Five Nordic features are nominated for the Nordic Council Film Prize. The prestigious recognition, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, was first awarded to Aki Kaurismäki’s “The Man Without a Past.”
Hlynur Pálmason’s “Godland,” Teemu Nikki’s “The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic,” “Lamb” by Valdimar Jóhannson, Joachim Trier’s Oscar-nominated “The Worst Person in the World” and “Clara Sola,” directed by Nathalie Álvarez Mesén, will all vie for the award.
It is billed as a prize that celebrates “a unique filmmaking vision, deeply rooted in Nordic culture” and comes with a sum of DKK 300,000 ($40,000), shared equally between the director, screenwriter and producer.
Trier, fresh off his win at Saturday’sAmanda Awards, already won the prize in 2016 for “Louder Than Bombs.” It’s also not the first nomination for Finland’s Nikki, previously noticed for darkly comedic “Euthanizer.” His new film, featuring Petri Poikolainen who suffers from MS, scored the Audience Award at Venice and mere days ago was named best film at Beijing International Film Festival, with Poikolainen winning the best actor gong.
“We all knew the film was quite good, but we were not ready for this kind of success. It surprised all of us. But I can’t complain. Getting our movie to many festivals and winning many prizes is quite pleasant. It could be worse,” Nikki told Variety.
“It’s amazing. Prizes keep coming and coming, and I just love it,” added Poikolainen, with producer Jani Pösö chiming in:
“I am super proud of the success of our film. But the best prize is that Petri got the opportunity to show the world how good he is.”
The announcement marks a double score for Warsaw-based New Europe Film Sales which is overseeing sales on both “Godland” and Noomi Rapace starrer “Lamb,” representing Denmark and Iceland. The latter, argued the jury, successfully combined “Iceland’s tradition of pastoral cinema and the literary heritage of the folk tale.”
“We are proud to be working with both Hlynur and Valdimar, directors that we have followed since their first feature films,” says head of acquisitions Marcin Łuczaj.
“We’ve always been a discovery label and it turned out that Scandinavia is a great source of talent and home to unique films. Especially Iceland and Denmark are countries where filmmakers combine unique handwriting with universal stories, emotional impact and sense of humor, which seems to be resonating with a global audience.”
“Neither ‘Godland’ nor ‘Lamb’ were an obvious project to make and we picked them up in times when the marketplace was already tough,” he adds.
“But the process of working on these films has been great, mostly because of the creativity, collaborative spirit and the trust of the filmmakers and producers who made us feel like a part of the team. This brought great artistic and sales results for both movies and left us hungry for more projects like these.”
“Godland’s” producer Katrin Pors of Copenhagen-based Snowglobe also couldn’t hide her excitement.
“Last week, we got shortlisted for the European Film Awards. The film is getting a better reception than we could ever have hoped for. Hlynur masters making cinematic films at an international level with a distinct Nordic core – he is staying true to his roots,” she says.
“‘Godland’ is about our common – and unknown to many – Nordic heritage. We talk about this ‘common history’ in the Nordics, but at the same time most of us know very little of the histories of our neighboring countries.”
Nathalie Álvarez Mesén’s feature debut “Clara Sola” impressed Swedish jurors with its depiction of the world that’s “self-evident and completely new and unique, both magical and internally logical.”
“Together with her protagonist Wendy Chinchilla Araya and photographer Sophie Winqvist, she has made a sensual film about sexuality and the fight for freedom, in which you can get a sense of the smells and tastes, feel the skin under your fingertips, and feel the power of nature around you,” they stated.
“For the twentieth time, the Nordic Council Film Prize sheds light on five extraordinary films selected by national juries and on the Nordic winner to be selected by a pan-Nordic jury. There is no jury lobbying, no promotional campaigns. It is all about the films themselves. This is also the success recipe of our industry and it’s truly well worth celebrating,” summed up Nordisk Film & TV Fond’s CEO Liselott Forsman.
The winner will be announced on Nov. 1 during the session of the Nordic Council in Helsinki. Other past winners include Roy Andersson’s “You, the Living,” Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist,” Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt” or Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s “Flee,” crowned last year.
Dir. Hlynur Pálmason
Set in the late 19th century, it tells a story of a young Danish priest who travels to a remote part of Iceland to build a church and photograph its people. But the deeper he goes into the unforgiving landscape, the more he strays from his purpose. Pálmason is also behind “Winter Brothers” and “A White, White Day.” Produced by Eva Jakobsen, Katrin Pors and Mikkel Jersin (Snowglobe) and Anton Máni Svansson (Join Motion Pictures), the film premiered at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard. “He’s a cinematic original whose voice grows stronger and more certain with each film. And God, as they say, is in the details,” wrote Variety.
“The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic”
Dir. Teemu Nikki
Jaakko is blind and disabled, glued to his wheelchair. He loves Sirpa. Living far away from one another, they have never met in person, but they meet every day over the phone. When Jaakko hears about Sirpa’s deteriorating health, he decides to go to her immediately despite his condition. Nikki, who runs It’s Alive Films with Jani Pösö, was also nominated for the Nordic Council Film Prize for “Euthanizer.” His fifth feature, lensed by Sari Aaltonen, premiered at Venice Film Festival’s Orizzonti Extra, where it won the Audience Award. International sales by Intramovies.
Dir. Valdimar Jóhannsson
This Noomi Rapace starrer is a supernatural drama about an Icelandic couple who live with their herd of sheep on a beautiful but remote farm. When they discover a mysterious newborn on their land, they decide to keep it and raise it as their own. Written by Jóhannsson and Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson aka Sjón – who also co-wrote “The Northman” with Robert Eggers – this dark fairytale was produced by Hrönn Kristinsdóttir, owner and CEO of Go to Sheep, and Sara Nassim. Domestic distribution is handled by Sena and international sales by New Europe Film Sales, also behind “Godland.”
“The Worst Person in The World”
Dir. Joachim Trier
Julie (Renate Reinsve) turns thirty and her life is an existential mess. Several of her talents have gone to waste and her older boyfriend is pushing for them to settle down. One night, she gate-crashes a party and meets Eivind. Trier, behind “Louder Than Bombs” or “Thelma,” co-wrote the script with Eskil Vogt. The film has been awarded in Cannes for Reinsve’s performance and scored two Oscar nominations for best original screenplay and international feature. An Oslo Pictures production, it was produced by Thomas Robsahm and Andrea Berentsen Ottmar. Domestic distribution by SF Studios, with MK2 Films handling sales.
Dir. Nathalie Álvarez Mesén
Clara is believed to have a special connection with God. As a healer, she sustains a family and a village in need of hope, while she finds solace in her relationship with the natural world. After years of being controlled by her mother, Clara’s sexual impulses are stirred by her attraction to her niece’s boyfriend. Maria Camila Arias co-wrote with director Nathalie Alvarez-Mesen, Costa Rican/Swedish filmmaker. While “Clara Sola” – produced by Hobab’s Nima Yousefi, with Luxbox also attached – marks her feature debut, she is already working on her second film “The Wolf Will Tear Your Immaculate Hands.”