October 7 – October 18 2015: The London Film Festival


Gold Coast / Guldkysten


It’s the year 1836 and Denmark has just abolished slavery. Wulff is in his twenties and decides to temporarily leave his home and fiancee in Denmark and travel to Danish Guinea (modern day Ghana) where he is to run a coffee plantation. Once he arrives in his new home he is immediately confronted by the dark underside of Danish colonialism. He encounters a world of slavery and is acquainted with the inhumane circumstances which the colonized have to endure. Soon, Wulff is forced to take a moral stand in. This historical drama sheds new light on European colonialism and slavery in West Africa. Daniel Denick premiered ‘Gold Coast,’ his first fictional feature film, at Karlovy Vary IFF to critical acclaim. Denick is a celebrated documentary filmmaker and author who has received awards for both his documentaries and short films, for example, the reputable ‘Nordisk Film Award’ and RIFF’s own Environmental Award in 2013 for ‘Expedition to the End of the World.’

Land of Mine / Under Sandet

When Denmark was liberated at the end of the Second World War, over one and a half million unexploded landmines remained buried on its beaches. The Danish and UK governments took the questionable decision to task German prisoners of war with their removal. In Land of Mine writer/director Martin Zandvliet (Applause, LFF2009) explores moral responsibility in the aftermath of war through the story of a group of very young mine-clearing POWs under the supervision of a violently embittered Danish sergeant (Roland Møller, in a breakout performance). Brutal, believable and punctuated with gallows humour, this at times harrowing film focuses on the personal impact of policies of retribution and sensitively probes how reconciliation may (or may not) occur. Camilla Hjelm’s breathtaking cinematography ratchets up the tension by juxtaposing the apparent calmness of long stretching beaches with the knowledge of what lies beneath.

Men and Chicken / Mænd og høns

Mænd og høns (Anders Thomas Jensen, DK, 2015)

Elias (Mads Mikkelsen, poles apart here from his suave Hannibal incarnation) and Gabriel are brothers. They couldn’t be more dissimilar and have the strangest of fraternal bonds. A revelation after their father’s death sends them to the otherworldly island of Ork to try to make sense of who they are. It is one hell of a special place, where life is basic, humour is bawdy, pheromones rage, unusual passions are indulged and where you’re equally likely to get whacked with a blunt instrument as to be invited to indulge in a spot of bestiality. If that sounds a little weird… well, yes it is. Welcome to the dark and twisted mind of writer/director Anders Thomas Jensen. This extreme, animalistic comedy is black as pitch, but has the sweetest of hearts. The rest of the cast are knockout too, outrageously politically incorrect and sporting some truly extraordinary make-up and prosthetics.

Something Better to Come

Yula is 10 years of age when we first encounter her. She’s a blonde, elfin and mischievous kid who runs around playing with her friends – like kids her age do. The difference between Yula and other children is that she was born and raised in one of Europe’s biggest landfills, on the outskirts of Moscow. Director Hanna Polak spent 14 years filming Yula and some of the inhabitants of the dump, capturing glimpses of humanity and extraordinary resilience whilst witnessing a life blooming in the bleakest of conditions. Yula is funny and witty, whether she’s rummaging for make-up and clothes, looking for food for dinner or pieces of metal to consolidate her shack. Winner of the Special Jury Award at Amsterdam’s IDFA, Something Better To Come is a sensitive but unflinching tale of survival and a harrowing portrait of a community of forgotten souls in today’s Russia.

What We Become / Sorgenfri

In the quiet Danish town of Sorgenfri, the Johansson family lead a contented life. However, their everyday routine is inexplicably shattered when a mysterious, apparently deadly flu-like virus hits the small community. As the neighbourhood is quarantined and families are held prisoner in their hermetically sealed houses, it becomes clear to teenager Gustav that he is being denied the truth about the lethal outbreak. With nothing to lose, he attempts to discover what is going on, which is more terrifying than he could have ever imagined. With the occasional nod to George Romero’s politically astute zombie films, or perhaps more significantly his tale of military biological warfare The Crazies, Bo Mikkelsen’s dystopian vision of a town held ransom to fear is a calm and measured work, more interested in atmosphere than easy scares. Rich in foreboding and rife with paranoia, this is a truly chilling pandemic thriller. Catch it while you can!


Virgin Mountain / Fusi

Stuck on the cusp of adolescence and adulthood, forty-something Fúsi still lives at home with his mother, eats the same food week after week, works a mundane job and stoically absorbs all the shit that life throws at him. A morbidly obese, black-metal-loving, dishevelled giant of a man, Fúsi’s shyness and lack of confidence has resulted in his having little to no romantic experience with women. A backhanded gift of line dancing classes leads to an encounter with the vivacious but damaged Sjöfn. Also one of life’s cast offs, she connects with Fúsi’s innate gentle goodness. Might there be a chance for something like love to blossom? Gunnar Jónsson’s award-winning hangdog performance as Fúsi is remarkable, perfectly supported by writer/director Dagur Kári’s lightness of tone and spattering of comic touches. A charming but far from saccharine tale, Virgin Mountain will gently pull at the strings of even the hardest of hearts.


The Wave / Bolgen

Anyone planning a quiet break in the fjords of Norway may have second thoughts after seeing this nerve-shredding portrayal of a potential catastrophe that current science suggests may be just waiting to happen. Kristoffer Joner plays Kristian Eikfjord, a first-rate geologist who is about to leave the remote town of Geiranger to take a top job with an oil company in the big city. Leaving his wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) to join them later, Kristian sets off with the kids, but some unexplained power outages in the nearby mountains are playing on his mind. If his suspicions of an impending landfall are correct, the town will have only ten minutes to evacuate before an 80ft tsunami engulfs it. Roar Uthaug’s nail-biting thriller is the perfect disaster movie for fans of Nordic noir, with Joner playing the dogged, maverick sleuth as the sense of impending doom builds to a terrifying crescendo.


Flocking / Flocken

Incidents of public shaming via social networks and victim blaming in cases of sexual violence have gripped the news in recent years. In Beata Gårdeler’s second feature, she explores these themes whilst probing the utopian vision of Swedish gender equality. 14-year-old Jennifer has accused a classmate of rape. Her tough exterior and lack of embarrassment make her a confusing victim and she finds herself under intense scrutiny. Using her more elevated social status, the boy’s mother begins a vicious online campaign of mass hostility to undermine Jennifer and her family. By choosing not to reveal the veracity of the accusations until the very last moment, Gårdeler explores the ways information is gathered to judge or victimise people. With a stark visual style reminiscent of crime photography and a string score elegantly underpinning the action, Gårdeler probes the mass complicity that is required for such situations to take place.

The Garbage Helicopter / Sophelikoptern

  • Director:Jonas Selberg Augustsén
  • LFF Link

This is what you were waiting for – a 1,000km road trip across Sweden with a broken clock, a giant roll of bubble-wrap, the world’s largest cheese-slicer and a crossword-obsessed wannabe poet who really isn’t that good with words. This slightly surreal premise sets the tone for the Saab-powered southward journey of three Swedish Roma twentysomethings, Baki, Saska and Enesa, to their aging granny’s home. Peppered with visual gags, bone-dry humour, wry digs at national pride and showcasing exquisite black and white cinematography, Jonas Selberg Augustsén’s debut feature has echoes of Jim Jarmusch and Roy Andersson but also a visual style all of its own. No less unique is Augustsén’s humour as he crafts a road movie that celebrates and gently pokes fun at some of the more eccentric elements of Swedish culture. And with the lightest of touches he also makes some pointed comments on lazy ethnic assumptions.

The Here After / Efterskalv

Teenager John returns home after serving time in a correctional facility and looks forward to starting life afresh with his father. However, his crime is neither forgiven nor forgotten by their small-town neighbours. In fact, John’s presence appears to provoke those around him to give voice to their baser instincts. Writer/director Magnus von Horn reveals John’s story by gradual degrees, drawing us deep into the narrative and calmly building a profound sense of empathy. John’s crime was incredibly serious, but it is the insidious culture of brutality and its passive acceptance within his community that we are called to question. This captivating and beautifully constructed film has a challenging tension at its heart, which von Horn sustains with masterly control. A sharp and sensitive script coupled with eloquent performances ensures this film gets right under your skin.

Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words /Jag är Ingrid

Showcasing a veritable treasure trove of Ingrid Bergman’s never-before-seen home movies, personal letters and diary extracts, alongside archive footage and frank interviews with her four children, this documentary is very much a film about love: Bergman’s passion for film and theatre; her appetite for adventure; her magnificent and notorious romances; and her unconventional love for her family. Introduced to the camera at an early age by her beloved father, Bergman was incredibly adept at recording her life. As her adult years became ever more international, multicultural and perhaps even rootless, Bergman’s desire to record and preserve her experiences grew. This remarkable material paints a portrait of a strong, liberated, opinionated and accomplished woman, but also someone with a great sense of fun. 2015 marks the centenary of Ingrid Bergman’s birth, and this film is a wonderful testament to her as a pioneer, mother and icon.

My Skinny Sister / Min lilla syster

Partly drawing on her own experiences, writer-director Sanna Lenken’s debut focuses on the impact of a young woman’s eating disorder on her family, as observed through the eyes of her younger sister. Sparky, precocious and on the cusp of adolescence, Stella is still ‘body unaware’, wonderfully oblivious to the soft edges of her physique. Her sister Katja is a highly motivated ice skater whose success is the focus of almost every family activity. When Stella’s attempts to emulate Katja unexpectedly unearth her older sister’s secret eating disorder, the bonds of their sibling loyalty and Stella’s own body image are put to the test. Lenken’s film won an audience award at Gothenburg Film Festival and a Crystal Bear at Berlinale. That both adults and young people find meaning in the work is testament to Lenken’s skill in capturing the authenticity of a fierce sororal bond and tapping into our collective nostalgia for childhood.

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.