The Norwegian International Film Festival kicked off on Saturday its 49th edition in the coastal town of Haugesund, an occasion for industry filmgoers and Nordic film aficionados to discover new projects from the region’s top talent.
One of festival’s highlights is its Next Nordic Generation– a selection of the best graduation short films from various Nordic film schools.
10 shorts were selected this year made by creatives perceived as some of the region’s filmmakers of tomorrow.
Three of the films come from Westerdals, Kristiania University College in Oslo, Norway, another trio from Aalto ELO Film School in Helsinki, Finland, and two each from HDK-Valand at the University of Göteborg, Sweden and The National Film School of Denmark in Copenhagen. This means that – with the exception of Iceland – all countries from the Nordic region are represented.
This selection was made by a jury of Håkon Skogrand, a former program manager for the Norwegian Film Festival, producer Khalid Maimouni and musician and filmmaker Elle Márjá Eira. The whole process was overseen by Christian Høkaas, assistant program director at The Norwegian International Film Festival.
With films touching on themes ranging from coming-of-age, complex family dynamics, exile, migration, and sexuality, Høkaas told Variety that various societal issues from the Nordic countries are “quite well illustrated” in these films, and show “various types of talent.”
Høkaas noted the disparity in the selected films. For example, “When the Mill Hill Trees Spoke to Me” and “Death, Dictates Silence” are both made by students from the same film school in Sweden. Yet they tackle very different issues – the first focuses more on nature, is slower and nostalgic, while the second, about an Afghan refugee, has obvious political undertones.
Considering that these films were made by students, it seems no coincidence that many center on youth, teen years and childhood. There are two stand-out animated shorts: “Favorite Daughter” and “I Don’t Have Time For This,” selected from many submitted. They were both made by graduate students from The National Film School of Denmark, which Høkaas says produces some amazing experimental animated films experiment that take the genre to new heights.
All other films are live action but also all of them turn on coming-of-age narrative exploring issues like controlling parents (“Mother’s Wrath”), emotional goodbyes in transitional periods (“Goodbye Tornio”), sadistic love stories brought to the extreme (“Mad from the Sun”), made-up war games to protect childhood friendship bonds (“Burn!”), teen pregnancy in an unsupportive family (“Fittefaen”) and how masculinity can confront sexual orientation (“Pecking Order”).
These films explore youth culture in the Nordic countries via various styles, with compelling cinematography set in cities and nature. All of them, however, engage with the story material in authentic and original ways.
Høkaas tells Variety that this selection of new exciting Nordic filmmakers underscores the continuing trend of Nordic cinema to place young people as central characters. In doing so, filmmakers often position the stories from a child’s perspective, inspired by other stand-out contemporary works from the region, like “Let the Right One In” and “Becoming Astrid.”
“They have been inspired by general Scandinavian cinema trends,” Høkaas says. “There’s a lot of films with good child acting, seeing movies through the eyes of the children and supporting characters – highlighting them in a way that they become the eyes of the audience in a way.”
The films will be screened in Haugesund in the presence of the directors on Wednesday Aug. 25. The award ceremony the following day will see the best film winner receiving 10,000 Norwegian Krone ($1,109). Here is the full list of the 10 graduation shorts included in Haugesund’s 2021 Next Nordic Generation strand.
“Mother’s Wrath,” (“Perintö”; dir: Tuuli Sirkeinen; producer: Janne Lähteenmäki; Finland)
“Goodbye Tornio,” (“Hei Hei Tornio”; dir: Emilia Hernesniemi; prod: Eveliina Mauno; Finland)
“Mad from the Sun,” (“Auringonpistos”; dir: Anna Äärelä; prod: Pilvi Kuusrainen; Finland)
“When the Mill Hill Trees Spoke to Me,” (dir-prod: Kirsikka Paakkinen; Finland, Sweden)
“Death, Dictates Silence,” (“Döden dikterar tystnad”; dir-prod: Javid Sina; Sweden)
“Favorite Daughter,” (“Yndlingsdatter”; dir: Susi Haaning; prod: Sophie D’Souza; Denmark)
“I Don’t Have Time for This” (“Jeg har ikke tid til det her”; dir: Mathias Rodrigues Bjerre; prod: Mads-August Grarup Hertz; Denmark)
“Burn!” (“Brenn!”; dir: Syver Flem; prod: Markus Langlo; Norway)
“Pecking Order,” (“Hønekamp”; dir: Johannes Veine Wiig; prod: Kjetil Jore; Norway)
“Fittefaen,” (dir: Ingrid Storrønningen; prod: Amanda Malmbekk; Norway)