The biggest festival in Scandinavia, Göteborg opens with the world premiere of Abbe Hassan’s “Exodus” on Jan. 27. Its closing film is “Camino” by Birgitte Stærmose.
The festival will screen 250 films during 10 days. “Exodus” will compete for the title of Best Nordic Film – and a prize sum of SEK 400 000 ($38,000) – alongside “Godland,” IFFR opener “Munch,” “Ellos eatnu – Let the River Flow,” “Unruly,” “Four Little Adults,” “Copenhagen Does Not Exist” and “Dogborn,” already shown in Venice.
In the Nordic Documentary Competition, the audience will get to see “Hypernoon,” “The King,” IDFA winner “Apolonia, Apolonia,” “Bong Thom” (“The Brother”), “Labor” and “Monica in the South Seas.”
“Nordic countries are opening up for discussion about their role in colonial history. It’s something that’s very visible in this year’s program,” artistic director Jonas Holmberg told Variety.
“‘Empire’ is a story about the last slaves in the Danish West Indies, ‘Ellos eatnu – Let the River Flow’ about the relationship between the Norwegian state and the Sámi minority. ‘Godland’ reflects on Denmark’s colonial history,” he stated, also singling out Mika Taanila and Sami van Ingen’s “Monica in the South Seas,” exploring the legacy of Robert Flaherty and his family.
“Previously, the Nordics didn’t consider themselves to be ‘guilty’ [of any wrongdoings]. Now, artists are starting to reflect on these issues.”
Apart from delivering a packed program, the festival will also continue its tradition of surprising the audience. After sending emergency nurse Lisa Enroth to a faraway island as part of The Isolated Cinema experience back in 2021, Göteborg will enlist the help of one Ruben Östlund, recently named its new honorary president.
During a This Is Cinema! initiative and the screening of “Triangle of Sadness,” Östlund will try to direct the audience as well. But in order to buy a ticket, the viewers will need to answer some of his questions first.
“It’s a dream for many people, to be directed by a two-time winner of the Palme d’Or,” joked Holmberg.
“Some of these questions are about your viewing habits, your best and worst cinema experiences. Others are more personal: How much money you earn, who are you voting for, when was the last time you cried.”
“When we reached out to him, asking him to take up this role, one of the things we talked about was the role of the cinema. What does it actually mean, to see a film together? What responsibility do we have, as audience members? This is something he wants to address and I think it will be very interesting.”
Changing audience behaviors are very much on the festival’s radar, as exemplified by its annual Nostradamus Report. But the event also tries to engage the audience on a political level, be it through its continuous support of Ukrainian filmmakers or by welcoming Iran’s Zar Amir Ebrahimi to head the Nordic Competition jury.
The “Holy Spider” star will lead a demonstration in support of Iranians who have been imprisoned, such as Taraneh Alidoosti, star of “Subtraction” by Mani Haghighi. Alidoosti has since been released.
“When the war broke out, we wanted to help. What we could do was to support more Ukrainian films, in terms of distribution and development, and to invite filmmakers to have a residency here in Göteborg,” said Holmberg.
Now, the festival will welcome two of them back: Antonio Lukich, set to introduce “Luxembourg, Luxembourg” and join the Nordic Competition jury, and Eva Dzhyshyashvili, behind “Plai. A Mountain Path,” as well as dedicating this year’s Focus Section to the concept of Homecoming.
“It also played into us inviting local filmmaker Jan Troell, who will receive the Nordic Honorary Dragon Award. He made ‘The Emigrants,’ which in Sweden is the fundamental story about leaving home and finding a new one,” says Holmberg.
The fest also announced Tuesday the jury for the 2023 Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize for best TVseries screenwriting, consisting of Danica Curcic, Nebojša Taraba, Wanda Bendjelloul and Leif Holst Jensen. “As Long as We Live,” “Blackwater,” “Carmen Curlers,” “The Invincibles” and “Kids in Crime” comprise the nominees.
Finally, Alicia Vikander will grace the gala premiere of the films produced by the students of educational program Alicia Vikander Film Lab 2022.
“When she was appointed an honorary fellow by the Sten A. Olsson Foundation for Research and Culture, her response was: ‘Let’s do something with this money.’ It’s her way of giving back to the city she came from,” notes Holmberg, hoping the project will continue beyond its three-year plan.
“In order to stay relevant, festivals have to change. They are not only dedicated to screening films anymore. We also want to engage people.”
Opening Film: “Exodus,” (Abbe Hassan, Sweden)
Abbe Hassan – known as the producer of “A Hustler’s Diary” – presents his feature debut: a drama about a smuggler who meets a Syrian girl, desperate to join her family in Europe. Loosely inspired by his own experiences as a child refugee, the film was produced by Mattias Nohrborg and Anna-Klara Carlsten for B-Reel Films. LevelK handles sales.
“Copenhagen Does Not Exist,” (Martin Skovbjerg, Denmark)
Produced by Snowglobe, with TrustNordisk on board – and penned by Eskil Vogt of “The Worst Person in the World” fame – it starts with a young woman’s disappearance. Her boyfriend agrees to be interrogated by her father. Skovbjerg said: “Eskil created these beautiful, but complex characters, whom you feel biased about at first and then start to fall in love with.”
“Dogborn,” (Isabella Carbonell, Sweden)
In another Trust Nordisk offering, Sister and Brother aren’t hoping for much: they just want to survive. But then they are offered a “job.” As her characters try to figure out whether to act or to look away, Carbonell dives into the despair of homelessness and human trafficking, enlisting the help of rapper Silvana Imam, here cast as Sister. Produced by Momento Films and co-produced by Non-Stop Entertainment.
“Ellos eatnu – Let the River Flow,” (Ole Giæver, Norway)
Based on a true story, this politically charged title will take on the events following the Norwegian government’s decision to build a dam in the Alta-Kautokeino river back in the 1970s – despite its significance for the Sámi community, which decided to fight for its rights. Produced by Mer Film.
“Empire,” (Frederikke Aspöck, Denmark)
Aspöck, behind “Out of Tune” – described by Variety as “cleverly executed and perfectly performed” – returns with a period drama focusing on the last slaves in the Danish West Indies. The story sees a wealthy “free colored” woman, Anna Elizabeth Heegaard, beginning a love affair with the Danish colony’s governor-general. But rumors of a slave revolt are spreading.
“Four Little Adults,” (Selma Vilhunen, Finland, Sweden, France)
Finland’s Selma Vilhunen, Academy Award-nominated for short “Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?,” Vilhunen follows her Crystal Bear winner “Stupid Young Heart” with this tale of a relationship in trouble. As her characters decide to explore polyamory, things are bound to get messy. Alma Pöysti and Eero Milonoff star.
“Godland,” (Hlynur Pálmason, Denmark/Iceland/France/Sweden)
Featuring Elliott Crosset Hove and Ingvar Sigurdsson, this critics’ darling sees a Danish priest traveling to Iceland to build a church and photograph its people. “[It] takes the country’s colonialist past as its subject, pitting a late-19th-century man of faith against a force far stronger than him, like some kind of Arctic, art-house ‘There Will Be Blood’,” wrote Peter Debruge.
“Munch,” (Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken, Norway)
The Rotterdam Festival’s opening film, it promises an unusual take on the life – or, rather, lives – of Edvard Munch, played by four different actors. “It seemed the only right thing to do, as he changed a lot throughout his life,” Dahlsbakken told Variety. Acquired by Juno Films, it was produced by The Film Company and backed by Viaplay.
“Unruly,” (Malou Reymann, Denmark, Sweden)
Reymann’s sophomore feature after well-received “A Perfectly Normal Family” sees a teenager forced into an institution in the 1930s, the real-life Sprogø Women’s Home. “We didn’t shoot on the actual island, but I went there a few times,” admitted the helmer. “Standing there was really emotional and it made me feel connected to all the women who had been there.”
Nordic Documentary Competition:
“Hypernoon,” (Mia Engberg, Sweden)
“The King,” (Karin af Klintberg, Sweden)
“Apolonia, Apolonia,” (Lea Glob, Denmark, Poland, France)
“Bong Thom (The Brother),” (Zaradasht Ahmed, Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands)
“Labor,” (Tove Pils, Sweden)
“Monica in the South Seas,” (Mika Taanila, Sami van Ingen, Finland)
Ingmar Bergman Competition:
“La Pecera,” (Glorimar Marrero Sanchez, Puerto Rico, Spain)
“Girl,” (Adura Onashile, U.K.)
“Archeology of Love,” (Wanmin Lee, South Korea, France)
“When it Melts,” (Veerle Baetens, Belgium, The Netherlands)
“La Palisiada,” (Philip Sotnychenko, Ukraine)
“Sister, What Grows Where the Land is Sick?,” (Franciska Eliassen, Norway)
“Suro,” (Mikel Gurrea, Spain)
“Runner,” (Marian Mathias, U.S., France, Germany)
“Corsage,” (Marie Kreutzer, Austria, France, Germany, Luxembourg)
“Small, Slow But Steady,” (Shô Miyake, Japan, France)
“1976,” (Manuela Martelli, Chile, Argentina)
“The Five Devils,” (Léa Mysius, France)
“Earthlings,” (Steve Dougthon, U.S.)
“Sorcery,” (Christopher Murray, Chile, Mexico, Germany)
“L’immensità,” (Emanuele Crialese, Italy, France)
“The Passengers of the Night,” (Mikhaël Hers, France)
“The Blue Caftan,” (Maryam Touzani, Morocco, France, Belgium, Denmark)
“Blaze,” (Del Kathryn Barton, Australia)
“Pamfir,” (Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk, Ukraine, France, Poland, Germany)
“Eismayer,” (David Wagner, Austria)
“Brother,” (Clement Virgo, Canada)
“Subtraction,” (Mani Haghighi, Iran, France)
“More Than Ever,” (Emily Atef, France, German, Luxembourg, Norway)
“The Happiest Man in the World,” (Teona Strugar Mitevska, North Macedonia, Belgium, Slovenia)
“Love and Mathematics,” (Claudia Sainte-Luce, Mexico)
“Burning Days,” (Emin Alper, Turkey, France, Germany, The Netherlands).