What I’ve Been Reading Lately: January 2018

This year I’ll be working on completing three reading challenges: my own Scandinavian Reading Challenge (#ScandiReadingChallenge), Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge (#IdRatherBeReading), and The Reading Women’s Reading Women Challenge (#ReadingWomenChallenge). In order to have a greater chance of success, I’ve decided books can overlap challenges. I’m off to a good start with two categories for each challenge completed.

If you haven’t already checked out my 2018 Scandinavian Reading Challenge, I invite you to do so now.

And once again, I’m joining Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit link-up where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately.


The Indian Bride by Karin Fossum (translated from Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund)

For our first meeting of the new year, my Scandinavian Book Club chose Karin Fossum’s Eva’s Eye (the first in the Inspector Sejer mystery series). I had already read that so I decided to read The Indian Bride, another of Karin Fossum’s Inspector Sejer mysteries, instead. I enjoyed The Indian Bride much more than Eva’s Eye. I felt for Gunder, the main character, whose life was turned upside down when, on the same day, his sister was suddenly in a coma after a car accident and his wife was killed upon arrival in town. I was wrapped up in the characters and the situation – how could this horrendous murder have happened and who could have done it? The book explores the characters and the community more than the crime itself. There were some unanswered questions and ambiguity at the end which bothered me a little, but overall it was still a good read. (The Indian Bride won the Los Angeles Times’ Mystery Prize in 2007.) Karin Fossum would be a good candidate for the Scandinavian Reading Challenge’s “a crime novel by a female author” category.


The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi

This author has been on my radar for a while. She’s from India and married to a Danish man. They lived in Denmark for several years before moving to southern California. The Sound of Language intrigued me because it was about an Afghan refugee who immigrated to Denmark after her husband was captured by the Taliban. It was also about beekeeping and an unlikely relationship between an older, stubborn, recently widowed man and this young Afghan woman learning Danish. I admired both the man and the woman for persevering with the apprenticeship despite pressure from family and community to do otherwise. It was an interesting look at the immigrant debate in Denmark. I highly recommend this for the “immigrant story” category of the Scandinavian Reading Challenge. We read it for my local book club, and it made for a good discussion.


Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I was looking for a light and easy read, and this book certainly fit the bill. It was a fun ride. It was a fascinating and unbelievable look at life of the super rich in Singapore. How close to reality it really is, I’ll never know. But I believe there’s some truth to it since it’s written by an author who was born and raised in Singapore. There were a lot of characters to keep track of. The family tree at the beginning of the book was helpful at first, but then I decided it really didn’t matter if I couldn’t keep track of which family line everyone belonged to. I’m eager to read the next books in the series and to see the movie when it comes out in August 2018.


Currently reading and next on my list…

My local book club picked The Leavers by Lisa Ko for our next read. My Scandinavian Book Club meets later in the month. I’m curious to see what we’ll pick. I’m hoping I can steer the choice in the direction of one of the categories for the Scandinavian Reading Challenge. A friend suggested I read The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee with David John with her so I’ll be giving that a go, too (and it checks off a category for both Modern Mrs. Darcy’s and The Reading Women’s challenges!).

What have you been reading lately?

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Join the 2018 Scandinavian Reading Challenge!

I invite you to join the 2018 Scandinavian Reading Challenge. This reading challenge focuses on the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. There are 14 categories with the intention of providing lots of choice for the new reading year. I realize not everyone is as much of a Scandinavian enthusiast as me, so choose to participate at whatever level suits you: a book a month, one book every other month, or even just a couple of books in the upcoming months. I welcome all levels of participation.

Visit the page 2018 Scandinavian Reading Challenge to see the 14 categories and to download a printable PDF to keep track of your reading.

I will make suggestions for books in each category as the year progresses. I would love to hear what books you choose to read, and I always welcome suggestions from fellow readers. Share your progress and suggestions here or on social media with the hashtag #ScandiReadingChallenge.

I hope you’ll join me for some Scandinavian reading this year. Share your intention to participate in the comments below or in an email.

Click here to see the 14 categories in the reading challenge.

Los Angeles Culture Challenge for January 2018: Scandinavian Film Festival LA & PST:LA/LA

Is one of your new year’s resolutions to explore more of the many diverse cultural opportunities that Los Angeles has to offer? There’s lots to choose from this month, especially with the art initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA that’s going on right now. It’s a collaborative effort from arts institutions across Southern California that explores Latin American and Latino art in Los Angeles. Some exhibitions end at the end of the month. You can sort exhibitions by theme, neighborhood, venue, and media which makes the whole process of deciding what to see where less overwhelming. I have visited three exhibitions (listed below) and found them all interesting and worth the visit.

One of my favorite Scandinavian events returns this month. The Scandinavian Film Festival LA opens this weekend in Beverly Hills. I always look forward to seeing what’s being offered and hope there’s a movie that will transport me back to Norway through language and setting or bring alive a part of Norwegian history for me. I also don’t mind being an armchair traveler to other countries in the region. For a look at what’s being offered this year, check out Scandinavian Film Festival 2018: A Preview.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month?

* RECOMMENDED PST:LA/LA EXHIBITIONS *

Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A., Central Library, Downtown LA, on display until January 31, 2018. The exhibition celebrates the rich social fabric of Los Angeles through the lens of the city’s vibrant Oaxacan community — specifically, the Zapotec communities which make up one of the largest Indigenous groups in Mexico and Los Angeles. The Oaxacan artist collective Tlacolulokos has created a series of new murals for the Central Library’s historic rotunda that explore language and culture as a key lifeline sustaining the shared experience between Mexico, Los Angeles, and beyond, with a look at how migration and the socio-political environment shape identity and cultural traditions.

Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark‐Making in LA, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, on display until February 25, 2018. See a new body of photographic work by interdisciplinary artist Ken Gonzales-Day examining the mural landscape of LA—from East LA to Venice Beach, from Pacoima to South LA. Featuring over 140 photographs, Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark‐Making in LAconsiders what the city’s walls reveal about its diverse communities.

Cuba Is, Annenberg Space for Photography, Century City, on display until March 4, 2018. Revealing complexities both on and off the island, Cuba Is explores aspects of Cuba not easily accessed by foreigners, and sometimes not even by Cubans themselves. Born from indigenous, African and European roots, divergent politics and limitations in communication and commerce, the Cuba seen in this exhibition goes beyond the folklore and offers new insight into its current reality. Over 120 photos feature subjects ranging from defiant youth known as “Frikis” to the hard-partying children of the 1%, the underground system of sharing digital content—“El paquete”—to Miami’s Chonga girls.

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 6 & 7 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Saturday, 1/6, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Offered every first Saturday of the month). Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more when guided to the unique treasures—not to mention great bargains—to be found in Chinatown. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A.’s Chinatown.

Scandinavian Film Festival Los Angeles (SFFLA), Writers Guild Theater, Beverly Hills, Saturday, 1/6, & Sunday, 1/7 (also weekend of 1/20 & 1/21). This is a yearly showcase of films from northern Europe and its Baltic neighbors. During the course of two weekends, the festival screens not only films submitted by Nordic countries to the Academy for consideration in the “Best Foreign Language Film” category, but also other Nordic feature films, short movies, and documentaries.

Epiphany of the Three Kings, Olvera Street, Downtown LA, Saturday, 1/6, 6:30 p.m. Learn about and experience the celebration of the Epiphany of the Magi (Visit of the Three Kings). In Mexico and other Latin countries, many children receive their Christmas gift on this day. Olvera Street celebrates this tradition with prizes, free champurrado (Mexican traditional chocolate drink), and pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread) as well as a piñata filled with candies for the children to break and enjoy. There will be music and a procession on Olvera Street followed by a colorful theatrical production in the Plaza.

Oshogatsu Family Festival – Year of the Dog, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Sunday, 1/7, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Ring in the New Year and the Year of the Dog with fun arts ‘n crafts, delicious food, and exciting cultural activities and performances. Highlights of the day will include a Japanese-style lion dance; two mochitsuki (rice pounding) demonstrations, with mochi samples for tasting; a drawing demonstration and book signing by comic book creator Stan Sakai, famous for his Usagi Yojimbo series; and sample bowls of lucky zaru soba (cold buckwheat noodles) to bring good health in the New Year. There will also be a variety of craft activities, book readings, souvenir photos, a koto performance, and more. Visit website for schedule of events and activities.

Festival of India, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 1/7, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Enjoy the beautiful music and dance of India with internationally recognized choreographer Ramya Harishankar’s Arpana Dance Co. along with other invited artists as they perform the beautiful dances of the diverse regions of India. The festival also features a special performance by SADUBAS, aka The Sadhus of Bass, who converges classical Indian rhythms with 70s Bollywood vibes to create psychedelic soundscapes that are one part Trip hop and two parts cinematic south Asia. DJ/producer Ameet Mehta and tabla artist Robin Sukhadia present visuals and sound inspired by Bollywood funk and Indian Classical music. Festival includes art projects, face painting and special Indian sweets.

¡Hoy en Día! (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 1/7, 12:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Offered every Sunday in January except 1/28). Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. During the month of January, sixteen contemporary Latino artists from Latin America and the U.S., plus two-month residencies, equal surprising, playful, and unexpected art. Explore the special exhibition A Universal History of Infamy, then participate in artist-led workshops in bookmaking, mixed media, and performance/dance.

Radical Flags (Kids and Families Program), California African American Museum, Exposition Park, Sunday, 1/7, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Faith Ringgold’s People’s Flag Show Poster and The Judson 3, both on display in We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85, express solidarity with the tumultuous times of the 1970s. Create your own radical flag using a collage of words and images that reflect something you feel passionate about in this decade. Suitable for third grade and up.

Kids in the Courtyard: Painting with Music, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Sunday, 1/7, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Celebrate the closing day of the exhibition How to Make the Universe Right by learning about instruments from Vietnam and southern China. After finding inspiration in the galleries, create a watercolor painting while listening to music from around the world—including the very same songs introduced in the exhibition.

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 13, 14, & 15 *

Family Art Workshop, Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 1/14, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

¡Hoy en Día! (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 1/14, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Offered every Sunday in January except 1/28). Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. During the month of January, sixteen contemporary Latino artists from Latin America and the U.S., plus two-month residencies, equal surprising, playful, and unexpected art. Explore the special exhibition A Universal History of Infamy, then participate in artist-led workshops in bookmaking, mixed media, and performance/dance.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, California African American Museum, Exposition Park, Monday, 1/15, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by surrounding yourself with art, culture, and community. Enjoy an array of vibrant programs and activities for all ages. Bring the kids for art-making activities and food, visit our exhibitions, hear a marathon reading of King’s lesser-known speeches and sermons, and much more—free for everyone! Visit website for schedule of events and activities.

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 20 & 21 *

Scandinavian Film Festival Los Angeles (SFFLA), Writers Guild Theater, Beverly Hills, Saturday, 1/20, & Sunday, 1/21. This is the second weekend of this yearly showcase of films from northern Europe and its Baltic neighbors. The festival screens not only films submitted by Nordic countries to the Academy for consideration in the “Best Foreign Language Film” category, but also other Nordic feature films, short movies, and documentaries.

Family Art Workshop, Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 1/21, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

¡Hoy en Día! (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday, 1/21, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Offered every Sunday in January except 1/28). Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. During the month of January, sixteen contemporary Latino artists from Latin America and the U.S., plus two-month residencies, equal surprising, playful, and unexpected art. Explore the special exhibition A Universal History of Infamy, then participate in artist-led workshops in bookmaking, mixed media, and performance/dance.

Kids in the Courtyard: Frame Your World, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Sunday, 1/21, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Explore the black-and-white photographs of Pierre Verger on closing day of the exhibition Africa/Americas. French-born Verger traveled around the world, capturing people, places, and traditional customs through his camera lens. Create and decorate a monochrome frame for your own photographs using Verger’s images as inspiration.

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 27 & 28 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 1/27, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants.

Family Art Workshop, Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 1/28, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

Collage Faces: Express Yourself (Kids and Families Program), California African American Museum, Exposition Park, Sunday, 1/28, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Using collage and painting, artist Lezley Saar leads a family workshop to reflect on identities seen and expressed. Fabrics, curious still life objects, and a variety of materials will be provided to fully explore and express your creative self.

Feel free to add events for the current month in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me the details. Thank you!

Scandinavian Film Festival LA 2018: A Preview

The first weekend of 2018 welcomes “top films from the top of Europe” at the annual Scandinavian Film Festival Los Angeles (SFFLA). Despite its name, the scope of the festival actually extends beyond Scandinavia. Besides films from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, festival goers can view films from Iceland and Finland as well as Baltic neighbors Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. The festival will take place over two weekends, January 6 & 7 and 20 & 21, at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills.

This year film enthusiasts have the opportunity to see all the Nordic and Baltic countries’ submissions for Best Foreign Language Film for the upcoming 90th Oscars:

  • Norway – Thelma directed by Joachim Trier
  • Sweden – The Square directed by Ruben Östlund
  • Denmark – You Disappear (Du forsvinder) directed by Peter Schønau Fog
  • Iceland – Under the Tree (Undir trénu) directed by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigur∂sson
  • Finland – Tom of Finland directed by Dome Karukoski
  • Latvia – The Chronicles of Melanie (Melānijas hronika) directed by Viesturs Kairišs
  • Estonia – November directed by Rainer Sarnet
  • Lithuania – Frost (Šerkšnas) directed by Šarūnas Bartas

Only Sweden’s submission made it to the shortlist of nine films in the Foreign Language Film category. The documentary Kayayo by Norwegian Mari Bakke Riise, which is also on the festival’s schedule this year, is one of ten films on the shortlist for the Documentary Short Subject category. All Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23. The 90th Oscars will take place on Sunday, March 4.

At SFFLA’s Opening Gala on Saturday, January 6, at 6:00 p.m., guests can enjoy drinks and a buffet meal with other Scandi film enthusiasts. Gala tickets also include Opening Ceremonies at 7:15 p.m. and Denmark’s feature film You Disappear at 7:30 p.m.

Below you’ll find a list of films by country. Descriptions are taken from films’ websites when possible. On SFFLA’s website, you can view and download a chronological schedule. Please confirm schedule with SFFLA as it may change after this post is published.


* NORWAY *

Kayayo, The Living Shopping Baskets

Short Documentary by Mari Bakke Riise (2016); On Oscars Shortlist for Best Documentary Short Subject; Screening: Saturday, 1/6, 12:00 p.m.

In the capital of Ghana, thousands of girls from the age of 6 work as real-life shopping baskets, called Kayayo, carrying heavy loads on their heads. This documentary is about Bamunu, an 8-year-old girl who hasn’t seen her family since she was sent away from home two years ago to work as a Kayayo to support her family. We follow her incessant longing to get away from the harsh markets, her journey back home and what awaits there. (32 minutes, visit film’s website)

Thelma

Feature Film by Joachim Trier (2017); Submission for Best Foreign Language Film; Screening: Sunday, 1/7, 5:00 p.m.

Thelma, a shy young student, has just left her religious family in a small town on the west coast of Norway to study at a university in Oslo. While at the library one day, she experiences a violent, unexpected seizure. Soon after, she finds herself intensely drawn toward Anja, a beautiful young student who reciprocates Thelma’s powerful attraction. As the semester continues, Thelma becomes increasingly overwhelmed by her intense feelings for Anja – feelings she doesn’t dare acknowledge, even to herself – while at the same time experiencing even more extreme seizures. As it becomes clearer that the seizures are a symptom of inexplicable, often dangerous, supernatural abilities, Thelma is confronted with tragic secrets of her past, and the terrifying implications of her powers. (116 minutes, visit film’s website)

Northbound (Mot Nord)

Short Documentary by Jørn Nyseth Ranum (2015); Screening: Saturday, 1/20, 11:30 a.m.

Ice, driftwood, foamy waves, and … skateboards? In this poetic short film, four skaters head north to the cold Norwegian coast, applying their urban skills to a wild canvas of beach flotsam, frozen sand, and pastel skies. The result is a beautiful mashup — biting winds and short days, ollies and one epic miniramp. (11 minutes, visit film’s website)

Nothing Ever Really Ends (Ingenting tar noensinne slutt)

Short Film by Jakob Rørvik (2016); Screening: Saturday, 1/20, 4:00 p.m.

Marius and Ebba´s relationship is one long struggle, interspersed with failed attempts at breaking up. Nothing Ever Really Ends is a melancholic comedy about love and dysfunction told on New Years Eve, three years in a row. (23 minutes, visit film’s website)

Late Summer (Sensommer)

Feature Film by Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken (2016); Screening: Saturday, 1/20, 4:30 p.m.

An elderly Norwegian writer has retreated to a remote villa on the French west coast. A young foreign couple on a motorcycle vacation gets a motor stop just outside her property. It is far to the nearest mechanic, so she allows them to stay overnight, thus setting the stage for a triangular drama based on the pregnancy of the young woman. Gradually, dark secrets surface from the past and the young couple’s arrival does not seem so random anymore. (72 minutes, visit film’s website)


* SWEDEN *

The Square

Feature Film by Ruben Östlund (2017); On Oscars Shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film; Screening: Saturday, 1/6, 3:30 p.m.

Christian is the respected curator of a contemporary art museum, a divorced but devoted father of two who drives an electric car and supports good causes. His next show is “The Square”, an installation which invites passersby to altruism, reminding them of their role as responsible fellow human beings. But sometimes, it is difficult to live up to your own ideals: Christian’s foolish response to the theft of his phone drags him into shameful situations. Meanwhile, the museum’s PR agency has created an unexpected campaign for ”The Square”. The response is overblown and sends Christian, as well as the museum, into an existential crisis. (151 minutes, visit film’s website)

Strawberry Days (Jordgubbslandet)

Feature Film by Wiktor Ericsson (2017); Screening: Saturday, 1/20, 7:30 p.m.

Set in the beautiful strawberry fields in the Swedish south, this is a story about love between the son of a Polish guest worker and the daughter of a Swedish farmer. It depicts a world full of divergency and prejudice. (93 minutes, visit film’s website)

The Ex-Wife (Exfrun)

Feature Film by Katja Wik (2017); Screening: Sunday, 1/21, 12:00 p.m.

Klara is newly in love and all she wants is to be close to Jacob. Anna times her husband with a stopwatch when he gets their baby’s bottle ready. Vera can’t let go of her former husband. With humour and seriousness, The Ex-Wife tells the story of three relationships, where the Girlfriend, the Wife, and the Ex-wife all come together in a revealing satire of the arc of relationships – from falling in love to divorce. (90 minutes)


* DENMARK *

You Disappear (Du forsvinder)

Feature Film by Peter Schønau Fog; Submission for Best Foreign Language Film; Screening: Saturday, 1/6, 7:30 p.m.

Mia is married to the successful headmaster Frederik, who is caught embezzling from his own school. But did he do this of his own free will – or has his personality been altered by the tumour lurking in his brain? Mia is desperate to uncover what kind of man she is actually married to. If the happiest three years of Mia’s life with Frederik were while he had a tumour in his brain, who was she married to before? You Disppear is a movie about the challenges we face as neuroscience forces us to rethink what we are as human beings. (117 minutes, visit film’s website)

The Dolphin (Delfinen)

Short Film by Laurits Munch-Petersen (2017); Screening: Sunday, 1/7, 12:00 p.m.

Anna takes her 7-years old son Robert to the beach to finish his swimming course, the DOLPHIN, but something is terribly wrong and Anna needs to face reality. (29 minutes)

Across the Waters (Fuglene over sundet)

Feature Film by Nicolo Donato (2016); Screening: Sunday, 1/21, 7:00 p.m.

Enjoying the nightlife of 1943 Copenhagen, jazz guitarist Arne Itkin is seemingly immune to the hardships of war, as the Danish government opts for a compliant relationship with Nazi Germany. He is initially skeptical when his terrified wife Miriam hears rumors of the round-up and deportation of Danish Jews. An overnight raid, however, forces the couple to flee their home with five-year-old son Jakob. Aided by a church pastor and underground resistance, they set out on a journey for the fishing village of Gilleleje, where refugees await passage to Sweden by boat. Amidst lurking danger from the Gestapo and their collaborators, the family puts its fate in the hands of strangers whose allegiance and motives are not always clear. (95 minutes)


* ICELAND *

Under the Tree (Undir trénu)

Feature Film by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigur∂sson (2017); Submission for Best Foreign Language Film; Screening: Sunday, 1/7, 3:15 p.m.

When Baldwin and Inga’s next door neighbours complain that a tree in their backyard casts a shadow over their sundeck, what starts off as a typical spat between neighbours in the suburbs unexpectedly and violently spirals out of control. (89 minutes)

Summer Children (Sumarbörn)

Feature Film by Gu∂rún Ragnarsdóttir (2017); Screening: Saturday, 1/20, 12:30 p.m.

Siblings Eydís and Kári are only five and six years old when their parents’ marriage breaks apart. Following the divorce they are sent temporarily to a children’s home in the countryside. But when the stay turns out to be longer than they had expected, Eydís and Kári take matters into their own hands. (84 minutes)


* FINLAND *

Tom of Finland

Feature Film by Dome Karukoski (2017); Submission for Best Foreign Language Film; Screening: Sunday, 1/7, 7:30 p.m.

Touko Laaksonen, a decorated officer, returns home after a harrowing and heroic experience serving his country in World War II, but life in Finland during peacetime proves equally distressing. He finds peace-time Helsinki rampant with persecution of the homosexual men around him, even being pressured to marry women and have children. Touko finds refuge in his liberating art, specializing in homoerotic drawings of muscular men, free of inhibitions. His work – made famous by his signature “Tom of Finland” – became the emblem of a generation of men and fanned the flames of a gay revolution.

Miami

Feature Film by Zaida Bergroth (2017); Screening: Sunday, 1/21, 4:30 p.m.

Angela blows into a small town in the Finnish countryside, dazzling the locals with her exotic dancer troupe, sequined swirls and megawatt smile. After a nasty encounter backstage she leaves town just as fast, only now with her estranged half-sister Anna (21) in tow. Anna gladly exchanges a dreary life in a bakery for an adrenaline-fueled existence on stage. Happy to be closer to her glamorous older sister, she embraces the world of exotic dancing. But none of the champagne bubbles and sparkly makeup can protect her as she tries blackmail to save Angela from the trouble that keeps following her. Dark forces from the underworld test their newly found sisterhood.


* LATVIA *

The Chronicles of Melanie (Melānijas hronika)

Feature Film by Viesturs Kairišs (2016); Submission for Best Foreign Language Film; Screening: Saturday, 1/6, 1:00 p.m.

The film “The Chronicles of Melanie” is based on the life story of Melānija Vanaga, a Latvian woman who managed to survive her deportation to Siberia. It is a truthful account of the miracle of human character, magnitude of the human spirit and the painful destinies, which were a part of the greatest tragedy facing the Latvian nation. It is the story of Latvian women who had to suffer and survive physically and emotionally in order for Latvia to live.


* ESTONIA *

November

Feature Film by Rainer Sarnet (2017); Submission for Best Foreign Language Film; Screening: Sunday, 1/7, 1:00 p.m.

The story is set in a pagan Estonian village where werewolves, the plague, and spirits roam. The villagers’ main problem is how to survive the cold, dark winter. And, to that aim, nothing is taboo. People steal from each other, from their German manor lords, and from spirits, the devil, and Christ. The main character of the film is a young farm girl named Liina who is hopelessly and forlornly in love with a village boy named Hans.

The Dissidents (Sangarid)

Feature Film by Jaak Kilmi (2017); Screening: Saturday, 1/20, 2:30 p.m.

This action comedy takes us back to the 1980’s as three young Estonian guys flee the Soviet Union to the West, to get to live an awesome life just as they’ve seen in “Miami Vice” and “Knight Rider.” At first the Swedes welcome them as real heroes, who broke through the iron curtain, but soon they’re regarded as just more tedious immigrants. To put food on the table they have to do something as lame as…work! But the boys are no quitters, so they come up with a plan that should guarantee success in the Western world.


* LITHUANIA *

Frost (Šerkšnas)

Feature Film by Šarūnas Bartas (2017); Submission for Best Foreign Language Film; Screening: Sunday, 1/21, 2:00 p.m.

A young Lithuanian who, intent on understanding war and hence his people, boards a humanitarian convoy bound from Lithuania to the Ukraine’s war-torn Donbass region. Falling in with two war reporters, one a woman, he is plunged into the turmoil of war where the trio will be forced to overcome their psychological limits and build a strong relationship. They do not agree upon anything, except for their wish to be where they are, each of them for their own reasons. (132 minutes)


What festival films look interesting to you?

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: December 2017

I’ve had a tough reading time this past month with disappointments for unexpected reasons. I need to turn that around. Once again, I’m joining Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit link-up where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

This one came highly recommended from Modern Mrs Darcy and I suggested it for my local book club. Unfortunately, I was not blown away by it. I believe it was *reading* the book that made the difference for me. I’ve since learned that *listening* to the book is a totally different experience. I enjoyed the main characters and the unlikely relationship between the Captain and the young orphan girl he was charged to bring back to relatives after having been taken captive by Kiowa Native Americans. I liked the setting of Texas post Civil War. The story introduced me to a chapter in American history that I was unfamiliar with, which I really enjoyed. However, the writing style was not for me and affected the whole reading experience. There were no quotation marks in the dialogue which made reading it more frustrating and harder than it should have been. I suggest listening to this one.


The Wednesday Club by Kjell Westö (Finnish novel written in Swedish translated to English by Neil Smith)

This was the latest book pick for my Scandinavian Book Club. And it was another tough read but for a totally different reason. I did not have the necessary background knowledge to absorb everything easily. It takes place in Helsinki, Finland, in 1938. At one point, I had to research Finnish history, in particular the civil war that happened in 1918 and left deep scars in the people. Also, I was not knowledgeable enough about the intricacies of the political atmosphere throughout Europe between World War I and II. However, I was intrigued by the main character: Matilda, Miss Milja, or Mrs. Wiik, depending on the situation. I was curious about her past, clues about which were meted out slowly, and culminated in an ending that I was not expecting. (A sidenote, Kjell Westö won the Nordic Council Literature Award in 2014 for this book. It’s one of the most prestigious awards that Nordic authors can win.)


I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick, narrated by Neela Vaswani

I was recently very moved by a Norwegian movie about a Pakistani immigrant family living in Oslo whose daughter was sent back to Pakistan as punishment for her Western behavior (What Will People Say by Iram Haq). I Am Malala has been a memoir I’ve been interested in reading for a long time, and I seized the moment now to learn more about Pakistan and its people. Unfortunately, in my rush to get started, I unintentionally selected the young readers’ adaptation of the audiobook and realized it once I was too invested. Malala is an inspiring girl and the book provided a fascinating window into the culture and history of the region. I definitely enjoyed the book and Malala’s story, but I do wish I had selected the adult version.


Sourdough by Robin Sloan

After my recent hard and serious reads, I needed something light-hearted and fun. I really enjoyed Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore so I thought I’d try his latest book. Sourdough was definitely an easy and fun read – to begin with at least. I enjoyed the main character and her new life with the sourdough starter left to her unexpectedly. The casual style of writing also helped the story move along quickly. Then about 75% into it, I found the book harder to return to as the story took a fantastical turn. Sadly, I had to force myself to finish it. The fantasy elements in this book were not for me. But I seem to be in the minority. The Goodreads community thinks much more highly of the book than I did.


Currently reading and next on my list…

Since Christmas is around the corner, I’m reading Jostein Gaarder’s The Christmas Mystery, a book I’ve long been curious about. Jostein Gaarder is a Norwegian intellectual and author of several novels, short stories, and children’s books. The Christmas Mystery is written in 24 chapters and is about a boy who discovers a magic Advent calendar. My local book club’s next read is The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi about an Afghani woman who immigrated to Denmark after her husband was captured by the Taliban. My Scandinavian Book Club chose Karin Fossum’s Eva’s Eye (first book in the Inspector Sejer mystery series) which I’ve already read so I may read The Indian Bride, another of Karin Fossum’s Inspector Sejer mysteries, instead. It received the Los Angeles Times’ Mystery Prize in 2007. But before I read either of those books, I need something light and fun. I may try Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians.

What have you been reading lately?

Do you have any books to recommend? I need to get some more enjoyment into my reading life right now.

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What Will People Say by Iram Haq: An #OwnVoices Immigrant Story from Norway

I seized the opportunity to see What Will People Say (Hva vil folk si) at AFI FEST 2017 in Hollywood this past November. I’ve read a lot of immigrant stories that take place here in the United States, but immigrant stories by own voices in Norway are unfamiliar to me. What Will People Say was a very powerful film about a first generation Norwegian teenager born of Pakistani immigrants in Oslo.

The film was written and directed by Norwegian Iram Haq and was inspired by the filmmaker’s own life. Nisha, the film’s main character, is a sixteen year old girl straddling two cultures and living two very separate lives. She’s a typical modern-day Norwegian teen as well as a devoted daughter of traditional Pakistani parents. When caught by her father with her boyfriend, her parents punish her by sending her to Pakistan to stay with family.

The movie is about family, culture clash, honor, and shame. There were many gasp-out-loud moments in this film. There was violence, kidnapping, and sexual assault. It’s a thought-provoking and heart-breaking movie. I highly recommend it. It opened my eyes to a world very foreign to me, a world that could theoretically be right next to me without me knowing it.

The movie won the Audience Award for New Auteurs at AFI FEST 2017. I was hoping it would be on the schedule for Scandinavian Film Festival LA in January 2018 in Beverly Hills, but it is not currently there. It’s a movie I would consider taking my older son to see. Not only would he get a glimpse of modern-day society in Oslo, but he would also learn a bit more about the greater world. Though a movie about a Norwegian teenager of Pakistani parents, her situation is not particular to Norway and can apply to other Western teenagers of Pakistani or Muslim parents.

I highly recommend you seek out an opportunity to see this movie. U.S. rights have been sold to Kino Lorber so we’ll see what that means for interested viewers in the U.S.

Los Angeles Culture Challenge for December 2017: Swedish Christmas Fair, CicLAvia, and PST:LA/LA

December offers many special events and activities. I challenge you to explore the richness of where we live. Here are some special events happening in the upcoming month. Mark your calendars, but please check suitability for family members and confirm dates and times before heading out.

A favorite Scandinavian event is here this month, SWEA’s 38th annual Swedish Christmas Fair, on Sunday, December 3. It’s a busy, festive one-day affair which always leaves me with a cozy Christmas feeling. If you go, make sure to time your visit so that you are there for the Lucia pageant at 12pm or 3pm.

A favorite LA event takes place this month as well. CicLAvia returns to Wilshire Boulevard for its Iconic Wilshire Boulevard route on Sunday, December 10. There’s no better way to explore the city than on bike when the streets are closed to cars.

And finally, don’t forget to take advantage of the special months-long art initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, an exploration of Latin American and Latino art in Los Angeles, which ends in January (some exhibitions continue later). You can sort exhibitions by theme, neighborhood, venue, and media which makes the whole process of deciding what to see where less overwhelming. Some of the ones I have found most intriguing are listed below.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month?

* THROUGHOUT DECEMBER *

DTLA Holiday Lights Walking Tour, Meeting Point: Union Station, Downtown LA, nightly at 6:30 p.m. until December 30. Explore the richness of Downtown LA with the annual DTLA Holiday Lights Tour offered by DTLA Walking Tours. It is a two-hour nightly tour of the festive holiday decorations and traditions in Downtown LA from the weekend after Thanksgiving through the weekend after Christmas. The tour begins at Union Station and highlights include Las Posadas at Olvera Street, Grand Park with its illuminated fountain, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Broad Museum, Candle Cove at California Plaza, icicle sheets in the Old Bank District, and Pershing Square festivities. Adults $17, children 12 and under free. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit website.

Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A., Central Library, Downtown LA, on display until January 31, 2018. The exhibition celebrates the rich social fabric of Los Angeles through the lens of the city’s vibrant Oaxacan community — specifically, the Zapotec communities which make up one of the largest Indigenous groups in Mexico and Los Angeles. The Oaxacan artist collective Tlacolulokos has created a series of new murals for the Central Library’s historic rotunda that explore language and culture as a key lifeline sustaining the shared experience between Mexico, Los Angeles, and beyond, with a look at how migration and the socio-political environment shape identity and cultural traditions. It is presented by The Library Foundation of LA and the LA Public Library as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.

Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark‐Making in LA, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, on display until February 25, 2018. See a new body of photographic work by interdisciplinary artist Ken Gonzales-Day examining the mural landscape of LA—from East LA to Venice Beach, from Pacoima to South LA. Featuring over 140 photographs, Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark‐Making in LA considers what the city’s walls reveal about its diverse communities. It is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.

Cuba Is, Annenberg Space for Photography, Century City, on display until March 4, 2018. Revealing complexities both on and off the island, Cuba Is explores aspects of Cuba not easily accessed by foreigners, and sometimes not even by Cubans themselves. Born from indigenous, African and European roots, divergent politics and limitations in communication and commerce, the Cuba seen in this exhibition goes beyond the folklore and offers new insight into its current reality. Over 120 photos feature subjects ranging from defiant youth known as “Frikis” to the hard-partying children of the 1%, the underground system of sharing digital content—“El paquete”—to Miami’s Chonga girls. It is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 2 & 3 *

Edible Adventures: Little Tokyo Sushi Graze, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/2, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Listen to stories of the neighborhood while grazing on sushi made by Little Tokyo’s talented chefs. $64 members; $80 non-members. Food and museum admission included. Limited to 10 participants. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit website.

Transpacific Borderlands Art Workshop—Paper Flowers from the Camp Archives, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/2, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Transpacific Borderlands exhibiting artist Shizu Saldamando will teach participants how to make paper roses using a flower pattern from the Manzanar concentration camp archives. For ages 11 and up. Limited to 20 participants. Included with museum admission. RSVPs are recommended.

38th Annual Swedish Christmas Fair, Torrance Cultural Arts Center, Torrance, Sunday, 12/3, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The fair features artisans and stands presenting the best of Swedish fine art, handicrafts, books, jewelry, toys, decorations, and much more. Enjoy a traditional Swedish lunch or “fika” (coffee break) with delicious home baked sweets. You can even enjoy an invigorating glass of hot glögg (mulled wine). The radiant Lucia Pageant is performed twice during the day, at noon and at 3pm. There’s also a children’s corner with crafts, games, and a possible visit with Santa.

Ancient Greece: Medusa Clay Masks (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/3, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Sunday, 12/3, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more! The 2 1/2 hour walking tour will take visitors to a number of off-the-beaten-track points of interest and will guide those interested in shopping to some of Chinatown’s best bargains and its trendiest shops. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A’s Chinatown. Cost $20. Buy tickets at their website.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 9 & 10 *

Origami with Ruthie Kitagawa: Holiday Wreath and Cards, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/9, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Get ready for the holidays and make cards and a wreath using origami techniques. $12 members, $15 non-members. Supplies and admission included. Limited to 10 participants. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit website.

CicLAvia: Iconic Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, Sunday, 12/10, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. CicLAvia heads back to Iconic Wilshire Boulevard as Koreatown, Westlake, and Downtown Los Angeles host the country’s largest open streets event. Streets will be closed to cars and open for cyclists, pedestrians, runners and skaters to use as a recreational space. You will enjoy the sights, music, food, and culture that make LA such a vibrant city.

Panama: Molas Winter Lights (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/10, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

Hanukkah Festival: LA/LA, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, Sunday, 12/10, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Inspired by the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, this year’s festival explores the themes of Hanukkah through the traditions of Los Angeles’s rich and diverse Latin American communities. Program includes music and dance, hands-on workshops, storytelling, exhibitions, dining, and shopping. For more information and to purchase advance tickets (recommended), visit website.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 16 & 17 *

Jewelry Workshop—The World of Washi: Introductory Class, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/16, 11:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Washi is a traditional Japanese handmade decorative paper that dates back to the seventh century. Unlike machine-made paper from wood pulp, washi is made from the inner bark of plants such as mulberry, bamboo, wisteria, and hemp. The intertwining of fibers results in paper that is strong, durable, washable, and acid-free. Its thin, smooth, soft surface can be printed with vivid colors and complex designs. In this workshop led by Reiko Nakano, learn about the history of washi and how to apply it onto a variety of plumbing hardware like washers to create jewelry. Bring a shoebox or plastic case to hold materials, a pair of sharp scissors, and a lunch or snack. $32 members, $40 non-members. Museum admission included. Limited to 12 participants. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit website.

Las Posadas at Olvera Street, El Pueblo Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/16 – Saturday, 12/24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Las Posadas has been a part of Olvera Street since its founding in 1930. Every evening beginning December 16 and continuing through Christmas Eve, the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem is reenacted with traditional songs, colorful costumes, and vibrant music. Festivities begin with a children’s piñata breaking. Free sweet bread and champurrado are given to all in attendance afterwards. While the event is rooted in Christian and Catholic traditions, it is attended by people from all religious backgrounds, and all are welcome to participate.

Mexico: Printmaking Otoni Patterns (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/17, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

13th Annual Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival, Bing Theater and Brown Auditorium at LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 12/17, 10:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Presenting nearly 100 films from around the world—full-length and short animation, live action, and documentary films—the festival is organized for different age groups, from toddlers through teenagers. Select filmmakers and actors are present for Q&A sessions after each screening. Free and open to the public. Program schedule will be available at the NexGen table, located in the Los Angeles Times Central Court.

Kids in the Courtyard: Let’s Go Fly a Kite, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 12/17, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Paper plays a key role in Daoist ceremonies, as families often send petitions to the heavens using written documents that are carefully burned. Learn how to make a paper kite to share your own dreams and wishes for the New Year. Be sure to explore the power of paper in the How to Make the Universe Right: The Art of Priests and Shamans from Vietnam and Southern China exhibition.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 23 & 24 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/23, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Cost is $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission included. Limited to 20 participants. To purchase tickets, please visit website.

58th Annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center, Downtown LA, Sunday, 12/24, 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Community and professional choirs, music ensembles, and dance companies representing the diverse cultures and holiday traditions of the region celebrate the season during this free three-hour holiday show. Doors open at 2:30 p.m. First come, first seated. People begin lining up early. The show is also broadcast live in Southern California on PBS SoCal (KOCE) and live streamed on pbssocal.org.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 30 & 31 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/30, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Cost is $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission included. Limited to 20 participants. To purchase tickets, please visit website.

Feel free to add events for the current month in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me the details. Thank you!

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: November 2017

It’s been an enjoyable and thought-provoking month of reading. Two of my reads were in anticipation of author talks. Connecting books with their authors is always interesting. As I’ve done in the past, I’m joining Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit link-up where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

My book club picked Practical Magic because Alice Hoffman was coming to town to speak about her newest novel The Rules of Magic, which is a prequel to Practical Magic. Witches and magic are not my ideal reading material, but it wasn’t blatantly in my face in this book which made it work for me. I was a little turned off by the writing style – barely any dialogue and a lot telling as if setting up something to come – but I enjoyed the sister relationships. Overall, it was a good read, and having the opportunity to hear Alice Hoffman speak about the book and her other works certainly added to my reading experience. I’ve definitely put the movie on my watch list and I’m interested in reading The Rules of Magic, especially with all the hype it’s gotten this fall.


Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I enjoyed Celeste Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You and was eager to read this as well. I liked this one even better than the first one. Just like her first book, this one begins with a shocking event and then goes back in time and works its way to the opening event to answer the unanswered questions surrounding it. And like her first book, there are complicated family dynamics and racial questions. This story involves characters with interesting back stories and relationships. There are decisions with serious consequences. And there are complicated mother-daughter relationships. This would make an excellent book to discuss with friends or in a book club.


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This was a book I had picked out months ago as a possible selection for the category “a book with an unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending” for Modern Mrs Darcy’s 2017 Reading Challenge Reading for Growth. Then when I learned that Ishiguro had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, I was even more intrigued to read a book of his. It helped that this book was listed as the book to begin with when starting to read Ishiguro. I think the best way to go into this book is not knowing what it’s about, other than it being about some kids at a boarding school in England. For me the enjoyment in this book was piecing together what was really going on in the story. It all seemed so normal, but yet it wasn’t.


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In January, I made a vow to read more books by diverse authors and about issues or experiences new or unfamiliar to meBetween the World and Me was one of the books I decided I would read. When I learned that Ta-Nehisi Coates was coming to speak in LA for his tour promoting his latest book We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, I moved Between the World and Me to the top of my TBR list. This was a bold, eye-opening, and thought-provoking read about race in America and how it has shaped American history from a perspective so different from my own. I am so grateful for the opportunity to hear him speak, and having read Between the World and Me beforehand made the experience much more meaningful.


Currently reading and next on my list…

News of the World by Paulette Jiles is my local book club’s current read, and The Wednesday Club by Kjell Westö (Finnish novel written in Swedish and translated by Neil Smith) is my Scandinavian Book Group’s pick for November. After their November meetings, my book clubs won’t meet again until January, so my focus for the rest of the year will be seeing how close I can get to completing my Modern Mrs Darcy reading challenges for the year.

What have you been reading lately?

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Norwegian (and other Nordic) Films at AFI FEST 2017

Norwegian film has not been a stranger to Los Angeles these last few weeks, and its presence continues at American Film Institute’s film festival AFI FEST taking place now. AFI FEST is an annual celebration of international cinema “from modern masters and emerging filmmakers”. It takes place each fall in Hollywood and features nightly red-carpet galas, special screenings, conversations, and tributes. AFI FEST is free to the public.

This year two Norwegian films are on the schedule. The first one is Thelma written by Norwegian duo Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt and directed by Joachim Trier. It is a psychological thriller that takes place in Oslo, Norway. It is Norway’s Best Foreign Language Oscar submission. The second film is What Will People Say written and directed by Norwegian Iram Haq (Norwegian-born of Pakistani immigrants).

I’m a great fan of the Scandinavian Film Festival LA which takes place every January in Beverly Hills. As I’ve written before, I always look forward to seeing what’s being offered and hope there’s a movie that will transport me back to Norway through language and setting or bring alive a part of Norwegian history for me. I also don’t mind being an armchair traveler to other countries in the region. AFI FEST provides another opportunity to catch films I wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. Personally, I’m very intrigued by Iram Haq’s What Will People Say. I’ve read a lot of immigrant stories that take place here in the United States, but immigrant stories by own voices in Norway are new to me. This film is inspired by the director’s own life.

Scandinavia, and the Nordic countries in general, are well represented at AFI FEST. Films from Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland are also on the schedule. Winter Brothers is Icelandic filmmaker Hlynur Pálmason’s drama that takes place in Denmark. Sweden has two shorts, The Burden and Ten Meter Tower. And Finland is represented by The Other Side of Hope written and directed by Aki Kaurismäki.

Film descriptions provided below are from AFI FEST’s website.

THELMA directed by Joachim Trier

Screening Details & Ticket Reservations: Sat, Nov 11, 9:15 p.m. & Mon, Nov 13, 1:00 p.m.

A gripping psychological thriller, THELMA follows a unique young woman with two overprotective, devoutly Christian parents. As Thelma begins her journey to leave home, her parents become alarmingly nervous. More than empty nest syndrome, they’re experiencing genuine fear for mysterious reasons. Deploying modern horror’s signature tropes while also twisting them anew, the latest work from Joachim Trier features a star performance from Eili Harboe, and is an entertaining, mind-bending allegory about agency, power, gender and sexuality. – Lane Kneedler

WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY (Hva vil folk si) directed by Iram Haq

Screening Details & Ticket Reservations: Sat, Nov 11, 4:00 p.m. & Wed, Nov 15, 12:45 p.m.

Sixteen-year-old Nisha lives a double life — the perfect Pakistani daughter to her strict parents, and a normal Norwegian teenager with her friends at school. One night when her father catches her and her boyfriend in her bedroom, Nisha’s two worlds brutally collide. Iram Haq’s sophomore feature is a powerful story of a young woman growing up between two cultures, with no control over her life choices, who must carve out her own path despite a significant culture clash. Lead actress Maria Mozhdah makes an impressive debut, imbuing Nisha with dueling personas. In an equally impressive role, Adil Hussain plays Nisha’s father, delicately balancing his fatherly love with the pressure of a strict society that wants to make an example of his daughter. – Jenn Murphy

WINTER BROTHERS (Vinterbrødre) directed by Hlynur Pálmason

Screening Details & Ticket Reservations: Sun, Nov 12, 6:45 p.m. & Wed, Nov 15, 6:00 p.m.

Living in a remote, snowy area can have a profound effect on the psyche, and working as a miner in this landscape, loner Emil struggles to fit into his hyper-masculine environment. He appears strange and awkward next to his fit and popular brother Johan. When they’re not working, they’re making and selling moonshine, and watching instructional videos on how to fire antique rifles. But when the brothers find themselves competing for the love of the only woman in town, tensions bubble over. Hypnotic, strange and beautiful, WINTER BROTHERS lures the audience in with its depiction of a life dictated by routine, only to then erupt with some of the most striking images captured on film this year. – Lane Kneedler

THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE (Toivon Tuolla Puolen) directed by Aki Kaurismäki

Screening Details & Ticket Reservations: Sun, Nov 12, 9:00 p.m. & Wed, Nov 15, 9:00 p.m.

A Syrian refugee stowed away on a freighter, Khaled arrives in Helsinki soot-faced and desperate to start a new life. Meanwhile, Wikstrom is a traveling salesman in the throes of a very deadpan midlife crisis, who wins big at a poker game and decides to purchase a restaurant as a means of starting over. These two interlacing narratives dance throughout THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE in a way that only Aki Kaurismäki can choreograph: with buoyant hope and low-key hilarity. The Finnish auteur has remained remarkably consistent in his minimalist style over the years, and with THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE — which is both classically Kaurismäki and piercingly relevant to global events — he reminds us yet again of his ability to endure. – Beth Hanna

Is there anything here or in the rest of the Film Guide that interests you?

Los Angeles Culture Challenge for November 2017: PST:LA/LA and Norwegian Christmas Fair

Los Angeles is one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the United States. I challenge you to explore the richness of where we live. Here are some special events happening in the upcoming month. Mark your calendars, but please check suitability for family members and confirm dates and times before heading out.

Of special significance to me this month is the Norwegian Christmas Fair. It takes place, as it always does, the weekend before Thanksgiving. Interestingly, this is a common tradition all over the world at Norwegian Seamen’s Churches. Christmas decorations, music, candles, and the smell of freshly baked goods set the mood as you wander the booths filled with Scandinavian goods of all kinds. And of course, there’s the café serving traditional Norwegian foods. All are invited to attend. You do not need to be Norwegian or a member of the church.

The special months-long art initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is in full swing. It started in September and goes until the end of January. Many venues around Los Angeles and beyond are participating with a variety of exhibitions. As explained on its website, “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles.” You can sort exhibitions by theme, neighborhood, venue, and media which makes the whole process of deciding what to see where less overwhelming. I have made a personal challenge to see as many of the exhibitions at venues close to home as possible. High on my list are Cuba Is at Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City, Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A. at Central Library in Downtown LA, and Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark‐Making in LA at Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month?

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 4 & 5 *

20th Annual Arpa International Film Festival, Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood, Friday, 11/3 – Sunday, 11/5. The annual Arpa International Film Festival is a dynamic forum for international cinema. It aims to bridge cultural divides by fostering dialogue among people of diverse backgrounds. It showcases local and international films that explore critical issues such as war, genocide, diaspora, dual identities, exile, and multiculturalism. 34 films from 16 countries will be screened. Visit website to see schedule.

Transpacific Borderlands Exhibition Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, 11/4, 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Join exhibition curator and JANM Vice President of Operations/Art Director Clement Hanami for an in-depth gallery tour of the exhibition Transpacific Borderlands: The Art of Japanese Diaspora in Lima, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and São Paulo which examines the experiences of artists of Japanese ancestry born, raised, or living in either Latin America or predominantly Latin American neighborhoods of Southern California. The exhibition is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative.

Germany: Grimm Fairy Tale Puppets (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/5, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

Mexican Day of the Dead Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 11/5, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) at the Bowers Museum. Honor departed ones with music, dance, and art.

Family Jam: Salvador and Samba with Viver Brasil, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 11/5, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Celebrate Brazil’s cultural and artistic heritage with a jolt of joyful color, thrilling rhythms, and communal celebration. Find inspiration in the Axé Bahia: The Power of Art in an Afro-Brazilian Metropolis exhibition, create your own musical instruments, and learn to Samba alongside performers from LA-based dance company Viver Brasil.

Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival, Hollywood & Westwood, Sunday, 11/5 – Wednesday, 11/8. The Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival is recognized as the most prestigious Brazilian film festival outside Brazil. It showcases the best in new Brazilian cinema. Opening Night Gala is in Hollywood, but festival screenings will take place in Westwood. See website for details and schedule.

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 11 & 12 *

Red Nation Film Festival, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica (plus other venues), Wednesday, 11/8 – Sunday, 11/19. Red Nation Film Festival is a showcase for new work by American Indian and Indigenous international independent filmmakers, It brings together decision makers and content creators with the goal of ensuring media representation of American Indian and Indigenous content to the world at large.

AFI Fest, Various Venues, Hollywood, Thursday, 11/9 – Thursday, 11/16. This is American Film Institute’s annual celebration of international cinema from modern masters and emerging filmmakers. It features nightly red-carpet galas, special screenings, conversations, and tributes.

American Indian Arts Marketplace, The Autry Museum in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, Saturday, 11/11, & Sunday, 11/12, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The largest Native American arts fair in Southern California, the Autry’s American Indian Arts Marketplace features 200 Native American artists representing more than 40 tribes. Top Native artists from across the country offer sculpture, pottery, beadwork, basketry, photography, paintings, jewelry, textiles, wooden carvings, mixed-media works, and more. Plus, enjoy a full weekend of food, filmperformancespoetry, informative demonstrations, family activities, and the annual Short Play Festival from Native Voices, the Autry’s award-winning resident theatre company.

JANM Free Family Days: We Love LA, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, 11/11, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. In conjunction with Transpacific Borderlands: The Art of Japanese Diaspora in Lima, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and São Paulo, JANM presents a family-friendly day celebrating the diverse mix of cultures that make up Los Angeles. For more information on activities and schedule, please visit their website.

Kenya: Maasai Animal Masks (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/12, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 18 & 19 *

Forced From Home, Parking Lot of Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, Monday, 11/13, – Sunday, 11/19. Doctors Without Borders presents Forced From Home, a free interactive tour that takes you behind the headlines about the global refugee crisis. Guided by experienced Doctors Without Borders aid workers, you’ll travel through a 10,000-square-foot space designed to convey the challenges facing a person forced to flee. You’ll also learn about the humanitarian aid Doctors Without Borders provides along the way. Visitors experience virtual reality and 360˚ video and interact with materials gathered from refugee camps, sea rescue missions, and emergency medical projects around the world. Forced From Home tours are free, fully accessible, and take roughly one hour to complete. Families are welcome, however the content is best suited to children ages 12+.

Norwegian Christmas Fair/Julebasar, Sjømannskirken/Norwegian Seamen’s Church, San Pedro, Friday, 11/17 – Sunday, 11/19. The third weekend in November is the annual Norwegian Christmas Fair at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church. Christmas decorations, music, candles, and the smell of freshly baked goods set the mood as you wander the booths filled with Scandinavian goods of all kinds. There are raffle drawings with wonderful prizes, traditional foods served in the church’s cafe, baked goods for sale in the church’s bakery, and Norwegian Christmas food available in the church’s store. There will also be a children’s Christmas Workshop from 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. All are welcome!

The Great Los Angeles Walk, Beverly Boulevard starting in Little Tokyo, Saturday, 11/18, 9:00 a.m. Get to know our city by walking across it. Every year, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, hundreds of walkers start the free urban hike on one side of the city and, 9 hours and 17 miles later, end up at the other. It is a low-key event, and you can hop on or off the walk whenever you’d like.

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 11/18, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. Museum admission is included. To purchase tickets, please visit website.

27th Annual Mariachi Festival and Community Fair, Mariachi Plaza, Boyle Heights, Sunday, 11/19, 9:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. The 27th Annual Mariachi Festival will be held at the 40-year-old landmark, Mariachi Plaza, in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. Local mariachi groups will perform during the day-long program. There will also be arts activities, photo opportunities, art exhibitions, food, and information booths.

USA: Navajo Rug Designs (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/19, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 25 & 26 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 11/25, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. To purchase tickets, please visit website.

Morocco: Mirror Reflections on Gratitude (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/26, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

* ONGOING EXHIBITIONS *

Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A., Central Library, Downtown LA. The exhibition celebrates the rich social fabric of Los Angeles through the lens of the city’s vibrant Oaxacan community — specifically, the Zapotec communities which make up one of the largest Indigenous groups in Mexico and Los Angeles. The Oaxacan artist collective Tlacolulokos has created a series of new murals for the Central Library’s historic rotunda that explore language and culture as a key lifeline sustaining the shared experience between Mexico, Los Angeles, and beyond, with a look at how migration and the socio-political environment shape identity and cultural traditions. It is presented by The Library Foundation of LA and the LA Public Library as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a collaborative effort by arts institutions across Southern California to explore Latin American and Latino art in Los Angeles. It is on display until January 31, 2018.

Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark‐Making in LA, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles. See a new body of photographic work by interdisciplinary artist Ken Gonzales-Day examining the mural landscape of LA—from East LA to Venice Beach, from Pacoima to South LA. Featuring over 140 photographs, Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark‐Making in LA considers what the city’s walls reveal about its diverse communities. It is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a collaborative effort by arts institutions across Southern California to explore Latin American and Latino art in Los Angeles. It is on display until February 25, 2018.

Cuba Is, Annenberg Space for Photography, Century City. Revealing complexities both on and off the island, Cuba Is explores aspects of Cuba not easily accessed by foreigners, and sometimes not even by Cubans themselves. Born from indigenous, African and European roots, divergent politics and limitations in communication and commerce, the Cuba seen in this exhibition goes beyond the folklore and offers new insight into its current reality. Over 120 photos feature subjects ranging from defiant youth known as “Frikis” to the hard-partying children of the 1%, the underground system of sharing digital content—“El paquete”—to Miami’s Chonga girls. It is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a collaborative effort by arts institutions across Southern California to explore Latin American and Latino art in Los Angeles. It is on display until March 4, 2018.

Feel free to add events for the current month in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me the details. Thank you!