On its 19th edition the Tallinn black Nights Film Festival is celebrating an historic phase in its history: the change over to the A-list universe of the film festival world. Such major change innevitably has forced the organization to apply changes to the structure, programme and long term objectives. Vassilis Economou sat down with Tiina Lokk, director of the organization, to begin to understand what has in fact chaged at the ultimate baltic film event

 Now that the Black Nights has been upgraded to an A-class festival we would like to know what really has changed through the transition from your previous status?

 Actually this is a long process, the way that the festival will be affected will be seen maybe after five years because right now it is the beginning. This is the very first year and we had to change a lot of things, start new ones, so it takes time. Right now we can only speak on how successful we have been today. For instance, in the past we had only a Eurasian competition section and we have been characterized as such festival, but this didn’t give access to films from other countries. In this case, A-class opened for us some doors because more countries came to participate and they can ask for support. We also created an international competition for first time directors which was an interesting process. These directors are still “innocent” and they express themselves freely so we got a lot of submissions for this section. For all the sections we got around 2,500 submissions which is a huge number for us since usually we had around 800 each year.

Regarding your program, what has changed?

We are completing the program in a different way now. Before it was easy to deal with films which have been already selected elsewhere and be a “best of” film festival. Now we are discovering some movies and this is much more interesting. The main task and obligation of an A-class is to put on new film-makers. At the beginning we were afraid since we are the last A-class of the year so we didn’t know what will happen, but thankfully there are so many good movies in the world and we didn’t have any problem to select them for our competition.

Does this also affect your relationship with press and industry?
Previously we didn’t work with international journalists that much because we weren’t so specialized or focused. This year we are focusing on main magazines to be here and also we had to prove ourselves right. When we invited them they have been quite in doubt on what is going on but it was a success so far. Also for the next year we need to build up our venues where the competition will take part to create a tradition of a red carpet – that we call the black carpet – because we don’t want and can’t make a typical red carpet. We also have for the first time the international work-in-progress section. So there are many things that are the basis in order to build up an A-class festival.

So you want to become a festival of discoveries and keep the best of selection. Would that be a new trademark for Black Nights?
 You are right. We want to keep the selection so you can finish your year here and also through discoveries you can start your year here. I think also that the timing is great, a year doesn’t have to end on 31st December. So you can still catch up everything and see the new voices that are coming up and I hope that this will continue the next year.

Did you have any major changes of your budget?
 Right now nothing at all, it is still the same. We are a small A-class festival that also has to support all the other smaller festivals that are presented under the roof of Black Nights. This is an economic miracle so far.

Do you feel that there are other film festivals that you can collaborate with?

We have a network of collaboration with other film festivals because we feel that we are never in competition with each other. We are different from other regional festivals like Goteborg for example which is a fantastic Scandinavian festival. Our face has always been quite liberal to everyone and this year we had 79 countries taking part. Also now, Baltic cinema is doing better but it is quite small in production. So we are free from any obligations and we are very friendly to film-makers from around the world.

 Do you think that someone could watch the year’s best Baltic films during Black Nights?

Not really. This hasn’t been successful for the local audience because they have already seen those films so they are not interested that much, but we are thinking to bring back a Baltic section probably just for the press and industry screenings in the future. Maybe by adding an extra day for this section, but we need some time on that.

Since we talked about the future and next year it will be the 20th Black Nights, do you have any particular expectations?
I would like just to build up the next five-year plan for a great A-class festival. I’m quite realistic and I know where we can be and were we cannot be.​

Interview with Tiina Lokk

Director of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival


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Name: Vassilis Economou

Nationality: Greece

Contact: [email protected]