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Amateurs’ Tops the Goteborg Film Fest

Female talent amply rewarded

GOTEBORG, Sweden — Vibrant festival opener “Amateurs” from Swedish helmer Gabriela Pichler came away a big winner at the 41st Goteborg Film Festival, scoring the generously endowed (approx. $126,000) Dragon Award for Best Nordic Film. The film also nabbed the Swedish Church’s Angelos Award, which includes an additional cash prize.

Pichler’s sophomore feature is set in a small, in decline, Swedish town once known for its textile factory and tannery. Two high school friends use cellphones to capture their version of local life. As in her feature debut “Eat Sleep Die,” Pichler mixes social commentary and poignant humor and makes engaging use of affecting, non-pro performers.

The audience award for best Nordic film went to Norway’s “What Will People Say” from director-writer Iram Haq. It’s a compelling coming-of-ager in which a Norwegian teen clashes with the traditional values of her Pakistani émigré parents.

The festival audience voted the Dragon Award for Best International Film to “Men Don’t Cry” from Bosnian helmer-writer Alen Drljevic. In this volatile drama, set some 20 years after the armed conflict in former Yugoslavia, a diverse group of veterans gathers at a remote mountain hotel for a multi-day therapy session.

Danish helmer Simon Lereng Wilmont took the Nordic documentary kudo and a purse of approx. $12,634 for “The Distant Barking Of Dogs,” a sensitive, observational Denmark-Sweden-Finland co-production. The film shows the on-going Ukraine-Russia conflict through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy, whose village home is just one kilometer from the Donbass frontline.

The Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award went to the lyrically directed coming-of-ager “Menina” by Cristina Pinheiro, a French helmer of Portuguese heritage. It centers on a 10-year-old, born and raised in the south of France and her relationship with her immigrant parents.

Following her win last year for “Sami Blood,” Swedish DoP Sophia Olsson claimed the Sven Nykvist Cinematography Award for the second time in a row for her work on Milad Alami’s Danish drama “The Charmer.”

The impressively acted social-realist drama “And Breathe Normally” from Iceland’s Isold Uggadóttir received the Fipresci critics’ nod. It follows a struggling Icelandic single mother who forms an unlikely bond with a female asylum seeker from Guinea Bissau.

While the festival prizes’ amply rewarding female talent highlight the Nordic countries successful push for gender parity in filmmaking, so, too, did the selections of the Nordic Film Market and its invaluable works-in-progress sessions. Among the eagerly-anticipated titles pitched to the industry audience were the docu “Bergman – A Year In A Life” from Bergman expert Jane Magnusson, “Anna Odell Untitled,” the sophomore feature of the titular Swedish artist, comedies “Happy People” and “That Time Of Year” from Danish actresses-turned-directors Hella Joof and Paprika Steen respectively, and Anne Sewitsky’s bio-pic of Sonja Henie, the ice skating sensation-turned-Hollywood star.

CREDIT: Ola Kjelbye

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