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‘Sámi Blood’ Tops 40th Goteborg Film Festival

  Female talent amply awarded

GOTEBORG — Swedish helmer-writer Amanda Kernell’s debut feature “Sámi Blood” came away a big winner at the 40th Goteborg Film Festival, scoring the generously endowed (approx. $114,000) Dragon Award for Best Nordic Film.

“Sámi Blood” tells the story of a teenage Sámi girl, Elle Marja (Lene Cecilia Sparrok), who resolves to leave behind her Sámi identity and find a new life in Uppsala during the 1930s. The film, recently acquired for U.S. release by Synergistic Distribution, also claimed the Sven Nykvist Cinematography Award for DoP Sophia Olsson.

The Swedish premiere of “Sámi Blood” capped the fest’s special focus on Sámi filmmaking. Kernell, who is herself of Sámi heritage, will soon screen the film for Sámi elders in Lapland. The fest also world-preemed Kernell’s excellent 30-minute short “I Will Always Love You Conny” in a showcase of five new films funded by Moving Sweden’s micro-budget scheme.

The audience award for best Nordic film went to “Beyond Dreams,” a vivid feature debut from Sweden’s Rojda Sekersöz. Set in the impoverished suburbs and focusing on young women of color, it challenges other cinematic portrayals of females in a group. Sekersöz also scored the Swedish Church’s Angelos Award, which comes with a cash prize worth about $5,700. Meanwhile, fest honoree Lone Scherfig’s English-language title “Their Finest” claimed the audience nod for best feature.

Obaidah Zytoon and Andreas Dalsgaard took the Nordic documentary kudo for the Danish production “The War Show,” in which radio journalist Zytoon personally and engagingly relates how the Arab Spring and the on-going Syrian war affected her and her friends.

The Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award went to Sandra Wollner’s German-Austrian co-production “The Impossible Picture,” a bold story told with a unique cinematic language about a teenage girl suffering from polio in 1950s Vienna and her grandmother, a backroom abortionist.

Popular fest opener “Tom of Finland,” helmed by Dome Karuskoski, received the Fipresci critics’ nod for its portrayal of the groundbreaking illustrator and gay icon, while the Lorens award for best producer went to Anton Máni Svansson, Lise Orheim Stender, Jesper Morthorst and Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson for the poignant Icelandic coming-of-ager “Heartstone.”

For bravely documenting her struggle with depression and panic disorder in “Fragility,” Iranian-born Swedish director Ahang Bashi received both the City of Goteborg award and the Mai Zetterling Artist Foundation Stipend. Finally, Swedish animator Niki Lindroth von Bahr nabbed both the juried and audience choice kudo for best short film with “The Burden.”

The packed-beyond-capacity works-in-progress screenings for the international industry at the fest’s indispensable Nordic Film Market signaled that Nordic talents will shine at other fests in 2017. Eagerly anticipated titles include Swedish auteur Ruben Ostland’s “The Square,” veteran Finnish director Aku Louhiemies’ take on Finland’s classic novel “The Unknown Soldier,” Danish helmer Janus Metz’s spin on the famous tennis rivals “Borg/McEnroe” and “The Real Estate” from Måns Månsson and Axel Petersén, the Swedish helmers responsible for “Avalon.”

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