Source: Tallinn Black Nights

It is just under six months before the 28th edition of Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF, November 8-24) and its industry strand, Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event, which are poised to live up to their reputation as the place to be for the international film community in mid-November.

Germany is this year’s country in focus. “We had a small focus on Germany during the pandemic but this year we will have a much bigger presentation,” says festival director Tiina Lokk. “It really comes at the right time because the Goethe Institut is celebrating 25 years of being present in Tallinn, and German Films has its 70th anniversary this year.”

PÖFF has a long tradition of showcasing German films. “We have had some great successes, like Dear Thomas winning the grand prix in 2021,” Lokk recalls. “Now we want to present a wide spectrum of films, from the classics through to new productions, including films for children and young people.”

The Spotlight section will focus on Georgian cinema this year, with up to eight films by filmmakers who are members of the Georgian Film Institute (GFI). Many leading Georgian filmmakers and industry professionals have joined GFI, which was launched in opposition to state body the Georgian National Film Centre (GNFC) amid accusations of censorship and creative interference; GNFC has denied the accusations.

“While we don’t want to be interfering in Georgian internal affairs, we won’t be selecting films supported by the Georgian National Film Centre,” Lokk explains. “We are always on the side of the filmmakers and this Spotlight aims to give them an opportunity internationally to present their films, speak about their current situation and [explain] how they are able to finance their films.”

Among innovations planned this year is the introduction of a section called ‘Old But Gold: Classics Come To Life’ to promote restored classics of world cinema, including those from Baltic countries. “We have shown classic films in the past and they have been very popular with Estonian audiences. Now is the time to have a dedicated section,” Lokk says.

The festival’s documentary sidebar is being restructured with Estonian documentary filmmaker Marianna Kaat as the new section head.

“In a first step, we are creating a competition for Baltic documentaries as a way of acknowledging the interesting developments in this field that have seen some really strong films coming out of the Baltics such as Smoke Sauna Sisterhood [Savvusanna Sõsarad],” explains Lokk.

Revamped shorts offer

PÖFF’s industry programme will open up opportunities for the makers of shorts and films for children and young people. Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event (ITBE) and PÖFF Shorts jointly launched the Go Long initiative in 2022 to offer directors of short films access to advice from industry professionals about plans for their first foray into features; 2023 added a couple of panel discussions about short-film distribution.

This will now be revamped in a two-day short-film industry event called Shorts Industry Shortcut (SIS). It features ‘Match Me Pitch’ and ‘How Do I Find A Producer?’ sessions for emerging filmmakers and producers to pitch short-film projects in early stages to potential partners, panel discussions about the short-film ecosystem, speed-dating sessions and more.

“The Just Film Works in Progress showcase will be expanded to accept animation and documentary projects,” adds Marge Liiske, head of ITBE. “Also, we intend to have at least five children’s or youth film projects — including animation, documentaries and AI-assisted projects — in the Co-Production Market.”

She confirms the total number of films being pitched will be kept to 15. As part of a renewed three-year partnership, Eurimages will present a $12,500 (€20,000) co-production development award to one of the Co-Production Market projects. Eurimages is also sponsoring the series co-production development award for the first time with a cash prize of $54,000 (€50,000) presented to a project pitched at the TV Beats Co-Financing Market. “Distribution will be a key issue to be discussed in the film part of this year’s conference programme of ITBE,” Liiske adds.

“Financing is always the first question from the producers, but distribution is very fragile and we need to talk with experienced distributors and sales agents about how they see the distribution landscape evolving.”

Contact: Eliisa Pass