Erik Poppe’s historical drama “The Emigrants” scored the top Andreas Award at the 50th Norwegian International Film Festival Haugesund. Produced by Fredrik Wikström Nicastro, it is distributed by SF Studios. Poppe is also known for “Utøya: July 22” and “The King’s Choice.”
Based on Vilhelm Moberg’s series of novels about Swedes who decided to leave their country and search for a better future, it “tackles deep questions about cultural and religious identity,” argued the jurors.
“Even though the events in this story are long behind us, the film reminds us of our own present,” they added.
Interestingly enough, in 1971 Jan Troell also took on the story, ending up with four Academy Awards nominations – including one for Liv Ullmann.
“She was able to see our film and she is its biggest ambassador now. She just loves this take and noticed that it’s about the refugees today. It takes place 150 years ago, but it’s about today’s world,” Poppe told Variety.
The festival wrapped with a screening of Richard Hobert’s psychological thriller “Love Proof,” produced by Håkan Hammarén. While the Audience Award went to “War Sailor,” directed by Gunnar Vikene, Óskar Kristinn Vignisson picked up the Next Nordic Generation Award for “Free Men,” produced by Danish Film School’s Søs Thøstesen. The jury praised the filmmakers for telling a “sensitive story in an absurd manner.”
Critics favored Lukas Dhont’s “Close,” but the Ray of Sunshine Award, given to the film “that excites and spreads the most joy” was claimed by Kore-eda Hirokazu’s “Broker.”
“Kore-eda is surprisingly generous toward his characters, nearly all of whom are breaking the law, but whose fundamental decency is brought out when dealing with others in need,” Variety wrote following the film’s Cannes premiere, calling it “a warm and unexpectedly nonjudgmental look at the Korean gray market for adoption.”
The Best Project Award – for an especially promising title presented at the New Nordic Films’ Nordic Film and Co-Production Market – went to Swedish romantic comedy “The Love Pill,” produced by The Uneven.
Director Naures Sager, who co-wrote with Elmira Arikan, and producer Michael Detlef seduced the audience with their playful presentation, as well as the story of two men struggling with being queer and Arab. The kind of characters that need to be represented on screen, noted Sager, echoing their company’s slogan: “We see the uneven – it’s time to get even!”
“There’s a big audience of people with foreign backgrounds, many of us who haven’t even been to our home countries. I want to make a film we can relate to and I feel there is a hunger for stories that aren’t sad and depressing,” observed Sager.
“We’re quite fed up with being portrayed as criminals, terrorists or, in one way or another, as completely miserable. It’s time to shine the light on these fabulous queer Arabs, and their allies, all striving for a brighter future.”
“When I first started dating Naures, he wasn’t out to his parents. I have been with him through that journey and learnt firsthand what it means. I have also gotten to know a community of queer people of color who are still struggling [to communicate] with their families,” said Detlef, his partner also in real life.
“Naures is creating a film that will play with your perception and prejudice. There’s a power in telling these types of stories with humor.”
As proven by New Nordic Films’ selection, Nordic genre still stands tall, with quite a few horror films in the works: from Sweden’s “The Braid” about a “mystical hair culture” to “Feed” directed by Johannes Persson of heavy metal band Cult of Luna and “Leave,” kickstarting with an abandoned baby wrapped in a blanket with satanic symbols.
Turning to one’s country folklore and heritage for inspiration was also a trend, often with unexpected results. Just like in the Icelandic family film “Adventureland, The Arrow.”
“Old tales are wonderful and should be revisited, but they are also in dire need of being updated. And that’s precisely what we are going to do,” said director Þórunn Lárusdóttir, eager to break stereotypes and “outdated adventure rules.”
Crazy Pictures’ “UFO Sweden,” with its strong “Stranger Things” vibes, and Kaveh Tehrani’s “Listen Up!” also perked up some interest among the participants.
“What attracted me to ‘Listen Up!’ was the combination of warm, rude humor and contemporary relevance which runs through the veins of the story and main characters,” admitted producer Yngve Sæther, also behind “Ninjababy.”
“I’ve always admired films that are edgy and political but also generous, and both director Kaveh Tehrani and us producers had Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing’ in mind. It’s another neighborhood, another decade and new dilemmas, but we hope to bring the same kind of energy and attitude to the audience.”
Many filmmakers couldn’t shake off the shadow of the ongoing war, looking for answers to present questions all the way back in the past. But, as pointed out by Gyda Velvin Myklebust, head of New Nordic Films, the current situation also made them more determined than ever.
“I can feel the spirit of ‘just do it!’,” she said, mentioning Finland’s “The Player” by Teemu Nikki and Jani Pösö or “Sister, What Grows Where Land Is Sick?”
She added: “The latter was made on a zero budget, written, directed and produced by young Norwegian climate activist Franciska Eliassen. We can also look out for some very talented Swedish debutants, like Elin Övergaard with ‘The Blowfish,’ Angelika Abramovitch with ‘The Braid,’ Elina Sahlin with ‘Glass Disease’ and Ann Holmgren with ‘Porcelain,’ who presented their projects at our Co-Production Market.”
“I am not sure if it’s because the pandemic restrictions are finally loosening up or if there is this feeling of having to seize the day in unsecure times.”
A full list of awards:
Norwegian Film Critics’ Award
RAY OF SUNSHINE AWARD
“Call Jane,” “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande”
Best Project Award
“The Love Pill”
NEXT NORDIC GENERATION AWARD
“A Film That Might Be About the Future”