SCANDINAVIAN FILM FESTIVAL IN REVIEW
Scandinavia - culturally comprised of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark - has produced some of the most iconic films ever made.
From the masterpieces of Ingmar Bergman, to the back-to-basics guerrilla-style filmmaking of the Dogme 95 revolution, to the contemporary and transnational diversity of Nordic cinema. Luna Palace has and continues to be the proud presenter of this festival, created to offer a dedicated focus to a culture that has been under-represented in Australia.
Recently, we were fortunate to preview Amanda Kernell’s Sami Blood. The dramatic film explores the systematic removal of indigenous Sami children from their parents that occurred in Scandinavia over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Set in the 1930s, we followed the reindeer herder Sami girl Elle Marja (Lene Cecilia Sparrok, a real-life reindeer herder).
Elle Marja is forcibly removed from her family and sent to a state boarding school that teaches the Swedish language and culture, enforcing the idea that their Sami culture is wrong. While there, Elle Marja is confronted with a difficult decision: remain with her people, or reject her culture, become Swedish, and start a new life.
Sami Blood blends the struggles of growing up within the rarely depicted cultural context of Sweden’s oppression of Sami people, events that are familiar within the context of Australian history. Touching on similar themes as seen in Reindeer in My Sami Heart (Scandi FF 2016), Kernell, a Sami person herself, shows the struggle her family faced as they were forced to abandon their culture, some even growing to reject it altogether.
The film far exceeded my expectations. Which is no wonder, as it has picked up a plethora of international film fest awards. You can watch the trailer here.
Coming up this Wednesday 26 July, there will be a special presentation of FIPRESCI prize winner TOM OF FINLAND, the superb biography of the man behind the iconic signature ‘Tom of Finland’, which became a notorious emblem of an entire generation of men, and a globally identified symbol of their freedom and sexual liberation.
After suffering from the trauma of WWII, Touko Laaksonen (Pekka Strang, Armi Alive! Scandi FF 2015) finds no peace at home in Finland, a country where homosexuality is illegal. With the help of his sister (Jessica Grabowsky, Midnight Sun), Touko finds work in an advertising agency, but becomes worn down by his inability to express his desires. Touko spends his nights drawing his fantasies instead; men with strong jawlines, clad in uniform and - frequently - leather. The sketches eventually draw worldwide attention, though not without a risk of persecution.
A worthy and humane homage to one of Finland's most unorthodox international heroes, this striking and compelling production is an essential portrait of artistic defiance and rebellion.
Guests will enjoy a Red Finnish vodka cocktail, IKEA treats, plus music and life drawing on arrival followed by Dome Karukoski’s FIPRESCI Prize winning and highly anticipated biopic on the acclaimed and revolutionary artist Touko Laaksonen, aka Tom of Finland. After the film, ticket-holders are invited to Connections Night Club, where they will receive free entry and a glass of bubbly on arrival. More information can be found here.
The standout film of the season is undoubtedly The King's Choice.
Based on extraordinary true events, and one of the eight shortlisted films for the 2017 Best Foreign Language Academy Award, Erik Poppe’s superbly realised box office hit is an absorbing story of morality and honour set during a pivotal moment in World War II, when an unprepared Norway was invaded by German forces and their monarch presented with a terrible ultimatum.
With the time for mediation between Norway’s passive government and the Nazi’s envoy (Karl Markovics) fast running out, and an attempted coup by collaborator Vidkun Quisling underway, King Haakon (Jesper Christensen, giving a towering performance) is faced with a momentous choice: should he recognise Quisling as Prime Minister to prevent bloodshed, or abdicate in the hope of inspiring civilian and military resistance, even with the loss of life that that would entail?
With spectacular production design on a scale that rivals the seminal war dramas of Spielberg and Boorman, The King’s Choice is a commanding, full-blooded epic. Brilliantly depicting the machinations, principles and personal fallout of conflict, it’s a gripping and resonant account of history at a turning point, from a previously untold perspective. The film is screening on Saturday 29, July at 3:45 PM and Tuesday 1, August at 6:30 PM.
On Monday 31 July, there will be a "blitz chess" competition ahead of the 6.30pm screening of Magnus at Cinema Paradiso. The film is an intimate portrait of the game's reigning champ Magnus Carlesen. Directed by Norwegian journalist Benjamin Ree, we follow Magnus’s journey over a ten-year period as he goes from thirteen-year-old chess grandmaster to twenty-three-year-old World Chess Champion.
Closing out the festival will be the premier of Ivica Zubak’s A Hustler's Diary on Wednesday 2 August 2017. The film was a crowd favourite at the Rotterdam Film Festival, and features a breakout performance by star/co-writer Can Demirtas as an unlikely hero: a petty criminal of Turkish descent who still lives with his widowed mother Fatma (Selma Caglar) and adoring teenage brother Emre (Toni-Prince Tvrtkovic) in the concrete projects of Jordbro.
The fest has so many incredible films on offer! Be sure to catch a few before it's over! Head to the festival's website for more details.