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Northern Lights
Last year, after the retrospective selections of Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, and Finnish cinema in previous years, we decided to dedicate a whole section to the films from Northern Europe, so popular with the Czech viewers. This year, we’ve managed to fill it with attractive titles once again, and many of them will certainly become the greatest audience hits of Febiofest.
Denmark is strongly represented, yet it merely reflects the two decades of internationally successful productions of this Scandinavian country. Director Bille August has already become an icon of world cinema. His latest film, Silent heart, proves that he can master not only complex epic pictures, but also a small-scale intimate drama, whose topic of euthanasia does not seem very optimistic on the first glance. Yet the film captured audiences at its world premiere at San Sebastian festival. One of the members of the excellent cast, which is one of the film's greatest positives, Paprika Steen from Denmark, was even awarded Best Actress. She portrayed one of the daughters who is coming to her parents' home to spend the last weekend with her ill mother who has decided to voluntarily end her life.
Pernille Fischer Christensen is another internationally acclaimed Danish filmmaker. In her latest opus, Someone You Love, she tells the story of a successful rock star, Thomas, who returns back to his native Denmark after years in America to peacefully work on his new album. But his plans change after meeting his estranged adult daughter, and especially her eleven-year-old son. The boy might give the ageing rocker a chance to pay off all that he has missed in his life. However, he will have to make sacrifices as well... This relatively intimate story also offers everything that makes Danish films so successful on the world market: a good script with an emotionally strong story, supported by impressive acting performances.
Ole Christian Madsen also contributes to the good name of Danish cinema worldwide, and he's no newbie at Febiofest either. We presented two of his production in Prague in the past – a war drama, Flame and Citron, and a romantic comedy named SuperClásico. His inspiration for Itsi Bitsi is also a rock star – this time a real one. At least for those informed, the main protagonist, Eik, is a famous character of the culture scene in the 1960s, when he established a band called Steppeulven (which has nothing to do with the Canadian band of similar name, Steppenwolf, although both bands were inspired by a novel by Herman Hesse). Eik's tragic fate reflects his times: the naive leftist protest of the 1960s, sexual revolution, escape from civilisation to meditations in exotic countries, and the final devastation by drugs.
Bent Hamer is currently probably the best-known Norwegian filmmaker whose specific humour captured many Czech viewers. His latest film, 1001 grams, is also a slightly crazy comedy. Its protagonist, Maria, recently divorced and absolutely dedicated to her work, discovers a completely new world when she participates in an important scientific conference in Paris for the first time. All her values up to that point crumple and completely unexpected possibilities and horizons suddenly appear in her life...
Another renowned Norwegian filmmaker, Erik Poppe, used his many years of experience as a war photographer in his latest picture, Thousand Times Goodnight, and he knows very well what he's talking about – although he substituted himself with a woman. French star Juliette Binoche portrayed an excellent photographer, Rebecca, who captures all the horrors of this world with her camera. Yet it's not her but her husband who can't stand it anymore and wants her to quit this risky and emotionally devastating profession and focus more on her family and children.
Younger filmmakers, whose films prove that the future of Scandinavian cinema is certainly in good hands, complement the list of famous directors. Hisham Zaman, a Kurdish director originally from Iraq, is not a complete novice. His three feature films focus on the difficult fate of his fellow countrymen, scattered in diaspora all over the world and dreaming about their own country. His latest opus, Letter to the King, is a portrait of several immigrants staying in a refugee camp far in Norway without any hope for a better future. The mosaic of several micro stories follows a few characters on their trip to the metropolis of Oslo where each of them comes with their own intention to change their lives.
Henrik Hellström is a new talent of the Swedish cinema who capture attention already with his debut, Burrowing. His second, hypnotically and impressively shot film, The Quiet Roar, touches the topic of retrospectively dealing with life just before its end. A terminally ill woman attempts this by a therapy through an LSD dose before she dies. In her mind, she returns back in time, to the period many years ago when her marriage fell apart.
Iceland is represented in our selection as well – a small country whose yearly film production might not be large, yet it manages to maintain its high quality and avoid irrelevant local fails. Olaf De Fleur 's latest film might resemble Jar City, a film from nine years ago by his compatriot, Baltasar Kormákur, which won at Karlovy Vary festival. Brave Men's Blood is also a detective story, but it surpasses the genre. Dark and full of action, the police drama asks unpleasant questions on how to remain pure amidst the dirty world of crime and drugs, what price to pay for an attempt for justice, and if there even is any justice at all.
Our Northern selection includes also the representatives of the small but all the more aspiring Baltic republics. Ilmar Raag from Estonia is no rookie at Febiofest. During the last three years, we presented his co-produced A Lady in Paris, starring the legendary Jeanne Moreau, as well as his intimate drama Kertu. For his latest opus, I Won't Come Back, made in Estonian-Russian-Finnish-Belarusian co-production, Raag chose the genre of a road movie. Young Anya gets in trouble through no fault of hers. While fleeing the police, she gets together with orphaned Kristina and they set off across Russia.
The young starting generation is represented by debuting Latvian Juris Kursietis with his Latvian-Greek-German co-production, Modris – an existential story of a seventeen-year-old boy whose passivity and disinterest gradually destroy his life. Modris, who lives only with his mother while the father is in prison, focuses on gambling rather than school. In order to procure money for his hobby, he pawns his mother's heater. When she informs the police, the boy is let out on parole, and succumbs even deeper without learning his lesson.
Estonian cinema is also represented in the Against the Tide section with a the award-winning In the Crosswind by debuting Matti Helde.
As it's become customary, Northern films are included also in the New Europe competition. This year, the competition presents representatives of Swedish, Finnish, and Icelandic cinema. The debut of Swedish Anders Rune, Aerobics: A Love Story, tells the story of two mentally handicapped people who fall in love and not only want to live together, but also want to get on TV with their own show focusing on aerobics. Two young rebels on the run are the main protagonists of the Finnish drama hey Have Escaped, directed by J.P. Valkeapää. A trace of Czech can also be found in the third contribution to the competition, Life in a Fishbowl, an Icelandic-Czech co-production. Debuting Baldvin Zophonaísson brought together three losers: a writer who used to be successful but now is devastated by alcohol, a single mother trying to survive through prostitution, and a former footballer who unsuccessfully tries to break through as a banker.
1001 Grams / 1001 Gram / 1001 gramů (Norway, Germany, France) Director: Bent Hamer (Northern Lights )
Itsi Bitsi / Steppeulven / Itsi Bitsi (Denmark, Croatia, Sweden, Argentina) Director: Ole Christian Madsen (Northern Lights )
I Won't Come Back / Ya ne vernus / Já se nevrátím (Russia, Estonia, Finland, Belarus, Kazakhstan) Director: Ilmar Raag (Northern Lights )
Letter to the King / Brev til Kongen / Dopis králi (Norway, Kurdistan) Director: Hisham Zaman (Northern Lights )
Modris / Modris / Modris (Latvia, Germany, Greece) Director: Juris Kursietis (Northern Lights )
The Quiet Roar / The Quiet Roar / Tichý křik (Sweden, Norway) Director: Henrik Hellström (Northern Lights )
Silent Heart / Stille hjerte / Tiché srdce (Denmark) Director: Bille August (Northern Lights )
Someone You Love / En du elsker / Ten, koho miluješ (Denmark) Director: Pernille Fischer Christensen (Northern Lights )
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