1995 Could Well Be Dandy For Scandi Filmmakers

Scandi movie mavens say 1994 was hardly a vintage year, but if a raft of new films due for release in coming months is any indication, 1995 is shaping up to be a showcase for top Nordic talent. Along those lines, the region’s low-key presence in the Berlinale’s main sections could be deceptive.

Only one film, director Marius Hoist’s coming-of-age tale, “Cross My Heart and Hope to Die,” from Nordic Screen Development, makers of “The Telegraphist,” is in competition.

Iceland’s “Sky Palace,” directed by Thorsteinn Jonsson, and Jannik Hastrup’s Danish toon, “The Monkeys and the Secret Weapon,” show up in the Berlinale’s kidfest, but at press time, no entries were skedded for Panorama or Forum.

However, recent and upcoming releases show a vigorous mix of both veteran and younger talent from across the region. Bo Widerberg returns with his first pic in seven years, the cross-generational love story “All Things Fair”; Vilgot Sjoman is shooting his Alfred Nobel biopic, “Alfred”; and Henning Carlsen has returned to the works of Knut Hamsun with “Two Green Feathers,” from the novel “Pan.”

Other names with new works coming down the pike include Iceland’s Fridrik Thor Fridriksson (the Japanese-Icelandic road movie “Cold Fever”), Finland’s Mika Kaurismaki (“Condition Red”), and Liv Ullmann, with her long-in-the-works costumer “Kristin Lavransdatter,” set to be one of the region’s highest-profile pix of the year.

Among others:

* Norway: Leidulv Risan’s “The Sunset Boys” and Hans Petter Moland’s “Zero Degrees Kalvin.”

* Sweden: Ake Sandgren’s “Big and Small Men”; Susanne Bier’s “Oskar’s Boarding House”; the recently released Kristian Petri pic, “Between Summers”; Colin Nutley’s follow-up, “House of Angels: The Second Summer”; and Mats Arehn’s “White Lies.”

* Finland: Markku Polonen’s “The Village” and Kaisa Rastimo’s “Bittersweet.”

* Denmark: Carsten Sonders’ “Love Me, Love Me Not”; Jon Bang Carlsen’s teen drama, “Carmen & Babyface”; and the portmanteau “Love and Hate – European Stories, ” helmed by five Euro directors.

* Iceland: Johann Sigmarsson’s freewheeling comedy “One Big Happy Family,” Hilmar Oddsson’s composer bio “Tears of Stone” and Gisli Snaer Erlingsson’s “Benjamin Dove.”

What’s kicked in the new wave of product and talent is a change of money and attitude. Across the Nordic territories, funding outfits have streamlined and are now looking hard at what sells.

In Sweden, a percentage of all B.O. receipts now goes directly into a film-fund kitty, after which a panel of film experts decides to whom it should be doled out. Previously, a film which creeped toward commercialism could edge itself out of the competition. Now, it’s a plus.

Ditto for Norwegian filmers, says Jan Erik Hoist, production and international relations topper at the Norwegian Film Institute. Hoist also sits on the board of the Nordic Film & TV Fund, one of the primary backers of films across the region.

“We’ve tried to change the point of view as to how films are selected, to combine box office appeal with artistic quality,” Hoist says. He adds the new thinking is a plus for marketing Scandi film, but could be a drawback at artsy fests like Berlin.

Holst and Gunnar Carlsson of the Swedish Film Institute feel last year’s Nordic crop may have fallen victim to the changing of the guard. Says Carlsson, “This year will be a child of the new subsidy system. Last year fell between the cracks, before the new system was fully implemented.”

New statutes at the Nordic Film & TV Fund are part of the current pragmatism in marketing Scandi product. However, so far they are proving more controversial than effective.

The Swedish Film Institute is so irritated over new articles which require TV as well as movie distribs to be found before a project is funded that it’s refused to sign the Fund’s new five-year agreement.

Without Sweden’s participation, the Fund, which produces about $10 million a year to back Nordic projects, could be in serious trouble.

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