Black nights. Bright films

  • 2011-11-24
  • By Laurence Boyce

GROWING UP: This youthful film festival brings together great films from all over the world.

TALLINN - The 15th birthday celebrations for the Black Nights Film Festival have already got under way as the festival opened last week with a screening of the Icelandic film “Either Way.” A bittersweet comedy about workers making road markings on the isolated highways of Iceland, the gentle yet compelling film got audiences prepared for two weeks of great films from all corners of the globe. Now, as the festival continues, there are plenty more films to come.

As always, the EurAsia completion arouses a lot of interest and this year audiences will get to experience such diverse films as “The Artist,” “Volcano” and “Elena.” “The Artist” comes with a huge reputation off the back of a hugely positive response at the Cannes Festival. It follows the fortunes of a fading star of the silent era and – with no dialogue – it’s a brilliant homage to cinema’s past. With some gorgeous black and white photography and some  winning performances (though most of the cast are outshined by a dog) this is already being talked about as a possible Oscar contender. At the other end of the scale is the contemplative film “Volcano” which, like the opening night film, hails from Iceland. A contemplative meditation of a life lived, it’s a beautifully low key and subtle affair. “Elena,” hailing from Russia, is a more intense story of a woman dealing with an ungrateful family that takes in ideas of social change and responsibility to create a powerful drama. Add in premieres of such films as the Kazakh film “Akkyz” and you have plenty of new and different films to discover.

The Tridens Baltic Film Competition includes screenings of “The Idiot,” the interestingly strange Estonian adaptation of the Dostoyevsky novel, and “Letter to Angel,” the story of a soldier returning from Afghanistan which is also the official Estonian entry for this year’s Oscars. There’ll also be a chance to see documentaries such as “Uus Maailm,” the popular documentary about a group of radicals who want to set up a new way of living in the center of Tallinn and “Kuku: I Will Survive,” the extremely powerful story of a legendary Estonian actor’s battle against alcohol.

The Panorama section will focus upon those films that have already delighted festival audiences, amongst them films such as “Wild Bill,” an ultra-enjoyable piece about a criminal returning from prison and reconnecting with his son, and the gorgeous “Blue Bird” a film that utilizes African legends and a blue filter to create a unique and rather wonderful story of two small children and their search for a bird. The Screen International Critics Choice will include films chosen by critics from one of the most influential film magazines in the world and include “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” a compelling adaptation of a classic spy novel that contains an all-star cast including Gary Oldman and Colin Firth whilst “Tyrannosaur” is a powerful British film that marks the directing debut of Paddy Consindine, the actor best known for roles in such films as “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Also look out for the festival’s closing film “The Tree of Life,” a metaphysical look at the meaning of life starring Brad Pitt that won this year’s Palme D’or at the Cannes Festival.

As always documentaries will play a large part in the festival, with a special program devoted to human rights. The program will include the eye-opening “Marathon Boy,” a powerful story of a young Indian boy who proves a genius at running. But are the people aiding him there to take his money? It’s a strong and sometimes disturbing story of intrigue and betrayal. There’ll also be a chance to experience some great shorts – including one directed by former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam – and Monton will present some of the best films dedicated to fashion. There’ll also be plenty of special guests and events, including a 15th birthday party for the festival.

Being 15 years-old would usually mean that you’re a grumpy teenager. Thankfully, Black Nights has decided not to lock itself in the bedroom and is instead sharing some great films whilst showing why it is one of the most important film festivals in the world. Film fans. What more are you waiting for? Get your tickets now before it ends!

The Black Nights Film Festival continues till Nov. 30. For more information on the program and  tickets, visit