I’ve been back from Tallinn for about a week now, and am still basking in the memories of an absolutely wonderful long weekend at the first EVA – East via Asia! Japanese film festival in the city’s majestic-looking Kinomaja cinema. You don’t need to scroll too far down this page for some background on this event. Basically I worked on the programme while the wonderful organisers Helen Merila and Piret Mägi were at the coal face, sorting out the venue, the publicity, the concerts, the catering… basically all the difficult stuff! And this meant a pretty relaxing but thoroughly enjoyable couple of days while the event unfolded, a long weekend blessed with bright blue skies and sunshine away from a damp and drizzly London.
This was my first time in Tallinn, and I absolutely fell head-over-heals with the city. It must be one of Europe’s best kept secrets, and I hesitate to sing its praises too loudly lest it become totally overwhelmed by tourists. It’s already suffering to some extent from the usual curse of jeering drunken idiots on organised stag parties that Britain seems to have a predilection for inflicting on Eastern Europe, something I’d already just encountered in Wroclaw the month before. Fortunately these are largely confined to the overpriced tourist and titty bars in the Old Town area, and it’s not difficult to wander off the beaten track and find quieter spaces to explore.
Tallinn is Europe’s 2011 City of Culture, and there were a whole host of events going on over the weekend that threatened to overshadow EVA. One of these was the Stalker film festival celebrating Tarkovsky’s classic Soviet sci-fi, parts of which were shot in the city, and featuring a number of examples of films of the type that it has now become acceptable to refer to as “slow cinema” – Bela Tarr, Sergei Paradjanov, you know the type. Luckily, it didn’t seem to draw too many, if any, potential viewers away from our festival, which was amazingly well-attended and well-received. Nothing is too far apart in Tallinn, it seems, and on one of the mornings before the screenings I managed to wander down to the film’s locations, and onwards down to the dockland/beach area, along with my old friend Yoshihiro Ito, whose Vortex and Others surreal shorts programme we screened. The last time we’d met was about 18 months ago in Tokyo, and before that, he was there with his films and disarming grin at the first ever Shinsedai, one of the first ever events I documented on this website in this post from 2009.
Another guest from rather less further afield (i.e. London) was Tim Grabham, one of the directors of the beautiful documentary KanZeOn, accompanied by his charming companion Yolanda. While this film was included in the programme for this year’s Shinsedai, this was the first time Tim had actually been present at one of its screenings, which was effectively the European premiere. It went well, incredibly well… as did Yoshihiro’s films, and that night, we celebrated with an extended tequila session before winding up down at the port area again, at an open air gig by local punk outfit Chungin & The Strap-On Faggots, one of the bands at the festival’s opening night punk concert, along with J.M.K.E., local legends with a fanbase that stretches as far as Finland. Apparently punk is to the Estonians what rockerbilly is to the Finns, the ultimate anti-authoritarian musical stance during the twilight of the Soviet era and still going strong – the fact that I managed to catch Chungin & The Strap-On Faggots twice during my brief stay merely highlighted this fact. You can read Tim’s account of his screening and beyond on the KanZeon website.
Again, I’ll end by saying a huge thanks to our wonderful hosts in Tallinn, Helen and Piret. It’s looking like we’re going to do the event again next year, so I can’t wait to head back, who knows… maybe even before the next fest…