Tallinn introduces dedicated documentary competition

Doc@PÖFF will celebrate the best in factual film

by Amber Wilkinson

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute
Tallinn Black Nights Festival has announced it is adding a sixth competition programme, Doc@PÖFF, to it's 28th edition taking place in this November.

It will showcase up to 15 feature documentaries handpicked by the new Doc@PÖFF programming team. The team is led by Estonian documentary director, producer and associate professor at the Baltic Film & Media School of Tallinn University, Marianna Kaat (The Last Relic, PÖFF 2023). The other three programmers are: self-shooting producer/director Mike Arnott, who has also worked on documentaries for BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, Discovery, ITV, National Geographic, PBS and Showtime; long-time PÖFF programmer Edvinas Pukšta; and the head of Youth and Children's Film Festival Just Film, Mikk Granström.

PÖFF festival director, Tiina Lokk, said: "There has been a long-standing demand on the international scene for a PÖFF documentary competition programme. Although feature documentaries have always been welcome in our sub-programmes, the number of submissions has significantly increased in recent years. Therefore, we are organising all these submissions into a new documentary competition."

In the new international competition line, priority will be given to the world premieres; international premieres will be decided case-by-case. Three awards will be handed out: Grand Prix for the Best Film (for the director); Best Cinematograpy; Jury Special Prize. Among the notable documentaries to screen in recent years at PÖFF are Anna Hints' Estonian multiple festival-winner Smoke Sauna Sisterhood.

Lokk added: "Baltic documentaries are on the high rise to international status. Our new competition programme would be an honourable opportunity for them to present themselves to a wider audience. However, we have no intention of competing with IDFA and other major festivals. Instead, we are exploring the landscape and seeing how things unfold. We have a strong new programming team, whose face is just beginning to take shape."

The head of Doc@PÖFF programme team, Marianna Kaat, said: "Nowadays, documentaries compete with fiction films at festivals, proving their equal, if not greater, significance. The launch of this competition is a testament to my belief in the critical role documentaries play in capturing the intense and often incredible real-life stories that can surpass even the most imaginative fiction. I have always been inspired by how documentaries thrive through their unique blend of creativity and real facts, combining the author’s point of view with objectivity. This competition will showcase the power of documentary filmmaking as a profound medium for storytelling in our ever-evolving world."

The extended deadline for submissions to this year’s PÖFF, including films to be considered for the Doc@PÖFF programme, as well as sub-festivals PÖFF Shorts and Just Film, is August 18. The final deadline for submissions is August 25. This year's festival will run from November 8 to 24.

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