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Awards of the 23rd Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Asian cinema emerges victorious at the Award Ceremony of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival with the Grand Prix going to Japanese Kontora and the Best Director award to Filippino filmmaker Jun Robles Jana for Kalel (15).

In the festival’s premiere competition programme, the Official Selection - Competition Japanese film Kontora, directed, produced and written by Anshul Chauhan emerged victorious, nabbing the festival’s Grand Prix and the Best Music award that was handed to Yuma Koda. The film centres on the problematic relationship of a single father and her teenage daughter in economic distress, as a stranger, a mute man who only walks backwards enters their lives forcing them to confront their emotional reality.

The Best Director award of the festival went Jun Robles Jana for Kalel (15), a portrait of a 15-years-old teenager in Manila who receives the news that he has HIV and while being forced to cope with the gradual falling apart of his family.

The Best Actress Award goes to Alina Serban in Gipsy Queen for the portrayal of the Roma single mother of two, struggling to do odd jobs as she gets an unexpected chance of returning to the boxing ring, a career that she had quit unexpectedly years ago. The physical and mental transformation was also behind Clavan Clerking winning the Best Actor prize for his role in the UK thriller Muscle.

Israeli dramedy Golden Voices, a tale of two Russian Jewish voice actors emigrating to Jerusalem at the beginning of 1990s, received two awards: Best Script for Evgeny Ruman (also the director of the film) and Ziv Berkovich and the NETPAC award.

Iranian director Narges Abyar, who’s won the Official Selection’s Best Director award in 2016 for her the film Breath, received the festival’s Audience Award for Official Selection entry When the Moon was Full, closely beating two other audience favourites - previously mentioned Golden Voices and Fiela’s Child.

Director Wayne Wang’s Coming Home Again received the Best Cinematographer award for its DOP Richard Wong.

At the awards ceremony, jury president Michal Newell described the difficult decision-making process as all the 21 films in competition had their merits, naming four more films that he wished to highlight: The Flying Circus by Albanian director Fatos Berisha, Monster by Irish director Tom Sullivan, Drowsy City by Vietnamese director and When the Moon Was Full by Narges Abyar.

In the First Feature Competition, the jury handed the Best Film award to Stories from the Chestnut Woods by director Gregor Bozic, an exquisitely shot collection of stories set in a rural area on the border Italy and Slovenia during the difficult years after the Second World War.

The first Special Prize went to Brazilian film The Seeker for the script that depicts a woman and a man living in a community of liberals on the stressful visit to the girl’s wealthy parents as the family is in crisis as the patriarchal head of the family has been drawn to a corruption crisis. 

The second Special Prize went to Bolivia-Qatar-Canada produced  The Names of the Flowers for the cinematography Nicolas Taborga. The film, directed by Bahman Tavoosi, a multilayered drama about the impact of the Che Guevara’s cult on a small community in Bolivia.

Selecting their favourite also from amongst the First Feature Competition, the International Film Critics Association aka FIPRESCI jury selected the UK film Looted by director Rene Pannevis as their favourite.

Rebels with a Cause, the section for films breaking cinematic rules and expanding artistic boundaries, saw two awards handed out as the short film The Silence of the Dying Fish by Vasilis Kekatos was awarded the Rebels With Their Shorts Award and Feast by Chinese director Yunxing Nie. 

The Baltic Competition jury handed the Best Baltic Film award to the Lithuanian entry Motherland by director Tomas Vengris.

Official Selection Competition

Jury: Michael Newell, Pivio, Fabrizio Maltese, Lisa Carlehed, Kerem Ayan, Rima Das
Films in competition:

Grand Prix for the Best Film (grant of 10 000 euros from the City of Tallinn, shared by the Director and Producer):

Director and producer: Anshul Chauhan

Jury commentary: Offers a powerful, mysterious story that links modern Japanese lives with a past that the characters of the film think have been buried and forgotten, but which rises up to haunt and obsess them. It's also a rich portrait of an ordinary Japanese family under severe tensions. Full of unexpected disturbing images this film is brilliantly multi layered-a truly cinematic experience. 

Award for Best Director (grant of 5000 euros)

KALEL (15) (Philippines)
Director: Jun Robles Jana

Jury commentary: Working with a large cast of mostly very young actors he has made a film which feels deeply -rooted in the everyday lives of its characters. His film pulls away from the sticking-plaster from the wound of the AIDS epidemic among young people of the Philippines and exposes the terror and violence that this crisis imposes on them. It's a passionate and concerned film about lives we never see in the West. 

Award for Best Script

Scriptwriters: Evgeny Ruman, Ziv Berkovich

Jury commentary: For telling a vivid and gripping story through real and relatable characters. Right from the opening scene, you fall in love with the characters and are intrigued by what's in store for them. It stands out simply for telling a unique story in a balanced and compelling way.

Award for Best Actress (award from Elisa)

Film: Gipsy Queen (Germany)

Jury commentary: For her strong performance in committing herself flawlessly to the character and its challenging physical demands.

Award for Best Actor (award from Elisa)

Film: Muscle (Great Britain)

Jury commentary: For his outstanding performance of portraing an ordinary man in unordinary circumstances. And for his great transformation skills.

Award for Best Cinematographer (grant of 1000 euros from Angel Films)

Film: Coming Home Again (USA-South Korea)

Jury commentary: For its ability to translate into images the tension and the drama of the story with an elegant minimalism, framing through narrow spaces, both physical and metaphorical, representing the despair of the characters with a discrete eye and delivering a bold vision of what cinematography should be.

Award for Best Music

Film: Kontora (Japan)

Jury commentary: For the ability to create a state of continous tension and references to the past through an extremely rigorous and modern orchestral writing.

First Feature Competition

Jury: Michael J Werner, Miae Choi, Sebnem Hassanisoughi, Arsen A. Ostojic, Ruben Mendoza, 
Films in Competition:

Best Film (grant of 5000 euros, shared by the Director and Producer)

STORIES FROM THE CHESTNUT WOODS (Zgodbe iz kostanjevih gozdov, Slovenia-Italy)
Director: Gregor Bozic, producer: Marina Gumzi

Žüriikommentaar / Jury commentary: In times of new formats, platforms and rush rhythm, it is so great to give this award to a film that holds the old torch of cinema itself. With powerful sense of reality with magic, poetry and cruelty; this tale stands for the dignity of waiting for death while life passes by in such a strong way. Beautifully shot and edited, with a great sense of communion with the people, landscape, environment and the topic. It was like enjoying a nice and humble meal from the countryside: the film left us the taste of chestnuts.  

Special Jury Prize (#1)

THE SEEKER (O Buscador, Brazil)
Director: Bernardo Barretto, producer:     Bernardo Barreto, Mario Patrocinio

Jury commentary: The jury has decided to give this Special Jury Prize to a screenplay which in the course of a family get together manages to successfully depict unexpected inner family dynamics set against turbulent political times. The writers created believable characters of various social backgrounds as well as a convincing narrative flow happening in real time.

Special Jury Prize (#2)

THE NAMES OF THE FLOWERS (Los Nombres de las Flores, Bolivia-Qatar-Canada)
Director: Bahman Tavoosi, producer: Aonan Yang, Andreas Mendritzki

Jury commentary:
The jury has decided to give this Special Jury Prize for outstanding cinematography which poetically paints the picture of environment, people and atmosphere in a remote village high on Andes. We were overwhelmed by the way the camera digests light, time, wind, mountains, skin, textures and life. 

Baltic Film Competition

Jury: Milja Mikkola, Ricardo Mendez, Leslie Felperin
Films in competition:

Award for Best Baltic Feature Film (grant of 3200 euros, shared by the Director and Producer)

MOTHERLAND (Lithuania)
Director: Tomas Vengris

Jury commentary: Told through the eyes and ears of an adolescent raised abroad, who understands the language being spoken around him but not always what it means, the winner of the Baltic Film Competition this year is all about people and cultures caught in between. Tightly structured and yet built on performances that feel spontaneous and true, this densely layered debut feature captures what it's like to be a child on the edge of adulthood, simultaneously part of a family and an outsider, at home and a stranger in a strange land all at once. The prize goes to Motherland. 

Rebels with a Cause Competition

Jury: Ahmet Kenan Bilgiç, Ilkka Matila, Mirtel Pohla
Films in competition:

Rebel with a Cause Award (grant of 1200 euros from Nudist)

FEAST (China)
Director Yunxing Nie, producers Li Keqi, Qiu Jiamin, Guan Feiyu

Jury comment: Our jury decided to give this award to a movie that has a bold, skilled and artistic approach to cinema. Its Director has an amazing ability to tie cinematographically together different times, locations and realities.
In this period when the impoverishing policies of the states, violence against innocent people, freedom of expression and way of life are being ignored, we are happy to give the Rebels with a Cause award to the movie, which tackles the social, political, and sexual-taboos by using the magic of cinema.

Rebels With Their Shorts Award

Director Vasilis Kekatos S, producers Guillaume Dreyfus, Eleni Kossyfidou, Delphine Schmit

Jury commentary: Jury feels that the filmmaker succeeds in usage of filmic tools to lend originality to a well-told story. The cast, the cinematography, the music and sound create a captivative atmosphere for a film with a profound theme.

Additional Awards

Audience Award (grant of 2000 euros from the City of Tallinn)
As voted by the festival’s audience:

WHEN THE MOON WAS FULL (Shabi Ke Maah Kamel Shod, Iran)
Director: Narges Abyar 

FIPRESCI Award presented by International Federation of Film Critics (given to one film in the First Feature Competition).
Jury: Dariia Badior, Joanna Orzechowska-Bonis, Aurelia Aasa

Director: Rene Pannevis

Jury commentary: FIPRESCI jury decided to award a powerful film, which stood out by its amazing energy, engaging performances and social context.

NETPAC Award for Best Asian film presented by Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (given to a film from among the selection of Asian films having their world or international premiere at the festival).

Jury: Jaanis Valk, Kanat Torebay, Siddiq Barmak

Director: Evgeny Ruman

Jury commentary: For an honest and simple narrative of the most complex angles within a human being and his value, the nostalgic picturisation of the reality and providing brilliant acting.

Estonian Ecumenical Jury Prize presented by the representatives of the largest congregations in Estonia

Jury: Andres Põder, Regina Hansen, Marge-Marie Paas, Madis Kolk
Director: Hüseyin Tabak

Jury commentary: Jury comment: Ecumenical Jury prize will go to the film that supports Christian and universal human values, empathy and the sanctity of life. It is a film that supports the viewer in making personal life decisions and that is made powerful through its script and strong acting. The film’s protagonist, while meeting the label “loser” by all visible criteria, rejects the role of the victim, and strives forward, demanding respect and dignity from others. While doing so, she also refutes ethnic prejudices and proves that ‘queen’ doesn’t need to be a title one inherits.

Lifetime Achievement Award (the second Lifetime Achievement Award of the festival)


Children’s and youth film festival Just Film

Grand Prix


Director: Ninian Doff

Jury commentary: We have seen a lot of great and touching drama in this competition – there has been one film though which showed in a very original way that you can be really funny and deal with relevant topics at the same time. Finding your vocation, taking your chances, young versus old and wield a friendship which might last forever. We had a hilarious time with this hilarious film!

European Children’s Film Association Award 

Director: Frederike Migom

Jury commentary: The award goes to a movie that expresses sincere emotions, humanistic and ecological values both in challenging and happy moments of life and does so through dance, with energy and overall joy for life. 

International short film and animation festival PÖFF Shorts

European Film Academy 2020 Awards candidate nomination:

12 K. MARX STREET (12/ მარქსის ქუჩა, Georgia)
Director Irine Jordania





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About Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Started in 1997, the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival has grown into one of the biggest film festivals in Northern Europe and busiest regional industry platforms, hosting more than 1000 guests and industry delegates and over 160 journalists. The festival screens around 250 features and more than 300 shorts and animations and sees an attendance of 80 000 people annually. In 2017 the festival was covered in 71 languages with a potential global media audience of over 1.1 billion people.

As of 2014 the festival holds the FIAPF accreditation for holding an international competition programme which puts the festival into the so- called A-category of film festivals, alongside other 14 festivals in the world (including Cannes, Berlinale, Venice, Karlovy Vary, San Sebastian, Shanghai, Tokyo etc).  

Black Nights has an umbrella structure with two sub-festivals PÖFF Shorts and youth and children's film festival Just Film taking place concurrently with the main festival,
two off-season festivals - Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival and Tartu Love Film Festival - and a fully-fledged film industry platform Industry@Tallinn, organised jointly with the Baltic Event Co-production market.

Black Nights Film Festival 16 Nov - 2 Dec
PÖFF Shorts 20 Nov - 25 Nov
Just Film 16 Nov - 2 Dec
Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event 26 Nov - 30 Nov



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