Haugesund: ‘Men,’ ‘Rams,’ ‘Daughter’ Screen at Fest’s New Nordic Films

List of completed titles at the mini-mart suggests a growing international profile

Anders Thomas Jensen’s “Men & Chicken,” Grimur Hakonarsson’s “Rams” and Kenneth Kainz’s “The Shamer’s Daughter” feature among 22 completed pics that will screen as part of 2015’s New Nordic Films, a mini-market hosted by Haugesund’s Norwegian Intl. Film Festival.

The 2015 New Nordic Films mini-market takes place Aug. 18-21. This year, of 22 film screenings, 16 will be market premieres, as part of an industry event that, since its launch in 1995, has consolidated as an important meeting place for everyone with a professional interest in Nordic films.

The NNF selection represents a variety of genres, is based on quality and aims to please a wide-ranging market in the Nordic countries and beyond. The list of pics screening at Haugesund’s mart suggests more international titles than previous editions, forefronting general themes, often concerned with conflicts and relations, according to Gyda Velvin Myklebust, NNF managing director.

Also, most of the films are original stories written for screen, she added.

Event’s highlights include “Men & Chicken,” a black-humor-laced comedy directed by Denmark’s Anders Thomas Jensen, who earned an Oscar in 1999 for short fiction film “Election Night,” and wrote Susan Bier’s 2010 Oscar foreign-language winner “In a Better World.”

Internationally sold by Denmark and New York-based LevelK, and Toronto-bound, “Men & Chicken” toplines Mads Mikkelsen as one of two outcast brothers who finds out through their father’s testament that they are adopted, and decide to jointly seek out their biological, father despite their disagreements.

Treading the same dark-humored path, Grimur Hakonarsson’s dramedy “Rams,” winner of Un Certain Regard prize at the 2015 Cannes Festival, centers on two brothers from a remote Icelandic farming valley who haven’t spoken in 40 years, but have to come together in order to save what’s dearest to them, their flock of sheep. Part of a trend of Nordic films with smaller budgets but international appeal, aimed at a special audience segment, “Rams” has been an international sales hit for Polish agency New Europe Film Sales, including deals in Germany (Arsenal Film) and the U.K. (Soda Pictures).

In “The Shanner’s Daughter,” Danish helmer Kenneth Kainz offers a high-profile fantasy/adventure pic based on Danish writer Lene Kaaberbol’s book “The Shamer Chronicles,” adapted for film by Anders Thomas Jensen. As a Denmark-Norway-Sweden-Iceland-Czech Republic co-production led by Copenhagen’s outfit Nepenthe Film, “The Shanner’s Daughter” illustrates the growing international ambitions of recent Nordic films. Sold by TrustNordisk, pic forms part of a series of three-to-four feature films, in which Kennethe Kainz is also attached to direct the next one.

The increase in Nordic cinema’s international profile “has to do with the financing structure of the films, as you need to have an international or at least original story to have international financing,” said Myklebust.

Like in other European territories, less public support and the lack of a DVD business are pushing Nordic production companies to board film projects with possibilities of reaching markets outside the country of origin.

Further smaller budget films with international appeal at this year’s NNF are the Versatile Films-sold “Sparrows,” a coming-of-age tale set in Iceland’s Westfjords, directed by Runar Runarsson (“Vulcano”), in competition at San Sebastian; and Pernilla August-starrer “White People,” Sweden’s Lisa Aschan’s follow-up to “She Monkeys,” on people fighting for survival after being locked away.

NNF will screen awaited feature debuts by Nordic filmmakers such as Magnus von Horn, whose minimalist drama “The Here After,” about the aftermath of a crime committed by a teen, played at Directors’ Fortnight Cannes, and Kjersti G. Steinsbo’s Norway-Canada co-production “The Good Sister,” a Beta Cinema pickup.

Pics by newcomers also include actor Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson’s “The Homecoming,” on an author of self-help books incapable of dealing with his own dilemma; Danish star Christian Tafdrup’s “Parents,” handled by TrustNordisk, about a couple that relocates to the apartment they lived in during their student years; and Norwegian writer-helmer Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken’s family drama “Returning Home.”

Further titles by Nordic auteurs encompass Joaquin Trier’s Isabelle Huppert vehicle “Louder Than Bombs,” a Cannes competitor sold by Memento Films Intl. and selected for Toronto, and the Haugesund fest closing film; Mikko Kuparinen’s compelling drama “2 Nights Till Morning,” starring Cannes winner Marie-Josee Croze (“The Barbarian Invasions”), handled by Wide; and Picture Tree Intl.’s “The Midwife,” Finn Antti J. Jokinen’s Lapland War-set love drama.

NNF will also showcase Arild Frohlich’s family pic “Doctor Proctor’s: Bubble in the Bathtub,” the most recent installment of a successful Norwegian film saga based on Jo Nesbo’s bestselling books, sold by TrustNordisk and produced by Maipo Films in collaboration with Germany’s Senator.

Of the 22 titles screening, three are documentaries: Aslaug Holm’s “Brothers,” about the relationship between director’s two sons over an eight-year period; vet Swedish filmmaker Stig Bjorkman’s “Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words” and Kari Anne Mo’s “Rebels,” a raw portrait of long-term unemployed youngsters who get a second chance.

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