Now in its 36th year, the Goteborg Intl. Film Festival is more than just Scandinavia’s biggest fest venue and marketplace. For the third year the Swedish event is also showcasing one of the fest circuit’s most money-fueled prizes: The Dragon Award for Nordic film, worth 1 million Swedish krona ($115,000), intended exclusively for one of eight Nordic features.

Previous winners include Tomas Alfredson’s “Let the Right One In,” Lisa Aschan’s “She Monkeys” and Tobias Lindholm and Michael Noer’s “R: Hit First, Hit Hardest.”

This year the former Danish film duo is represented by one pic each: Lindholm by his acclaimed “A Hijacking,” recently picked up by Magnolia for North American release; Noer helmed the violent Copenhagen drama “Nordvest.”

Still, it’s neither Denmark nor Sweden that seem to be in the main spotlight at GIFF 2013. It’s Norway, which traditionally has been overshadowed by its two Scandinavian neighbors. Norwegian film is now truly picking up the fight, showcasing a record 17 films at Goteborg.

Norway’s most expensive and the biggest hit at the domestic box office to date, Oscar-nommed “Kon-Tiki,” by directors-producers Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg, will launch the festival. With almost 1 million admissions at local cinemas, “Kon-Tiki” easily outperformed the latest James Bond pic domestically and sold to 50 countries.

Even though “Kon-Tiki” will screen out of competition in Goteborg, three other Norwegian pics will qualify toward the Dragon: Dag Johan Haugerud’s “I Belong.” Sara Johnsen’s “All That Matters Is Past” and Hisham Zaman’s “Before Snowfall.”

“It is quite obvious that Norwegian film, already taking many steps forward in recent years, is about to make further progress,” says Goteborg director Marit Kapla.

Many fest pics are heavily rooted in nature and landscape. They include Iceland’s Oscar entry, Balthazar Kormakur’s “The Deep”; and “Sanctuary” by Swedish sophomore helmer Fredrik Edfeldt, who replicates several elements from his award-winning debut “The Girl,” also released in the U.S.

“What almost all films have in common is that they try to give nuances to a harsh reality, perspectives that the audience might otherwise not pay attention to,” Kapla says. “Some films strive for realism, many of them based on real events; others go beyond realism to create a world of their own.”

Another fest initiative is the highlighting of Nordic docs, which over the past years have attracted a lot of attention worldwide, from small-scale projects to such big hits as the recently Oscar shortlisted “Searching for Sugar Man,” helmed by Swedish journalist Malik Bendjelloul.

“We have always displayed a large number of Nordic docs. This year we’ll take it one step further in creating a Dragon Award for best Nordic documentary,” Kapla says. “In doing this we want to strengthen the Nordic profile even more.”

Another part of this year’s program that Kapla is especially proud of is the Inside Iran section, showcasing Iranian titles made inside and beyond the country after the Green Revolution in 2009. The section is curated by the Rotterdam Film Festival through an agreement between the two fests.

“Most cultural organizations nowadays have to do with lesser means, yet unique films deserve to be shown over and over again,” Kapla says, implying that festival programming — at least beyond A-fests — is more and more about creative distribution rather than offering absolute exclusivity.

What does Goteborg prioritize: the satisfaction of local auds’ expectations, or its competition with other fests?

“Both are equally important,” Kapla replies. “The ambition is to be the link between the two” and to show local auds quality pics from around the world. To do this “you have to attract filmmakers to sold-out theaters and provide a conversation between audience and filmmaker.”

Following many successful festivals in recent years, with sold-out theaters at an early stage, this edition will see audience capacity increase by 25% to 250,000 tickets, and the number of venues grow from 17 to 23. At one point during the fest all of them will be screening films simultaneously — proof that Scandinavia’s biggest and most accessible fest is growing stronger. n


Life DeluxeSweden, part 3 in “Easy Money” trilogy, Jens Jonsson director, Tre Vanner production
Monica Zetterlund – Lingonberry Branch in a Cocktail GlassSweden, Per Fly director, Stellanova production
The ShooterDenmark, Annette K. Olesen director, Nordisk Film production
Spies & GlistrupDenmark, Christoffer Boe director, Alphaville production
UsSweden, Mani Maserrat director, Sonet production
The Weight of ElephantsNew Zealand/Denmark, Daniel Borgman director, Severe Features, Three Birds, Zentropa Entertainments production


Haifaa Al Mansour’s Venice-prized “Wadjda”
Georg Maas’ “Two Lives,” featuring Liv Ullmann.
Margarethe von Trotta will receive the Honorary Dragon Award. She and ex-husband Volker Schlondorff will give master classes.
Lectures by Aardman animator Peter Lord, French filmmaker Olivier Assayas and Austrian helmer Ulrich Seidl
Sweden’s Roy Andersson will show four minutes from his “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” set for release in 2014.
Titles nommed for Swedish short include new works by Babak Najafi (“Easy Money 2”) and helming duo Johannes Stjarne Nilsson and Ola Simonsson (“Sound of Noise”).
Laffers will unspool in a new section called the Divine Comedy. They include Graf Hofmeyr’s “Mad Buddies” (South Africa), Hideki Takeuchi’s “Thermae Romae” (Japan) and Robert Sarkies’ “Two Little Boys” (New Zealand).
Gala screenings: Sacha Gervasi’s “Hitchcock,” Mira Nair’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” and Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina”

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