Eighteen plus three budding films take the stage in this year's First Feature Selection, bringing freshness and quirky, new views.
In a challenging time for many emerging and established artists, PÖFF is happy to announce a selection of 18 films in the First Feature Competition and an additional 3 out of competition. First Feature Films distinguish themselves by their freshness, vitality, and revelatory nature. These are the films and filmmakers to pave new pathways in the landscape of cinema in the years to come. Or as festival director Tiina Lokk has said; once the film industry gets on its feet again, these are the filmmakers who will carry on the torch.
Among the First Feature Films are Cannes Official Selection 2020 Should the Wind Drop by French-Armenian video-artist-turned-feature-director Nora Martirosyan, a Colombian female-focused coming-of-age film, which has a part-pro, part-untrained cast, a Danish black comedy, a 16mm black-and-white gaze into a Russian poet’s soul, and a quirky local masterpiece on the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ten of the films are World Premieres.
The festival is moving forward with preparations for a physical event and will make everything in its power to bring the filmmakers to Tallinn to attend their screenings. As Estonia's travel restrictions are decided every month, it will become clear at the end of October who can travel to Tallinn. The virtual screenings of the films will include pre-recorded Q&A's with the filmmakers.
Screening as a world-premiere, from Syrian co-directors Rana Kazkaz & Anas Khalaf, the story is told with inventive cinematography and a constant low-level tension. Spinning from the normalcy of an optician’s office to the absurdity of background low-level conflict, a relentless narrative drive pushes the audience looping toward the film’s fundamental question: will the translator finally find his own voice?
Shot on 16mm film, in the tangle of brutalist Bucharest, Eugen Jebeleanu’s debut feature explores protest, religion, identity and more, as a gay street cop struggles to balance his prosaic professional duties and personal politics. As the film juggles languages and viewpoints, our protagonist states, “It’s complicated” and it’s true. We’re delighted to welcome Poppy Field for its world premiere.
Colombian Diana Montenegro follows up a series of female-focused shorts with this coming-of-age drama, constructed on the shoulders of a part-pro, part-untrained cast. A child is initiated into a circle of fatalistic, self-identifying “cursed” ladies. Longing Souls lets us look again at the world of women through untarnished glass and appears at PÖFF as a world premiere.
As Far as I Know
Hungarian directors Nándor Lörincz and Bálint Nagy have created a real brain-worm: a morally complex narrative to think and rethink, lingering long in the audience’s minds. The story follows two soon-to-be-parents, in a fractious relationship, as they struggle with slippery truths and their life-changing consequences. This Budapest-set drama screens as a world premiere.
From this year’s festival focus country, director Frédéric Hambalek paints DIY therapy, existential dread and psychological terror across a canvas of German domesticity. The introduction of a new neighbour to the treatment programme makes the system spiral out of control. Up to its final frames, it skillfully skirts the boundaries of fantasy and reality. This deeply unsettling feature also has its world premiere at PÖFF.
Set in modern China, Wang Yiao’s youthful ensemble piece follows the fortunes of three friends as they seek their future in a world changing almost faster than they can recognise. With a backdrop ranging from endless forests of skyscrapers to technicolour mahjong tables, a maze of plotlines tie together friendship, family and, of course, business. Great Happiness appears as a world premiere at Black Nights.
Shot on black and white 16mm film, Dmitry Rudakov’s debut is a beautiful, meditative dramatisation of the end of Russian poet and Gulag survivor Varlam Shalamov’s life. Two of his most fervent followers attempt to piece together and decipher his final works, as he maintains his creative output up to his last breath. The film also has its world premiere at PÖFF this year.
A co-production between Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Bolivia and Norway, Karnawal, having its world premiere in Tallinn, brings to light the Malambo dance culture. We see a young boy’s training (for the competition of his life) interrupted by the reappearance of his absentee father. Juan Pablo Félix’s direction is exuberant, but with the vibrancy undercut with darkness.
All our unsuspecting lead character wants to do is check the water meter, but writer-director Kærup Hjort takes him into a deep and twisting, absurdist black comedy, shot through claustrophobic narrow framing, in a cavernous, labyrinthine bunker. A graduate of the Danish National Film School, Hjort’s background in theatre comes shining through in this PÖFF world premiere.
A charming, beautiful and understated piece from Greek-German director Sonia Liza Kenterman. Like it’s lead character, it’s a quietly propulsive tale that doesn’t necessarily reveal all its secrets: a perfect fit for these times of change, challenge and reinvention. We also see PÖFF as a perfect fit for its World premiere.
Goodbye, Soviet Union
Ingrian-Finnish, Estonian-born director Lauri Randla piles culture-clash upon culture-clash in this recent-period piece. Though on the surface quirky, accessible and blackly comic, it’s a transportive journey and a unique, surprising perspective on the ramshackle collapse of communism and the making of a nation and a man. We’re very proud to host this international premiere in Estonia.
An intricate and ingenious, fantastical slice of life drama taking in hairdressing, nasty letters from your neighbours and lots of cats. Even while holding up a mirror to a complex, restrictive and sometimes hypocritical society, Ali Derakhshandeh’s film still has a definite sparkle in its cinematic eye and appears as an international premiere at PÖFF.
25 Years of Innocence
Also having its international premiere at PÖFF, this torn-from-the-headlines story digs deep into one man’s extreme misfortune: the setup, the tragedy and glimpses of the lasting repercussions. After living much of your life accused of an unspeakable crime, how can you live with yourself? Coming from a background in TV, it’s an assured feature debut from Poland’s Jan Holoubek, artfully bouncing between the personal, political and institutional.
Madly in Life
Thirty-something couple Alex and Noémie find their child-rearing plans upended when Alex’s elderly mother begins exhibiting signs of dementia. It’s a heavy subject, but hilarious storytelling in this role-reversal dramedy. Belgian director duo Ann Sirot and Raphaël Balboni will have the international premiere of Madly in Life at PÖFF.
Bae Jong-dae’s clear-eyed drama sees two women struggle through the stages of grief in the aftermath of a fatal car accident. Along the way, they fight the police, their families and each other to get to a truth that doesn’t really suit anyone involved. Black Nights is proud to host this moving, honest and naturalistic picture for its international premiere.
A film that’s sometimes wrapped in the dream-like spiritual embrace of pure Australian nature, sometimes exploding into percussive action and flashes of ultra-violence. This revenge thriller is a maximalist visual and auditory feast, certainly not for the faint of heart. We are very excited to also host Victoria Wharfe McIntyre’s film for its international premiere.
Fortuna – The Girl and the Giants
Nicolangelo Gelormini’s suburban fantasy creates a unique, eye-popping and immersive visual world. A six-year-old with magnificent hair and a loose relationship with reality may be an ordinary small Italian child or may be an alien called Nancy. This beguiling dark fairytale, a giallo-with-kids, has its international premiere at PÖFF.
Should the Wind Drop
French-Armenian video-artist-turned-feature-director Nora Martirosyan charts the unexpected complexities involved in approving the opening of an international airport in a freshly-independent imaginary micro-state. From this peripheral perspective, we follow a universal, life-affirming and frankly absurd story that’s been an official selection at Cannes this year before its European premiere here at PÖFF.
Why Not You
Co-premiering together with Zurich International Film Festival and winning the Golden Eye award there this October, Evi Romen’s moody drama is a study in grief, loss and the places they can take you. Already an award-winning editor, Romen’s twisty piece deals head on with LGBT+ issues and religion, alongside plenty of dancing.
My Heart Goes Boom!
Uruguayan Nacho Álvarez makes his debut with this exuberant Spanish/Italian co-production. The very definition of all-singing-and-all-dancing, it’s the story of a woman born to perform and her highly personal experience of censorship in 70s Spain. It comes to us for its international premiere after screening at San Sebastian.
Showing out of competition but as a European premiere, American-in-Britain Joe Marcantonio’s debut is a compact and claustrophobic psychological in-law horror piece. It swirls around most varieties of social conflict, inside the creatively lensed dilapidated Scottish country manor owned by Fiona Shaw’s family matriarch.