Nordic films at the San Francisco International Film Festival 2018

About the festival

The San Francisco International Film Festival is held between the 4th and 17th of April 2018.

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A powerful batch of moonshine made in the barracks of an industrial compound causes problems for Emil after his coworkers become ill. Already an outcast, resentment grows as he blunders everything that he tries to pursue – including the only woman in town. Set in an ashen-grey wilderness, where everything is covered in a clay-like dust, director Hlynur Pálmason’s drama distinctly captures each character’s bumbling rage with sly humor in this debut feature film.

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In the midst of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, a loving, wise, and defiant grandmother raises her two young grandsons. Living under the omnipresent threat of war, the spirited boys, Oleg and Yarik, learn to adapt to their precarious situation and playfully wander through their neighborhood oblivious to the dangers around them. With a warm gaze toward his beguiling protagonists, director Simon Lereng Wilmont lends sensitivity and entrancing visuals – intimately framed close-ups and vibrant rural landscapes – to deliver a nuanced portrait of war and its corrosive effect.

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Living with her Pakistani family in Oslo, smart and popular Aisha feels pretty assimilated into Norwegian culture and mores – until her father catches her making out with her boyfriend, and her life is upended completely. After she’s shipped off to an aunt in Pakistan in order to mend her overly Western ways, this semi-autobiographical film carefully (and sometimes harrowingly) details how Aisha (a dynamic debut performance by Maria Mozhdah) struggles to be able to live her life on her own terms.

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A young boy, whose aspirations lie away from the family farm, tries to take a stand against his father, a stubborn and taciturn man who extols the virtues of toil and sacrifice. As their conflict butts up against challenging economic and emotional realities, the lives of all family members, including the boy’s dissatisfied mother, are profoundly altered. With a stark visual sensibility and powerful performances, Assur’s debut feature beautifully renders the story of a life that seems to offer little way out.

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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.