Nordic films at the Chicago International Film Festival 2016

The Chicago International Film Festival has started, and as usual there are an excellent selection of Nordic films screening at the festival.

The Chicago International Film Festival runs between the 13th and 27th of October, and you can order tickets/view the programme here. 

Here’s the Nordic films screening:


The Commune dir. Thomas Vinterberg

Part of the International Feature Competition

Communal living: utopian ideal, or delusional hippie fantasy? One Danish family in the 1970s will find out the hard way after they invite friends and strangers alike to move into their sprawling family mansion. If the political and philosophical rifts don’t put friendships and marriages to the test, the illicit romances certainly will. The director of The Hunt and The Celebration plumbs his own communal upbringing for a freewheeling story about messy human lives.

Walk With Me dir. Lisa Ohlin

Part of World Cinema

In this romantic tale of able minds and bodies, battle-hardened soldier Thomas won’t let the loss of his legs in Afghanistan thwart his dream of returning to combat. But to train on his prosthetics, he’ll need the help of a lively ballet dancer struggling with her own demons. As his family worries he’s pushing his recovery too fast, Thomas must learn there’s more to life than war.


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

Part of the New Directors Competition

This fresh spin on the underdog sports film, winner of a top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, centers on Olli Mäki, a champion Finnish boxer in the 1960s. After winning the lightweight title in his early 20s, the mild-mannered Mäki becomes an unlikely cultural figure when he’s given the opportunity to go head-to-head in the ring with an undefeated American champion. The film’s inventive style mimics a vintage black-and-white newsreel.

Urban Family dir. Oskari Sipola

Part of Spotlight: Musicals

Over a dozen Finnish songwriters contributed to this euphoric modern musical fantasia about sacred bonds that run deeper than blood. A woman in her 30s reexamines her life choices when a child she gave up for adoption 16 years earlier suddenly shows up on her doorstep. Through catchy alt-rock pop music, Urban Family pokes gentle fun at adult bohemia and celebrates unconditional love in all its forms.


The Together Project dir. Solveig Anspach

Part of World Cinema

Smitten by a spirited swimming instructor at the local pool, a French-Arab construction worker signs up to take private lessons—even though he already knows how to swim. But when he is shamelessly caught in his bald-faced lie, he’ll have to travel all the way to Iceland to win back his crush’s trust. It’s sink or swim in this quirky romantic comedy, the final film by the late, great director Solveig Anspach (Queen of Montreuil).

The Oath dir. Baltasar Kormakur

Part of World Cinema

After a string of Hollywood action hits (2 Guns, Everest), Baltasar Kormákur returns to his native Iceland to direct and star in this tense, intimate thriller. A celebrated surgeon and devoted family man sees his daughter slipping away from him at the hands of a sleazy drug dealer. The drastic measures he takes to save her trigger a profound ripple effect that will change his family forever.

Heartstone dir.Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson

Part of New Directors Competition

Observed over the course of two years in a small Icelandic fishing town, best teenage friends Thor and Christian make mischief while one hides his growing feelings for the other. Relying on each other to escape difficult family lives, they find their friendship tested by small-town prejudices and the pains of growing up. Heartstone is an alternately sensitive and exacting story of sexual awakening.


The Swedish Theory of Love dir. Erik Gandini

Part of the Documentary Competition

In the 1970s, the Swedish government promoted a manifesto titled “The Family of the Future,” calling for a shift away from traditional households toward personal independence. In this inquisitive documentary, Erik Gandini (Videocracy) explores the troubling outcomes of this utopian effort; for example, one-quarter of Swedes now die alone. Through alluring cinematography and shocking anecdotes, Gandini offers a cautionary tale for our modern world.

Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.