Special Focus: Denmark

A Second Chance en chance til

  • Dir: Susanne Bier
  • Program: Focus on Denmark / RIFF Link

Veteran police officer Andreas is happily married to the beautiful Anne, who has just given birth to their first child. The only cloud on Andreas’s otherwise untroubled horizon is his partner, Simon, whose drinking binges are becoming alarmingly frequent. Andrea’s comfortable life is severely compromised when a domestic disturbance brings him in contact with an abusive junkie named Tristan, whose girlfriend Sanne has also just given birth. In sharp contrast to Andreas’s and Anne’s child, their baby is seriously neglected, often lying in its own filth for hours. (These scenes are definitely not for the squeamish.) When things unexpectedly fall apart at home, Andreas is faced with a troubling and contradictory choice. Susanne Bier (1960) is Denmark’s leading female film director. Her ability to balance art and entertainment is the quality that has made Bier a popular director in both Europe and Hollywood. It is this ability that makes her films at the same time compelling and important, and it is this ability that in 2011 earned her both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her film ‘In a Better World.’ She was a RIFF honorary award recipient in 2012.

A War / Krigen

  • Director: Tobias Lindholm
  • Program: Focus on Denmark / RIFF Link

Danish Army commander Claus Michael Pedersen and his men are stationed in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Meanwhile, back in Denmark, Claus’ wife Maria is trying to hold everyday life together with a husband at war and three children missing their father. Claus can only call home once a week. On a routine mission, the soldiers are caught in heavy crossfire and Claus makes a decision that has grave consequences for him and his family. Upon his return to Denmark, he finds himself arrested and fighting in court against accusations of serious war crimes when the bodies of 11 Afghan women and children are found amongst the ruins of the buildings. Tobias Lindholm (b. 1977) graduated in screenwriting from the National Film School of Denmark in 2007. He has been busy since writing numerous episodes of the BAFTA nominated TV series ‘Borgen’ and the screenplays to ‘Submarino’ and ‘The Hunt’, both directed by Thomas Vinterberg. ‘A War’ is Lindholm’s third feature as a director, followed by ‘R’ (2010, co-directed with Michael Noer) and ‘A Hijacking’ (2012).

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.’

In Your Arms I dine hænder

Maria, a nurse, has lost some of her appetite for life. Her living situation is messy and challenging, her career being the only thing anchoring her. When she encounters Niels, her life is set on a different course. Niels suffers from a fatal neurotic disease and is living on borrowed time. Bitter and angry over his fate he has alienated those closest to him. After Maria prevents Niels’ suicide their lives are fatefully entangled. They travel to Switzerland where assisted suicide is legal under special circumstances and gain valuable perspective on their lives as they grow closer to each other. ‘In Your Arms’ is Sahlstrøm‘s anticipated first feature film. Graduating from The National Film School of Denmark in 2011, he has collaborated with renowned director Lars von Trier. Sahlstrøms’ short film ‘Les Amours Perdues’ received international praise and ‘In Your Arms’ was chosen Best Nordic Film at the Gothenburg International Film Festival.

Long Story Short / Lang historie kort

  • Dir: May el-Toukhy
  • Program: Focus on Denmark / RIFF Link

Over a period of three years, the same group of thirty­ and forty­somethings meets at eight parties: New Year’s Eve, a housewarming, Midsummer, a wedding, a surprise party, a naming celebration, a wedding anniversary and a birthday. Time passes and the planet spins, but how does the group tackle that one has an affair with a married man among the friends? That another refuses to have children with his very broody girlfriend? That a third is tired of being married. That a fourth finds love? Without resorting to cliches, May el-Toukhy takes the viewer on an amusing journey with her characters through the joys and sorrows, blind alleys and shortcuts, of love’s romantic labyrinth. May el­Toukhy (b. 1977) has a production degree from The Danish National School of Performing Arts (2002), as well as a degree in directing from The National Film School of Denmark (2009). May has worked as assistant director and second unit director on several of DR’s (Danish Broadcasting Corporation) drama series, including ‘The Eagle,’ ‘Summer’ and ‘Borgen’. Furthermore, she has also directed several radio plays for DR Radio. This is her first feature film.

Men and Chicken Mænd og Høns

In this black comedy we get to know the story of two brothers: Gabriel, a burnt out university professor and Elias, who unlike his brother, is mostly interested in pointless trivia and chasing women. They are very different, bound by nothing but blood. When their dad dies, a videotape addressed to the brothers reveals that he isn’t their biological father. Gabriel and Elias are understandably upset and decide to trace down their kin. Their search leads them to the island of Ork, where they get to know their outrageously strange new family and the colourful people of the island. As they get to know these curious characters, they learn something new about themselves. ‘Men and Chicken’ is Anders Thomas Jensen’s (b. 1972) first feature as a director in ten years. His past works include blockbusters such as ‘Adam’s Apples’ (2005, RIFF Opening Film) and ‘Flickering Lights’ (2000). He is a prolific screenwriter for directors such as Lone Scherfig and Susanne Bier amongst others, having penned ‘Mifune’ (1999), ‘In China They Eat Dogs’ (1999), ‘After the Wedding’ (2006) and ‘In a Better World’ (2010). All are prized and awarded, and ‘In a Better World’ won an Oscar. Jensen won an Oscar himself for the short ‘Election Night’ which he directed in 1999.

Rosita

  • Dir: Frederikke Aspöck
  • Program: Focus on Denmark / RIFF Link

Johannes lives with his father, the middle-aged widower Ulrik, in a small fishing village in the northern part of Denmark. They live a quiet routine life, each minding their separate jobs in the fishing industry. Ulrik misses the love and tenderness of a woman and arranges for the young, beautiful Filipino Rosita to come to Denmark, just as many other men in the town have done before him. Johannes is reluctantly drawn into things as Ulrik’s translator. However, over the following weeks, Johannes and Rosita find themselves more and more attracted to each other and soon Johannes is forced to take responsibility for his dreams and his future. Frederikke Aspöck was born in 1974 in Copenhagen. She holds a BA degree in scenography from Wimbledon School of Art in London and an MA degree in filmmaking from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her graduation film ‘Happy Now’ has been shown at more than 25 festivals worldwide. The film was awarded the Short Film Grand Prize at the Deauville Film Festival and the Premier Prix de la Cinéfondation at the Cannes Film Festival.

Silent Heart Still Hjerte

A family of three generations gathers over a weekend to say goodbye to Esther who suffers from an incurable disease and will, with the help of her husband, Poul, pursue euthanasia when the weekend is over. The gathering includes Esther’s daughters – bossy Heidi and the younger, troubled Sanne – along with their partners; Esther’s young grandson Jonathan; and her long-time best friend, Lisbeth. Although everyone initially agreed to support Esther’s difficult decision, resolve wanes as the weekend progresses and old conflicts rise to the surface. The emotion and dynamics of this neurotic family in an extraordinary situation are laid bare by an amazing cast. Bille August (born 1948 in Denmark) is one of Denmark’s best-loved film directors. His film ‘Pelle the Conqueror’ (1987) won the Palme d’Or in Cannes, an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. He is one of only six directors to win the Palme d’Or twice, winning the prestigious award again in 1992 for ‘The Best Intentions,’ based on the autobiographical script by Ingmar Bergman. August continued his winning streak with popular films such as ‘The House of the Spirits’ (1993) and ‘Smilla’s Sense of Snow’ (1997). ‘Silent Heart’ was named Best Film of the Year and three of the film’s female stars were nominated as Best Actresses for their roles at the Danish Film Awards, Bodil.

Denmark

1989

’1989’ is a creative documentary and political drama about the collapse of the Iron Curtain. A young technocrat, Miklós Neméth, becomes Hungary’s new prime minister and aims to resurrect the country’s failing economy. His austerity measures include doing away with expensive border patrolling. But Nemeth’s decision has set him up against formidable adversaries and communist hardliners. When a young man is shot dead at the border, Neméth decides to open the borders completely and before long the Berlin wall comes crumbling down. Anders Østergaard was born in 1965. He graduated from the Danish School of Journalism in 1991. He has received numerous accolades for documentary films such as the Hergé biopic ‘Tintin et moi’ (2003) and rockumentary ‘Gasolin’ (2006). His 2008 film ‘Burma VJ’ was nominated for an Oscar. Erzsébet Rácz was born in Hungary in 1971. After studying German and literature, she worked as a literary translator and dramaturg while publishing several short stories in Hungary. In 2001 she moved to Berlin and graduated in scriptwriting from DFFB (Deutsche Film­ und Fernsehakademie Berlin), where she wrote and directed several short films, including ‘Das Schwein’ (2010). She is currently working on her first solo documentary film, ‘Left, Right, Left, Right.’

Democrats

  • Dir: Camilla Nielsson
  • Program: Documentaries / RIFF Link

Robert Mugabe’s corrupt dictatorship finally gets the first­hand scrutiny it merits in this powerful documentary. Tracing the tortuous process of cross­party negotiation behind the country’s 2013 constitution, two political opponents are appointed to write Zimbabwe’s new constitution. Furthermore, the Zimbabwean public is also invited into the process by means of countrywide grassroots consultations. It can go either way: bring an end to Mugabe’s 30 years of autocratic rule, towards democracy ­ or renewed repression. The result, filmed over three years with an astonishing level of internal access, is at once important and impishly entertaining, brightened by the kind of eccentric local color that cannot be forged or imagined. Camilla Nielsson holds a master’s degree in Anthropology & Media Studies from New York University. She has worked as an independent filmmaker since 2000 and received numerous awards for her short and medium­length films, including ‘The Children of Darfur’ (2006) and ‘Mumbai Disconnected’ (2009). Since 2007, she has collaborated with the Israeli video artist Yael Bartana on the trilogy And Europe Will Be Stunned (Venice Biennale 2011), and Re:Constructed Landscapes (National Gallery of Denmark/CPH:DOX 2012).

Pervert Park

  • Dir: Frida & Lasse Barkfors
  • Program: Documentaries / RIFF Link

Florida Justice Transitions looks like any other American trailer park. You wouldn’t know that the residents are all convicted sex offenders who can’t live within 1000 feet of places frequented by children. Directing couple Frida & Lasse Barkfors take us behind the invisible fence of stigmatization by lending both a face and a voice to an outcast community of demonised sex offenders, thereby forcing us to take sides in a moral dilemma, profound and complex. Whether or not the inhabitants are also victims themselves it raises the question: Can such terrible crimes be forgiven or should they never be? Pervert Park is a sensitive and intimate film not letting us off lightly when it comes to a difficult topic. ‘Pervert Park’ is the first full length film by Frida and Lasse Barkfors. Frida wants to upset the audience; she says the topic needs to be uncomfortable but that the audience will smile in the end because love always conquers. Lasse is interested in mixing different genres and in making challenging images.

The Circus Dynasty

  • Dir: Anders Riis-Hansen
  • Program: Documentaries / RIFF Link

A few decades ago the two greatest circus dynasties in Europe gave birth to new heirs within months of each other. This fortuitous coincidence gave rise to hopes for the ‘perfect circus ­performing couple’ where the Berdino­boy and Casselly­girl would be joined professionally and romantically. Of course, it happened, and their partnership was soon renowned in the circus world. We take a peek behind the velvet curtains at their relationship which is strained when Casselly is invited to join a rival circus troupe in America. ­Anders Riis­ Hansen is an experienced Danish filmmaker with over 15 documentaries to his name. His documentary The Invisible Cell (2009) won Best Documentary at the Bodil Danish Critic Awards. The Circus Dynasty was also nominated for a Bodil, and has received numerous other mentions, including one at the International Documentary Festival in Munich.

Warriors From the North

  • Dir: Søren Steen Jespersen, Nasib Farah
  • Program: Documentaries / RIFF Link

Three young Muslim men from Denmark decide to head for Somalia to join the terrorist group Al-Shaabab. Within a couple of months, two of them have taken their own lives and many others’ in suicide bombings. Soon, Mohamed, the third recruit, will face a similar fate. To avert such a tragedy, Mohamed’s father searches desperately for his son in the hope that he can reach him before it’s too late. While observing his search we get to know a friend of the three men who almost joined them in Somalia. His words provide rare insight into the minds of those who trade their lives of relative Western comfort for religious war in the Third World. ­Søren Steen Jespersen is a Danish director and producer who founded the production company Larm Film in 2010. He has produced many documentaries and programs for Danish TV but ‘Warriors from the North’ is his directorial debut. ­ Nasib Farah is a documentary director born in Somalia who has dedicated his adult life to working with young Somalis in Denmark. ­­­­­­

Iceland

In the Same Boat / Á sama báti

  • Dir: Halla Mia
  • Program: Icelandic panorama / RIFF Link

Icelandic friends Snædís and Védís have dreamt about adventure and travel for a long time. So when Védís becomes friends with the Canadian canoe guide Olivia, an idea is born. Together they form a team of eight people from both Iceland and North America and head for a few days’ journey into the wilderness of the Temagami area in Ontario, Canada. In the wilderness, the team is challenged by languages and mobility as one team member has neurodegenerative disease. But together the team grows, nurtured by nature and friendship.

Lobster Soup Included / Humarsúpa innifalin

  • Dir: Styrmir Sigurdsson
  • Program: Icelandic panorama / RIFF Link

In this documentary/comedy special, we follow Icelandic comedian Þorsteinn Guðmundsson as he travels from Reykjavik to Hrísey, a small island in the North of Iceland where he’s supposed to do stand-up. On the way he sings, eats fast food and thinks out loud about sex and Christmas. He also meets other entertainers that share their experiences of life on the road in Iceland.

Trapped / Ófærð

  • Dir: Baltasar Kormákur, Baldvin Zóphóníasson
  • Program: Icelandic Panorama / RIFF Link

Andri is the sheriff of a small Icelandic town. He and his daughters live with his parents-in-law ever since his wife moved to Reykjavík where she started seeing someone else. He’s not ready to let go of his marriage and the whole family is therefore in limbo. When a mutilated body is found in their fjord, everything changes. The first two episodes of this brand new series will be screened as a whole for RIFF’s closing night.

Rams Hrútar

Who would have thought that a film about sheep could bring you to tears? Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodor Júlíusson) are brothers. They live next door to one another, they are both shepherds, and they have not spoken in 40 years. When scrapie (a degenerative disease fatal to sheep) is discovered to have spread through nearby farms and infected Kiddi’s sheep, both men are forced to slaughter their flocks. But the brothers share a rebellious streak; when the opportunity to save the rams presents itself, Gummi and Kiddi, like two horn-locking rams themselves, must reconcile and conspire to save their sheep.

Sparrows Þrestir

  • Dir: Rúnar Rúnarsson
  • Program: New Vision / RIFF Link

When Ari’s mother leaves for Angola with her new husband, the 16-year-old must return to his hometown, a sparsely populated fishing village where his father Gunnar still lives like a teenager, pissing away his weekends with drug-and-booze-fuelled bacchanals. Gunnar hasn’t shown any interest in Ari for years and has no idea how to relate to him, and little desire to either. The only bright spots for Ari in his grim new surroundings are his ailing grandmother and his childhood buddy Lana, who is in a relationship with a dimwitted local thug. As Ari tries to settle in, things get more difficult — and when he realizes just how deep this town’s immoral streak runs, he is forced to choose between telling the truth and protecting those he loves Rúnar Rúnarsson was born in 1977 in Reykjavík, Iceland. He graduated as a director from the National Film School of Denmark in 2009. Rúnarsson is one of the most awarded director of his generation with over 100 prestigious accolades to his name. He received a whopping 67 awards for his short ‘2 Birds’ (2008), including a Short Palme d’Or nomination, and an Oscar nomination for his 2004 short ‘The Last Farm.’ His first feature ‘Volcano’ (2011) took home RIFF’s FIPRESCI and Church of Iceland Award and top prizes in Denver, Montréal and São Paulo to name but a few.

Sweden

Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words

  • Dir: Stig Björkman
  • Program: Documentaries / RIFF Link

Ingrid in Her Own Words unravels the story of actress Ingrid Bergman through interviews, never-before­ seen footage, personal letters and diaries. Swedish director Stig Björkman creates an intimate projection of the actress’ life and does justice to different eras of her career: the Swedish period, the Hollywood period and the Italian period. Ingrid’s collaborators and family members are interviewed, many of whom are major stars themselves, for example her daughter Isabella Rossellini who like her mother is a respected actress. A captivating look at the extraordinary life of a young Swedish girl who became Hollywood’s biggest star. ­ Stig Björkman (1938) is a Swedish writer and film critic. In 1964 he started directing his own films. In spring 2011 Björkman met with actress Isabella Rosselini and she suggested that he “make a film about mama”. The result is Ingrid in Her Own Words.

The Here After / Efterskalv

  • Dir: Magnus Von Horn
  • Program: New Vision / RIFF Link

When teenager John returns to his father’s home after a prison sentence, he craves nothing more than to regain the life and opportunities he so suddenly threw away with his passionate crime years ago. But his terrible act isn’t so easily forgotten among his former schoolmates, nor their parents or others in the community he seeks to rejoin. Abandoned and even hated by his former friends and neighbours, their resentment soon drains John of all hope, and before long the same aggression which lead to his violent outburst rises to the surface once more. A unique blend of Polish film style with the Swedish setting of the director’s birthplace, who learned his trade at the film school in Łódź, Poland. Magnus von Horn was born in Göteborg, Sweden but later studied at the Łódź Film School in Poland and currently lives in Warsaw. His short film ‘Echo’ received many awards and was officially selected for the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, but The Here After is his first full-length feature. He came up with the idea for the film alongside his fellow graduate of the Łódź film school, Mariusz Włodarski, and was inspired by a real case of teenage crime that he researched during his studies.