The Scandinavian films heading down under
The Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival in Australia has announced its full programme. Among the line-up are some of the top films in Scandinavia this year, including Welcome to Norway!, Parents, The Idealist & The Fencer. The special guest at this years festival is Norwegian up and comer Jakob Oftebro, who has appeared in almost every major Scandinavian film from the last twelve months (or so it seems!).
You can check out the website here, or read the lineup below:
Director: Christian Tafdrup
Empty-nesters, Kjeld (Søren Malling) and Vibeke (Bodil Jørgensen), decide to relocate to a smaller place after their son, Esben (Anton Honik), moves out. The apartment in which they lived pre-parenthood is up for sale so they make a sentimental purchase hoping to relive the sweeter days of their youth. Events take a decidedly unreal turn when they wake one morning feeling 30 years younger and the past they so fondly remember may no longer exist.
Director: Christina Rosendahl
On January 21st 1968, an American B-52 bomber carrying nuclear warheads crashed on the polar ice near the US military Air Base in Danish controlled Thule, Greenland. A few days later, responsible governments proclaim the situation as under control with no cause for concern. Hundreds of Thule workers are set to work, helping in the gigantic cleanup operation, and after eight months, the case is closed.
18 years on, while covering a local workers compensation story, young journalist Poul Brink, portrayed by award-winning actor Peter Plaugborg (Submarino, 2010), suddenly runs into suspicious circumstances linking back to the accident. The ambitious reporter launches an uncompromising investigation to uncover what lays well-protected deep under the Thule Bay’s ice cap and in classified archives in the US. The deeper he goes the further he finds himself in the heart of an international cover-up, and soon those in charge are finding it hard to keep the truth about the tragic accident. This is both a chilling and eye-opening documentary-style depiction of an important slice of recent Scandinavian political history.
Director: Daniel Dencik
Brilliant rising star Jakob Oftebro (of Oscar-nominated Kon-Tiki, 2012) plays Wulff Joseph Wulff, a young rebel idealist who is sent to Danish Guinea (today’s Southeast Ghana) to establish a new viable commercial coffee plantation. There, he becomes enamoured with the potential of this new land while working closely with the natives. Wulff’s anti-colonial idealism is soon overshadowed by the more pressing moral challenge to confront the horrific exploitative practices of the corrupt Danes that rule the colony.
Director: Natasha Arthy
Once celebrated stand-up comedian Thomas (Berthelsen) has derailed his career following a number of hedonistic decisions. Desperate to do anything to return to his former glory, he reluctantly agrees to open as the support act for his successful comic friend, Mads Andersen – affording him an opportunity to showcase his dubious new repertoire. However, when his estranged teenage daughter Frederikke, played by television’s The Bridge star Sarah-Sophie Boussnina, appears out of the blue, Thomas’ questionable plan is suddenly turned upside down. Frederikke applies any means necessary to sabotage her father’s chances of success and before Thomas realises what has hit him, his comeback begins to hurtle with great accuracy toward the comic-abyss. In an ironic twist, it is left to Frederikke to save him – but is it too late for a daughter to find the forgiveness within? One thing is certain; it will not be the comeback Thomas envisioned…
Land of Mine
Director: Martin Zandvliet
In the days following the surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945, a group of German soldiers – most barely out of their teens – are put to work by their Allied captors. With minimal training, they are set the dangerous task to locate and disarm their own hidden weapons that still litter the beaches along Denmark’s west coast, under the supervision of a righteous and embittered Danish sergeant, Rasmussen (Roland Møller, in a superb performance). Scornful of the Germans for their five-year occupation of his country, he ruthlessly marches his squad out on the dunes each day to prod for mines. Yet this risky task soon challenges even Rasmussen, who grows more and more conflicted in his feelings toward his young charges.
The Pusher Trilogy
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Hitting the film scene at 26-years-old, Nicolas Winding Refn made his directorial debut with 1996’s Pusher. Long before dazzling critics with the likes of DRIVE and ONLY GOD FORGIVES, the failure of Refn’s first English language film, forced him to return to the Pusher series years later to continue the first film’s emerging cult status. Despite the ten year gap between the first and the last entries in the series, the trilogy showcases a cohesive and kinetic visual style and recurring, themes about honour, family, and the cruel twists of fate that haunt the central characters forcing them into dreadful corners. Modern Nordic Noir at its finest, Refn’s series is a synapse-splitting series not for the faint of heart.
Director: Esa Illi
Jessica follows her pretty-boy beau to Budapest, only to be dumped at the airport. Aina faces the self-image issues she has previously avoided when confronted by a childhood bully at a party. Jenny suffers from a secret love for her best friend that torments her day and night, and makes her question whether she should just suck it up and be straight. Teija finds herself following the same path as her single mother with an unexpected pregnancy.
Director: Aleksi Salmenperä
In this chilling environmental thriller set in Finland, the world’s number one mining destination, director Aleksi Salmenperä creates a grimly cloistered world in which immoral decisions can be defended on a purely practical level.
The mine in question is a huge nickel source in Lapland that belongs to Finnish company Talvivaara. With the intent of making a living for his family, the ambitious, intelligent but inexperienced Jussi takes a job overseeing environmental permissions for the project and it soon becomes apparent that substantial corners are being cut. In order for development to continue, Jussi is pressured into overlooking the fact that Talvivaara’s work is having a toxic effect on local waters. Meanwhile, the toxicity is also leaking into Jussi’s personal life.
Director: Mika Kaurismäki
The wholesome home-life Tiina remembers so fondly has been taken in a somewhat liberal direction. Concerned by her father’s adopted bohemian lifestyle, Tiina, together with her new family, decides to go one step further and move in with him. However, the coexistence doesn’t go as smoothly as Tiina had hoped.
A decision to renovate the dilapidated house turns out to be a difficult task for family members lacking trade skills – namely everybody – and Urho resents being mollycoddled. Any final hope of harmony is destroyed by hired handyman Kake (Jani Volanen), who turns out to harbour plans of his own that have nothing to do with renovating the house. Veteran Finnish director Mika Kaurismäki offers a delightful take on the dysfunctional family that celebrates difference in ways both hilarious and touching.
Director: Petri Kotwica
Kiia and Lauri are speeding down a dark country road, anxious to reach the hospital with Kiia in premature labour. When their car hits something, Lauri goes out to investigate, but tells his wife he saw nothing. They rush to the hospital and Kiia gives birth to a healthy baby boy. While in the hospital Kiia meets Hanna (Rantasila), a woman whose husband is in a coma, the victim of a hit-and-run driver. Kiia befriends Hanna and tries desperately to help her without revealing her role in the accident. However, the weight of conscience and the investigation perpetuate a nightmarish downward spiral on the couple which proves unstoppable.
The Together Project
Director: Sólveig Anspach
An awkwardly handsome crane driver, Samir (Samir Guesmi), falls hopelessly in love with Agathe (Florence Loiret Caille) after spotting her in a café. When he learns she teaches swimming at a nearby pool, he concocts a plan to woo her by taking lessons, despite already knowing how to swim.
Agathe uncovers his scam, and his romantic aspirations crash and burn. Undeterred, Samir poses as the Israeli delegate at an Icelandic lifesaving conference (who would have thought swimming pools were so vital to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process!) to finally convince Agathe he is not just another ‘player’.
Director: Rúnar Rúnarsson
Ari (Atli Oskar Fjalarsson) has no choice but to return to his hometown – a remote village in Iceland’s Westfjörds – when his mother leaves Reykjavik for Africa with her new husband. Lumped in the care of his degenerate, alcoholic father, Gunnar (Ingvar Eggert Sigurđsson), Ari finds solace in the company of his grandmother and a former friend, Lara (Rakel Björk Björnsdóttir). But, when tragedy befalls him and he suffers at the hands of Lara’s boyfriend – the town bully – Ari is pushed to take his first steps into manhood.
Director: Ásgrímur Sverrisson
Hringur and Elsa are a 30-something couple preparing to buy their dream house in downtown Reykjavík when the video store Hringur owns is threatened with foreclosure. As the crisis looming over his business spreads to the home front, Hringur confronts the likelihood that his marriage may also be on the rocks. He desperately embarks on a quest to resolve things before it’s too late.
Director: Roar Uthaug
Geologist and father of two Kristian (Kristoffer Joner), is about to move from his job at an early disaster warning centre to work at an oil company. However, he has a bad feeling about some odd readings from the mountain in his town of Geiranger. Unable to shake the feeling, Kristian delays leaving town and finds himself fighting for his life and the lives of his family when the mountain collapses and two million cubic metres of rock triggers a wave of more than 85 metres high, leaving a trail of destruction.
A Man Called Ove
Director: Hannes Holm
Ove (Rolf Lassgård) is the resident curmudgeon of a vibrant suburban housing estate. Despite his ousting as president of the housing co-op a few years ago, he stubbornly maintains vigilant surveillance over his fellow residents, making sure rules of the community are observed and making a nuisance of himself in the process. When a new neighbour, Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), and her family move in next door to Ove, an unexpected and, ultimately, a life-saving friendship develops.
Director: Måns Månsson
A semi-autobiographical lament based on the novel by Kristian Lundberg, The Yard sees a single father and once-professional writer demoted to a humiliating job at a car import yard where he exists among migrant workers and is known only as a number – 11811. His colleagues eye him with distrust despite his objections to their unfair treatment. As a result, he earns a reputation for being difficult amongst the management, and his relationship with his teenage son disintegrates, which leads 11811 to make a decision equivalent to selling his soul.
Directors: Anders Helgeson & Karin af Klintberg
In this real-life “Cool Runnings” the predominantly white community of the rural Swedish town of Borlänge (whose town slogan is “Nice People”) is confronted by the influx of Somalis who have fled war and come to live in Sweden. Integrating has proven difficult, so entrepreneur Patrik Andersson decides that all the Swedes and Somalis need is something in common to bring them together, and so he encourages them to learn Bandy (a cross between ice hockey and soccer) with the goal of becoming the first ever Bandy team to represent Somalia at the Bandy World Championships in Irkutsk, Russia, even though they have never skated in their lives!
Love is the Drug
Director: Staffan Lindberg
Gorgeous former Bond girl Izabella Scorupco (Golden Eye, 2009) plays Veronica, who falls head over heels for the handsome Mike (David Hellenius), a carpenter who is rebuilding the kitchen in her plush high-end apartment. The sawdust has barely landed on the floor before their first passionate kiss. However, the teenage kids Fanny and Alexander are not pleased and have a hard time accepting the union. Veronica decides that a summer holiday nearby her wealthy parents on the west coast of Sweden is exactly what they all need. Mike, on the other hand, is not so relaxed in these upper-class surroundings. Furthermore, when his own dysfunctional family becomes involved, Mike and Veronica’s relationship is up for a serious challenge.
A Holy Mess
Director: Helena Bergström
Partners Simon (Anastasios Soulis) and Oscar (Anton Lundqvist), both in their 20s, have been a couple for three years. Together with their girlfriend, Cissi (Rakel Wärmländer), they have bought a house outside Stockholm. The place needs renovating, but one room has top priority: the nursery, because Cissi is nine months pregnant. But who is the father – Simon or Oscar? Either way, they are going to start a family. They haven’t revealed the secret to their families yet but realise that they cannot keep it hidden anymore. So what better time to disclose the truth than Christmas night – the feast of tolerance, the day when everybody must love and be kind to one another… Their announcement results in entertaining reactions and consequences, as it depicts the new alternative household and how different family situations and relationships never fail to come to a dramatic head during the festive period.
As It Is In Heaven
Director: Kay Pollak
Starring Frida Hallgren, who appeared at the 2015 Festival inRaspberry Boat Refugee (and this year’s As it is in Heaven 2: Heaven on Earth), the film centres on Daniel Daréus (Michael Nyqvist from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo franchise) as a famous conductor who is forced to retire to his northern Swedish village after suffering a heart attack. Once returned, he is introduced to the enthusiastic but talentless local Lutheran choir, as well as a number of small-town problems plaguing the community.
As It Is In Heaven II
Reuniting key cast members, Heaven on Earth takes up where the last story left off: Conductor Daniel Dareus’ soprano and love interest, Lena (Frida Hallgren), is alone and pregnant. She gives birth during a snowstorm with only the intoxicated village vicar (Niklas Falk) to assist her. Such an intense experience creates a bond between the two, and Lena agrees to bring people to the church as a cantor, but just as music and dancing inspire joy, it also sparks fear and jealousy in the village.