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The Busan International Film Festival starts today in the South Korean city, and is set to bring many new Scandinavian films to audiences. In total, 299 films will screen as part of the festivities.

The Busan International Film Festival runs until the 15th of October and here are the all-important Nordic films screening:

 

Denmark

Godless dir.Ralitza PETROVA

Bulgaria/Denmark/France

Screening as part of ‘Flash Forward’

Gana is a caregiver for seniors with dementia in a secluded Bulgarian village. But under the disguise of her job, she steals their ID cards and sell them on the black market. Gana is also a morphine addict, and with her boyfriend-accomplice Aleko she commits crimes without any remorse. Coming to know the former choir master Yoan and his music, however, gradually changes Gana. Her belated effort to redeem her past wrongdoing is of no use, coming as it does at a severe price. As the title suggests, Godless depicts a dismal society with no morals, no human touch, and sense of guilt. The world doesn’t get better, remaining the same as always, and there’s no God to judge, nor any human spirit. Although the cold-blooded Gana seems to go through inner conflicts, the film never forgives her, distancing audience’s emotional absorption. This film, Ralitza Petrova’s debut, won the Golden Leopard Award at this year’s Locarno International Film Festival. (Jin PARK)

Festival link 

Wolf and Sheep dir. Shahrbanoo Sadat

Denmark/France/Sweden/Afghanistan

Screening as part of ‘Flash Forward’

Afghan villagers often share stories full of mystery and imagination to explain the world. The country’s mountaintops serve as a playground for children, who maintain gender separation even when no adults are present to enforce it. The boys practice fighting wolves with slingshots, while the girls secretly smoke cigarettes and play house. One of the girls is 11-year-old Sediga, about whom other girls whisper that she is cursed. One of the boys is 11-year-old Qodrat, who is also the subject of gossip because his father died and his mother married an old man who already had two wives. The two become friends on the mountain.
Wolf and Sheep, winner of Directors’ Fortnight’s top prize, begins with a documentary-like scene showing the slaughter of a lamb, then continues to show daily life in an Afghan village. But the director doesn’t just film reality. The nighttime is reserved for mysterious imaginations, which highlight the “stories” that are very much a part of their lives and at the same time add a poetic element. The film is like a magical essay about the landscape of human life untouched by industrialization.(RHEE Souewon)

Festival link / Movie Database link

Finland

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki dir. Juho Kuosmanen

Finland/Germany/Sweden

Screening as part of ‘Flash Forward’

On the verge of becoming the world featherweight boxing champion in 1962, Olli Mäki runs into a problem: his focus on losing weight and preparing for his title match are at risk because of his emotions. Why? He has suddenly fallen in love.
A twentysomething boxer as the protagonist, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki distinguishes itself from existing boxing films through its storytelling and aesthetics. Rather than focusing on the action and the veracity of the match itself, it targets the psychology and actions of a hero lost between his obligations to win and personal desires, making the love story in this filmjust as important as the sports. The lyrical and subjective shots of the man and woman in love are especially inviting. Another aesthetic choice to move away from the obvious spectacle of a sports film was using 16mm black and white film to stay true to the reporting method of the 1960s. The title of the film comes from the coach’s words to Olli, reminding him that winning the championship will bring him the happiest day in his life, but a greater meaning will be made evident by the end of the film. This feature debut that reminds us once again that love is the strongest of all won the Prize Un Certain Regard at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.(RHEE Souewon)

Festival link / Movie Database link

Iceland

Heartstone dir. Guðmundur ARNAR GUðMUNDSSON

Iceland/Denmark

Screening as part of ‘Flash Forward’

Tor and Kristjan spend a turbulent summer in a remote fishing village. Tor’s best friend Kristjan is always protecting him from his sisters at home and others outside. Both are from dysfunctional families, Tor with a disinterested mother, and Kristjan with a physically abusive father. When Tor falls in love with a girl, Kritjan realizes the identity of his feelings for his best friend.
Heartstone is a feature debut about the growing pains of teenage boys, set in the outstanding backdrop of majestic skies and vast grasslands, a beautiful mountain, and a great lake in a village in Iceland. The way in which it captures two best friends, a first kiss, youthful curiosity about sex and love, and other such things that boys of that age are interested in, is quite remarkable. When Kristjan begins to understand his sexual identity and the film takes his perspective, we follow along in apprehension. The shots in closeup detailing the boys’ emotions, and the scene juxtaposing one’s overwhelming love and happiness and the other’s painful loss of love, is especially impressive. The last shot of an ugly fish is a fitting metaphor of bygone childhood. (RHEE Souewon)

Festival link / Movie Database link

The Oath dir. Baltasar KORMAKUR

Iceland

Screening as part of ‘World Cinema’

Tor and Kristjan spend a turbulent summer in a remote fishing village. Tor’s best friend Kristjan is always protecting him from his sisters at home and others outside. Both are from dysfunctional families, Tor with a disinterested mother, and Kristjan with a physically abusive father. When Tor falls in love with a girl, Kritjan realizes the identity of his feelings for his best friend.
Heartstone is a feature debut about the growing pains of teenage boys, set in the outstanding backdrop of majestic skies and vast grasslands, a beautiful mountain, and a great lake in a village in Iceland. The way in which it captures two best friends, a first kiss, youthful curiosity about sex and love, and other such things that boys of that age are interested in, is quite remarkable. When Kristjan begins to understand his sexual identity and the film takes his perspective, we follow along in apprehension. The shots in closeup detailing the boys’ emotions, and the scene juxtaposing one’s overwhelming love and happiness and the other’s painful loss of love, is especially impressive. The last shot of an ugly fish is a fitting metaphor of bygone childhood. (RHEE Souewon)

Festival link / Movie Database link

The Together Project dir. Solveig ANSPACH

Iceland/Denmark

Screening as part of ‘World Cinema’

Samir is a 40-year-old crane operator living in Paris. When he bumps into swimming instructor Agathe, it’s love at first sight and he enrolls in a swimming class, despite already being able to swim. However, his deception is soon discovered and the disappointed Agathe leaves for Iceland on the pretext she’s going to an international meeting of lifeguards. Samir follows her and their unusual relationship begins.
Set in France and Iceland, The Together Project is a comedy that creatively combines a simple love story with the backdrop of the swimming pool. When the man slowly approaches her, the woman seems determined and wild on the surface, but very introverted inside. The man and woman getting closer through the medium of water will easily gain the sympathy of lonely single viewers. The soft theme music seems to reinforce the rapport between the characters, while the open northern landscape makes a strong impression, as do the performances of the supporting characters in the swimming pool scenes, which add a pleasing layer of subtlety to the film. (RHEE Souewon)

Festival link / Movie Database link

Sweden

Epifanía dir. Oscar RUIZ NAVIA

Sweden/Denmark

Screening as part of ‘World Cinema’

On the remote island of Fårö in Sweden a woman experiences the death of her mother. ”As she died, my dream was born, for her return”. In Colombia a mother attempts to soothe her spirit by attending healing workshops with other women. In Canada a mother prepares to become a grandmother for the second time. Reenacted memories of the two directors and twisted realities of the main characters real lives are playfully weaved together in a fictive movement from darkness to light, from death to life. Three women’s pasts, presents, memories and realities are powerfully delivered through the performance of Cecilia Navia in three different roles. The film consists of three episodes: the first episode portrays a daughter missing her deceased mother with dynamic handheld camera walks and dreamlike images; the second follows the course of healing presented as a road movie; the third salutes the beginning of new life in a documentary style. These episodes impressively catch certain moments of life that walk from darkness to light and from death to life. And there stand these mothers at the very center of each moment.

Festival link

The Giant dir. Johannes Nyholm

Sweden/Denmark

Screening as part of ‘Flash Forward’

30-year-old Rikard is autistic, constantly ridiculed because of his severely disfigured appearance. Having been separated from his mother as soon as he was born, he escapes from his grim reality into a fantasy world in which he’s a giant; this way he can live with his mother in peace. He believes that if he wins at the Scandinavian Pétanque championships, his mother will come to find him. So he decides to take on this seemingly impossible challenge in order to achieve his dream.
Starting with an explanation of Pétanque, which is similar to the French game of boules, The Giant has a powerful documentary feel to it, particularly given the use and movement of the hand-held camera that follows the characters. Rikard’s severely disfigured face adds further credence to this realistic impression.
Both the affection that Rikard’s father has toward him and Rikard’s longing for his mother deliver to the viewer heartrending moments, while the final ten minutes deservedly escalate this delightful movie to being one of the most impressive debut films of the year. (RHEE Souewon)

Festival link / Movie Database link

United States of Love dir. Tomasz WASILEWSKI

Poland/Sweden

Screening as part of ‘World Cinema’

In 1990, Eastern Europe’s communist community falls apart. The wind of change and freedom rushes into Poland, yet the future still seems uncertain. At this time there are four women who are unhappy with their hopeless love: Agata is sick of her husband and loves a priest; Renata, a teacher, is obsessed with her neighbor, Marzena, a beauty pageant contestant; Iza, Marzena’s sister and a school principal, is getting anxious because her lover, a doctor and the father of a student at her school, seems to have changed his mind after six years together. Director Tomasz Wasilewski continues to observe love that cannot be fulfilled following his previous film Floating Skyscrappers. With the background of a cold and desolate city, United States of Love tells a story of these women—connected through Renata—and each desperately in love. Reality seems to be cruel as the camera catches it from a distance, as if it doesn’t want to be a part of it, but this is the true nature of love that we do not know – or refuse to know.

Festival link