Lübeck, Oct. 15, 2019. “The problems of a globalised world are manifold and often hard to interpret. The documentaries screening at the 61st Nordische Filmtage Lübeck prove that filmmakers must follow varying leads, and choose specific points of view and unusual storytelling means to sensitise audiences to political interrelationships. This year that is particularly striking in the life stories that have been shaped by political events”, sums up NFL Artistic Director Linde Fröhlich. Of the 30 documentaries in the section, 17 will be in the running for the Documentary Film Prize awarded by the DGB Bezirk Nord trade union association (endowed as of this year with € 5,000). The stated aim of the award is to “encourage directors to grapple innovatively with changes in our society, and to engage on a social and political level”.
In “Cold Case Hammarskjöld” (DEN/NOR/SWE/BEL, 2019), director Mads Brügger investigates the death of UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld, who died in a 1961 plane crash in what was then Rhodesia. Was it an accident or an assassination? Iceland’s Grímur Hákonarson is represented in two different sections this year in Lübeck. His documentary “Little Moscow” (ICE/SLO/CZE, 2018) is the story of a small town on Iceland’s east coast that was governed by socialists for 50 years. The film uses archival footage and interviews to document how, after three class-conscious workers from the local fish factories were elected to city council in the 1930s, communist ideals dominated public life. The documentary “The Rebellion School” (NOR, 2018) looks at the Forsøksgymnaset, or FGO, a progressive school founded amid the spirit of the late 1960s. Filmmaker Elsa Kvamme, herself a former student at the school, interviews former students and teachers, who regale us with their memories of the school, which existed until 2004.
The subject of the Norwegian documentary “Wars Don’t End” (2018) is the way that political motives can have an extremely negative impact on entire life stories. During World War II, some 12,000 children were born to Norwegian women and German occupation soldiers. For the mothers and children, peace was the start of a nightmare. Demeaned as “Nazi children”, they were marginalised, and outcasts in their own society. In director Dheeraj Akolkar’s film, Liv Ullmann’s narration guides us as five of those now elderly children break their silence. “My Father the Spy” (LAT/EST/GER/CZE, 2019, dir: Jaak Kilmi and Gints Grübe) reconstructs a family drama from the Cold War era. In 1978, a young Latvian woman visits her father, a KGB agent working at the United Nations in New York, and gets entangled in a spy game between two world powers. A particularly moving story is that of the survivors of the terrorist attack on Norway’s Utøya island in 2011. In “Reconstructing Utøya” (SWE/DEN/NOR, 2018) directed by Carl Javér, four of the young people talk about how they survived the rampage of the right-wing extremist. Relatively spare reenactments help make the unfathomable comprehensible.
Some of the section’s films employ a new way of looking at aspects of migration and multi-culturalism. Reetta Huhtanen’s film “Gods of Molenbeek” (FIN/BEL/GER, 2019) is a tale of a wonderful friendship between two six-year-olds in the Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek, considered a hot-bed of jihadism. One is Muslim, the other is the son of a Finnish women and a Chilean. Together, they explore the big issues in life in chaotic times. At “Q’s Barbershop” (DEN, 2019, dir: Emil Langballe) in a high-rise housing project in Denmark’s Odense, clients get a lot more than just a “house party” or “Mike Tyson” haircut; it serves as a gathering place, providing a bit of home to African immigrants. With their stories and sayings, they express their dreams and ambitions.
A noticeable number of the documentaries deal with new concepts of masculinity. In Joonas Berghäll’s “The Happiest Man on Earth” (FIN, 2019), five men speak very candidly about breakups and losses, about their personal fears and individual failures. “The Men’s Room” (NOR, 2018, dir: Petter Sommer and Jo Vemund Svendsen) is the story of a men’s choir in Oslo. They are slated to be the opening act for Black Sabbath, when their conductor gets cancer and what began as a quaint rockumentary quickly turns into a sensitive and moving portrait of the men. Snorri Magnusson’s job also proffers up an unconventional image of men. Snorri is a swimming teacher who works with infants and their parents, encouraging them to swim together. The film “Dive: Rituals in Water” (ICE, 2019, dir: Elín Hansdóttir, Anna Rún Tryggvadóttir, Hanna Björk Valsdóttir) uses footage from an underwater camera and planetary sounds to show us how Snorri’s empathy supports the babies first attempts to swim. In Boris B. Bertram’s “Photographer of War” (DEN/FIN, 2018), a man who usually documents battlegrounds is called to deal with a personal crisis zone. When his ex-wife falls ill, he must take care of their three children, without giving up work.
Among the guests from the documentary section who will be at the festival this year are Grímur Hákonarson (director, “Little Moscow”) and Elsa Kvamme (director, “The Rebellion School”), Dheeraj Akolkar (director, “Wars Don’t End”) and Gints Grūbe (director and producer, “My Father the Spy”), Reetta Huhtanen (director, “The Gods of Molenbeek”) and Emil Langballe (director, “Q’s Barbershop”), Kari Anne Moe (producer, “The Men’s Room”) and Hanna Björk Valsdóttir (director and producer, “Dive: Rituals in Water”).
A press conference to announce the complete programme for the 61st Nordische Filmtage Lübeck will be held on October 17, 2019. Following the press conference, the entire programme will be available online, as well as press photos for download. Advance ticket sales begin on Oct. 26, 2019. The prize award ceremony will be on Nov. 2, 2019. All details and information about the festival can be found online at http://www.nordische-filmtage.de. Up-to-date news is also available on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram/nordicfilmdays
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