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.


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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.


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.


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.



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.


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?

Scandinavian Film Festival LA 2017: A Preview


The 18th annual Scandinavian Film Festival LA is around the corner. It is one of my favorite annual Scandinavian events in the Los Angeles area. The festival takes place over two weekends in January (14th and 15th followed by 21st and 22nd) at Writers Guild Theater 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.

Despite my love of the festival, I have a very big pet peeve – the festival’s name. It is not a Scandinavian film festival in the true sense. Officially, Scandinavia is only Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Since its inception, this festival has included films from Iceland and Finland, and a somewhat recent addition has been films from the Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. It’s too bad the name of the festival doesn’t properly reflect the scope of the festival.

This year’s entries include mostly features (many of them a country’s Oscar entry), a few shorts, and a documentary. There’s comedy, drama, adventure, and mystery. Big news for Scandinavian cinema this year is that three Scandinavian films made the shortlist for an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category – the Danish film Land of Mine, the Swedish film A Man Called Ove, and the Norwegian film The King’s Choice. The Danish and Swedish ones can be seen at this year’s festival, but unfortunately, not the Norwegian one. UPDATE 1/13/17: The Norwegian submission The King’s Choice is coming to the festival after all! It will be closing the festival in the evening of Sunday, January 22.

(If you’re curious about the other shortlisted films and the process of how a country’s entry becomes a nominated film, take a look at Oscars: Nine Films Shortlisted for Foreign Language Prize.)

What festival films look interesting to you? 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.


THE CROSSING (Flukten), documentary by George Kurian (2015), screening: Saturday, 1/14, 12pm This award-winning documentary takes viewers along on one of the most dangerous journeys of present time. A group of Syrians, including young children, is fleeing war and persecution, crossing a sea, two continents, and five countries searching for a home to rekindle the greatest thing they have lost—hope. (55 minutes)

BIRD HEARTS (Fuglehjerter), short by Halfdan Ullmann Tøndel (2015), screening: Sunday, 1/15, 4:30pm — Benjamin and Maya share a life and an apartment in the center of Oslo. On the occasion of Benjamin’s 26th birthday, Tobias, Benjamin’s younger and more successful brother, comes to visit for the weekend. During a late night dinner party with friends, Maya tells a story about a sexual experience she had in Brazil. As a consequence, Benjamin’s insecurities and vulnerabilities begin to surface. (30 minutes)

alt-det-vakreALL THE BEAUTY (Alt det vakre), feature by Aasne Via Greibrokk (2016), screening: Sunday, 1/15, 5pm — Ten years after their upsetting break-up, Sarah visits David at his summer house. He wants her to help him finish his play, but when he tells her it’s about their relationship, she wants him to abandon it. For decades, the two have been united by a web of paradoxes. Both wanted to be loved by the other, despite their faults, questionable morals, and lack of control. They have been addicted to each other’s company and yet they drove each other crazy. But even after all these years, despite anguish and dispute, they recognize that their relationship is still deeply grounded in humor, respect – and love. (91 minutes)

THE KING’S CHOICE (Kongens nei), feature by Erik Poppe (2016), screening: Sunday, 1/22, 7pm — The King’s Choice is based on the true story about the three dramatic days in April, 1940, when the King of Norway was presented with an unimaginable ultimatum from the German Armed Forces: surrender or die. With German Air Force and soldiers hunting after them, the Royal Family was forced to flee from the capital. They decided to go separate ways, without knowing if they would ever see each other again. (133 minutes, shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination)


eternal-summerETERNAL SUMMER (Odödliga), feature by Andreas Öhman (2015), screening: Sunday, 1/15, 12pm — Two young lovers meet in Stockholm and begin a whirlwind romance that sends them on an impromptu road trip through northern Sweden, where their summer adventure turns criminal in this Swedish mix of Bonnie & Clyde with a soft touch of Natural Born Killers. (107 minutes)

GHETTO SWEDISH (Rinkebysvenska), short by Bahar Pars (2015), screening: Sunday, 1/15, 7pm — Aisatou is a black actress who’s been hired to record a voiceover for Stockholm’s top ad agency Måns and Petter. The session starts great, but it’s soon clear Måns and Petter want the ad to be more “gangsta.” Aisatou must chose between keeping her integrity or sacrificing it in order to please her employer’s stereotype. (10 minutes)

a-man-called-oveA MAN CALLED OVE (En man som heter Ove), feature by Hannes Holm (2016), screening: Sunday, 1/15, 7:15pm — Ove, an ill-tempered, isolated retiree who spends his days enforcing block association rules and visiting his wife’s grave, has finally given up on life just as an unlikely friendship develops with his boisterous new neighbors. (116 minutes, shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination)

A HOLY MESS (En underbar jävla jul), feature by Helena Bergström (2015), screening: Sunday, 1/22, 1pm Simon and Oscar have been a couple for three years and together with their girlfriend, now nine months pregnant, they have bought an apartment outside Stockholm. They don’t know if Simon or Oscar is the father nor have they revealed any news to their families. They invite their somewhat homophobic families to meet for the first time during a Christmas celebration. (108 minutes)


land-of-mineLAND OF MINE (Under Sandet), feature by Martin Pieter Zandvliet (2015), screening: Saturday, 1/14, 7:30pm — A group of young German POWs are ordered by Allied forces to dig up 2 million landmines from the coast of Denmark with their bare hands. (100 minutes, shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination)

THE COMMUNE (Kollektivet), feature by Thomas Vinterberg (2016), screening: Saturday, 1/21, 6:30pm —  A middle-aged professional couple in 1970s Denmark decides to experiment with communal living by inviting a group of friends and random eccentrics to cohabit with them and their daughter in a sprawling house in the upmarket district of Copenhagen. It is friendship, love, and togetherness under one roof until an earth-shattering love affair puts the community and the commune to its greatest test. (115 minutes)


sparrowsSPARROWS (Prestir), feature by Rúnar Rúnarsson (2016), screening: Saturday, 1/14, 1:30pm — This is a coming-of-age story about the 16-year old boy Ari, who has been living with his mother in Reykjavik and is suddenly sent back to the remote Westfjords to live with his father Gunnar. There, he has to navigate a difficult relationship with his father, and he finds his childhood friends changed. In these hopeless and declining surroundings, Ari has to step up and find his way. (99 minutes, Oscar entry)

HEARTSTONE (Hjartasteinn), feature by Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson (2016), screening: Saturday, 1/21, 1pm — In a remote fishing village in Iceland, two teenage boys Thor and Christian experience a turbulent summer as one tries to win the heart of a girl while the other discovers new feelings toward his best friend. When summer ends and the harsh nature of Iceland takes back its rights, it’s time to leave the playground and face adulthood. (129 minutes)


THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MAKI (Hymyilevä mies), feature by Juho Kuosmanen (2016), screening: Saturday, 1/14, 4pm — This is the true story of Olli Mäki, the famous Finnish boxer who had a shot at the 1962 World Featherweight title. Everything is set for him to become the first ever Finn to be the world champion in featherweight boxing. His manager Elis Ask, a former boxer himself, has prepared everything for them to reach fame and fortune. All Olli has to do is loose weight and concentrate. But he has a problem – he has fallen in love with Raija. (92 minutes, Oscar entry)

LITTLE WING (Tyttö nimeltä Varpu), feature by Selma Vihunen (2016), screening: Sunday, 1/22, 5pm — Varpu is a 12-year old girl who learns how to drive when her friends steal a car. Meanwhile her mother is struggling with her own failed driving tests. One night Varpu has had enough of her mother’s misery. She steals a car and drives up north to find her father. (100 minutes)


AN EMPTY SPACE (Tühi ruum), short/animation by Ülo Pikkov (2016), screening: Saturday, 1/21, 3:30pm — A 10-year-old girl longed for a puppy as a birthday present, but instead she got a father she had no idea was alive. (10 minutes)

MOTHER (Ema), feature by Kadri Kõusaar (2016), screening: Saturday, 1/21, 4pm — This darkly comic crime mystery set in small-town Estonia centers on Elsa, the full time caretaker of her comatose son, Lauri, and the locals, who are abuzz with rumors about who shot Lauri and why. But in this tight-knit town, where everyone seems to know everyone and everything except for what’s right under their nose, the world’s clumsiest crime may go unsolved. (89 minutes, Oscar entry)


SENECA’S DAY (Senekos Diena), feature by Kristijonas Vildziunas (2016), screening: Sunday, 1/15, 2pm In 1989, the final year of the Soviet era in Vilnius, a group of eighteen-year old buddies establish Seneca’s Fellowship. Its motto is “Live each day as if it was your last.” A love triangle breaks up the fellowship right at the time the nation experiences an exceptional sense of community via the Baltic Chain. Twenty-five years later, the main character, who appears to be accompanied by good luck at first glance, is disillusioned with himself. He has betrayed the ideals of his youth and become a cold observer of life. Life forces him to open up his own Pandora’s box. (106 minutes, Oscar entry)


AWESOME BEETLE’S COLORS, short/animation by Indra Spronge (2016), screening: Sunday, 1/22, 2:45pm — A nearly impossible story, supported by a catchy melody, guides us through the ABCs – from Awesome Beetles to Yellow Zebra. It is an educational film that offers visual, audio, and kinesthetic associations that help kids learn the alphabet. (3 minutes)

DAWN (Ausma), feature by Laila Pakalniņa (2015), screening: Sunday, 1/22, 3pm — This film is based on a Soviet propaganda story about Young Pioneer (the Soviet equivalent of a Boy Scout) Morozov, who denounced his father to Stalin’s secret police and was in turn killed by his family. His life exemplified the duty of all good Soviet citizens to become informers, at any expense. In this film, Janis is a pioneer who lives on the Soviet collective farm “Dawn”. His father is an enemy of the farm (and the Soviet system) and plots against it. Little Janis betrays his father; his father takes revenge upon his son. Who then in this old Soviet tale is good and who is bad? This film reveals that a distorted brain is always dangerous. Even nowadays. (90 minutes, Oscar entry)


Many interesting and intriguing images and themes jumped out at me when looking over these offerings. I loved reading phrases like “an apartment in the center of Oslo”, “summer house” (in Norway, along coast according to poster), “road trip through northern Sweden”, and “remote fishing village in Iceland”. Family relationships, friendships, gender identity, and racial stereotypes are explored. History is examined – Syrian refugees fleeing to Europe, World War II in Denmark, and Soviet rule in the Baltic countries. There is something for almost everyone in this selection of works.

Before an unexpected trip to Norway came on my calendar, it was looking like it would be a busy first weekend for me. I had planned to see Norway’s All the Beauty along with possibly Denmark’s Land of Mine and Iceland’s Sparrows. I also had my eyes on Bird Hearts until I read this article which stated, “If you see one sex-film this summer, make it this one. If nothing else, it will all be over in half an hour, even allowing for a cigarette and a decent scrub-down.” (Though Bird Hearts’ filmmaker Tøndel is apparently “an exciting new talent… barely out of film-school… [who] already commands his medium like an old hand.”) I would have loved to see A Man Called Ove, but I haven’t read the book yet so I wanted to wait anyway. Instead of transporting myself to Norway and environs via the screen, I’ll get to immerse myself in Norwegian language and setting in real life.

I’ll be back in time to catch the second weekend. I may visit a remote fishing village during summertime in Iceland in Heartstone and possibly join a 12-year-old as she drives up north in Finland to find her father in Little Wing.

My biggest disappointment is that Norway’s The King’s Choice (Kongens nei) is not being screened at the festival. I am very happy that The King’s Choice will be at the festival after all and I’ll be able to see it. Barnevakten, a Norwegian website that gives advice about media and children, recommends the movie for kids 9 years and older (though they warn that some scenes could be somewhat disturbing to kids on the younger side). Though the movie would have been a good opportunity for my kids to learn more about Norwegian history, it turns out the screening is too late on a school night. I’ll keep an eye out for it on Netflix.

Barcelona and Salvador Dalí right here in Los Angeles!

Exhibition PosterIt’s always hard to return to real life after a vacation full of unique and interesting experiences. This week we seized the opportunity to relive a bit of our recent vacation in Catalonia, Spain, right here at home. We learned that there was an exhibition of Salvador Dalí sculptures in Beverly Hills – an open-air exhibit of 12 “monumental and museum sized” bronze sculptures, free and open to the public at Two Rodeo Drive. We were intrigued.

As usual we went to Norway this summer, but afterwards we ventured onwards to the region of Catalonia in northeastern Spain for a 5-day self-guided bike tour. (Bike tours have become a favorite type of family vacation; this was our third one.) After our bike tour ended, we rented a car to explore the Costa Brava area (“brave or wild coast”) for a few days. One of our stops en route was Gala Dalí Castle House-Museum in Púbol, one of three sites in Catalonia dedicated to the life and works of Salvador Dalí.

Touring the castle and grounds was a highlight of our car ride. In the middle of nowhere was suddenly this site full of interesting history and unique and unusual design elements. Our guide gave us tidbits of information that brought the artist to life for us. Through this visit, we felt like we got to know the artist a little bit, got some insight into his personality and sense of humor. So, when my husband learned there was an exhibit of Dalí sculptures right here at home, we were quick to plan an outing. He even knew of a Barcelona-inspired restaurant nearby that he had meant for us to try before going on our trip that he added to our excursion for the day.

The exhibition in Beverly Hills was so much more fun and interesting than I expected. Twelve large Dalí statues were located throughout the Two Rodeo Drive area. His iconic melting clocks were represented, and we were reunited with his fantastical elephants which we had seen in the gardens at Púbol. Continue reading

Scandinavian Film Festival LA 2016: Intense and Touching

Scandinavian Film FestivalIt’s that time of year again when the Scandinavian Film Festival takes place in Los Angeles over two weekends (Jan 9 &10 and 23 & 24). There were not a lot Norwegian films on the schedule this year, only the documentary Maiko: Dancing Girl (about a Japanese girl who becomes a star ballerina at the Norwegian National Ballet) and thriller/disaster movie Bølgen (The Wave). Luckily, The Wave fit into my schedule the first weekend, and I was even able to take 11-year-old Sonny.

BølgenI had heard about The Wave before news of its participation in the festival. It had done very well in Norway, and Magnolia Pictures had bought U.S. rights to it and is aiming for an early 2016 U.S. release. Being a disaster movie, and in particular involving a family with younger kids, it wasn’t really my ideal movie to watch. But it was from Norway, in Norwegian, and took place in Norway. I decided I could handle it. I researched whether it would be appropriate for an almost 12-year-old. In Norway, it was rated “15”, which means it’s ok for 15-year-olds and also 12-year-olds and older if accompanied by an adult. I showed Sonny the trailer (which actually included a lot) and he said he was interested in seeing it and that he’d be able to handle it.

Waffles at SFFLAWe arrived at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills with not as much time to spare I would have liked, but luckily they were running a little late. We had time to get some Norwegian waffles, which was a totally unexpected but a very pleasant surprise. We actually smelled them upon arrival when we were buying tickets. Maybe they’ve offered waffles in the past, but this was my first time noticing it. Ida, dressed in a lovely traditional bunad, even offered Sonny the opportunity to go behind the table to help with our waffle. Ida was busy. We had to wait patiently for our waffle. Each customer got a waffle hot off the iron, which is the best kind. Assorted pastries were also available, most likely from Copenhagen Pastry. They were tempting but we had to rush into the theater.

We both enjoyed the movie. The setting was beautiful—how can you beat Geiranger Fjord—until the wave hit. For me, the most difficult and disturbing parts were after the wave destroyed the town. It was an intense movie, but I think it was harder for me to watch since I was a mother who could relate in some ways to what the mother in the movie was going through. Sonny just watched it for what it was, an intense movie. I won’t reveal too much since the movie is going to be released in the U.S. sometime relatively soon and you may be interested in seeing it.

RamsUsually, I just stick to Norwegian films, but this year I ventured out beyond my comfort zone and saw Rams from Iceland as well. My husband and I have been to Reykjavik, Iceland. It’s a beautiful country. I read that this film takes place in a remote Icelandic farming valley. I was intrigued and went with the hopes of seeing some beautiful scenery and getting a glimpse of life in such a community. The movie was enjoyable. The story of the two stubborn brothers and their relationship with their sheep was amusing and touching. The ending was unexpected. What I especially enjoyed was the introduction to the movie by the producer and director. It’s always interesting to hear stories of what goes on behind the scenes of a movie.

Moomins on the RivieraThe festival continues the weekend of January 23 and 24 in Beverly Hills with films from Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, Denmark, Latvia, and Sweden. There’s even a children’s movie this year, Finland’s Moomins on the Riviera, a hand-drawn animation based on beloved Finnish comic strips by Tove Jansson that have become popular all over Europe. It will be screened Saturday, January 23, at 12:30pm.

It’s not too late to catch something out of the ordinary and to expand your cinematic horizons. Venture out and see some of the “top films from the top of Europe” next weekend. See the festival schedule with film descriptions here.Schedule at SFFLA


Scandinavian Film Festival LA 2015: Transported Back to Norway

SFFLA headerEvery year I look forward to the Scandinavian Film Festival LA (SFFLA) with an odd combination of excitement and uncertainty. I’m always eager to watch a Norwegian movie or two in Norwegian, but I usually never know anything about the films that are going to be screened. Only one year was I familiar with one of the films. That was 2013, the year when Kon-Tiki had been nominated for a Golden Globe and it was on the Oscar shortlist for best foreign film. That year I attended the festival, even the opening gala and buffet, with great anticipation.

As usual this year, I asked my parents if they knew anything about the Norwegian films, but they didn’t know much. When they go to see movies in Norway, they usually see American ones.

1001 Grams movie posterThere were many Norwegian films in different genres being screened this year: the documentary Optimistene (The Optimists), the movie Eventyrland (It’s Only Make Believe), Norway’s official Oscar submission 1001 Gram (1001 Grams), thriller Pionér (Pioneer), and crime thriller Kraftidioten (In Order of Disappearance). The only one they had heard anything about it was 1001 Gram. They thought they had heard it was good. That was enough for me to put it on my calendar. Continue reading

Kon-Tiki at the Scandinavian Film Festival LA 2013

SFFLA program coverThe Scandinavian Film Festival LA is one of my favorite local Scandinavian events. I’m always eager to see what Norwegian films will be screened at the annual festival and I look forward to absorbing myself in my native language.

Usually, I need to run the list of films by my parents who live in Norway to see which ones they recommend, but this year there was no need for that. I had heard about the movie Kon-Tiki long before I saw it would be at the festival. It had been nominated for a Golden Globe and had made the short list for an Academy Award nomination (and then did become one of five films nominated). Kind of exciting that a Norwegian film gets that kind of recognition. Also, I’m familiar with the topic. I’ve visited the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo several times. I’ve taken out-of-town guests and also my own kids. I certainly wanted to see the Norwegian film that had made it this far in the film world and was now so close to home. Continue reading