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Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) announces its full 2021 Official Selection lineup

The festival’s main competition programme adds eleven international premieres and three European premieres to the six world premieres previously announced. Nineteen films will be screened in competition, with three films out of competition. It’s a packed lineup featuring a couple of legends, a raft of returning Black Nights favourites and several soon-to-be-stars, from all corners of the cinematic globe. Two international premieres will come to PÖFF after having their world premieres with our friends at Seville European Film Festival.

Regarding the year’s Official Competition lineup, Festival Director Tiina Lokk commented “When we began Black Nights Film Festival, 25 years ago, we didn’t even have cinemas to screen our films in. It’s vitally important, in these challenging times for the culture business, to make sure film fans continue to visit cinemas and have that essential experience. The best way to do that is surely to show them the very best, most provocative and most inspiring films world cinema has to offer. It's an honour to have these films join us and a gift to Estonian film fans, who can experience so many fantastic world and international premieres this year.”
Black Nights Film Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2021 and runs from November 12-28 in Tallinn & Tartu, Estonia. The full programmes of films will be announced at the start of November. International press and professionals will have the opportunity to watch much of the competition programmes online, as well as in press screenings onsite in Tallinn from November 17-26. Find out more about press accreditations here.

Official Selection - In Competition

The Wedding Day / Wesele

Wojtek Smarzowski returns with The Wedding Day (not to be confused with his 2004 debut The Wedding). Getting deep under the skin of Polish society and politics, the film contrasts two stories a century apart and chucks every issue from LGBTQI+ rights to veganism into the mixer, in typically confrontational and insightful style. Smarzowski’s last film, 2018’s Kler, broke box office records, while eviscerating the Polish Catholic church.

No Looking Back / ОТОРВИ И ВЫБРОСЬ

Three generations of women - innocent young daughter, mother on parole, overprotective stubborn grandmother - struggle to align their interests, in this Russian family drama. It's lively and inventive, with a sharp, dark edge. Kirill Sokolov’s debut Why Don’t You Die! was a standout in PÖFF22’s First Features competition programme. No Looking Back premiered at Kinotavr Film Festival and will have its international premiere at PÖFF25.

Dear Thomas / Lieber Thomas

Rebel GDR poet Thomas Brasch clashes with the authorities, in a tale with one leg on either side of the iron curtain: a timely and well-observed biopic portrait from Andreas Kleinert. Kleinert’s films have been shown everywhere from Cannes to Berlin and, between directing festival darlings, he’s earned four of German TV’s Grimme Awards. Dear Thomas premiered at Munich Film Festival, before PÖFF welcomes it, as part of the Goethe-Institut presents: New German Cinema programme, for its international premiere. 

What Went Wrong? / ¿Qué hicimos mal?

Liliana Torres’ third feature is a reality-bending interrogation of relationship dynamics and failings, starring the writer/director herself as protagonist. She sets off on a humorous journey of (re)discovery, ticking through a list of her exes, each an archetypal reflection of a critical personal flaw. What Went Wrong? will premiere with our friends at Seville European Film Festival, before coming to Tallinn for its international premiere.

The List of Those Who Love Me / Beni Sevenler Listesi

Even drug dealers need some love and appreciation in their lives. Emre Erdoğdu’s The List of Those Who Love Me has a swaggering sadness to it - and an undeniable sense of cool - as our protagonist makes several bad and increasingly dangerous decisions to prove his worth to the loosely connected circle around him. The film world premiered at the 40th Istanbul Film Festival and picked up an acting award for lead Halil Babur.

The Gentiles / Las Gentiles

Santi Amodeo returns to his indier/arthouse origins with The Gentiles, after 2013’s high-grossing comedy Who Killed Bambi?. It’s a complex coming of age story, of deep infatuation and troubled teenage minds: bipolar dazzle vs suicidal ideation, reflected through a social media prism. The Gentiles will also have its world premiere in Seville, before its international premiere at PÖFF25.

A Place Called Dignity / Un lugar llamado digniad

This fiction piece, seen through the eyes of a young boy, is set in a notorious 60s commune/cult in Southern Chile and features monsters staged (masks and decorative horns) and real (literal nazis), exploring themes of freedom, control and revolution in an undeniably dark time in Chilean history. Like Matias Rojas Valencia’s 2013 debut Root, his latest premiered at San Sebastian and the film will now come to PÖFF25 for its international premiere.

Make the Devil Laugh / Oni ga warau

Standing up for his mother and young brother, Kazuma kills his abusive father and deals with the life-long consequences in this vibrant and physical drama, punctuated by clanging scrap metal. Ryuichi Mino’s second film is another family affair from the “Mino Bros”, with brother Kazuhiko writing the script. It premiered in Japan’s Skip City International D-Cinema Festival, before its international premiere in Tallinn. Mino’s first feature won the audience award in 2018’s Kanazawa Film Festival.

A Vanishing Fog / Entre La Niebla

Augusto Sandino’s second feature, a Colombian/Czech/Norwegian co-production, comes to PÖFF for its international premiere. The fatalistic F, an outdoorsman at home on stunning, magical mountainside vistas, cares for his father, apprehensively awaiting a violent confrontation with forces beyond his wilderness home and a bittersweet farewell to the life he knows.

Mukagali / Мyкагали

Bolat Kalymbetov’s latest tells the story of legendary Kazakh poet Mukagali Makatayev: his struggles with the arbitrary and overbearing communist authorities, the impacts on his family and the drinking he turns to to cope, all the while plowing through writing, creating and translating a lasting legacy of art. A graceful and tasteful glimpse into the life of a national hero, deserving of its place on the biggest screens, far beyond its homeland.

No. 10

Alex van Warmerdam’s 10th film is the appropriately named darkly comic thriller No. 10. On the eve of the premiere of a new stage production, fraught with tension, intrigue and complications, a word whispered into actor Günter’s ear sets him off toward a confrontation with his mysterious past. The film had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin in September and comes to PÖFF25 for its European premiere.


A shock diagnosis brings two, estranged Beijing brothers together, then on a mission to Japan to seek out a woman from their past, centrally important to them both. Long shots abound, as both brothers circle their long lost love and memories are untangled from reality. Director Zhang Lu has previously picked up prizes in Cannes, Berlin and Locarno. Yanagawa has its international premiere with PÖFF, after a world premiere at ​​Busan International Film Festival.


In a brutal and unflinching portrait of discrimination and violence, director Nabil Ben Yadir dramatises a sadly true story from Belgium. When his birthday/coming-out party gets a bit too much for Brahim, he heads out for some air and walks into a homophobic ambush. Pivoting around the shocking violence of young gay man’s life cut short, Animals follows through with dissecting the aftermath. After premiering at Film Fest Gent, its international premiere will be in Tallinn.

Details for the six world premieres in competition previously announced

Official Selection - Out of Competition

Compartment No 6 / Hytti nro 6

Compartment No 6 is set on one long train ride, a carriage snaking its way through Russia. Inside, an odd couple (Finnish/Russian) step-by-step find ways to connect. With a script from director Juho Kuosmanen and Estonian screenwriters Andris Feldmanis and Livia Ulman, the film was selected to world premiere in competition for the Palme D’Or and walked away with a share of the Cannes Grand Prix. Compartment No 6 will have its Estonian premiere at PÖFF, shortly after being selected as Finland’s Oscars entry.

The King of All The World / El rey de todo el mundo

Spanish film legend Carlos Saura, in his 89th year, returns with a vibrant and youthful, frenetic musical. An ensemble of lithe dancers is driven forward by the divorced director/choreographer team leading the project-within-a-project, all orbiting around a real and metaphorical car wreck in centre stage. This Mexican/Spanish co-production features compositions from Lila Downs, Carlos Rivera and Fela Dominguez and was filmed by Apocalypse Now cinematographer Vittorio Storaro.

Captain Volkonogov Escaped / Kapitan Volkonogov bezhal

In time-blind historical Russia, we follow the titular Captain Volkonogov in a purgatorial, dream-meets-nightmare setting: conversations with the dead and some casual torture. Director couple Aleksey Chupov and Natasha Merkulova explore the question “Can you ever really escape from your past?” in a film both somewhat deranged and also contemplative. Venice hosted the world premiere and Black Nights will host the Estonian premiere of this Estonian-minority co-production.


Official Selection - In Competition

World premieres previously announced

Herd Immunity /  Onbagandar (2021, Kazakhstan/France, Director: Adilkhan Yerzhanov)
Songs for a Fox / Dainos Lapei (2021, Lithuania/Latvia/Estonia, Director: Kristijonas Vildžiūnas)
Perpetuity /  Hatorszag (2021, Hungary, Director: György Pálfi)
Killing the Eunuch Khan /  Koshtan- e Khajeh (2021, Iran, Director: Abed Abest)
Big Night (2021, Philippines, Director: Jun Robles Lana)
The Wait / Odotus (2021, Finland, Director: Aku Louhimies)

International premieres

The Wedding Day / Wesele (2021, Poland, Director: Wojtek Smarzowski)
No Looking Back / ОТОРВИ И ВЫБРОСЬ (2021, Russia, Director: Kirill Sokolov)
Dear Thomas / Lieber Thomas (2021, Germany, Director: Andreas Kleinert)
What Went Wrong? / ¿Qué hicimos mal? (2021, Spain, Director: Liliana Torres)
The List of Those Who Love Me / Beni Sevenler Listesi (2021, Turkey, Director: Emre Erdoğdu)
The Gentiles / Las Gentiles (2021, Spain, Director: Santi Amodeo)
A Place Called Dignity / Un lugar llamado digniad (2021, Chile/Argentina/Germany, Director: Matias Rojas Valencia)
Make the Devil Laugh / Oni ga warau (2021, Japan, Director: Ryuichi Mino)
A Vanishing Fog / Entre La Niebla (2021, Colombia/Czech Republic/Norway, Director: Augusto Sandino)
Mukagali / Мyкагали (2021, Kazakhstan, Director: Bolat Kalymbetov)

European premieres

No. 10 (2021, Netherlands/Belgium, Director: Alex van Warmerdam)
Yanagawa (2021, China, Director: Zhang Lu)
Animals (2021, Belgium/France, Director:  Nabil Ben Yadir)

Official Competition - Out of Competition

Compartment No 6 / Hytti nro 6 (2021, Finland/Germany/Estonia/Russia, Director: Juho Kuosmanen) | Estonian premiere

The King of All The World / El rey de todo el mundo (2021, Spain/Mexico, Director: Carlos Saura) | International premiere

Captain Volkonogov Escaped / Kapitan Volkonogov bezhal (2021, Russia/Estonia, Directors: Aleksey Chupov & Natasha Merkulova) | Estonian premiere


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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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