Scandinavian Film Festival LA 2019: One Weekend Down, One to Go

Long time subscribers to my blog will know that the Scandinavian Film Festival LA is one of my favorite annual Scandinavian events in the Los Angeles area. This year the festival opened the first weekend in January and it continues this coming weekend, January 19 and 20, in Beverly Hills. The first weekend did not disappoint, and the second looks to be promising as well.

This year the festival celebrates its 20th anniversary. A full house of Nordic film enthusiasts was at the Opening Gala on Saturday evening of the first weekend to celebrate this milestone. Along with a buffet of favorite Scandinavian foods, the festivities included a champagne toast and delicious Princess Cake from Copenhagen Pastry at the end of the evening.

Compared to other film festivals, this is a small one. But it’s very welcoming and friendly. Many festival goers come for multiple screenings. They hang out in the lobby between films. They chat and enjoy food from the Nordic Café, the best part of which is the pastries from none other than Copenhagen Pastry.

Last year I volunteered for the first time and I did so again this year because it was such a fun and rewarding experience. The festival is basically a family-run operation with Jim Koenig as head of the festival and his sister Flo Niermann in charge of ticket sales and volunteers. And they are so grateful for their volunteers.

During the first weekend I saw four films: Sweden’s Border, Denmark’s The Guilty, Iceland’s Woman at War, and Norway’s The 12th Man. I would have seen a fifth, Norway’s What Would People Say, if I hadn’t already seen it (highly recommend it, read more at What Will People Say by Iram Haq: An #OwnVoices Immigrant Story from Norway).

My absolute favorite of the weekend was Iceland’s Woman at War directed by Benedikt Erlingsson. I highly recommend it. Go watch it when it opens in theaters March 1. It’s about a single woman in her fifties who’s an ardent environmentalist intent on sabotaging Iceland’s aluminum industry. She’s independent, bold, and strong — my favorite type of female protagonist. Then suddenly, she receives the unexpected news that she’s been approved to adopt a girl from the Ukraine and she has to rethink her actions. Viewers get glimpses of Iceland’s beautiful landscape. There’s an interesting musical aspect that adds a surreal and humorous touch. The actress Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir is wonderful. (This movie was the winner of Nordic Council Film Prize in 2018.)

I also very much enjoyed Denmark’s thriller/drama The Guilty directed by Gustav Möller. It’s about a police officer who’s been demoted to work as an emergency dispatcher. He expects nothing more than a boring evening answering calls from drunks and druggies. However, he gets a phone call from a woman who’s been kidnapped and so begins a desperate search from his desk for the woman. It is extremely suspenseful with interesting twists. At the same time, viewers wonder and learn more about the officer’s demotion. The lead actor, Jakob Cedergren, is perfect for the role which is good because the whole movie is focused on him.

As a festival bonus, director/writer Gustav Möller and producer Lina Flint were at the screening and answered questions afterward. It’s always interesting to get a glimpse behind the scenes of a movie, and their story as friends from film school in Denmark was a great one. Find out if there’s a showtime near you or watch it at home. Interestingly, there will be an American remake of The Guilty with Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead so see the original before that comes out.

Sweden’s Border directed by Alli Abbas was not at all what I was expecting. I did not do my research properly and went in blindly. I was expecting something realistic about border issues, which was not at all the case. I later saw the movie described as a “dark romantic fantasy fable.” Had I known this, I may have enjoyed it more since my expectations would have been different.

It’s about Tina, a customs officer who uses her extraordinary sense of smell to identify people who are smuggling. She also has an extreme connection to the natural world. One day when traveler Vore walks past, Tina senses something suspicious about him but nothing is found. However, an attraction develops between them, and when Tina begins to develop a relationship with Vore, she discovers his true identity and also learns the truth about herself.

I wrapped up the first weekend with Norway’s The 12th Man directed by Harald Zwart. I brought my family along to this film since I had previously seen it at a special screening at The Museum of Tolerance and thought it was an amazing World War II story of survival, will to live, and kindness to others despite tremendous risk. The movie is based on the true story of Norwegian resistance fighter Jan Baalsrud who was the only one of 12 Norwegian resistance fighters on a mission from Shetland to sabotage Nazi activity in Northern Norway to escape when they were discovered by Nazis. It chronicles his journey towards neutral Sweden which would not have been possible without the kindness and help of locals who risked their own lives.

It turns out my family was not as enthralled with the movie as I was. They thought there was too much brutality (Germans against captured Norwegians), too much gruesomeness (German torture of captured Norwegians and Jan’s physical condition throughout his journey), and too much repetition of plot elements. I thought it was important for my kids to see the local Norwegian resistance in action as both my grandfathers had been a part of it before one escaped to Sweden and the other was sent to a camp in Germany. Also, the Norwegian landscape was beautiful and I loved the unexpected glimpse into Sami culture.

This coming weekend I will see Utøya – July 22 directed by Erik Poppe, a film about a teenage girl who struggles to survive and to find her younger sister during the July 2011 terrorist mass murder at a political summer camp on the Norwegian island of Utøya. I expect it to be a difficult film to watch considering the subject matter. I have read Åsne Seierstad’s non-fiction book One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath so at least I won’t be totally surprised by the scale of terror and horror.

I have not yet decided on which other films to see during the upcoming weekend. It will depend on when I’m there as a volunteer. Estonia’s Take It or Leave It, Sweden’s The Cake General, Denmark’s Becoming Astrid, and Finland’s One Last Deal all look interesting (see schedule). I’d be curious to hear your thoughts about the festival if you’ve been or plan to go.

Join the 2019 Scandinavian Reading Challenge!

I invite you to join the 2019 Scandinavian Reading Challenge, a reading challenge that focuses on the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

There are 12 prompts. 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!

New this year… There will be a Scandinavian-themed prize (something edible or readable) for a participant at the end! Each book you read for a prompt qualifies for a chance to win. Just take a picture of your list with whatever books you’ve read and email it to me by January 1, 2020, to enter the drawing.

Visit the page 2019 Scandinavian Reading Challenge to see the 12 prompts and to download a printable PDF to keep track of your reading.

I will make suggestions for the prompts as the year progresses. I would love to hear what books you choose to read as well. If you’re not already a subscriber to my blog, subscribe now so you’ll receive my Reading Lately posts which will include #ScandiReadingChallenge ideas. Also, follow me on Instagram at @AVikingInLA for reading ideas (among other things).

I hope you’ll join me for some Scandinavian reading this year. Share your intention to participate in the comments below, in an email, in a blog post (don’t forget to share with me!), or on social media using the hashtag #ScandiReadingChallenge. I look forward to seeing your progress and book ideas along the way!

January 2019: Los Angeles Culture Challenge & Scandinavian Film Festival LA #SFFLA

Happy New Year! January brings new opportunities to venture out and explore the cultural richness of Los Angeles.

January also brings one of my favorite Scandinavian events back to town, the annual Scandinavian Film Festival LA (SFFLA). The festival takes place this weekend, January 5 & 6, in Beverly Hills and continues the weekend of January 19 & 20. For a look at what’s being offered this year, check out 20th Anniversary of Scandinavian Film Festival LA: A Preview. I’ll be at the festival a lot as a volunteer and hope to see you there!

How will you take advantage of all that Los Angeles has to offer this month?

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 5 & 6 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 1/5, 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! 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. 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.

Queen of Katwe: Screening + Discussion with the Queen of Katme Herself, Phiona Mutesi, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Saturday, 1/5, 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Witness a celebration of the human spirit in Disney’s Queen of Katwe, the story of a Ugandan girl’s life which changes forever when she discovers her amazing talent for chess. Screening is followed by a discussion with Phiona Mutesi, whose vibrant true story is the subject of the film. Hop over to Kidseum after for a chess demonstration with the Queen of Katwe herself!

Scandinavian Film Festival LA (SFFLA), Writers Guild Theater, Beverly Hills, Saturday, 1/5, & Sunday, 1/6 (also weekend of 1/19 & 1/20). This is a yearly showcase of films from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland and their Baltic neighbors Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The festival not only screens the films submitted by these Nordic and Baltic countries to the Academy for consideration in the “Best Foreign Language Film” category, but also other national feature films, short movies, and documentaries. (See this blog post for more info.)

Canada: Inuit: Standing Sculpture (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 1/6, 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.

India Festival of Kites, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 1/6, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Celebrate the beauty and excitement of Indian culture with artmaking, face painting, dance and music including a special performance by SADUBAS, aka The Sadhus of Bass! This duo 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.

Oshogatsu Family Festival – Year of the Boar, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Sunday, 1/6, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Welcome the Year of the Boar with crafts, food, cultural activities, and performances! Highlights of the day will include live art performances combining taiko and calligraphy; mochitsuki (rice pounding) demonstrations, with mochi samples for tasting; an artist conversation with Mark Nagana followed by a toy and print signing;  tasting of osechi-ryori, traditional Japanese new year foods; and candy sculpting. There will also be a variety of craft activities, souvenir photos, and more. Visit website for schedule of events and activities.

Three Kings Day / Dia de los Reyes, Olvera Street, Downtown LA, Sunday, 1/6, 6:30 p.m. Celebrate the arrival of Los Tres Reyes, also known as the Ephiphany. Hear the story of the journey taken by Three Kings, or Wise Men, to find Jesus after his birth. Though the celebration has Christian and Catholic roots, all are welcome to participate. Rondalla del Sol will perform for the evening and then guests are invited to follow the Kings to the rosca. The traditional rosca, or sweet bread, is given to all in attendance. Inside of the bread are randomly placed plastic babies (representing the baby Jesus). Tradition dictates that the person(s) who finds the baby has to plan the party for next year. But at Olvera Street, the lucky ones who find these babies will win a prize that evening—a gift from the Kings!

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 12 & 13 *

USA: MLK I Have A Dream Collage (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 1/13, 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.

Fowler Families: Being Brave: Tell Your Story, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 1/13, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. What does bravery mean to you? Children of all ages are invited to explore this question in a zine making workshop. Join Fowler Educators for a 15-minute guided tour exploring bravery in the permanent exhibition Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives before learning how to illustrate your own courageous tale. Guided tours begin at 1:00 p.m. and occur every 30 minutes.

* MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. WEEKEND OF JANUARY 19 & 20 & 21 *

Scandinavian Film Festival LA (SFFLA), Writers Guild Theater, Beverly Hills, Saturday, 1/19, & Sunday, 1/20. Don’t miss the second weekend of SFFLA, a yearly showcase of films from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland and their Baltic neighbors Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The festival not only screens the films submitted by these Nordic and Baltic countries to the Academy for consideration in the “Best Foreign Language Film” category, but also other national feature films, short movies, and documentaries. (See this blog post for more info.)

Greece: Mosaic Gods and Goddesses (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 1/20, 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.

Sand Mandala: Opening Blessing Ceremony, USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 1/20, 12:00 p.m. USC Pacific Asia Museum is proud to host Tibetan monks from the Drepung Gomang Monaster. They will spend one week creating a sand mandala, a Tibetan Buddhist tradition that involves the creation and destruction of paintings made from colored sand. Once completed, it is ritualistically dismantled to symbolize the Buddhist belief in the transitory nature of material life. The opening blessing ceremony will take place on Sunday, January 20, at 12:00 p.m. and the closing dissolution ceremony will take place on Saturday, January 26, at 12:00 p.m. Museum visitors will be able to observe the creation of the mandala during regular public open hours. Free with museum admission.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, California African American Museum, Exposition Park, Los Angeles, Monday, 1/21, 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, a march, and delicious food truck fare; visit our exhibitions, hear a marathon reading of King’s lesser-known speeches and sermons, groove to DJ-provided tunes, and much more—free for everyone! Visit website for schedule of events and activities.

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 26 & 27 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 1/26, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Learn about past and present-day Little Tokyo on a walking tour led by an in-the-know JANM docent. From murals to monuments, explore both the popular and lesser-known gems of this bustling neighborhood. Buy tickets in advance. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants. Weather permitting.

Sand Mandala: Closing Dissolution Ceremony, USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Saturday, 1/26, 12:00 p.m. USC Pacific Asia Museum is proud to host Tibetan monks from the Drepung Gomang Monaster. They will spend one week creating a sand mandala, a Tibetan Buddhist tradition that involves the creation and destruction of paintings made from colored sand. Once completed, it is ritualistically dismantled to symbolize the Buddhist belief in the transitory nature of material life. The opening blessing ceremony will take place on Sunday, January 20, at 12:00 p.m. and the closing dissolution ceremony will take place on Saturday, January 26, at 12:00 p.m. Museum visitors will be able to observe the creation of the mandala during regular public open hours. Free with museum admission.

France: Clay Gargoyle Sculpture (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 1/27, 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.

Fowler Families: Doors to Our Dreams, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 1/27, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Discover the elaborately carved doors featured in the special exhibition World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean before illustrating your own door using paper and a variety of mark-making materials. Find inspiration as a Fowler Educator reads David Weale’s short story Doors in the Air, in which a young boy marvels at how stepping through a doorway can transport him from one world to another. Where will your door lead you? The reading will occur in this special exhibition at 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m.

Feel free to add events for the current month in the comments below. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email the details. Thank you!

Reading Lately (December 2018): Reading Challenges Wrap-Up & End-of-Year Reflections

December was all about completing my self-made 2018 Scandinavian Reading Challenge and seeing how much of three other challenges (Reading Women ChallengeModern Mrs. Darcy Challenge, and Read Harder) I could complete before year’s end.

I successfully completed my own challenge (see a compilation of all the books I read at What I Read for 2018 #ScandiReadingChallenge) but unfortunately not the other ones. One thing the other challenges did for sure, though, was help guide my reading when I was looking for my next read because my reading wasn’t just about reading Scandinavian books. The other challenges were an incentive (and they provided great resources) for me to read books I would not otherwise have tried — new genres, authors, and perspectives — and for that I am very grateful.


On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman

I needed an audiobook that I would quickly get absorbed in and would eagerly want to return to, and this one did the job. I came across the recommendation at Modern Mrs. Darcy’s post 6 recent audiobooks I thoroughly enjoyed. I liked the main character and enjoyed how she dealt with her various problems—flaky boyfriend, new house with disturbing history, parents separating due to father’s midlife crisis, and new love interest. It was a fun book with nothing too serious, a nice palate cleanser.


The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl

(Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett)

Kjell Ola Dahl is a new-to-me Norwegian crime writer, though he’s been writing since 1993. I jumped into this Oslo Detectives Series with book #6 and I don’t think it mattered that I hadn’t read the previous ones. I liked the setting of Oslo and the crime was interesting. However, I was not a fan of the female detective Lena Stigersand. I like strong, smart female characters, and Lena made some dumb decisions with both a new relationship and her work responsibilities. I almost did not finish the book, but I was over half way done and wanted to know the resolution. Also, I needed it for my Scandinavian Reading Challenge. (I do believe this is Lena’s first appearance so maybe previous books in the series are better.)

Reading Challenges:


The Saboteur by Andrew Gross

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in a little-known history event involving people willing to risk everything for the love of their country. This is a historical fiction book about the sabotage of a Nazi-occupied factory in Norway during World War II. A by-product of the factory was heavy water which the Germans needed to continue their atomic bomb work. A group of Norwegians were trained in England to disrupt those plans. This book was especially fun to read since we had visited the site of the factory this past summer. I could visualize the factory and the landscape around it, which plays a significant role in the missions. I was thrown off a little by the fictional characters who were added to the story (like the American!) but the author’s note at the end put those doubts to rest. My 14-year-old son read and enjoyed it, too.

Reading Challenges:


The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

(Translated from the Swedish by Alice Menzies)

This was a fun and sweet read! It’s been on my radar for a long time (must have been the bookish title and cover), but I didn’t know until somewhat recently that it’s actually a Swedish book in translation. It’s about a young Swedish woman who goes to visit her elderly penpal in the USA. However, her penpal dies right before she arrives in Broken Wheel, Iowa. It’s a story about a dying small town, unlikely friendships, new beginnings, and the power of books and a bookstore to make a difference in people’s lives. The audiobook narrated by Fiona Hardingham and Lorelei King is also very good. I both listened to and read the book and highly recommend both versions.

Reading Challenges:


Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

I had great plans to read Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology for this challenge prompt, but due to time constraints I opted for this related middle grade book by him instead. Both the book and the author have been on my TBR list for a while so I’m glad I can finally check them off, but I do feel I cheated a little. Odd and the Frost Giants was a quick, enjoyable read which briefly introduces the Norse gods Thor, Odin, and Loki and their enemies the frost giants. I will return to both the author and the topic some time in the future. (I gladly welcome suggestions as to which Neil Gaiman book I should read next.)

Reading Challenges:


One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath by Åsne Seierstad

(Translated from the Norwegian by Sarah Death)

This author and book have been on my TBR list for a long time. When I saw that a film had been made based on it (Netflix original July 22 directed by Paul Greenglass), I prioritized it. This is not a quick and easy read. Not only is it 500+ pages but the subject matter is not very uplifting. (As of the writing of this post, I actually haven’t finished it yet, but I am more than 70% through it and determined to finish it and therefore counting it for my 2018 reading challenges.) I am alternating between the Norwegian edition and the English translation. Some parts, such as the political history of Norway, right-wing extremist Anders Breivik’s philosophy, and the bomb and weapon technicalities, are easier for me to read in English while the family narratives are fine to read in Norwegian. The book basically follows three people and their families before, during, and after July 22, 2011. Readers learn about Breivik’s childhood and what drove him to this horrible act. Of the many youth victims, readers get to know native Norwegian Simon Sæbø and recent Norwegian citizen Bano Rashid, a Kurdish refugee, and how their paths led to this political youth camp at Utøya. Stay tuned for more thoughts in another post once I finish the book and have watched the Netflix movie plus another July 22-themed movie which will be screened during the second weekend of Scandinavian Film Festival LA later in January.

Reading Challenges:


End-of-Year Reflections

What am I most proud of from 2018?

What am I looking forward to in 2019?

  • Reading books in translation from more areas of the world
  • My self-made 2019 Scandinavian Reading Challenge (join me!)
  • Seeing how much of other reading challenges I can complete with books I already own
  • Continuing to read and discuss books with my IRL and Scandinavian book clubs

How was your 2018 reading year?

What are you looking forward to in 2019?

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20th Anniversary of Scandinavian Film Festival LA: A Preview of #SFFLA 2019

Is one of your new year’s resolutions to broaden your horizons by seeing and reading more foreign movies and books? You can start making progress on that goal the first weekend of the new year by attending the annual Scandinavian Film Festival Los Angeles (SFFLA) in Beverly Hills. It takes place the weekends of January 5 & 6 and 19 & 20. Join SFFLA as they celebrate their 20th anniversary this year!

Despite its name, the scope of the festival actually extends beyond Scandinavia. Besides films from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, you can view films from the Nordic countries Iceland and Finland as well as Baltic neighbors Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania.

Once again this year, you will have the opportunity to see all the Nordic and Baltic countries’ submissions for Best Foreign Language Film for the upcoming 91st Academy Awards (although only Denmark’s selection made it to the shortlist):

  • Norway – What Will People Say by Iram Haq
  • Sweden – Border by Ali Abbasi
  • Denmark – The Guilty by Gustav Möller
  • Iceland – Woman at War by Benedikt Erlingsson
  • Finland – Euthanizer by Teemu Nikki
  • Latvia – To Be Continued by Ivars Seleckis
  • Estonia – Take It or Leave It by Liina Trishkina-Vanhatalo
  • Lithuania – Wonderful Losers: A Different World by Arūnas Matelis

At the SFFLA Opening Gala on Saturday, January 5, at 5:30 p.m., you can enjoy drinks and a buffet meal with other Scandi film enthusiasts. Gala tickets (a great deal at only $40 each!) also include Opening Ceremonies at 7:15 p.m. and the screening of Denmark’s feature film The Guilty at 7:30 p.m. as well as a Q&A with director Gustav Möller. Buy your gala tickets now!

Below you’ll find a list of films by country. Descriptions are taken from the festival’s website. You can also view and download a chronological schedule. SFFLA Festival Passports which allow admission to all screenings and Opening Gala are available for $140, or you can buy tickets for individual films for $12 each online or at the door. Please confirm schedule with SFFLA as it may change after this post is published. Hope to see you there!


* NORWAY *

What Will People Say (Hva vil folk si)

  • Feature Film by Iram Haq (2017)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/6, 3:00 p.m. (106 minutes)

Sixteen-year-old Nisha lives a double life. When out with her friends, she’s a normal Norwegian teenager. At home with her family, she is the perfect Pakistani daughter. But when her father catches her alone with her boyfriend in her room, Nisha’s two worlds brutally collide.

Morgen

  • Short Film by Knut Erik Jensen (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/6, 7:00 p.m. (15 min)

It can seem like we are living on the edge of the world. But one morning 200,000 soldiers march into our arctic landscape. Four years later they stumble out leaving everything in ruins. As if nothing has happened. What in human nature triggers violent acts of war, thousands of miles into the wild? Can it happen again? As the ice melts?

The 12th Man (Den 12. mann)

  • Feature Film by Harald Zwart (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/6, 7:30 p.m. (135 min)

True World War II story about Jan Baalsrud, one of the 12 saboteurs sent in 1943 from England to the Nazi occupied Northern Norway. After their boat is sunk by the Germans, the Nazis killed 11 of them. The 12th man, Jan, goes on the run towards the neutral Sweden. However, the brutal weather conditions turn out to be an even greater foe than the Nazi patrols.

The Green Valley

  • Short Film by Ellen Ugelstad (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/20, 4:30 p.m. (24 min)

The Green Valley is a short film that explores the connection between politics, art and daily life in a multicultural neighborhood in Oslo. The film is inspired by three real events that took place in the director’s neighborhood.

Utøya – July 22 (Utøya 22. juli)

  • Feature Film by Erik Poppe (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/20, 5:00 p.m. (93 min)

A teenage girl struggles to survive and to find her younger sister during the July 2011 terrorist mass murder at a political summer camp on the Norwegian island of Utøya.

*Note: Do not confuse this film with the similarly named movie 22 July directed by Paul Greenglass which also came out in 2018. Greenglass’ work is a documentary style film based on the non-fiction book One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath by Åsne Seierstad (available to stream on Netflix), while Poppe’s film is a one-take feature shot in real time of the day the youth summer camp was attacked. Read more at Utøya-July 22 recreates the terror attack in one remarkable shot.


* SWEDEN *

Border (Gräns)

  • Feature Film by Alli Abbas (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/5, 2:30 p.m. (101 min)

Customs officer Tina is known for her extraordinary sense of smell – she can sniff out fear on anyone. But when Vore walks past her, her abilities are challenged for the first time. Tina can sense Vore is hiding something she can’t identify. Worse, she feels a strange attraction to him. This fateful encounter calls into question her entire existence.

Ted: Show Me Love (Ted – För kärlekens skull)

  • Feature Film by Hannes Holm (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/19, 12:30 p.m. (121 min)

Chronicling the beautiful and tragic life and career of legendary Swedish singer-songwriter Ted Gärdestad, this biopic tells the story of the great highs and lows of one of Sweden’s most loved artists.

The Cake General (Tårtgeneralen)

  • Feature Film by Filip Hammar and Fredrik Wikingsson (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/19, 7:30 p.m. (101 min)

Set in 1984, Hans Pettersson (Hasse P.) decides to create the largest sandwich cake ever made in order to put his hometown, Köping, on the map.


* DENMARK *

The Guilty (Den skyldige)

When police officer Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren) is demoted to desk work, he expects a sleepy beat as an emergency dispatcher. That all changes when he answers a panicked phone call from a kidnapped woman who then disconnects abruptly. Asger, confined to the police station, is forced to use others as his eyes and ears as the severity of the crime slowly becomes more clear. The search to find the missing woman and her assailant will take every bit of his intuition and skill, as a ticking clock and his own personal demons conspire against him.

Becoming Astrid (Unga Astrid)

  • Feature Film by Pernille Fischer Christensen (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/20, 2:00 p.m. (123 min)

This is a biopic of Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren, the author of numerous children’s books and creator of Pippi Longstocking.

 


* ICELAND *

Mihkel (Undir Halastjörnu)

  • Feature Film by Ari Alexander Ergis Magnússon (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/5, 10:30 a.m. (100 min)

This movie is based on true events from a 2004 criminal case in Iceland where a body was discovered by chance by a diver in the Neskaupstaður harbor. 

Woman at War (Kona fer í stríð)

Halla, a woman in her fifties, declares war on the local aluminum industry to prevent it from disfiguring her country. She risks all she has to protect the highlands of Iceland but the situation could change with the unexpected arrival of a small orphan in her life.

Vultures (Vargur)

  • Feature Film by Börkur Sigþórsson (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/19, 5:30 p.m.

Sharp-suited Erik represents the aspirational face of modern Iceland. Atli, a petty criminal just released from prison, is stuck in a downward spiral. The distance between these two very different brothers vanishes when the duo teams up to smuggle cocaine into Iceland, inside plastic pellets swallowed by a young Polish mule, Sofia. But things go wrong when rule-breaking cop Lena starts closing in on them and Sofia falls sick. With the drugs yet to reach their destination and a rival gang demanding a slice of the action, time is a luxury that the brothers can’t afford. Charismatic anti-hero Erik’s ability to stay one step ahead is tested to the limit – how many lives is he willing to sacrifice to sustain his own?


* FINLAND *

Euthanizer (Armomurhaaja)

This violent summer noir tells the story of Veijo, a 50-year-old mechanic, whose second job is to put sick pets to sleep. He’s also an animal whisperer and prefers to personally deliver justice to careless owners who neglect their pets. His unconventional but meticulously organized life is disrupted when he comes across Petri, a garage mechanic and member of a neo-Nazi gang, and Lotta, a young nurse who understands his psychosis. The themes revolve around animal rights, suffering and death. But the real story is not about good or evil – it’s about intolerance and the stupidity of absolute men.

Unknown Soldier (Tuntematon sotilas)

  • Feature Film by Aku Lohimies (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/6, 4:30 p.m. (132 min)

Based on novel of the same name by Váinö Linna, the film follows a fictional Finnish Army machine gun company on the Karelian front during the War from 1941 when the troops prepare for the invasion of the Soviet Union until armistice in 1944. The author himself had served in such a company.

Rendel: Dark Vengeance

  • Feature Film by Jesse Haaja (2017)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/19, 10:00 a.m. (104 min)

A Finnish superhero, a masked vigilante Rendel, seeks for revenge and fights against VALA, the huge criminal organization.

One Last Deal (Tuntematon mestari)

  • Feature Film by Klaus Härö (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/20, 7:30 p.m. (95 min)

An elderly art dealer Olavi (72) is about to retire. A man who has always put business and art before everything – even his family – cannot imagine life without work. At an auction, an old painting catches his attention. Olavi suspects it is worth much more than its starting price, which is low because its authenticity hasn’t been confirmed. Olavi’s instincts kick in. He decides to make one last deal in order to earn some proper pension money. At the same time, Olavi’s daughter Lea (42) – whom he hasn’t seen for years – asks him to help her with his teenage grandson Otto (15). Together with Otto, Olavi starts to investigate the background of the painting. They find out that the painting is called Christ and was painted by Ilya Repin. Olavi manages to buy the painting, but when the auction house realizes that there has been a mistake with the original pricing, they turn against him. To fulfill his dream, the old dealer must face both the auction house and his own past mistakes.


* LATVIA *

To Be Continued (Turpinājums)

  • Feature Documentary by Ivars Seleckis (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/5, 12:45 p.m. (101 min)

Ivars Seleckis takes a look at five children and their families from throughout Latvia. Shot over a period of two years, the film explores how choices made by adults are reflected in a child’s thinking.

 


* ESTONIA *

Three Days in August (Kolm peeve augustis)

  • Short Film by Madli Lāane (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/19, 2:30 p.m. (22 min)

In the midst of the political upheaval of the early 1990s in Soviet Union, an Estonian girl and a Russian boy reach across cultural lines to unite over a shared bottle of American soda.

Take It or Leave It (Võta või jäta)

  • Feature Film by Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/19, 3:00 p.m. (102 min)

One sleepy Saturday morning a 30-year-old construction worker Erik gets some earth shattering news: his ex-girlfriend Moonika who he hasn’t even seen for the past six months is about to go into labor. She however is not ready for motherhood and if Erik doesn’t want the kid either, the little girl will be put up for adoption. Take it or leave it!

 


* LITHUANIA *

Wonderful Losers: A Different World

  •  Feature Documentary by Arūnas Matelis (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/21, 2:00 p.m. (71 min)

They’re called water carriers, domestics, ‘gregarios’, ‘Sancho Panzas’ of professional cycling. Always at the back of the group, with no right for a personal victory. These wonderful losers are the true warriors of professional cycling.

 


What festival films look interesting to you?

I have actually already seen two of the movies to be presented, both of which I highly recommend. I saw What Will People Say, an #ownvoices immigrant story from Norway, at AFI Fest in November 2017. It was a moving and thought-provoking filmThe 12th Man is an amazing World World II story of survival and will to live and kindness to others despite tremendous risk that I saw just recently at a special engagement at Museum of Tolerance. I plan to bring my family to see it at SFFLA this year.

There are many films I’m personally interested in seeing. I am currently reading Åsne Seierstad’s One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath and plan to see Greenglass’ 22 July on Netflix at some point. Poppe’s Utøya – July 22 seems to be a totally different take on the same event so I’m very eager to see that, though I think it will be an extremely tough film to watch. Other films at the top of my to-watch list are Sweden’s Border, Denmark’s The Guilty, and Iceland’s Woman at War. Can’t wait for the screenings to start. Will I see you there?

December 2018: Los Angeles Culture Challenge & Scandinavian Christmas Events

December offers many special seasonal events which highlight the richness of where we live. Read on and mark your calendars, but please check suitability for family members and confirm dates and times before heading out.

The season of Scandinavian Christmas fairs is wrapping up but not before the SWEA Los Angeles presents its 39th annual Swedish Christmas Fair on Sunday, December 2, in Torrance. It’s a big one that welcomes about 3,000 visitors during the one-day event. Highlights of the fair include a multitude of vendors selling Scandinavian gifts, books, music, handmade crafts, traditional holiday foods, and baked goods as well as traditional entertainment with folk dancing and Lucia pageants.

The Norwegian Church hosts its annual Christmas luncheon on Tuesday, December 4, at 12:00 p.m. Suggested donation is $30 and you have to sign up, but as of November 29, there was still availability. Please contact the church if interested in attending.

This year the Norwegian Church is also hosting Julekonsert, a Christmas concert, on Sunday, December 9, at 2:00 p.m. They are proud to present artists from far and near and even their own band.

And so you can plan ahead, one of my favorite Scandinavian events returns next month. The Scandinavian Film Festival LA opens the weekend of January 5 & 6 in Beverly Hills and continues the weekend of January 19 & 20.

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

* THROUGHOUT DECEMBER *

Plaza Film Nights, ICE Skating Rink, Downtown Santa Monica, Wednesdays, until January 16. This films series is driven by the desire to foster a deeper connection between the people of this city and the cultural histories of Santa Monica and Los Angeles at large. With the same spirit of celebration as a holiday movie marathon, Plaza Film Nights will honor the diverse histories of Los Angeles, featuring films rooted in the city’s identity and geography, from Hollywood to Watts, Mulholland Drive to Chinatown, South Central to Beverly Hills and every freeway in between. Plaza Film Nights will take place every Wednesday with an 8:00 p.m. LA-centric film and a 6:00 p.m. family-friendly movie celebrating seasonal traditions.

DTLA Holiday Lights Walking Tour, Meeting Point: Union Station, Downtown LA, Sundays, Wednesday, & Fridays at 6:30 p.m. until December 28. Explore the richness of Downtown LA with the annual DTLA Holiday Lights Tour offered by DTLA Walking Tours. It is a two-hour evening tour of the festive holiday decorations and traditions in Downtown LA. The tour begins at Union Station and highlights include Las Posadas at Olvera Street, Grand Park with its illuminated fountain and Winter Glow (new month-long, immersive nighttime art experience), Walt Disney Concert Hall, Broad Museum, and Pershing Square festivities. Adults $20, children ages 5-12 $5, and children 4 and under free. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit website.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 1 & 2 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/1, 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 LA’s Chinatown. Cost $20. Buy tickets at their website.

Origami with Ruthie Kitagawa: Holiday Wreaths and Cards, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/1, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Get ready for the holidays and learn from JANM’s resident origami expert Ruthie Kitagawa how to make a holiday-themed origami card and a wreath. Space is limited to 15 participants. Advance ticket purchase is required. $12 non-members, free for JANM members. Museum admission included.

Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival, Lincoln Heights, Saturday, 12/1, 1:00 pm. – 5:00 p.m. The 14th annual Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival opens December 1 in Lincoln Heights. See short films and animation from around the world. No advance tickets required. Free admission for everyone. (Next festival date is December 29 in Santa Monica.)

CicLAvia: Heart of LA, Downtown LA, Sunday, 12/2, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. The annual Heart of LA route is here. CicLAvia returns to DTLA, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and Boyle Heights. 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.

Ancient Greece: Shields and Swords with Greek God Symbols (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/2, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Experience inspiring, innovative workshops that enrich lives and teach basic visual art skills with highly qualified artist-educators. Each workshop focuses on a global culture, and different media are explored weekly including painting, textile art, printmaking, clay, sculpture, collage, and 3D constructions. Many of the projects celebrate holidays of the diverse community in LA. The program is open to all ages, including children, families, and adults.

39th Annual Swedish Christmas Fair, Torrance Cultural Arts Center, Torrance, Sunday, 12/2, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The fair features artisans and stands presenting the best of Swedish fine art, handicraft, 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.

Hanukkah Festival: This Little Light of Mine, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, Sunday, 12/2, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine! This celebration of the ancient Jewish festival of light explores the themes of justice, courage, and persistence at the core of the Hanukkah story and the current exhibition Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Enjoy performances, storytelling, hands-on workshops, exhibitions, dining and shopping. Advance ticket purchase recommended.

Fowler Families: Printing with Purpose, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 12/2, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Explore the legacy of independent publishing in Mexico City in the exhibition South of No North: Gato Negro Ediciones. Design an original art print to serve as the front cover of your very own booklet—ready to be filled with what’s most important to you!

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 8 & 9 *

Medieval France: Illuminated Letters (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/9, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Experience inspiring, innovative workshops that enrich lives and teach basic visual art skills with highly qualified artist-educators. Each workshop focuses on a global culture, and different media are explored weekly including painting, textile art, printmaking, clay, sculpture, collage, and 3D constructions. Many of the projects celebrate holidays of the diverse community in LA.

Traditional Clothing (Free Second Sunday), USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 12/9, 11:00 a.m. Explore the role of clothing throughout history and learn about the beautiful garments of Asian culture. Textile experts explain the history of traditional garments from different countries and demonstrate the proper context and wearing of hanbok, kimono, and sari. Enjoy artmaking activities, storytime for kids, and docent tours.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 15 & 16 *

Austria: Klimt Inspired Holiday Cards – Printmaking (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/16, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Experience inspiring, innovative workshops that enrich lives and teach basic visual art skills with highly qualified artist-educators. Each workshop focuses on a global culture, and different media are explored weekly including painting, textile art, printmaking, clay, sculpture, collage, and 3D constructions. Many of the projects celebrate holidays of the diverse community in LA.

Las Posadas at Olvera Street, El Pueblo Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Sunday, 12/16 – Monday, 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.

Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival, Hollywood & Santa Monica, Sunday, 12/16 – Thursday, 12/20. 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 Santa Monica. See website for details and schedule.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 22 & 23 *

Las Posadas at Olvera Street, El Pueblo Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Sunday, 12/16 – Monday, 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.

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/22, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Learn about past and present-day Little Tokyo on a walking tour led by an in-the-know JANM docent. From murals to monuments, explore both the popular and lesser-known gems of this bustling neighborhood. Weather permitting. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission included. Limited to 20 participants.

59th Annual LA County Holiday Celebration, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center, Downtown LA, Monday, 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 29 & 30 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/29, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Learn about past and present-day Little Tokyo on a walking tour led by an in-the-know JANM docent. From murals to monuments, explore both the popular and lesser-known gems of this bustling neighborhood. Weather permitting. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission included. Limited to 20 participants.

Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival, Santa Monica, Saturday, 12/29, 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. The 14th annual Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival continues at Santa Monica Public Library with more short films and animation from around the world. No advance tickets required. Free admission for everyone. (Festival returns March 29-31, 2019, at WonderCon in Anaheim.)

Feel free to add events for the current month in the comments below. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email the details. Thank you!

Holiday Gift Ideas for Scandinavians at Heart

It’s that time of year again when we all welcome gift ideas for friends and family in our lives. Do you have some Scandinavian enthusiasts on your gift list? Here are some gift ideas that might be of interest. If books are on your gift list, read on to find out how to save on physical books at Amazon.

Recently Released Scandinavian Cookbooks

This year has seen the release of some notable Scandinavian cookbooks. Buy now and save $5 when you spend $20+ in physical books sold and shipped by Amazon by using code GIFTBOOK18 (expires Friday, December 21, 11:59 p.m. PT).

                  

Nevada Berg is an American transplant to Norway. She lives on a mountain farm with her Norwegian husband and son. She has a beautiful blog, North Wild Kitchen, that I follow and now the recently released cookbook North Wild Kitchen: Home Cooking from the Heart of Norway, which has been selected as one of the New York Times Best Cookbooks of Fall 2018.

Magnus Nilsson is a Swedish chef who is head chef at the famed restaurant Fäviken in Sweden. His 2015 documentary cookbook, The Nordic Cookbook, was very well received, and his newest cookbook, The Nordic Baking Book, is not to be missed. It contains 450 recipes for home bakers chosen from across the Nordic region — Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, and Greenland. Watch Magnus Nilsson introduce The Nordic Baking Book.

                    

Rene Redzepi is a Danish chef and co-owner of the world renowned restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. David Zilber is the chef who runs the restaurant’s acclaimed fermentation lab. At Noma, named the world’s best restaurant four times, every dish includes some form of fermentation. Fermentation is one of the foundations behind Noma’s extraordinary flavor profiles. This cookbook has also been named one of the New York Times Best Cookbooks of Fall 2018.

Anyone who has ever been in Scandinavia in December will know that Scandinavians really love Christmas. From huddling up in candlelit snowed-in cottages to consuming gløgg at every opportunity, Christmas is peak-hygge season all over Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Bronte Aurell of The ScandiKitchen Café in London shows how to celebrate Christmas Scandi-style by sharing her delicious recipes and family traditions.

Books & Reading

Books are always a wonderful gift. Are you looking for gifts for young kids, tweens, and teens? For books relating to Norwegian culture and history, take a look at my Book List: Norwegian History and Culture. Or see Book List: Christmas in Scandinavia for seasonal books the whole family will enjoy. But otherwise here are some suggestions for the adult readers in your life.

Limited time offer: Buy now and save $5 when you spend $20+ in physical books sold and shipped by Amazon by using code GIFTBOOK18 (expires Friday, December 21, 11:59 p.m. PT).

    

  

Household Items

   

Personal Gifts

Family Entertainment

                            

Music

 

This collection of solo piano music was inspired by the Scottish musician’s journey along Norway’s ancient pilgrimage route from Oslo to Trondheim. You can read more about the musician and his journey at The Norwegian American and sample his music.

Aurora is a up and coming singer-songwriter from Bergen, Norway. Her music is unique pop — emotional and dreamy. In the new year, she will perform in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.

Norwegian Pride

    

I hope you’ve found some gift ideas here. I’d love to hear if any of these make it to your friends and family. I wish you a wonderful holiday season!

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately & Reading Challenges Update

It’s been a very satisfying reading period and I have many good books to share (but that’s because I didn’t share anything last month, not because I’ve been especially voracious this month).

From now until the end of the year, it will be all about completing my Scandinavian Reading Challenge as well as seeing how much of the other three challenges I can complete. How’s your reading been going lately?


This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

I enjoyed the book, but at the same time I had some mixed feelings about it. I loved the book’s topic — a family figuring out how to raise a transgender child — and getting a glimpse into the life of a family dealing with this challenge. It opened my eyes to something I’ve never been exposed to. However, I had some issues with certain aspects of the story, which I won’t get into here so I don’t spoil anything for interested readers. Also, I wasn’t a big fan of the writing style. It was wordy and drawn out with a lot of repetition and rephrasing. But I am so glad I read it and it was an excellent pick for our book club.


Still Waters by Viveca Sten

(Translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy)

This is a cozy Scandi crime book. It involves Thomas, a very likeable police detective, and Nora, a close childhood friend who’s a lawyer. The setting is a close-knit community on the island of Sandhamn in the Stockholm archipelago during summertime. There’s a murder, actually three, but they are not violent. It’s not a fast paced story, but the mystery was interesting and I was eager to find out how it would all come together in the end. The writing style was very simple with obvious descriptions and foreshadowing, which turned me off at times, but overall it was a good cozy crime story with main characters I liked in a setting I enjoyed.

Reading Challenges:


Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

(Translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori)

This book was a little gem — small, short, and heartwarming. I took a great liking to Keiko, a somewhat peculiar 36-year-old woman who’s been working part time at a convenience store in Tokyo for 18 years. Her whole being, both at the store and at home, is so attuned to the rhythms and needs of the store. Keiko thrives following the directives of the store manual and absorbing others’ dress, mannerisms, and speech. Despite her quirkiness, she has friends and is accepted and valued at her job. Also, I loved getting a glimpse into the Japanese culture through this convenience store and its workers.

Reading Challenges:


When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

This was a fun and sweet read! It’s the story of an arranged marriage in contemporary America. Dimple and Rishi are both the children of Indian immigrants. They don’t know each other, but their parents think they would be compatible in marriage. They have just graduated from high school and are looking forward to their summer plans before heading off to college. Dimple is thrilled her parents have allowed her to attend a programming program at a nearby university. Rishi is looking forward to getting to know his future wife. But neither expects what meets them at their summer program.

Reading Challenges:


China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

This was a guilty pleasure read that I zipped through. I had a little trouble remembering who was who from the first book, but it didn’t keep me from moving along quickly. I really like Rachel and Nick. They are what make this type of book about extreme extravagances work.

Reading Challenges:

  • Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge—A book by an author of a different race, ethnicity or religion than your own
  • Read Harder—A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa)

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

(Translated from the Swedish by Henning Koch, narrated by Joan Walker)

This was my fourth Fredrik Backman book, and I can’t decide whether this or A Man Called Ove is my favorite of his. I listened to it which was a fabulous experience. It was a story of second chances and unlikely friendships, both of which I enjoy. It was endearing and funny and hopeful.

Reading Challenges:


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This was a long-awaited read that I enjoyed very much. I love stories that jump back and forth in time and have different perspectives and in which clues slowly but surely arise showing how the story lines are connected. (Now I understand the comparison of The History of Bees: A Novel by Maja Lunde, a book I really enjoyed, to Station Eleven!) The premise of Station Eleven was frightening and reading it during the time of the awful fires in my area (with news and photos of evacuations, destruction, and loss) was disconcerting, but I was gripped by the quiet, suspenseful story with interesting characters.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

 

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‘Tis the Season for Scandinavian Christmas Fairs!

Norwegian Swedish Danish Christmas Los Angeles

Thanksgiving may still be a couple of weeks away, but the season for Scandinavian Christmas fairs has arrived in Los Angeles. Norway, Sweden, and Denmark all offer events with a cozy Christmas atmosphere and unique vendors, foods and drinks, and entertainment. The fairs may require a bit of driving, but they’ll be worth it. Presented in order of occurrence, here are the upcoming Scandinavian Christmas fairs in the greater Los Angeles area. Did I miss one? Please let me know in the comments.


Norwegian Christmas Fair – Julebasar

First on the calendar is the three-day Norwegian Christmas fair Julebasar hosted by the Norwegian Seaman’s Church in San Pedro on the weekend before Thanksgiving. I’ve been at this event several times both as a guest and as a volunteer and it never disappoints. Warm gløgg (traditionally, mulled red wine with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, raisins, and slivered almonds, but for this occasion, non-alcoholic) and ginger snaps welcome you as you arrive. 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 daily raffle drawings with wonderful prizes and even live entertainment if you‘re there at the right time. On Saturday there’s a children’s workshop to occupy the young ones while you can enjoy festivities on your own. And of course, the kitchen offers a wonderful assortment of traditional Norwegian foods. My favorite is rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge served with butter, sugar, and cinnamon), but there is so much more to choose from such as open-faced sandwiches, meat stew, pea soup, and Norwegian sausages (at least in previous years). And don’t forget to check out what’s for sale in The Bakery and in the church’s store! The Julebasar is free to attend and all are invited. You do not need to be Norwegian nor a member of the church.


SWEA Orange County Swedish Christmas Fair

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, SWEA Orange County (Swedish Women’s Educational Association) hosts its annual Swedish Christmas Fair in Huntington Beach. Come for Swedish handicrafts, traditional Swedish foods and home-baked goods, a gløgg bar, dancing around the Christmas tree, and Lucia pageants (at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.). There will also be a fish pond and jultomte and much more! Entry fees are $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 5 to 15.


Scandinavian Christmas Fair – Julemarked

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Scandinavian enthusiasts can visit the Danish Church’s Scandinavian Christmas fair Julemarked in Yorba Linda. This annual event features Scandinavian vendors selling items imported from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland or that feature Scandinavian themes as well as traditional Danish foods and drinks such as smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches), æbleskiver (Danish pancake balls) with powdered sugar and raspberry jam, strong Danish coffee, and gløgg. Danish pastries and selected meat products are also available for purchase. I have not attended this event, but maybe this will be my first year.


SWEA Los Angeles Swedish Christmas Fair

Last on the calendar is the Swedish Christmas Fair organized by SWEA Los Angeles (Swedish Women’s Educational Association), which is another favorite yearly Scandinavian event of mine. It takes place the first Sunday in December in Torrance. The event is in its 38th year and welcomes about 3,000 visitors during the one-day event. Highlights of the fair include a multitude of vendors selling Scandinavian gifts, books, music, handmade crafts, traditional holiday foods, and baked goods as well as traditional entertainment with folk dancing and Lucia pageants. When you go, make sure to be there for one of the two Lucia pageants. They perform at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. There is also a children’s corner where kids can create crafts to take home and visit with Santa. To top it all off, there is also a gløgg bar and Café SWEA serving traditional foods and baked goods.


Are you unable to attend a Scandinavian Christmas fair or would you like to bring the cozy Scandinavian Christmas feeling home? See my list of books for the family written by classic and contemporary authors from within and outside Scandinavia about Christmas and wintertime in Scandinavia at Book List: Christmas in Scandinavia.

November 2018 Los Angeles Culture Challenge (including Scandinavian Christmas Fairs & a book signing)

Cultures from all over the world are represented at special events happening in and around Los Angeles in November. And ‘tis the season for Scandinavian Christmas fairs!

Of special significance to me this month is the Norwegian Christmas Fair. I’ve been at this event several times both as a guest and a volunteer. It takes place, as it always does, the weekend before Thanksgiving (Friday, November 16 – Sunday, November 18). In addition to the Norwegian Christmas Fair, Scandinavian enthusiasts can visit Swedish and Danish Christmas fairs. Both SWEA Orange County and SWEA Los Angeles host their own Swedish Christmas fairs. SWEA Orange County’s event takes place on Sunday, November 18, in Huntington Beach, and the SWEA Los Angeles event happens on Sunday, December 2, in Torrance. The Scandinavian Christmas Fair hosted by the Danish Church takes place on Saturday, November 24, in Yorba Linda. For more information, visit ‘Tis the Season for Scandinavian Christmas Fairs!

Also happening this month, Magnus Nilsson, internationally acclaimed Swedish chef and author of bestselling The Nordic Cookbook, will be in town for a book signing for his follow up book The Nordic Baking Book on Wednesday, November 14, at 7:30 p.m. at Now Serving in Downtown LA (Chinatown). Advance ticket purchase is required to attend this event. Ticket price includes a signed copy of the book and an opportunity to meet Magnus. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit Eventbrite.

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

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 3 & 4 *

21st Annual Arpa International Film Festival, Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood, Friday, 11/2 – Sunday, 11/4. The annual Arpa International Film Festival is a dynamic forum for international cinema with a special focus on the work of filmmakers who explore the issues of diaspora, exile, and multiculturalism. A strong emphasis is placed on ideals of independent thought, artistic vision, cultural diversity, and social understanding.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 11/3, 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 LA’s Chinatown. (Offered every first Saturday of the month).

India: Diwali Rangoli Designs (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/4, 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.

Día de los Muertos, Woodlawn Cemetery, Santa Monica, Sunday, 11/4, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. The City of Santa Monica presents its seventh annual Día de los Muertos celebration. This family-friendly event celebrates the cycle of life and the remembrance of ancestors with live music and dance, storytelling, workshops, altars, craft vendors and food trucks. Free and open to all.

Mexican Day of the Dead Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 11/4, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Celebrate the Day of the Dead at Bowers. Dia de los Muertos is based on the Mexican belief that our departed loved ones come back to earth to be with us every year in a joyful celebration that lasts for three days. Join the celebration and enjoy pan dulce with Mexican hot chocolate, face painting, special art projects, and performances by Rhythmo Mariachi Kids, Folklorico Raices de Mexico, Trio Tres Souls and Xipe Totec Danza Azteca.

Arts of Africa Festival, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 11/4, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Come for an afternoon of African-inspired food, music, storytelling, and surprising conversations with curators and blacksmiths. Programs for all ages will spark curiosity about the impact of art in communities far away and how it shapes our own daily lives. There will be gallery talks, family activities, forging, food, and music! See website for schedule.

Rome If You Want To (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles, Sunday, 11/4, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. 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. This month, explore Roma bella! Whether it is through the mythological gods and goddesses, or iconic architecture, ancient Rome has been a fountain of inspiration for artists throughout history. Take a family friendly, bilingual tour of the exhibition To Rome and Back: Individualism and Authority in Art, 1500–1800 and get inspired to make art in workshops. (Offered Sunday, November 4, 11, and 18).

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 10 & 11 *

Red Nation Film Festival, Various Venues, Monday, 11/5 – Friday, 11/16. 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.

32nd Israel Film Festival, Various Venues (Beverly Hills, Skirball Center, Encino), Tuesday,11/6 – Tuesday, 11/20. The mission of the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles is to spotlight Israel’s thriving film and television industry, enrich the American vision of Israeli life and culture, and provide an intercultural exchange through the powerful medium of film. A special program, Jewish Identity Through Israeli Film, will be presented at the Skirball Cultural Center on Tuesday, 11/13.

AFI Fest, Various Venues, Hollywood, Thursday, 11/8 – Thursday, 11/15. 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.

JANM Free Family Days: Superheroes!, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, 11/10, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. This full day of crafts, performances, and other activities is inspired by real-life heroes as well as fictional characters as seen in the exhibit Kaiju vs Heroes: Mark Nagata’s Journey through the World of Japanese Toys. For more information on activities and schedule, please visit website.

Ancient Rome: Chariots (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/11, 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.

Textiles, Status, and Ceremony (Free Second Sunday@PAM), USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 11/11, 11:00 a.m. Explore the connections between textiles, status, and ceremony through the history and culture of Korea! Learn about the king who used his status to develop the Korean alphabet. Enjoy artmaking activities, storytime for kids, and docent tours.

Rome If You Want To (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles, Sunday, 11/11, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. 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. This month, explore Roma bella! Whether it is through the mythological gods and goddesses, or iconic architecture, ancient Rome has been a fountain of inspiration for artists throughout history. Take a family friendly, bilingual tour of the exhibition To Rome and Back: Individualism and Authority in Art, 1500–1800 and get inspired to make art in workshops. (Also offered Sunday, November 18).

Performance@PAM: The King’s Language, USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 11/11, 3:00 p.m. In a blend of contemporary and folk theater, The King’s Language whimsically retells a historical milestone of a nation’s identity as a people through rhythmic beats of a native drum punctuated with dialogue, song, and movement. This Korean musical performed mostly in English playfully traverses culture to incite awareness in audiences of a fundamental human tool we often take for granted—casting a spotlight on what we risk as a species if it is eroded. Visit website for ticket information.

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 17 & 18 *

Norwegian Christmas Bazar, Norwegian Seamen’s Church, San Pedro, Friday, 11/16 – Sunday, 11/18. 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, Meet at Pershing Square, Downtown LA, Saturday, 11/17, 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.

USA: Native American Sand Paintings (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/18, 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.

28th Annual Mariachi Festival and Community Fair, Mariachi Plaza, Boyle Heights, Sunday, 11/18, 10:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. The 28th 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.

Rome If You Want To (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles, Sunday, 11/11, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. 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. This month, explore Roma bella! Whether it is through the mythological gods and goddesses, or iconic architecture, ancient Rome has been a fountain of inspiration for artists throughout history. Take a family friendly, bilingual tour of the exhibition To Rome and Back: Individualism and Authority in Art, 1500–1800 and get inspired to make art in workshops.

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 24 & 25 *

Scandinavian Christmas Fair, The Danish Lutheran Church, Yorba Linda, Saturday, November 24, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Danish Church hosts its annual Julemarked with Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian vendors selling items imported from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland or that feature Scandinavian themes. Artisans and crafters offer high quality, unique and one-of-a-kind glass, ceramics, paper art, paintings, jewelry, and fabric art. Guests can also enjoy traditional Danish foods such as smørrebrød (elegant, elaborate open-face sandwiches) and æbleskiver (Danish pancake balls) with powdered sugar and raspberry jam as well as strong Danish coffee and gløgg, the hot Scandinavian yuletide drink (mulled red wine with cinnamon, cloves, orange peel, raisins and slivered almonds). Danish pastries and selected meat products are also available for purchase.

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, 11/24, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Learn about past and present-day Little Tokyo on a walking tour led by an in-the-know JANM docent. From murals to monuments, explore both the popular and lesser-known gems of this bustling neighborhood. Weather permitting. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission included. Limited to 20 participants. (Offered every last Saturday of the month.)

Germany: Grimm Fairytale Puppets (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/25, 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.

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