The International Documentary Festival Amsterdam 18-29 November 2015

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At Home in the World (dir. Andreas Koefoed)

Magomed (10) is a thoughtful and quiet boy from Chechnya who is undergoing an existential transformation. Slowly Magomed gains confidence and starts making friends and after months of waiting he and his family gets a residence permit to stay in Denmark. The joy though soon comes to an end when it becomes clear that his father, as the only person in the family, can’t stay in Denmark and risks being sent back to Chechnya. Magomed now embarks on a mission to understand what happened to his father back in Chechnya and with the fact that he might lose his father.

Dancing For You (Norway/Sweden/Denmark) (dir. Erlend E. Mo)

Vilde (12) wants to be the first female ‘Halling’ folk dance champion. A traditional dance for men only. Her greatest challenge isn’t the competition – she’s convinced that her strength and passion for dance and life are helping her beloved grandfather to win his fight against cancer. A beautifully crafted portrait of two generations of sports champs and a affectionate/loving grandfather-grandchild bond.

Déjà vu (dir. Jon Bang Carlsen)

To what extent does a director stay objective and anonymously hidden behind the camera? The Danish director Jon Bang Carlsen knows for sure that the choices he makes in his films aren’t accidental. Several excerpts from his own work show that events in his personal life have a major influence on his work. In fact, he appears to be using images that he recognizes in particular. It’s a revelation for this filmmaker, who used to think he could stay objective and invisible. Topics such as doubting his faith, his runaway father and impressions from a carefree childhood are recurring themes in his diverse oeuvre. Showing us individual scenes, Carlsen comments in voice-over on the images and muses about his life and work. Like when he tells us that while filming a blind man, he was touched by the latter’s perception of the world, and he discovered that this fascination is mirrored in other films as well. In this autobiographical self-examination that spans over 40 films in several genres, the work of Carlsen is a moving photo album.

Flotel Europa (Denmark/Serbia) (dir. Vladimir Tomic)

As a teenager, the Bosnian filmmaker Vladimir Tomic fled from the bombs of Sarajevo with his mother and brother to Copenhagen, where he spent two years living on an enormous ship in the city’s harbor. In 1992, Flotel Europa, as the ship was called, housed around a thousand Bosnian refugees. Tomic uses his literary and nostalgia-tinged voice-over to tell the story of his coming-of-age in this surreal environment. The people living on the ship filmed their daily lives using VHS cameras, intending to use the footage as video messages for the home front. This collection of remarkable, personal material forms an unembellished reflection of life aboard this floating refugee center. There’s music and folk dancing, and the children go to school. But beyond the view of the camera, the reality of war invades this world through calls conveying bad news from back home. Tensions also rise between the various ethnic groups; the endless waiting, the tedium and the consistently awful news lead to a rise in drug use and general rowdiness. The residents start losing their patience with the poor hygiene and living conditions onboard the vessel. But from the perspective of this young fellow, all these issues are no more or less important than working out the best way to chat up a girl, or waiting for the moment when he can finally start making a life for himself.

Home Sweet Home (dir. Katrine Philp)

Salimah had only just been born when her family fled to Malaysia from Myanmar. After her first birthday, her father and her older sister immigrated to Denmark. Her mother remarried, but Salimah wasn’t happy with her mother and her hostile stepfather. She lived with an aunt until the age of 10, when she was finally able to move to Denmark to be with her father. Home Sweet Home follows Salimah from the moment she leaves her country, traveling alone to Europe and meeting her father and sister for the first time. We then stay with her during her first two years in her new country. What’s it like for Salimah to live with this family she has never met before? Is it difficult to learn a new language? And how do you make new friends in a country that’s still completely foreign to you? By 13, Salimah is able to look back and discuss how she felt during those tense years, which she does for us in voice-over. We hear about how she gradually learned to trust her father, and how she came to grips with her new life in a country that – except for the heavy rainfall – bears no resemblance whatsoever to the country of her birth.

Man Falling (dir. Anne Regitze Wivel)

The world-famous Danish painter and sculptor Per Kirkeby (b. 1938) suffered a stroke and fell down the stairs, and he’s now unable to paint to his own high standards. Kirkeby worked with Fluxus artists Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik, created panoramic landscape sequences for Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves and became famous for his monumental brick sculptures. After his unfortunate fall he lost the ability to see colors. Sometimes he doesn’t recognize his own paintings or even his wife. His good friend Anne Regitze Wivel follows him closely during his slow recovery. She films everything with a sober approach – from daily discomforts to emotional, openhearted conversations. All Kirkeby wants is to get his old life back, but his physical and mental abilities are restricted. He describes being near-blind as living in a frightening shadow world. Wivel acts as a confidante, which means Kirkeby doesn’t have to hide his vulnerability. The tension between the wheelchair-bound artist and his energetic wife, who has to help while still making sure he can keep his dignity, is highly palpable.

Motleys Law (dir. Nicole Nielsen Horanyi)

When Afghanistan adopted its first democratic constitution in 2004, a formal legal system was implemented and combined with the informal sharia law. Kimberley Motley is the only foreigner and the only woman authorized to take legal action within this system. She defends a wide range of clients, from a British soldier who has been imprisoned for two years for fraud without a fair trial to an Afghan girl who risks punishment for fleeing from her husband. The rampant corruption and lack of respect for human rights have made her combative. What’s more, she has become a role model. In addition to her work, she gets phone interviews and glamorous photo shoots. Motley is honest about her original motives. “I came here for the money, like everyone else here. I didn’t even know where Afghanistan was on the map.” She grew up in poverty and is determined to secure her children’s financial future. Motley is fearless: just days after someone throws a grenade into her home, she returns – her security guards are more afraid than she is. But when the peacekeeping troops are sent home, the situation becomes more dangerous. Should Motley stay put?

Natural Disorder (dir. Christian Sønderby Jepsen)

Jacob Nossell is a 27-year-old journalism student with a normal intellect but an impaired body. He has cerebral palsy, which means he has difficulty talking and moving, and he suffers from muscle cramps and stiffness. Mentally, he’s on par with his fellow students, and that’s the crux of the matter. He’s too disabled for society to accept him as normal, but too normal to simply lie down and accept his fate. And what exactly is “normal” anyway? Natural Disorder follows Jacob directing a play for the Royal Danish Theater, in which he explores the meaning of identity and normality and asks what life is all about. He goes out on the streets with a camera and microphone, stopping people to ask what they consider normal. He talks with a doctor of philosophy and neuroscience and gets his brain and his DNA scanned. Producing the play takes its toll on Jacob, and he often comes face to face with his own limitations. This is very hard on him – for 27 years he has been struggling against those limitations, and his greatest and most constant fear is that he might turn out to be that disabled person he so wants to avoid becoming.

Olmo and the Seagull (dir. Petra Costa)

Pregnant women often lose teeth because the unborn child draws calcium from their bodies. The acquaintance who told Olivia this seemed unfazed, but it made quite an impression on this young actress. As well as making her lose her teeth, the baby could also make her lose the starring role in Chekhov’s The Seagull, her career, her everything. Impending motherhood is hell for this woman, who as a child said she only existed when she had an audience. When she’s passed over for a North American tour, she thinks she’ll go insane just like Nina, the character in Chekhov’s play. Olmo and the Seagull can be viewed as a form of exorcism. Olivia and her boyfriend Serge re-enact this period from their life, intercutting these scenes with in-the-moment improvisation and an earlier performance of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. In voice-over, Olivia reads aloud passages from her journal. Sometimes the film’s directors interject, highlighting the film’s multilayered reality. Where does the acting stop and real life begin? Aren’t we always playing a role? But for Olivia, the film also forms a bridge between her theatrical life and her new role as a mother.

The Visit (dir. Michael Madsen)

We’ve been fantasizing about an extraterrestrial visit for decades, but what would happen if it actually took place? How would we cope? Should we be afraid? These and many other questions are addressed in this philosophical film about a hypothetical initial contact with aliens. Scientists and space affairs specialists at the UN and NASA and in the British government cooperate in this cinematic simulation of the undoubtedly exciting meeting between extraterrestrial life and humanity. The interviewees speak directly to the unknown entities as if they’ve already arrived. From their own fields – politics, theology, sociology, biology or space science – they ask probing questions. What are you doing here? Do you have a sense of right and wrong? Do you carry bacteria that could make us sick? Are we hazardous to your immune system? Information specialists in the British government show how a first summit in this situation could go. How do you inform the public? Will countries work together? Is there a danger involved? Above all, the alien visit raises questions about the relation between our own history of exploration, colonization and warfare, and the expectations with which we approach the unknown.


For Kibera! (dir. Kati Juurus)

Boy Dallas lives in Kibera, a famous slum in Nairobi, Kenya with hundreds of thousands of inhabitants, making it the second largest in Africa. Here, Dallas works as a radio personality and is known as “the voice of Kibera.” He’s inundated with stories of injustice, and Dallas increasingly starts to wonder why it is that he’s so poor. “A human life is cheap in Kibera. We are born, we survive and we die. We are just slum people.” Kibera is a “celebrity slum” where more than 200 NGOs are active and many famous people have paid a visit. Nevertheless, rape and murder are business as usual, the streets are filthy and there are no sewers. The little river where Dallas played as a child has dried up and is full of trash. What use are the new apartment buildings (with parking spaces!) to the residents of Kibera? As a self-taught cameraman, Dallas sets out to find out why a neighborhood that has received so much help for so long is still in such a terrible state. He talks to ambassadors and donors and sees just how different their world is from his. With his handheld camera, he reveals the harsh reality of living in Kibera.

Log Head (Finland/Norway/Canada) (dir. Maarit Suomi-Väänänen)

In this mythological documentary about a human tree, experimental animator Maarit Suomi-Väänänen equips a little birch stump with a pair of skis and a balaclava, and sends it gliding through a forest where others of its kind have just been felled. Wisps of smoke and mist suggest that the executioners have only just left, but the stump appears to have revenge on its mind. Skiing, falling and skiing on again, the little guy moves among the felled trees, sometimes pausing to ponder a particular stump. Is he shedding a tear? Is this perhaps a family member who has been brought down, or is he sad because of the inevitable fate he is facing himself? Groaning, he takes flight. Against the backdrop of this forest war zone, with the sound of chainsaws and explosions, we genuinely begin to wonder whether trees deserve more sympathy. Suomi-Väänänen creates the atmosphere of a cartoon film by using marionette animation and reversing the footage. A somewhat absurdist reflection on the nature within us all.

Return of the Atom (Finland/Germany) (dir. Mika Taanila, Jussi Eerola)

In the Finnish town of Eurajoki, the construction of a nuclear reactor has been underway since 2004. It would be the first in Western Europe since the Chernobyl disaster. This expansion of the existing nuclear power station should ring in a new atomic age, at least in the minds of some. The local government is delighted with the prospects of cheap energy and job opportunities, and the village has already been treated to a beautiful ice hockey stadium and Christmas lights all over. But what begins as an ambitious project degenerates into a village farce that reveals the entire gamut of human weaknesses. Though the reactor was supposed to be completed in 2009, a series of setbacks has led to one delay after another. The mayor continues to justify himself to the city council while the once unanimous investors squabble about the poor planning, construction flaws, employment scandals and security leaks. A few still stubbornly protest against the storage of nuclear waste, but most of the residents patiently resign themselves to the fact that big money always wins. Meanwhile, plans for the construction of a fourth reactor have already been approved. Return of the Atom follows the complications surrounding the reactor over the course of 10 years and sketches an occasionally hilarious but primarily disturbing picture of naive managers, shameless pride and appalling greed.


Dancing For You (Norway/Denmark/Sweden) (dir. Erlend E. Mo)

Halling is a remarkable Norwegian folk dance traditionally performed by only men, as a display of physical prowess. Twelve-year-old Vilde is training hard to become the first female Norwegian champion. In a fantastic outdoor scene, she and her dance coach get up to some fascinating antics, dancing on an excavator in a quarry, along tree trunks, through waterfalls, up mountain slopes and on riverbeds. And they always move in the same, calm cadence. In other scenes, the vast natural expanses play a crucial role as well – Vilde clearly feels a strong connection to them. She’s also very close to her sick grandfather, who tells her that family and friends are the most important things in life – and feeling good about yourself is essential, too. The scenes with the two of them together clearly show how strong the bond is between them. Vilde continually leans against her grandfather or sits on his lap, stroking his cheek. She hopes that the strength she needs to win the championship will also be a stimulus for her grandpa; perhaps seeing how much she enjoys life will help him keep fighting the cancer.

Maiko: Dancing Child (dir. Åse Svenheim Drivenes)

Maiko’s fate was sealed before she was even born; her Japanese name means “dancing child.” Now a ballet dancer, she has over-delivered on that promise, but she and her family have had to make many sacrifices along the way. At the age of 15 she moved from Japan to London to attend a prestigious dance school. In order to pay the tuition, her mother sold their house and her parents denied themselves any form of luxury. Failure just wasn’t an option. In her early thirties now, she’s right where she wants to be, with the Norwegian National Ballet as the company’s prima ballerina. But Maiko’s starting to get a little uneasy – she wants a child. Is it possible to combine motherhood with keeping a place at the top of her profession? In the ballet world, whether it’s for maternity leave or any other reason, if you stand up you lose your seat; there’s always young talent waiting in the wings to replace you. What’s more, pregnancy is a real attack on the body for a dancer, so Maiko is facing a real dilemma. Or is she? This balanced portrait shows how tenacious Maiko can be when it comes to realizing both dreams. Gorgeous shots of performances and observational shots during training sessions are intercut with more intimate scenes from Maiko’s domestic life. In voice-over she talks about her special bond with her mother and the choices she made.

Rebels (dir. Kari Anne Moe)

These Norwegian dropouts are rebellious, aggressive and indifferent when they embark on a special course to help get them to work. All of them are around 20, and society already views them as failures. The coaches’ task is to give back these rebellious youths their self-esteem. It’s a job that demands a lot of mental strength – and sometimes physical strength as well. The fact is that no matter how much you want to give up old habits, it’s hard to leave your past behind you. Jakob just can’t stay away from alcohol. Maylen’s ADHD means she’s finding it difficult to get her life under control. Kelly was bullied as a child and she’s painfully shy. In the surprising intimacy of the group, they hesitantly start to flourish. Rebels plays out almost entirely in the classroom, where the camera follows group lessons and one-on-one coaching sessions. The chief protagonist is Jan Olav – recently released from jail, he’s determined to make something of his life. He’s dyslexic and always struggled in school, but now he’s dreaming of becoming a famous rapper. Jan Olav is equal parts endearing and unpredictable, even to himself. How can you change when everyone is expecting the worst from you?

Varicella (Norway/Denmark/Sweden/Russia) (dir. Victor Kossakovsky)

Seven-year-old Polina and her 13-year-old sister Nastia live and breathe ballet. Both of them are studying at the Boris Eifman Dance Academy in frigid Saint Petersburg. They’re currently awaiting their grades to find out if they’ve done well enough to be promoted to the next year, with Nastia lovingly guiding her little sister through the process. But in the meantime, Nastia also has to deal with the high demands that the academy places on its students. Director Victor Kossakovsky has had a long association with IDFA, and he was the festival’s guest of honor in 2012. Here he uses only sparse dialogue, choosing to let the partly animated images speak for themselves. The gorgeously styled shots are sometimes calm, even clinical, and sometimes warm, lively and funny. But there are also moments of sadness, because anyone who wants to make her dream come true has to work hard for it, and confront her own limitations along the way. Varicella is about passion and success, and about the tender bond between two sisters who share a dream. “Dance with an open soul,” Nastia says to Polina when she starts doubting her abilities. In the end, even the roller blinds in the rehearsal room dance along with them.


Becoming Zlatan (Sweden/The Netherlands/Italy) (dir. Fredrik Gertten, Magnus Gertten)

The decisive years of Swedish soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimović, told through rare archive footage in which a young Zlatan speaks openly about his life and challenges. The film closely follows him, from his debut with the Malmö FF team in 1999 through his conflict-ridden years with Ajax Amsterdam, and up to his final breakthrough with Juventus in 2005. Becoming Zlatan is a coming-of-age film that captures the complicated journey of this young, talented and troubled player as he becomes a superstar in the international football world. It’s a story about a young talent living under constant pressure: from teammates in Malmö who think he’s too egoistical and only plays for himself; from the tough managers at Ajax who send him to the bench, where he loses his self-confidence; and from his father, who tells the 18-year-old Zlatan: “You’re nothing. You’re nothing special until you’ve succeeded internationally.” Throughout his journey, Zlatan stays true to himself. When he finally succeeds in Italy, he also becomes much more private. Soccer superstar Zlatan Ibrahimović is an enigma, but in this story from his breakthrough years, he gives us a glimpse at who he really is – if even just for a moment.

Don Juan (dir. Jerzy Sladkowski)

Twenty-two-year-old Oleg doesn’t live up to his mother Marina’s idea of a real man. She thinks he’s an autistic loafer. He’s enrolled at the University of Nizhny Novgorod and is supposed to be watching online lectures, but his mother says all he actually does is hang around watching TV. Oleg doesn’t have any need for friendships, either. Marina wants him to improve his life and subjects him to a series of unconventional treatments. In one particularly uncomfortable scene, we see the therapist riding him as if he were a horse. Another psychiatrist tells Oleg how useless he is and that he will always be alone. Strangely enough the camera seems to be welcome everywhere, and it closely follows these dramatic developments. This gives this documentary a slapstick feel – with a nice dose of satire for good measure. Nonetheless, heated kitchen table conversations between Marina and her own mother reveal the bitter seriousness of the matter, and Marina’s mother wants her to adopt a more positive attitude towards Oleg. Don Juan raises questions about the distinction between introversion and autism. When will Oleg be allowed to be himself at last? Salvation eventually comes from an unexpected source. It is an encouraging victory for humanity, as well as a comment on mental health care.

Every Face Has a Name (dir. Magnus Gertten)

After the Second World War, 15,000 concentration camp refugees arrived in boats in the south of Sweden. On April 28, 1945, Swedish national television showed nearly 2,000 men, women and children arriving in the port of Malmö. Barely aware of their regained freedom, they obligingly went along with reception and processing, which included showering outdoors. Director Magnus Gertten used this impressive and very successfully restored footage for his documentary Harbor of Hope (2012), in which he looked for three of the war survivors in the footage. He has since managed to track down more of the faces that appear on-screen. Some of these survivors are interviewed in Every Face Has a Name. As they study the images, they’re surprised to recognize family members, friends and themselves. This sparks personal and shocking revelations about the war. Gertten compares this event to the current flow of refugees into Europe. He shows the viewer how, just like 70 years ago in Sweden, there’s a mixture of happiness, fear and disbelief in the faces of hundreds of refugees as they arrive in Sicily after their harsh boat journey. Meanwhile, Gertten manages to discover who some of them are as well.

I am Dublin (dir. David Aronowitsch, Ahmed Abdullahi, Sharmarke Binyusuf, Anna Persson)

This story of Ahmed, a young Somali refugee, is more topical than ever. Ahmed arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa in a fragile boat six years ago and was fingerprinted there. According to the Dublin Regulation, Italy was the designated country to handle his request for asylum. But Ahmed found life in Italy too tough, left for Sweden and went into hiding. When filmmaker David Aronowitsch found him, he had been in hiding for three years. Aronowitsch asks Ahmed to play the role of a young asylum seeker called Daoud, the main character in his short fiction film Dublin. Daoud’s story is a reflection of Ahmed’s own story. What the fictive Daoud goes through, Ahmed went through in real life. In parallel to the making of Dublin, Aronowitsch and his co-filmmakers produce a documentary about Ahmed himself. Ahmed and others in his situation embody a failing political system. He might look like a regular teenager who likes hanging out with friends and checking out girls, but the truth is that he has been in a paralyzing deadlock for six years. “I’m mentally broken,” he says. “I don’t feel anything at all. I should have stayed in Somalia. Six years down the drain…”

Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words (dir. Stig Björkman)

Ingrid Bergman took film more seriously than she did life, a fact that becomes apparent in this intimate portrait of her. Using home movies, diaries and letters, Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words sketches the personal and professional life of this great actress and long-distance mother. According to her own diary, if she isn’t filming, she’s only living half a life. Her four children explain that they often didn’t get to see much of her when she was on the set for an extended period of time or off in a foreign country with a new love. Years later, Bergman described herself as more of a friend than a mother to them. Her unorthodox ideas about family life garnered her considerable criticism in the media. Her relationship with Italian director Roberto Rossellini caused a huge scandal because it caused her to leave her daughter Pia behind in the United States – Bergman informed the teenager of her plans in a heartbreaking letter. Pia justifies her mother’s great love for the camera with the fact that young Ingrid’s own father filmed her frequently and fondly; later, Bergman hoped to find love through the camera. After his untimely death she led a sad and lonely existence that was only rendered tolerable by creating characters that would talk back to her. This is how Ingrid Bergman explains her exceptional film career.

Martha & Niki (dir. Tora Mårtens)

In 2010, Swedish friends Martha Nabwire and Niki Tsappos were the first ever female hip hop dance duo to beat all their opponents (men included) at the most important international street dance competition, Juste Debout in Paris. Armed with boundless energy and huge amounts of talent, they annihilated the opposition. The two girls love to dance, to be together and to travel. They intuitively understand one another. But what happens when you don’t come out on top? After one such disappointment, the first cracks start to appear in their friendship. In spite of their shared passions, the girls have very different backgrounds, different lives and different personalities. Martha moved from Uganda to Sweden as a teenager, while Niki was adopted from Ethiopia as a baby. But whereas Niki wants to grow up together and sees her African side reflected in Martha, Martha increasingly feels the need to withdraw into her shell, alone with her homesickness. This documentary not only films two successful dancers in action, but also two young adults who are grappling with very different life questions. Where are your roots, and what elements of your culture do you bring with you from your homeland? How can you keep your cultural heritage alive, and how can you deal with all of these things within an ambitious friendship?

Nice People (dir. Anders Helgeson, Karin af Klintberg)

Nice people live in the Swedish town of Borlänge, if you believe the town’s motto. But not all the locals appreciate the presence of a large group of Somali immigrants. This prompts idealist Patrik Andersson to recruit a group of young Somalis for his bandy team (bandy is a kind of ice hockey). Eight months ahead of the 2014 world championship, the Somali national bandy team is formed. This is a new development, as no African country has ever taken part before. The hope is that the initiative will contribute to greater integration of the players. A good performance in Siberia, where the tournament is to be held, may bring about better understanding within the community. The results include cartoon-like scenes with Somalis, far from home, trying to skate for the first time, and drily comic discussions with locals who express their doubts: aren’t Somalis traditionally rather lazy? In the meantime, the camera follows the goofy Andersson’s search for sponsors. Making phone calls from a swimming pool, at times it seems like he’s more interested in generating media attention than helping his players. When the young men don’t turn up for training one day, however, he decides to take action: the team must perform. This is characteristic of the film’s slightly flippant undertone. Will the young men be received as heroes?

Ruth (Sweden/Norway/Denmark) (dir. Hanna Heilborn)

Ruth ties the laces of her white sneakers, combs her hair in front of the changing room mirror and tries on different bows. This Swedish teenager has just been selected to compete for Twisters, her cheerleading team, and today is her first day with her new teammates. Ruth is passionate about her sport and she socializes easily, so she quickly feels at home among the other athletic girls – munching on their apples as they chat about annoying muscle aches. In this youth documentary, we follow Ruth with her team and at home. Even when surrounded by her family Ruth finds time to focus on her beloved sport – in between squabbling with her brother Johan and joking around with her more levelheaded parents. She practices somersaults in the garden with her mother, trying again and again to get it just right. “I get so angry at myself. I know I can do it, but I still fail,” she says through her tears. Ruth’s mother goes along to her daughter’s first competition. “Go Twisters, go Twisters” chants the team during their performance, but the bravado belies the tension in the girls’ faces, each of them set in a forced smile. The winners will go on to the national championship, but will Ruth and her team make the cut?

Say Something (Sweden/Norway) (dir. Åsa Ekman)

Isabell from Sweden lost her father at the age of two. When her mother met another man and they moved in together, at first she was happy, but the man turned out to be volatile and violent. The years that followed were traumatic for both mother and daughter. After My Life My Lesson (IDFA 2014), Say Something is the second part in a documentary diptych on children growing up in the face of violence. At the start of the film, Isabell is 18 and has just taken her final exams. She is restless and rebellious, and decides to go to the United States. But things don’t go well there: she starts using drugs and gets panic attacks. Back in Sweden, she gets admitted to a psychiatric clinic. Addressing her relationship with her mother turns out to be a crucial part of her recovery. Isabell hasn’t felt safe for a very long time: she has had to care for her emotionally unstable mother, whom she believes focuses on her own suffering. The film follows Isabell over a long period of time, without using interviews or voice-over. Intimate sequences of her therapy sessions, conversations with her best friend and emotional confrontations with her mother reveal how difficult it is to deal with the traumatic events of the past.

The Swedish Theory of Love (dir. Erik Gandini)

Sweden is typically portrayed as having a perfectly organized society in which everyone has equal opportunities for an independent existence. One upshot is that people don’t need to ask anyone else for help or favors, bringing contact between individuals to an absolute minimum. Half the population lives in single households, and more and more women are choosing for single motherhood through artificial insemination.  Meanwhile, the number of people dying alone is continually on the rise. The woeful succession of sperm banks, deserted neighborhoods and forgotten deaths casts a disturbing light on the downside to an independent society in which the only truly social activity appears to be searches for missing persons. The film raises the fascinating question of why a life lived in such security and safety should turn out to be so unsatisfying. Some Swedes are putting up courageous resistance: young people are organizing gatherings in the woods to surrender to emotions and caresses; a successful surgeon moved away to Ethiopia, where despite the lack of material wealth he relearned the value of community. In conclusion, maverick sociologist Zygmunt Bauman explains why a trouble-free life isn’t necessarily a happy one.

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.