Report from Nordisk Panorama, 2013 – Jennifer Merin reports

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

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 documentaty, 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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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).