HAUGESUND, Norway — Iceland’s “A White, White Day,” Denmark’s “Queen of Hearts” and Norway’s “Blind Spot” are among the five films that will compete for this year’s Nordic Council Film Prize, a prestigious film award aimed at promoting Nordic co-operation and environmental initiatives.
Sweden’s “Reconstructing Utøya” and Finland’s “Aurora” help round out the list, which was announced on Tuesday evening, during the opening of the New Nordic Films market at the Haugesund Film Festival.
Given on a permanent basis since 2005, the award includes a cash prize of DKK 350,000 ($52,000) and will be attributed on October 29 as part of the Nordic Council Autumn Session in Stockholm. Previous winners include Joachim Trier’s “Louder than Bombs,” Benedikt Erlingsson’s “Of Horses and Men,” Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt,” Dagur Kari’s “Virgin Mountain,” Pernilla August’s “Beyond” and Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist,” among others.
In order to qualify, all five films had to be released between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, and each selection was named by a three member national jury.
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“The nominated films must have deep roots in Nordic culture, be of high artistic quality, distinguish themselves by their artistic originality, and combine and elevate the many elements of film into a compelling and holistic work of art,” said the Nordic Council in a press release.
Written and directed by Hlynur Pálmason and produced by Anton Máni Svansson, “A White, White Day” launched out of Cannes’ Critics’ Week sidebar this past May. The story of a middle-aged police offer dealing with grief, the film will make its North American premiere in Toronto, and has seen brisk sales in over twenty territories, including a just-announced deal with Film Movement for the U.S.
Director May el-Toukhy’s “Queen of Hearts,” which tackles the uncomfortable relationship between a middle-aged woman and her stepson, began its strong festival run in early 2019, winning the audience award at Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Subsequently, the film won another audience award in Göteborg, where it also claimed trophies for best actress, best Nordic film, and a best director prize in Transilvania.
A mental health drama told in one unbroken take, Tuva Novotny’s “Blind Spot” played both Toronto and San Sebastian in 2018. Star Pia Tjelta has received much acclaim for her turn as a mother on the brink, winning prizes for best actress in San Sebastian last year and at Norway’s Amanda Awards this past Saturday.
Miia Tervo’s “Aurora” opened the Göteborg Film Festival in 2019, and then went on to play SXSW, Oslo Pix and Edinburgh. With her feature debut, the Finnish director offered a female-centric romantic comedy that sought to reframe traditional depictions of young womanhood. “I’ve never seen a Finnish film with a young and single woman in a leading role who is misbehaving and has flaws,” she told Variety in February. “The main thing for me was to get the audience to feel empathy and tenderness towards Aurora, the main character, who is flawed and goofy but so authentic that people would find commonalities.”
With “Reconstructing Utøya,” director Carl Javér brought together four survivors, twelve curious youths, and one psychologist to work through and reconstruct the unspeakable events of July 22 2011.
“With intelligence, acute sensitivity, and deep respect for the survivors, director Carl Javér has tackled this Nordic trauma head on,” wrote the Nordic Council selection committee. “The result is something so gripping and engaging that it borders on the unbearable. Together with the young people in front of the camera, he has created a secure and permissive space where the interaction between the contributors and their respect for and trust in each other simply beams compassion out into the world.”