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The Nordic films competing for the Dragon Award at this year’s Gothenburg Film Festival

The largest Nordic film festival, the Gothenburg Film Festival, is about to kick off for 2018, and the nine Nordic titles competing for the Dragon Award have been announced.

The Dragon Award for Best Nordic Film is awarded by Volvo and comes with a SEK 1 000 000 cash prize, making it the largest film cash prize in the world.

The previous winners are:

 

The Gothenburg Film Festival takes place from the 26th of January until the 5th of February. Cinema Scandinavia will be covering the entire festival.

And the nominees are…

And Breathe Normally

Iceland

Directed by Isold Uggadottir

Starring Þorsteinn Bachmann, Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir, Babetida Sadjo, Gunnar Jónsson, Sveinn Geirsson

About 30 miles outside of Reykjavik lies Keflavik airport. There, two women exchange looks through plexiglass. The one comes from Guinea Bissau and is making a stopover in Iceland while trying to get to her family in Canada on a fake passport. The other is a single mother who has been evicted from her apartment and hopes that this probationary job at passport control will help her support her son. Isold Uggadóttir’s feature-film debut is an incredibly potent drama that gets in under your skin. The Guldbagge-awarded cinematographer Ita Zbroniec-Zajt operates the camera while Babetida Sadjo and Kristín Thóra Haraldsdóttir shine in the leading roles.

Festival Link

Amateurs

Sweden

Directed by Gabriela Pichler

Starring Zahraa Aldoujaili, Yara Aliadotter, Fredrik Dahl

The uncompromising debut Eat Sleep Die immediately made Gabriela Pichler one of Sweden’s most-respected directors. Now she is back with an intelligent, warm and wonderfully funny film about who owns society’s image. The small municipality of Lafors hopes to solve its economic drought by attracting a German discount supermarket. In order to bolster the municipality’s brand, the local youths are asked to produce films about their hometown, but the films do not turn out as thought. The project is called off, but two teenage girls continue working on their documentary film anyhow. Based on a manuscript that she wrote together with Jonas Hassen Khemiri, Pichler depicts both struggling citizens as well as anguishing politicans with precision, engaging humor and one-hundred percent loyalty.

Festival Link

Holiday

Denmark

Directed by Isabella Eklöf

Starring Victoria Carmen Sonne, Lai Yde, Thijs Römer, Adam Ild Rohweder

At the center of the plot is Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne), mistress of Michael, the leader of a criminal gang that seeks pleasure in his luxurious residence at a Turkish resort town. Her existence is characterized by gourmet dinners and parties with expensive presents, but then she comes into contact with the pleasant, Dutch sailor, Thomas, who represents something else. In this uncompromising achievement, which brings to mind Ulrich Seidl, the debuting Isabella Eklöf has created a rattling and challenging gangster drama permeated by patriarchal power structures.

Festival Link

The Return

Denmark

Directed by Malene Choi

Starring Karoline Sofie Lee, Thomas Hwan, Seong In Ja

Two Danish-Korean adoptees return to Korea for the first time. At the residence for returning Korean adopted children, they create their own broken family. Aside from the shared experiences of adoption, they all, in different ways, share the universal feeling of emptiness with the longing for their birth mothers, the country of origin and identification with a foreign culture. Choi deftly and consciously works at creating the between-space she describes on many levels: through images, segments, sounds and composition as well as through the choice of making a hybrid film in the space between feature and documentary film.

Festival Link

The Violin Player

Finland

Directed by Paavo Westerberg

Starring Kim Bodnia, Samuli Edelmann, Matleena Kuusniemi, Olavi Uusivirta

Karin is at the top of her career as a solo violinist when she gets into an accident and loses the sense of feeling in her left hand. The realization that she is no longer at the top is a great defeat, but eventually she accepts that by teaching she can stay close to music. Like many male cultural giants before her, she muddles her passion for music and art with a physical attraction to a student, Antti, several years her junior. As things come to a breaking point, she is forced to choose between family and the loneliness of being at the top.

Festival Link

Jimmie

Sweden

Directed by Jesper Ganslandt

Starring Hunter Louise Ganslandt, Jesper Ganslandt, Christopher Wagelin, Anna Littorin, Ellen Sarri Littorin

A crisis situation in Sweden leads people to flee, and Jimmie and his father set off for an unknown goal. Ahead of them lie difficult trials: cramped together with strangers in a small rubber boat, long treks and dangerous border crossings. But there are also small oases of security in temporary refugee camps. It’s always arbitrary and hard to grasp where they are, who they can trust and who wants to hurt them. Everything comes to a head when they get separated. Jesper Ganslandt plays the father alongside his own son, Hunter, in a convincing drama that inverts perspectives and portrays the subjective experience of being displaced.

Festival Link

What Will People Say

Norway

Directed by Iram Haq

Starring Maria Mojdeh, Nawabi Estanegzai, Adil Hussain

All at once, 16-year-old Nisha’s (Maria Mozhdah) world falls apart when her father (Adil Hussain, Life of Pi) finds her with a boyfriend in her room. Up until then she has managed to live a double life where she hung out with friends in Oslo in the evenings and while at home she acted like the dutiful daughter to her Pakistani family. Iram Haq’s (I Am Yours, GFF 2014) has, in their second film, taken inspiration from personal experiences and created a nuanced, intense and multifaceted drama with the complex relationship between father and daughter in focus.

Festival Link

Euphoria

Directed by Lisa Langseth

Starring Alicia Vikander, Eva Green, Charlotte Rampling, Charles Dance, Mark Stanley, Adrian Lester

The two sisters, Emelie (Eva Green) and Ines (Vikander) are headed towards a mysterious destination somewhere in the middle of Europe. They have had very different ways of dealing with their fears about life and death, and have difficulties arriving at a shared view of their upbringing. Langseth has always sought out tabu subjects, and in Euphoria she tackles assisted suicide. In an absurd reality in an up-scale clinic, the sisters have a only few days to try to understand each other’s life choices. One can brood over the past, but never retract it, and now it is time for them to come to terms with Emelie’s decision about how she wants to end her life.

Festival Link

The Charmer

Directed by Milad Alami 

Starring Ardalan Esmaili, Soho Rezanejad, Susan Taslimi, Lars Brygmann

Each evening the young, handsome Esmail (Ardalan Esmaili) returns to the same bar to seduce women. As a rule, the nights end at the women’s apartments. But one evening he meets Sarah (Soho Rezanejad) who sees right through his seductive surface and reveals his secret. With a stylistically secure starting point that implements the approach found in romantic comedies, the Swedish director, Milad Alami presents here in his feature-film debut, a dark and deeply engaging portrayal of the terrible conditions of love in an unequal world. Ardalan Esmaili delivers one of this year’s most unforgettable roles and Susan Taslimi is radiant in a memorable supporting role.

Festival Link

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.