Report From Nordisk Panorama, 2013

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Scandinavian Film Festival – Malmo, Sweden – September 20-24, 2013

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Nordisk Psnorma 2013 presented a program of 91 films, including documentary features and shorts and narrative shorts, with 16 films in competition for best Nordic documentary, 15 films in competition for best Nordic short and 15 films in competition for best New Nordic Voice.The 24th edition of the annual festival took place from September 20 to 24 in various venues throughout the city of Malmo, Sweden.

Before the 2013 edition, the location of this outstanding showcase for Scandinavian documentaries and shorts rotated from year to year among different cities in its five participating countries. The 2012 festival was held in Oulu, Finland.Beginning with this year, the organizers have decided to make centrally located Malmo the permanent home of Nordisk Panorama.
Spotlighting Scandinavian Films

In the past decade or so, documentaries and short films from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have been particularly strong, attracting audiences and winning awards around the world.Although all of the films included in the Nordisk Panorama regular programming of films in competition are Scandinavian in origin — in that they are all directed by and/or produced or co-produced by Scandinavians.

A Wide Variety of Subjects

The films may, however, have subjects of a non-Scandinavian nature. For example, the winner of this year’s Nordic Documentary Award is The Act of Killing, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, an American, and produced by Signe Byrge Sorensen, a Dane. It’s a shock doc about the genocide in Indonesia, and — considering the buzz about it Stateside — it’s likely bait for this year’s Oscar’s nominations.

Also in the best documentary competition, American Vagabond, is an intimate and affecting profile of a young homosexual couple who leave the repressive and punishing environment of their parents homes and head for San Francisco, where they discover that America’s “gayest city” is far from heaven. The film, directed by Susanna Heiki is a Finnish/Danish coproduction.

In the same category, Ash is an Icelandic film that covers the devastating effects of a volcanic eruption on three of the families who lived within range of its airborne debris and soot. Icelandic director Herbert Sveinbjornsson — also credited as writer, cinematographer and editor — did a superb job with film, capturing the beauty and humor of circumstances that ultimately augment the pathos of a very troublesome situation.

Also from Iceland, but in the New Nordic Voices competition, The Last Thing, a short film directed by Harpa Fonn Sigurjonsdottir, documents the mystery of what to do with the remains of a person who dies alone, and doesn’t have known family or friends. The film is reminiscent of Carol Morley’s Dreams of A Life, but is done without reenactments.

My Diary From The Revolution is a feature-length documentary in the New Nordic Voices competition. Director Nizam Najar grew up in Norway but returns to Libya, where he was born, to chronicle the downfall of Gaddafi and faces a lot of complicated questions about his personal beliefs and ethnic identity. It’s a fascinating and unique perspective on Islam and the Middle East.

Award Winners in Other Competition Categories

The winner of the award for Best Nordic Short Film was On Suffocation, directed by Swedish filmmaker Jenifer Malmqvist. The winner of the award for Best New Nordic Voice was A World Not Ours, a debut feature-length documentary directed by by Mahdi Fleifel, a London-based Palestinian filmmaker who was born in Dubai, and raised in a refugee camp in Lebanon until he moved to Elsinore, Denmark.

Special Events and Screenings

In addition to the films in competition, Nordisk Panorma’s 2013 program included special events, screenings and presentations, including the “My Dinner With…” series. This year’s “My Dinner With…” served up a conversation between American filmmaker Joe Berlinger and Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten, with a retrospective of Berlinger’s work, including screenings of Berlinger’s Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory and Crude. There were also retrospectives of Gertten’s films, and those of Margreth Olin, and Hannes Vartianen and Pekka Veikkolainen. Olin and partners Hannes and Pekka also gave Masterclasses.

Nordisk Panoramma offers a unique opportunity for documentary watchers to get an excellent overview of current production of documentary films in Scandinavia. For the complete list of this year’s films, visit the Nordisk Panorama Website

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