PÖFF / Black Nights Film Festival: Five Must-See Films

It's November, seemingly the most miserable time of the year, but if you look closely enough, Estonia brings gems everywhere. One of these is PÖFF, the Black Nights Film Festival. A showcase of international films now in its 19th season, PÖFF has the distinction of breaking some major films, while shedding light on independent cinema.

PÖFF goes to sites all over the Tallinn area, and the savvy planner must schedule ahead of time to avoid disappointment or clashes. I've attempted to take some of the strain out of your planning, by highlighting five films I'd like to see, if I get the chance. Of course this depends on time and space in the cinema - but hope is a great thing.

The Paradise Suite
A film selected for the overall PÖFF prize, The Paradise Suite tells the story of a disparate group of immigrants who find themselves in Amsterdam. I saw the bleak but involving Dheepan at Soprus Kino last month, but this looks like a take on the immigration story with greater doses of positivity.

Lost in the White City
An Israeli-American co-production, this film promises to be a sun-drenched amble through a failing relationship, with questions over sexuality, and philosophising over the right way for two people to coexist. Though it might ultimately be nothing like it, this film also reminds me of my highlight from PÖFF 2014, the heartwarming story of a Brazilian lifeguard who escapes his friend's passing by joining his boyfriend in Germany.

Amy
"You go back to her, and I go back to black." The greatest female voice of this generation? Maybe - Amy Winehouse was certainly one of very few singers who could hold a candle to Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald. This documentary about her rise to fame, and sad, slow slide into drink, drugs and depression, is directed by Asif Kapadia, who made Senna, one of my all-time favourite films, which makes me cry even though I know what happens in the end.

La Isla Bonita / The Beautiful Island
With a title cleverly playing to Madonna nostalgics like me, and a gorgeous younger, and fun older, cast in a sunny Menorca location, this film, part of PÖFF's Vitamin Boost series, will be a winner. We're promised a light, breezy, comedic drama about a publicist visiting his friend. So far, so Woody Allen? So cool.

The Boy and the Beast
As this is the closing film, the chances of me getting to see this are limited, but I will try in any case. The story, told through anime, is of Ren, a nine year-old boy who has to learn to survive on the streets of Japan. The PÖFF programme compares it to Rocky and The Jungle Book - and with director Mamoru Hosoda making an appearance, we'll have a chance to see in-depth how the intriguing combination of a boy and his half-man half-bear sidekick works on the big screen. It looks like a superbly-animated barrel of fun.