NORDISK FILM & TV FOND: Locarno, Venice, Toronto and San Sebastian offer premium spots to Nordic content

By by Annika Pham



More than a dozen Nordic titles including the Nordisk Film & TV Fond supported Forever by Frelle Petersen and documentary Innocence by Guy Davidi are bowing at the fall festivals.

As the top international film festivals have all lined up robust programmes post-Covid and enjoy the ‘back to normal’ activity, the Nordic region which boasted a record presence in Cannes, continues to be a favoured hunting ground for programmers.

The Locarno Film Festival which is currently running until August 13, has selected for its competition programme Cineasti del Presente (lit ‘Directors of the Present’) the Norwegian feature What Grows Where Land is Sick? (Den siste våren) by debut director Franciska Eliassen. The low budget film written, directed, edited and produced by Eliassen, depicts sisterhood, mental illness, and the helplessness of watching a loved person suffer.

Finland has three entries:

  • W, Anna Eriksson’s sophomore feature, is world premiering in Fuori Concorso (Out of Competition), a section for edgy and experimental works. The psychodrama produced by Matti Pyykö is set in an institute located in the middle of a glacier.

  • Ruthless Times – Songs of Care, the musical documentary by Susanna Helke which portrays the current state of nursing care is selected for Locarno’s Critics’ Week. The film produced by Timo Korhonen picked up major awards at the last Docpoint and Tampere festivals.

  • Marja Pyykkö’s long-awaited Sihja, the Rebel Fairy (Sihja-Kapinaa Ilmassa) produced by Tuffi Films with backing from Nordisk Film & TV Fond, will screen at the Locarno Kids Screening.

The prestigious Venice Film Festival (August 31-September 10) has heavyweight Danish auteurs Lars von Trier and Nicolas Winding Refn as sole entries at the Out of Competition-Series section.

  • The Kingdom Exodus - third and final instalment in von Trier’s cult hospital series, will world premiere as a five-hour long version. The Zentropa production backed by the Fund will then premiere in Denmark this fall on Viaplay and subsequently on DR. TrustNordisk handles sales.

  • Netflix’s Copenhagen Cowboy is Refn’s first Danish language production in 15 years.
    The six-part neo-noir tells of young heroine, Miu (Angela Bundalovic) who travels through Copenhagen’s criminal netherworld. The show is produced by Lene Børglum and Christina Erritzøe for NWR Originals. The premiere on the US streamer is set for later this year.

Also Out of Competition but in the non-fiction section is Denmark’s Music For Black Pigeons, co-directed by legendary doc director and poet Jørgen Leth, with Andreas Koefoed (The Lost Leonardo). The ensemble music doc about jazz improvisation, features some of the most influential jazz players of our time, from Lee Konitz, Bill Frisell, to Thomas Morgan and Jakob Bro. Emile Hertling Péronard is producing for Ánorâk Film.

The Horizon competition section will screen the documentary Innocence by Copenhagen-based Israeli director Guy Davidi, who shared an Oscar nomination with Emad Burnat in 2011 for Five Broken Cameras.

The film centres on youngsters who resisted being enlisted in Israel's armed forces but capitulated. Their stories were never told as they died during their service. Sigrid Dyekjær and Hilla Medalia are producing for Real Lava and Danish Documentary, in co-production with Iceland’s Sagafilm, Finland’s Making Movies and Israel’s Medalia Productions. Autlook Film Sales handles sales.

Meanwhile Sweden will be represented at Venice’s Critics’ Week by Isabella Carbonell’s anticipated debut feature Dogborn, a suspenseful drama about a pair of twins on the fringes of society who are drawn into crime. The project produced by Momento Film through the Swedish Film Institute’s Moving Sweden scheme, will be released in Sweden by NonStop Entertainment in 2023. TrustNordisk handles sales.

As always overlapping slightly with Venice, the Toronto International Film Festival (September 8-18) has so far picked four Nordic titles for its 47th edition.

Cannes’s Palme d’or winning film Triangle of Sadness by Swedish star director Ruben Östlund, and hot Danish crime drama Holy Spider by Ali Abbasi for which Zar Amir Ebrahimi won Best Actress in Cannes, will both screen in the Special Presentations. Their domestic releases are scheduled for October 7 and October 13 respectively.

The festival’s Discovery section will present Unruly, sophomore feature by Danish director Malou Reymann (A Perfectly Normal Family), produced by Nordisk Film. Set in the 1930s, the drama about a young woman’s rebellion against the strict system in place in a women’s institution on a small island, is based on true events. The film is due to open March 9 in Denmark. TrustNordisk handles sales.

Meanwhile Finnish director Jalmari Helander’s latest Hollywood action-style Sisu (formerly Immortal) is due to bow at the festival’s popular Midnight Madness. The majority English- language movie about one man‘s fight against a Nazi destruction patrol in the Lappish wilderness, will be released in Finland early 2023 via Nordisk Film. Subzero Film Entertainment is producing with the UK’s Good Chaos and Sony has picked up world rights outside the Nordics.

A traditionally key North-American launchpad for Nordic features, Toronto will be saying goodbye late 2022 to senior programmer and Nordic specialist Steve Gravestock, who will retire from TIFF after 25 years. Gravestock has played a key role in launching careers of Nordic directors in North America and his book on Icelandic cinema “A History of Icelandic Film” (edited by Andrew Tracy), was published late 2019.

Lastly the San Sebastian Film Festival (Sept 16-24) which handed out two awards to Denmark’s As in Heaven last year, has again picked two Danish features for its competition sections. Both titles are sold by TrustNordisk.

  • Forever (Resten af livet) by Frelle Petersen will compete in the official selection for a Golden Shell. The life-affirming portrait of a family, as they mourn the loss of their eldest son and brother is produced by Zentropa, Petersen’s sophomore feature opened July 7 in Denmark to rave reviews.

  • The Great Silence by debut director Katrine Brock will be premiering in the Kutxabank-New Directors programme. The story of a young Sister (Kristine Kujath Thorp) haunted by her past is produced by Monolit Film. The domestic premiere is set for January 12, 2023.

Also selected for the New Directors’ section is the French/Icelandic/Belgian co-production Gran Marin by Dinara Drukarova about a young woman’s empowering experience on a fishing boat as she wins over the all-male crew with her strong will and courage. Marianne Slot and Carine LeBlanc are producing for Slot Machine France, with Icelandic producers Benedikt Erlingsson and Davíd Óskar Ólafsson. 

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