Taking place every November in the capital of Estonia, the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival is one of the largest film festivals in Northern Europe and perhaps one of the most significant, insofar as it is the only one to be accredited by the FIAPF, a designation it shares with Berlin, Cannes, and Venice.
To coincide with this year's festival Filmatique has partnered with Tallinn Black Nights to present a collection of films that depict a unique panorama of identity and history— both personal and collective— in the region of the world where European and post-Soviet cultures meet.
Celebrated Latvian female filmmaker Laila Pakalnina reconfigures the tale of martyr Pavel Morozov in her fifth feature, Dawn, mediating the legend of a boy who chose loyalty to the Soviet state over family and even life through a farcical lens. Estonian filmmaker Triin Ruumet's debut feature The Days That Confused examines the psychology of a nation by way of one young man's hazy journey through a midsummer night in search of himself, while documentarian Vitaly Mansky traces the aftershocks of Ukraine's Maidan Revolution in interviews with his family members on both sides of the border, in Close Relations.
While originating from diverse nations and perspectives, Filmatique's Tallinn Black Nights Series posits common themes among people living in the region where East meets West— questions of history, borders, and statehood place these individuals in a liminal, in-between space where the constructs of identity are just as nebulous as the institutions that form them.
Dawn, Laila Pakalnina / Latvia, 2015
Janis is a young boy who lives in the Soviet collective farm "Dawn." His father opposes such a collective farm's creation, meriting himself an enemy of the Soviet people— therefore, Janis betrays his father by adopting his uncle as his caretaker. What unfolds is a tale of revenge on the frontier of a growing Soviet empire.
Retooling the classic Soviet propaganda story about "Young Pioneer" Pavel Morozov— a subject of many books, songs, plays, and even a film by Sergei Eisenstein— Dawn is a powerful visual opus about manipulation, freedom and memory. The fifth feature from celebrated Latvian filmmaker Laila Pakalnina premiered at Tallinn Black Nights, Seattle and Fajr, and was selected as Latvia's official submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The Days That Confused, Triin Ruumet / Estonia, 2016
Allar is a 27-year-old Estonian whose daily activities consist of guzzling beer, catcalling girls while they play volleyball, and generally wandering without direction from one random occurrence to the next. Following a car crash from which Allar emerges relatively unscathed, he begins to interpret the mounting tension and absurdity of his life as a mandate to give his existence serious thought.
A frantic midsummer journey to discover meaning in oneself, The Days That Confused paints a generational portrait of late-1990s Estonia through strokes of humor and farce. Triin Ruumet's debut feature film debuted at Tallinn Black Nights, Hamburg and Karlovy Vary, where it won the Special Jury Prize.
Close Relations, Vitaly Mansky / Ukraine, 2016
Following the 2014 Maidan Revolution in Ukraine, celebrated documentary filmmaker Vitaly Mansky crisscrosses the country to assess the political climate by way of interviews with members of both his nuclear and extended family. The constantly shifting borders give way to divisions over ideas of patriotism, geopolitics and the ethics of war— calling into question the epistemology of national identity itself.
In his most most personal documentary film to date, Mansky captures how the fault-lines within a family can reveal the political chaos of a country as a whole, painting a rare and honest portrait of modern-day Ukraine. Close Relations premiered at Tallinn Black Nights, Toronto, Karlovy Vary and Visions du Réel.