide variety of films, including the animated ‘Sky Songs’ (pictured), to the audience.

TALLINN - As the biggest film festival in the Baltic Region and one of the biggest film festivals in the world, the Black Nights Film Festival is eagerly awaited by audiences and film professionals alike as they await a feast of film. The main program of the festival, which runs from Nov. 24 until Dec. 5, will showcase numerous premieres of films from across the world as well as special guests and enticing retrospectives.

But, as people await the main program, it’s easy to forget that Black Nights also encompasses numerous sub-festivals that offer specialized film programs and their own unique perspective on cinema culture. If you’re just used to watching feature films, then let some of those events linked to Black Nights change your mind.

First up is “Animated Dreams,” the most important festival dedicated to animation in the Baltic and Nordic regions. The event will open on Nov. 19 with the World Premiere of Mati Kutt’s beautiful and stunning 45-minute puppet film “Sky Song,” a puppet film full of beautiful imagery and wild innovation. Kutt, who lives and works in Tallinn, is one of the most respected animators in Estonia, receiving numerous awards for his inventive and breathtaking stop motion films. The festival will also hold its traditional short film competition with some breathtaking animated shorts selected from more than 400 entries across the world, whilst features such as Sylvain Chomet’s brilliant and tender animation film “The Illusionist” will also be on hand to delight film fans. Add in 25 years of the Royal College of Art animation – a retrospective of some of the UK’s best animation,  a focus on the work coming out of Finland, and a lecture program examining animated documentaries, and “Animated Dreams” shows that animations are more than merely ‘just for kids.’

Of course the fact that something is ‘just for kids’ doesn’t mean that it isn’t any good as “Just Film” – the Children’s and Youth Film Festival will show. Also starting on Nov. 19, the festival will have a wide range of films for young audiences which range from the Estonian premiere “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)” to “Dog Pound,” a tough and powerful drama about life in a detention center for young criminals. “Just Film” proves that films for young audiences can be about a more diverse range of subjects and deal with many more sophisticated issues than people often give them credit for. Other highlights include the international premiere of “Ways to Live Forever,” a moving film that centers upon a young boy who is dying of cancer who wants to fill his last months with adventure and answers to the meaning of life, and “Youth in Revolt” a quirky teen drama about a teen (Michael Cera, best known for his recent performance in “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”) who must invent a bad boy persona to make himself fit in.

On Nov. 20 “Sleepwalkers” hits town with some of the very best student and short films. Short films often get dismissed as ‘practice before someone makes a real film’ and can be sadly ignored by a larger audience. “Sleepwalkers” blows any stereotypes about short films apart by showcasing just how wildly exciting, inventive and different that they can be. From a perfectly formed 10 minute drama to an insanely experimental 5 minute super masterpiece, short films allow filmmakers to be creative and let their imaginations fly. It’s always good to remember that, just because something is short doesn’t mean it isn’t perfectly formed. Of course, there’ll also be a chance to enjoy the work of those filmmakers who will be leading the film business into the future. What better way to be entertained whilst also knowing that you may be able to say about a famous filmmaker’s work that “I was there first.”

So, if you’re ready to go beyond the world of Hollywood feature films and can’t wait for the main program of the Black Nights Film Festival then take a chance on the brilliant sub-festivals that it has to offer. You might surprise yourself.
For full information on Black Nights and its sub-festivals, and instructions on how to buy tickets, visit