GOTEBORG — The 20th Nordic Film Market, held parallel to the Göteborg Film Festival, closed Sunday after three days of screenings and pitchings of 48 Nordic films and projects. Following, five key takeaways or trends:
STANDOUT NORDIC BRAND QUALITY
An excellent crop, better than 2018, with a large diversity of content, catering to arthouse/mainstream as well as local/international audiences – these were prevailing reactions from international buyers and programmers polled yesterday in Göteborg. A senior A festival programmer – who asked to remain anonymous- even said: “Today the Nordics are perhaps the strongest region in Europe creatively across TV drama, feature and documentary film.”
Although most titles had already been snatched by the big Nordic sellers – TrustNordisk, LevelK, New Europe Film Sales, The Yellow Affair, SF Studios – a dozen small offers in post, or in development at the Discovery section, still open for negotiations, made the Göteborg stop-over – fully worthwhile for the 25-plus sales reps in attendance.
“Discovery is where I acquired Ninja Thyberg’s debut “Jessica” two years ago,” noted Versatile Film Sales’ Pape Boye. The picture, about a young Swede’s odyssey in the adult film industry in L.A., was one of the most anticipated pic initially lined up for the works in progress, but producer Erik Hemmendorff of Ruben Östlund’s Plattform, and Boye preferred to hold it until Berlin.
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The strikingly high number of female directors -21 out of 48 films – was singled out by many attendees, such as Locarno Festival programmer Daniela Persico who said: “Female voices are bringing a different point of view, perhaps simpler and more human, [but] still loaded with relevant political or social messages.”
ICELAND’S BREAKOUT YEAR
The smallest of the five Nordic nations was out en force in the Works in Progress with three pictures from a trio of its most acclaimed auteurs that left the confab’s audience hungry for more.
In Grimur Hákonarson’s “Rams” follow-up, “The County,” about a female dairy farmer fighting corruption and injustice, a clip run by producer Grimar Jonsson at Netop Films showed Inga (star Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir) attack the local co-op with jets of milk sprayed from a tractor-trailered tank.
New footage from “A White, White Day” by “Winter Brothers”’ Hlynur Pálmason, hinted at a striking performance from Ingvar E. Sigurðsson’s as an off-duty police officer, grieving the loss of his wife, whose obsessions start to endanger himself and his loved ones.
“The film is a continuation of Hlynur’s earlier work, with a striking visual experience, but also a stronger narrative,” said producer Anton Máni Svansson, at Join Motion Picture.
Meanwhile, “Volcano” helmer Rúnar Rúnarsson revealed that his upcoming “Echo” will consist of 59 scenes, or moments set around Christmas, in which “society” is the main character, with every actor (mostly non-professionals) playing themselves. With this semi-fiction/docu work, Rúnarsson said he wants to “capture reality and make people forget they are watching a movie.”
“The County”, “A White, White Day,” sold by New Europe Film Sales, and “Echo,” represented by Jour2Fête, should be ready in time for Cannes.
Besides the three Icelandic arthouse productions, other buzz titles up for grabs were “A Perfectly Normal Family” by Danish newcomer Malou Reymann, a personal picture about an 11-year-old girl trying to deal with her transgender father, as well as “Disco” by Norway’s up-and-coming Jorunn Myklebust Syversen (“The Tree Feller”) starring “Skam”’s Josefine Frida Pettersen. The Mer Film pic turns on a young disco girl’s dangerous slide into religious fundamentalism. Of other titles, “The Domestique,” by Jannicke Systad Jacobsen (“Turn Me On Goddammit!”), about a female cyclist involved in a doping scandal, caught attention for its clever mix of drama and comedy. Another visually striking work was Finnish pic “Dogs Don’t Wear Pants” by Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää, just picked up by The Yellow Affair.
The more mainstream “438 Days” by Sweden’s Jesper Ganslandt, about two Swedish journalists’ 438 day-ordeal in Ethiopian prisons, proved a hot property from SF Studios.
At the Nordic Film Market screenings, one favorite was May el-Toukhy’s triple Göteborg award-winning “Queen of Hearts,” (which scored best Nordic film, acting -Trine Dyrholm and Audience Award), segueing from Sundance where it picked up Sundance’s Audience Prize. Also sparking good word of mouth was Miia Tervo’s Göteborg fest opener “Aurora”, Ulaa Salim’s “Sons of Denmark”, Frederikke Aspöck’s ”Out of Tune”, Mads Brügger’s “Cold Case Hammarskjöld “(which won best director at Sundance’s World Cinema Documentary), and Måns Mårlind/Björn Stein’s “Swoon.”
TV DRAMA BOOM SHIFTING ATTENDANCE
No sales were announced during Nordic Film Market, viewed more as pre-Berlin warm up and window display for upcoming Nordic content. Sales agent Karoliina Dwyer (The Yellow Affair) said the pre-sales market is practically dead (with a few exceptions) and buyers “take more time to close negotiations”. But the overall positive reaction from buyers left sellers bullish about Berlin business prospects.
Commenting, however, on the slimmer industry crowd at Sunday’s Works in Progress session, head of industry Cia Edström said: “This year it seems that people have tried to combine TV Drama Vision (held Wednesday/Thursday) with the Nordic Film Market (Friday/Saturday).”
“We’ve had record high numbers at the TV Drama forum (more than 360 attendees), which reflects the buoyancy of the drama sector, but we’ve also had the same volume of attendees at Nordic Film Market,” said Edtröm who might consider next year cutting down the number of market screenings on the final Sunday.
Pictured: “438 Days,”; then top to bottom: “A Perfectly Normal Family,” “The County,” “Disco.”