email print share on Facebook share on Twitter share on reddit pin on Pinterest

BLACK NIGHTS 2019 Awards

Asian cinema soars in Tallinn

by 

- As the 23rd edition of the Estonian festival wrapped, Japan’s Kontora nabbed the Grand Prix, with Filipino filmmaker Jun Robles Lana named Best Director

Asian cinema soars in Tallinn
The winners of the 2019 Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (© Liis Reiman/Tallinn Black Nights)

Asian cinema turned out to be the clear winner at the 23rd Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, with this year’s Grand Prix for Best Film (and a grant of €10,000 from the City of Tallinn, to be shared by the director and producer) going to Indian-born Anshul Chauhan’s Kontora. As the Official Selection Competition jury, consisting of Michael Newell, Italian composer Pivio, Fabrizio Maltese, Lisa Carlehed, Kerem Ayan and Rima Das argued, the movie tells “a powerful, mysterious story that links modern Japanese lives with a past that the characters of the film think has 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.” The jury also appreciated its soundtrack, awarding Yuma Koda with the Best Music gong.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

“For me, Kontora was so surprising. You immediately notice a scent of discovery while watching hundreds of other films,” said festival programmer Edvinas Pukšta. “I truly wanted to double-check my intuition and see Kontora again in the cinema. After that experience, I knew who was going to win.” Focused on a complicated relationship between a girl and her father, the story takes a different turn when she finds his old diaries. “It’s a sensitively personal homage to the brightest memories of one’s parents, who suffered the wounds of war at a very young age,” continued Pukšta. “Anshul Chauhan’s drama is atmospheric, visual and gorgeous to watch, especially on the big screen. You never feel that this film is too long. Unknown Japanese actors are chosen perfectly, and their improvisations helped to create memorable performances.”

Filipino director Jun Robles Lana was given €5,000 and named Best Director for his work on Kalel, in which a 15-year-old from Manila finds out he has HIV – further cementing Asian cinema’s triumph at the festival. The Best Actress Award went to Alina Serban for Gipsy Queen [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Hüseyin Tabak and Alina Ser…
film profile
]
– also nabbing an Ecumenical Jury Prize – in which she portrays a Roma single mother getting a second chance to get back into the boxing ring, while Best Actor Cavan Clerkin’s role in Muscle [+see also:
film review
interview: Gerard Johnson
film profile
]
had him undergo a dramatic physical change as a man who suddenly discovers the beauty of the gym, so to speak. Israel’s Golden Voices, about two Russian-Jewish voice actors heading to Jerusalem in the 1990s, got Best Script and the NETPAC Award. This was for, as it was argued, “Telling a vivid and gripping story through real and relatable characters.” Wayne Wang’s Coming Home Again received the Best Cinematographer Award for Richard Wong (complete with €1,000 from Angel Films), and finally, Iran’s Narges Abyar was the recipient of the Audience Award for When the Moon Was Full.

In the First Feature Competition, jurors Michael J Werner, Miae Choi, Sebnem Hassanisoughi, Arsen A Ostojic and Ruben Mendoza favoured the already fairly highly acclaimed Stories from the Chestnut Woods [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Gregor Bozic, an odd fairy tale unfolding during the Second World War in a forest on the Yugoslav-Italian border. “More than ten years ago, we read the text by Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin, Requiem. It discusses the meaning of people’s earthly experience, constructed on the base of three short stories by Chekhov. We went back to them, trying to understand their narrative thread,” explained Bozic and producer Marina Gumzi to Cineuropa, following their win. “We received some enthusiastic feedback on the cinematic approach of the narration, and on the sensorial effect of images and sounds that transported the viewers to some other ‘state’ for the duration of the film. It seems this ‘little’ story of abandoned places and their forgotten people, who were hoping and imagining and dying, can indeed resonate with contemporary viewers.” The first Special Prize was given to the Brazilian title The Seeker for the script by director Bernardo Barreto and Martin Preusche, and the second to The Names of the Flowers – this time, for the cinematography by Nicolas Taborga.

The Baltic Film Competition jury, Milja Mikkola, Ricardo Mendez and Leslie Felperin, named Motherland [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Tomas Vengris as Best Film. “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, it’s all about people and cultures caught in between,” went their statement. “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.” The Rebels With a Cause section, devoted to films that expand artistic boundaries, came to an end with distinctions for Feast by Yunxing Nie – for its ability to tackle “social, political and sexual taboos by using the magic of cinema” – and a short film called The Silence of the Dying Fish by Vasilis Kekatos. The latter happily left Estonia with the brilliantly named Rebels With Their Shorts Award.

The 23rd edition of the Tallinn Film Festival unspooled from 15 November until 1 December.

Here is the list of award winners:

Official Selection Competition

Best Film
Kontora – Anshul Chauhan (Japan)

Best Director
Jun Robles Lana - Kalel (Philippines)

Best Actress
Alina Serban - Gipsy Queen [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Hüseyin Tabak and Alina Ser…
film profile
]
(Germany)

Best Actor
Cavan Clerkin - Muscle [+see also:
film review
interview: Gerard Johnson
film profile
]
(UK)

Best Music
Yuma Koda - Kontora

Best Script
Evgeny Ruman and Ziv Berkovich - Golden Voices (Israel)

NETPAC Award
Golden Voices – Evgeny Ruman

Best Cinematographer
Richard Wong - Coming Home Again (USA/South Korea)

Audience Award
When the Moon Was Full - Narges Abyar (Iran)

First Feature Competition

Best Film
Stories from the Chestnut Woods [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
- Gregor Bozic (Slovenia/Italy)

Special Prize
The Seeker - Bernardo Barreto (Brazil)

Second Special Prize
Nicolas Taborga (cinematographer) - The Names of the Flowers (Bolivia/Qatar/Canada)

Rebels With a Cause

Rebels With a Cause Award
Feast - Yunxing Nie (China)

Rebels With Their Shorts Award
The Silence of the Dying Fish - Vasilis Kekatos (France)

Baltic Competition

Best Baltic Feature Film
Motherland [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
- Tomas Vengris (Lithuania)

Estonian Ecumenical Jury Prize
Gipsy Queen - Hüseyin Tabak

Just Film Children’s and Youth Film Festival

Grand Prix
Boyz in the Wood [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
– Ninian Doff (UK)

European Children’s Film Association Award
Binti [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
- Frederike Migom (Belgium/Netherlands)

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.