Fear takes top prize at Tallinn

Great Happiness and The Last Ones also among winners

by Amber Wilkinson

Fear Photo: Courtesy of POFF

Bulgarian film Fear, directed by Ivaylo Hristov, has won the top prize at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. The consideration of small-town racism, shot through with absurdist comedy, was given the Grand Prix by a jury headed by former Edinburgh Film Festival director Mark Adams.

The jury said: “A beautifully made film that astutely balances dry humour with important contemporary drama. This clever, impressively scripted and wonderfully performed feature manages the rare feat of being compassionate and provocative while also delivering striking moments of absurdist humour. At a period when the subject of immigration is very much in the headlines this feature is very much a film for our times.”

Turkish director Nisan Dağ was named Best Director for her hip-hop drama When I'm Done Dying about a wannabe rap star struggling with addiction in Istanbul, while Best Script went to writer/director Leonardo Antonio's Submission, about the fight for justice and emotional recovery of a woman battling the Portuguese legal system after being raped by her husband.

Noé Bach took the Best Cinematography award for his multilayered drama Beasts about toxic masculinity in the French farming community and  The First Feature Competition prize went to Great Happiness, Spanish philosophical consideration of death, Armugan, won the award for Best Music from the main competition jury, along with the Ecumenical Jury prize prize.

The acting prizes went to Switzerland’s Marie Leuenberger for her portrayal of a young, radical lawyer in Caged Birds and Ulrich Thomsen received the Best Actor award for his role as a Jutland officer serving the German army in First World War drama Erna At War.

Chinese ensemble Great Happiness, directed by Wany Yiao, won the First Feature competition, while Special Jury Prizes also went to Polish director Jan Holoubek for 25 Years Of Innocence. The Case Of Tomek Komenda and Should The Wind Drop, directed by Nora Martirosyan.

The Last Ones, set   in a diminishing mining community in Arctic Finland and which is Estonia's nomination for this year's Foreign Language Oscar, won the Baltic competition prize for director Veiko Õunpuu, while the Rebels With A Cause prize was shared by Dinner In America by Adam Carter Rehmeier for "a wild ride into small-town America, following a couple of misfits whose punk misadventures" and Chilean director Leonardo Medel’s La Veronica, that portrays the dark effects of social media stardom on its protagonist. The NETPAC jury prize went to Adilkhan Yerzhanov's Kazakhstan-set Ulbolysn, with FIPRESCI giving its award to Russian director Dmitry Rudakov's Sententia.

The full list of awards, including short film prizes is below:


  • Grand Prix - Fear, Bulgaria, Dir: Ivaylo Hristov
  • Best Director - Nisan Dağ for When I’m Done Dying, Turkey, Germany, US  
  • Best Script - Leonardo António for Submission, Portugal
  • Best Cinematography - Noé Bach for Beasts, France
  • Best Actor - Ulrich Thomsen for Erna At War, Denmark, Estonia, Belgium    
  • Best Actress - Marie Leuenberger for Caged Birds,  Switzerland, Germany  
  • Best Music - Juanio Javierre for Armugan


  • Best Film - Great Happiness, Dir: Wang Yiao, China
  • Special Jury Prize - Director Jan Holoubek for 25 Years Of Innocence. The Case of Tomek Komenda
  • Special Jury Prize - Scriptwriters Nora Martirosyan, Emmanuelle Pagano, Olivier Torres and Guillaume André for Should The Wind Drop, France-Armenia-Belgium


  • Best Film - The Last Ones, Dir: Veiko Õunpuu, Estonia


  • Dinner In America, Dir: Adam Carter Rehmeier, US
  • shared with La Veronica, Dir: Leonardo Medel, Chile


  • Rebels with Their Shorts Award - Stories Keep Me Awake At Night, Dir: Jérémy Van Der Haegen, France
  •  FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Prize - Sententia, Dir: Dmitry Rudakov, Russia 
  • NETPAC (NETWORK FOR THE PROMOTION OF ASIA CINEMA) AWARD - Ulbolsyn, Dir: Adilkhan Yerzhanov, Kazakhstan, France
  • Ecumenical Award - Armugan, Dir: Jo Sol, Spain
  • Lifetime Achievement Award - Margarethe von Trotta (Germany)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award - Alar Kivilo (Canada, Estonia)
  • DDA Spotlight Award - Francis Annan (UK)
  • DDA Spotlight Award - Armando Iannucci (UK)


  • Best Film - Struck by Lightning, Dir: Romet Esko, Estonia


  • Best Short Animation (Oscar nomination candidate) - Precious, Dir: Paul Mas, France

  • Best Live Action Short (Oscar nomination candidate) - Between You and Milagros, Dir: Mariana Saffon, Colombia, 2020

Additional winners listed on the official site


  • Grand Prix - Slalom, Dir: Charlène Favier, France
  • ECFA Award for the best European children’s film - Glassboy, Dir: Samuele Rossi, Italy
  • Children’s Jury Best Film Award - The Fantastic Journey of Margot & Marguerite, Dir: Pierre Coré, France
  • Youth Jury Best Film Award - 50 or Two Whales Meet on the Beach, Dir: Jorge Cuchi, Mexico 

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