21 November 2013

Pöff 2013

Black Nights' Film Festival
November 2013

This is my subjective ranking of films seen at the Black Nights' Film Festival (PÖFF) in Tallinn this year: 

Ilmar Raag

The mailwoman is considered to be rather simple by the village people. But when she sends a postcard with a poem to the village alcoholic/womanizer both their lives change. And we see them in a different light. The movie's play with the story seen from different views makes us regret our prejudices and be prepared to give people another chance. This is a very realistic story from a tiny village at Saaremaa, but could just as well be from any other Nordic village.

This movie by Ilmar Raag follows his last success movie "A lady in Paris", one of the highlights of last year's Pöff. A director of international level, one to look out for also in the future.


Estonia, Georgia
Zaza Urushadze

War broke out in Abkhazia in 1992, and it is difficult to understand who fights against who. This is one of the areas Estonians settled in more than hundred years ago, and then most escaped before the war. But some remained until today, and this story could be about one of them. When the old Estonian discovers seriously hurt soldiers from both sides in his backyard, he decides to take care of them both. Will it really be possible to make these two enemies able to live under the same roof? And will it be possible not to be affected by the war going on? The story is well told, but the background of the conflict is difficult to grasp. It really does not mind, as this is a universal story about enemies and friendship.


Alexander Payne

An old, rather disturbed, old man recieves a letter saying "you may have won 1 million dollars", and decides to travel all the 1500km to claim his price. Giving up trying to convincing him not to go, his son decides to bring him on this final journey. It turns out not to be a story about the prize money, but pride, jelousy and greed. A wonderful, humoristic movie shot in black&white, filled with cliches of the hopeless old childhood town that has not changed a bit.

Nobody's Daughter Hae-won
Sang-soo Hong
South Korea
A young student is having an affair with a married university lector.  They have a good time together, they break up, they get back together again. It is as simple as that. But the silent and soft way the story is told makes this a beautiful taste of South Korea in autumn. The actions and reactions of the protagonists are unexpected and unusual, which makes this quite exotic.

Bitch Hug
Andreas Öhman

An entertaining story about a teenager getting her life's chance - a ticket to New York, to write about her experiences there. This is #1 of 1000 crazy things she wants to do in her life. And then she manages to miss the flight. Sometimes you need to travel to appreciate what you have and who you are. She does not travel but still learns to appreciate. A fun, surprising and quite charming youth film.

A Street in Palermo
Emma Dante
Italy, Switzerland, France

You know the cliche: Two cars meet in a narrow street, both are Italian, nobody wants to let the other pass. But they really do not want to budge, even when night falls and morning comes. Who will win this fight? And what is the fight really about? A solid portion of colorful people, pasta, discussions and drama, all what you would expect in an Italian movie. Nicely put together, with surprising details. And I really wonder if the street is getting wider and wider through the film, at the end there is space for four cars side by side. There must be some symbolic in that.

The Journals of Knud Rasmussen 
Norman Cohn, Zacharias Kunuk
Canada, Denmark, Greenland

A story of an explorer, but mostly about Inuit life before and when Christianity arrived. Not much story happening, but then again, the Inuit life seemed to be mostly about surviving from day to day. An exotic and interesting, but way to long movie.

This Is Sanlitun
Robert I. Douglas
China, Iceland, Australia

A hopeless guy arrives in Beijing in hope of being reaccepted by his ex-wife and son. His plan is to sell North-Korean hair-growth-water. Not the best business plan, but there might be worse business plans than that. He meets another Westerner, that claims to be fully integrated in Chinese culture, and offers to be the mentor. Only to be outfooled by a stronger crook. Beijing is the city where dreams may come true, but may also be crushed the next second. A funny story, but way too caricatured characters.