“Through Foreign Eyes”- The Retrospective of the 59th Nordic Film Days Lübeck

Lübeck, Oct. 9th, 2017. The films in the Retrospective section of this year’s 59th Nordic Film Days Lübeck (Nov. 1 – 5, 2017) entitled “Through Foreign Eyes”, are tales of the arrival of the South in Northern cinema. After “Northern Journeys” (2015), and last year’s “In Different Worlds”, the focus of our historical review this year is on the destinies of various immigrant groups in the Scandinavian region. The films look at migration and integration, reaching as far back as the 19th century, to Babette’s Feast (DK, 1987), which will open the Retrospective on November 1, 2017. Gabriel Axel’s film version of Karen Blixen's story is today a paradigm for how Denmark has been enriched by what were considered "foreign" cultures in the days of yore. In the Oscar-winning film, the French immigrant Babette, teaches the puritanical Jutland villagers a touch of “savoir-vivre”.  

But at the heart of the Retrospective are the immigrants of the 20th century. They include war refugees stranded on the Finnish-Russian border during World War I, exiles from Nazi Germany who found a new home in Sweden, political refugees from the dictatorial regimes in 1970s South America, and the "guest workers" summoned from the southern European countries during the era of the "social welfare state".

Jörg Schöning, director and curator of the Retrospective, has selected a series of documentary and narrative films that fit the Retrospective theme. They depict new beginning, inter-cultural encounters, and various generations of immigrants. The Retrospective will pay special attention to films made by second generation immigrants; since the success of the “culture clash” comedy “Jalla! Jalla!” (S, 2000), a specific kind of “immigrant cinema” has developed that enjoys international exposure. “Directors from Scandinavia used to be called Bergman or Chistensen”, says Jörg Schöning, “these days they may just as well be named Iram Haq or Kadri Kousaar. And that's not an entirely new phenomenon, but rather a valuable development that began decades ago. Making people aware of that is the goal of the Retrospective".

In Lauri Törhönen’s The Border (FL, RUS, 2007), an officer at the end of World War I is caught between Russian refugees, Soviet functionaries, and Finnish nationalists. The fate of refugees, and national and personal interests all bump up unwittingly against each other – the parallels to the present day are can't be ignored. Alexander Røsler’s Mendel (NOR, D, 1997), set in 1950s Norway, tells the story of a young Jewish boy from Germany, who wants to uncover his parents’ traumatic past secret, and tries to find his own identity. Disappointed expectations are the subject of Carlo Barsotti A Paradise Without Billiards, which was the audience favourite at the Nordic Film Days Lübeck in 1991. The film looks at the differing lives of two Italians who come to Sweden in the 1950s to work in a factory. In the Swedish thriller Before the Storm (S, IS, FL, 2000) directed by Reza Parsa, the fates of immigrant Ali and Leo, the son of a policeman, cross paths.

The short film programme Immigrantfilmarna / Immigrant Films will be presented by John Sundholm, Lars Gustaf Andersson, and Kay Hoffmann.Three selected Swedish works from the end of the 1970s and early 1980s document immigration from the perspective of new arrivals. With Fata Morgana (S, 1981), director Guillermo Alvarez draws a candid and unvarnished portrait of a young Latin American immigrant in Sweden, whose frustration grows as he is unable to really to find his feet in the northern country. The Earthman (S, 1980) by Muammer Özer uses a cinematic collage, borrowing from various formats and genres, that illustrates the tension that a Turkish immigrant to Sweden feels as he is caught between upheaval and standstill.  Peter Nestler’s documentary Foreigners. Part 2. Gypsies (S, 1978) takes a critical look at discrimination against the Sinti and Roma in Sweden.

Seppan (S, 1986) takes the audience on a trip into a multi-cultural microcosm in the early 1960s. Director Agneta Fagerström-Olsson depicts adolescent drama playing out among Finns, Austrians, Russians, and Poles living in an immigrant housing estate in Sweden. Montenegro or Pigs and Pearls (S, GB, 1981) is a risqué film satire by Dušan Makavejev, showing how a frustrated American housewife living in Sweden experiences a liberation of the senses among Yugoslavian immigrant labourers. Norway’s answer to Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” is Izzat – A Killer Thriller (NOR, 2003). In Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen’s film, three young Pakistanis growing up in 1980s Oslo make their bones in the criminal milieu.

Kersti Grunditz Brennan and Jannike Åhlund will be our guests when their documentary film, made with co-director Maud Nycander, is shown in Lübeck. Citizen Schein (S, 2017) is a portrait of the “inventor” of the Swedish film subsidy system, Harry Schein, who arrived in Sweden in 1939 as an Austrian émigré fleeing racist persecution. The film will be the subject of this year’s master class in documentary filmmaking, “Living History”, which tackles how to deal with historical film footage, and how to breathe new cinematic life into a past zeitgeist. 

In Eye for an Eye (NOR, 1985) by Gianni Lepre, a Pakistani immigrant worker argues with his criminal boss. The film is both a love and a crime story, with a realistic basis in everyday Norwegian life. Any Retrospective on this theme would, of course, not be complete without Jalla! Jalla!, which established the international cred of “immigrant cinema”.   Josef Fares’ entertaining 2000 debut film was the first international box office success to come from the Nordic “immigrant cinema”. In the big city thriller Mirush (NOR, 2007), directed by Marius Holst, a cast-off son seeks out his father, who abandoned the family to earn a living in the north.  

This year’s special series SUOMI 100 - which celebrates 100 years of Finnish independence – turns its attention to the films of Aki Kaurismäki and the latest developments in the work of the Finnish grandmaster. Born in 1957 in Orimattila, he is considered the “chief melancholic of European auteur cinema”. The heroes of Aki Kaurismäki’s films are always the “little people” – outsiders, labourers, and the unemployed – society’s losers. 

Kaurismäki impressively conjures up nostalgic images of solidarity among society’s weak in Le Havre (FL, F, D, 2011). The French refugee drama about Marcel Marx, a lover of life and man of letters, who lives modestly in Le Havre with his wife Arletty and dog Laïka, won the FIPRESCI Prize in Cannes in 2011, among other awards. And his The Other Side of Hope (FL, D, 2017) won the Silver Bear for directing at the Berlin International Film Festival. That film is a perfect combination of social reality and the fantastical “Kaurismäki cosmos”. 

On November 3 and 4, 2017, the focus will be on remembering, restoring, and archiving films and cinema culture, including that by or about immigrants. Led by Dr Anders Marklund, professor at Lund University and editor-in-chief of the “Journal of Scandinavian Cinema”, experts, students, and people interested in film history will meet in the Hanseatic city for the fourth “Lübeck Film Studies Colloquium”. Lectures in English will be dedicated this year to three main subjects related to Nordic cinema - migrant cinema, archival practices, and television drama. In addition to academics and filmmakers from the Nordic countries, John Sundholm (Stockholm) and Lars Gustaf Andersson (Lund) will talk about archiving immigrant filmmaking. And drawing on this year’s publication of their film theory book “Beyond the Bridge” (Tobias Hochscherf, Heidi Philipsen), the two authors will also shine a light on contemporary Scandinavian TV series and their international success.

The 59th Nordic Film Days Lübeck will run from November 1 – 5, 2017. There will be a press conference on October 11, 2017 to announce the selected films and series, as well as festival guests.

Detailed information on the Film Days and its programme,  as well as the application for media accreditation, can be found online at www.filmtage.luebeck.de. Up-to-date news is also available on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram/nordicfilmdays.

Press contact:

Silke Lehmann, Luisa Wellhausen, Svenja Knoke, Melissa Harms
Nordic Film Days Lübeck
Press and publicity department
Schildstr. 12, 23539 Lübeck
+49 451 – 122 1454