The 13th SCANDINAVIAN FILM FESTIVAL L.A. (SFFLA) offers a smorgasbord of Nordic cinema at the Writers Guild Theater (135 S. Doheny/at Wilshire) in Beverly Hills January 7, 8, 14, 15. The program focuses on the five Nordic Oscar submissions in the context of additional current feature films, shorts and documentaries from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The annual immersion course in Nordic film is part of the crescendo of film activity leading up to Academy Award nominations and the Awards themselves.
Opening day, Saturday Jan 7 begins with Finnish Director Juha Wuolijokiʼs feature film “Christmas Story.” Itʼs a film for “kids of all ages” and is preceded by a Norwegian animated short “The Last NorwegianTroll.” “Labrador (Out of Bounds)” from Danish Director Frederikke Aspock follows. “A cinematic chamber play under the open skies” the work wrestles with humanityʼs efforts to keep up appearances, and clumsy ways of dealing with secrets.
The day continues with an entertaining exploration of issues of gender and of justice– identity and isolation. A delightful Norwegian short, Bald Guy sets the tone, followed by a Norwegian documentary Gender Me. Then comes the Norwegian Oscar submission Happy, Happy from Norwegian filmmaker Anne Sewitsky, whose directorial debut made her a World Cinema Jury Winner at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. The festival opening gala leads into the evening with a reception and buffet preceding a screening of the Swedish Oscar entry– Beyond. Know for her on- screen work, the film is Pernilla Augustʼs directorial debut and stars among others Noomi Rapace who garnered attention for her work as The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo, in the Millennium Trilogy.
Day two– January 8– doesnʼt depart from issues of gender and justice as the day “kicks off” with the Norwegian documentary “A Balloon for Allah” from Director Nefise Ozkal Lorentzen. Icelandʼs Oscar submission follows as “Volcano” from Director Runar Runarsson smolders, rumbles and erupts on the screen. Premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, it has been called “a mature and emotionally devastating film directed with extraordinary sensitivity.”
The day continues with a special screening of an American film from Finnish Director Renny Harlin. Harlin, who is at home in Hollywood, is an American success story with many blockbuster films. He will present his film “Five Days of War” and be “on board” for Q & A. The screening is in conjunction with Cinema Without Borders. Harlin will be the recipient of the Cinema Without Borders Award. Next in line is the Finnish Oscar submission “Le Havre” from the inimitable Aki Kaurismaki. Is it any wonder in a global world that the Finnish Oscar submission is a film in French!?
The day comes to a comic climax with the Danish Oscar submission Superclasico from Director Ole Christian Madsen. Known both on-screen and as a director, Paprika Steen stars in the mad-cap film about a Danish wife and mother who absconds to Buenos Aires to become a sports agent and falls in love with one of Argentinaʼs biggest futbol stars, where she is pursued by her estranged husband, who is determined to win her back. “The film is risible proof that all Nordic films are dark and dreary!” says SFFLA Founder/Director James Koenig.
On Saturday January 14, the second week-end unreels with “A Journey in my Motherʼs Footsteps” from Danish director Dina Rosenmeier. The director sets out on a journey in the footsteps of her mother Jessie Rosenmeier who since the 1970ʼs has worked as an activist to improve the lives of orphans and street children in India. Next up is an Icelandic feature film “Either Way,” the feature film debut of Director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson. The film which took top prize at the Turin Film Festival is said to be reminiscent of Aki Kaurismakiʼs early style–“at one and the same time” comic,naive, and semi-surrealistic. A Finnish historic period piece follows with Juha Wuolijokiʼs “Hella W.” a biopic about a complex and widely talented Finnish woman of influence who as entrepreneur, playwright and politician collaborated with the likes of Bertold Brecht and Maxim Gorky and was ostracized by Finlandʼs intelligentsia, which disliked the popularity and incendiary politics of her plays, which are now regarded as modern classics.
The afternoon continues with Finnish director Zaida Bergrothʼs “The Good Son,” the story of a an actress, who after a scandalous premier takes refuge at the old family summerhouse with her two sons. After a raucous week-end party one guest stays on to arouse– in one, love, in another, suspicion.
The evening starts with the presentation of the now annual SWEA (Swedish Womenʼs Educational Association) film grant. This yearʼs recipient, Hanna Andersson, will be awarded the grant and offer her short– Erika & Sally to the SFFLA audience. Finally, the day ends with “A Rational Solution” from Swedish Director Jorgen Bergmark, whose film is described as “Two-thirds belly-laugh comedy to one-third precisely observed tragedy…a smart, funny film made for adults that focuses on passion between middle aged protagonists– one of whom played by Pernilla August whose directorial debut (Beyond) is the Swedish Oscar submission.
Sunday Jan 15 begins with a beautiful Swedish feature documentary “Women and Cows.” Director Peter Gerdehag shows that also in film making “the cream rises.” Once the cows are out to pasture, the day continues with “Epoca” a short by Danish born Soren Hellerup leading into a Danish feature film “Room 304,” Birgitte Staermoseʼs multi-plot drama which revolves around a mysterious gunshot resonating in the hallways of a Copenhagen hotel. Finnish director Johann Karentoʼs short “Liv” leads us into the incredible Finnish feature film “Priest of Evil” from Director Oli Saarela, following a serial killer with incredible performances from Peter Franzen and Irina Bjorklund whose work is well know to SFFLA audiences. Then itʼs “Headhunters” from Norway and Director Morten Tyldum in which an accomplished headhunter risks everything to obtain a valuable painting owned by a former mercenary.
The festival wraps up with Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nilssonʼs award winning Swedish-French comedy-crime film “Sound of Noise.” It tells the story of a group of musicians who illegally perform music on objects in various institutions of a city. The film is a follow up on a 2001 short screened at SFFLA call Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers. The title comes from the Italian futurist Luigi Russoloʼs 1913 manifesto The Art of Noises.
Parent organization of Scandinavian Film Festival is the American Scandinavian Foundation of Los Angeles. Support for the festival includes individuals, organizations, and corporate sponsorship, with the assistance of The Danish Film Institute, Swedish Film Institute, the Norwegian Film Institute, the Finnish Film Foundation, and the Icelandic Film Centre. The festival is proud to partner with ELMA—European Languages and Movies in America, the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, SWEA (Swedish Womenʼs Educational Association), the Royal Norwegian Consulate, and the Finnish Consulate, with help from the local honorary Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Icelandic Consulates in the concerted effort to bring Nordic film culture to the Los Angeles/Hollywood cultural scene.
For further information, and a complete schedule of all films and events, and information on becoming a donor or purchasing tickets, log on to www.sffla.net or www.scandinavianfilmfestivalla.com or call 323-661-4273