Göteborg Film Fest Champions New Nordic Talent, Addresses Colonialism With Screenings of ‘Godland’ and ‘Empire’

Göteborg Film Festival, running from Jan. 27-Feb. 5, will welcome back some familiar faces during its 46th edition. But it keeps on looking out for skillful newcomers, says Josef Kullengård, head of industry at the festival and the Nordic Film Market. “We want to be the place where you discover new Nordic talent,” he tells Variety.

“It’s a strong year for projects in development, while the workin-progress section combines established directors such as Erik Poppe [presenting ‘Quisling’] with first-timers or people like Ulaa Salim, following ‘Sons of Denmark’ with ‘Eternal.’ It definitely mirrors what the current Nordic film landscape looks like.”

Oscar-winning actor Alicia Vikander will also introduce a new wave of directors, unveiling films produced by the students of educational film program Alicia Vikander Film Lab 2022.

“When she was appointed honorary fellow by the Sten A. Olsson Foundation for Research and Culture, her response was: ‘Let’s do something with this money,’” artistic director Jonas Holmberg says.

“This has been a year of ‘nepo babies’ and we need to open up the field of filmmaking. Every step in that direction is important for democracy, but also for art.”

The Swedish festival will screen 250 titles, with its opener, “Exodus” by Abbe Hassan, competing for the title of best Nordic film, alongside Malou Reymann’s “Unruly” and Martin Skovbjerg’s “Copenhagen Does Not Exist,” penned by Eskil Vogt.

But Nordic countries are also opening up about their role in colonial history, assures Holmberg, mentioning Ole Giæver’s “Ellos Eatnu — Let the River Flow,” “Godland” and period drama “Empire” by Frederikke Aspöck, focusing on the slaves in Danish West Indies.

“Previously, the Nordics didn’t consider themselves to be ‘guilty’ [of any wrongdoings]. Now, artists are starting to reflect on these issues,” he says.

“Holy Spider” star and head of the Nordic Competition jury Zar Amir Ebrahimi will address the current situation in Iran, leading a demonstration in support of those who have been imprisoned. The fest will also continue to champion Ukraine, dedicating the Focus Section to the concept of homecoming with directors

Antonio Lukich and Eva Dzhyshyashvili coming back after their residency in Göteborg.

“This idea was born through the experience of welcoming these filmmakers to our city, our office and our life,” says Holmberg, also mentioning the recipient of the Nordic Honorary Dragon Award Jan Troell, famous for “The Emigrants.”

“So many of our most beloved stories are about people coming home, experiencing it anew. When millions are forced to flee, we want to rethink this topic.”

On the industry side, the fest will host nonprofit organization Ukraine Content Club and present two series in development: FILM.UA Production’s “Those Who Stayed” and LLC Ideas Bank’s “Alchemskys Mystery,” set in 1901.

Although Göteborg’s 10th Nostradamus Report will be presented at Cannes’ Marché du Film in May, its team still tries to anticipate future trends. With TV Drama Vision focusing on cross-border serial storytelling and inviting Josef Fares to discuss exploring narratives in gaming and film.

Fares, who debuted with “Jalla! Jalla!,” is also the founder and creative director of Hazelight Studios.

“We started to look into the future of the industry more than a decade ago. We always talk about it during our sessions and our attendees know that,” says Cia Edström, head of program at Nordic Film Market and TV Drama Vision, which will showcase more than 40 series, from Gabriela Pichler’s “Painkiller” to Finland’s “Dance Brothers.”

But there is always room for surprise, this year coming courtesy of Ruben Östlund, Göteborg’s new honorary president who is set to “direct” the audience during a special screening of “Triangle of Sadness.”

Östlund says: “I have been very interested in the cinema culture of our times. The most unique ‘selling point’ of cinemas, and I think most people will agree with me, is that we are sitting there together. It changes the way we are processing images, because later, someone might ask us what we think. We need to reflect on what we are seeing.

“The problem is that cinema culture looks quite differently around the world. In Sweden, the audience is much more passive. We don’t express what we feel, we don’t help the film we like, and we don’t criticize the film we don’t like.

“In certain cases, the audience needs to adapt when it comes to cinema, in order to make it blossom. You are participating in a show, in an event. It doesn’t mean you have to be a fan, but you need to take a stand.”

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