Norwegian (and other Nordic) Films at AFI FEST 2017

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

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

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

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

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

THELMA directed by Joachim Trier

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

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

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

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

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

WINTER BROTHERS (Vinterbrødre) directed by Hlynur Pálmason

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family Hike: Runyon Canyon

Runyon Canyon has been in the news a bit this summer due its recent facelift. It’s an extremely popular urban LA hike in the Hollywood Hills that is known as not only a great workout but also an interesting people watching place and “Instagram photo opp”.

Runyon Canyon east trail

It was closed for four months (April – July 2016) to replace a water pipeline and renovate the main trail. Now it has a newly paved fire road and new water fountains. It hadn’t been on my list of hikes I really wanted to do, but now that I had read about it in blogs and newspapers, I wanted to check it out – and I rallied the family to join me. Continue reading

Family Hike: Hollywood Sign, Take 2

About two years ago, our family attempted a hike to the Hollywood Sign. We failed. It was a new area to us and we started our outing too late in the day. I chalked it up as being a reconnaissance mission for a future visit to the Hollywood Sign.

This past holiday season I finally had a chance to try again. My family was in town for the holidays, and my 11-year-old niece expressed an interest in getting a good view of the sign. Quickly, a little group was assembled for an excursion to the sign. We were my sister, my niece, and my father (in the best attire he had for a hike—slacks and loafers!).

The view as we drove up Beachwood Canyon Drive, approaching what we thought would be the start of our hike

The view as we drove up Beachwood Canyon Drive, approaching what we thought would be the start of our hike

We had a little hiccup in the beginning. I began by taking them to the trailhead at the top of Beachwood Canyon, which I had figured out on our reconnaissance mission was a good place to start. I knew there had been some issues between neighbors and hikers/tourists and faintly remembered that the trailhead had been closed for a while, but I thought that was over. Turns out it wasn’t. The parking at the trailhead was still closed, but there were handouts that suggested we go to Griffith Observatory and begin our hike from there. We had no time constraints so we headed over there. Continue reading

Barnsdall Arts Sundays, fun for the whole family!

Every month I compile a list of multicultural activities available around Los Angeles. I encourage readers to explore the richness of where we live, to travel the world without having to go very far. Some events are familiar to me at locations I already know; others are at brand-new-to-me venues in unfamiliar areas of the city. Last month I accepted my own culture challenge and ventured out and tried something new.

I took the whole family with me, which included visiting grandparents from Norway, to Barnsdall Art Park in the Los Feliz/Hollywood area. Every Sunday, they offer Barnsdall Arts Sundays, free family art workshops that focus on different cultures and use different media. That particular week the focus was printmaking with Scandinavian folk motifs. I was intrigued and the boys had no sports so I penciled it in our calendar, despite the fact that my parents would have just arrived from Norway and Christmas preparations would have to be put on hold.

The experience exceeded our expectations beyond a doubt! First of all, just visiting the area was interesting. I had no idea Barnsdall Art Park was on a hill. Seeing this hill of trees appear in the middle of the city was eye-opening. And the views from the top were fantastic as well. In one direction was a lovely view of Griffith Observatory and Hollywood Sign. In another direction was Century City and maybe the ocean if it had been clearer.Barnsdall View

We finally made it to the art workshop in the Junior Arts Center. The signage for us first timers left a little to be desired. We weren’t sure where to go until I asked a group that seemed to be coming from an art workshop. They guided us in the right direction past the Hollyhock House (Frank Lloyd Wright’s first Los Angeles project, under renovation now but might be worth a return visit), through a grove of trees, to the art studios.Barnsdall Grove

Immediately upon entering the studio we were all thrust into action! All three generations. No one had a chance to decline participation. Before we knew it, we were all sitting at a table holding a styrofoam card onto which we were to etch our designs. Shelah, the director, enthusiastically instructed us and we set to work.Barnsdall Etching

Barnsdall WorkingThe theme of the workshop was Scandinavian folk motifs, but not much emphasis was put on that aspect of the workshop. Papers with examples of designs were present, but we were encouraged to create whatever designs we wanted. The grandparents chose to do holiday themed designs, Doobie and Daddy created geometric designs, and Sonny creatively etched his name. I was the only one to attempt a Scandinavian design. It was tricky and took much longer than the others, but that’s what I came to do.

Once our styrofoam etchings were done, we colored our papers onto which the etchings would be printed. Then we inked our designs and laid them upon our colored paper and voilá, we had a cool print or two that we proudly took home.Barnsdall Inking

Final Printmaking Projects

Photo credit: Shelah Lehrer-Graiwer

I highly recommend an excursion to Barnsdall Art Park for a Sunday family art workshop. It’s a drop-in situation, but don’t arrive too close to the ending time because you may not have enough time to work on your project as much as you’d like. We arrived with 45 minutes left in the session and worked right up until clean-up time. We could have easily spent more time there making more prints of our etching. All materials are supplied and the instructors are very enthusiastic and helpful. All ages are welcome and encouraged to participate. The adults in our group weren’t really planning on getting involved, but we were glad Shelah insisted because we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

The workshops resume Sunday, January 11. Take a look at the schedule and your calendar and see when you can give it a try. After our visit, we had a lovely outdoor lunch at nearby Alcove Cafe and Bakery, which we had recently seen on a list of “great places to eat outdoors in Los Angeles” (which is a must-do when Norwegians are in town) and we recommend that as well.

Barnsdall Art Sunday Schedule

Family Hike: Hollywood Sign

first-day-hikesI was inspired by the suggestion of the California State Parks Foundation to explore more California state parks in the new year and then I came across the First Day Hikes initiative… So I suggested a family hike for New Years Day. We made plans to explore Griffith Park and the Hollywood Sign, an area I’ve been eager to hike for a long time. (It turns out the First Day Hikes initiative is actually guided hikes in certain state parks around the country, but hey, we were going out to a park in our state on the first day of the year, good enough for us.)

Our goal ahead!

I had two goals for us on our outing — to make it above and behind the Hollywood Sign and also to find possibly five geocaches that I’d picked out in the area. Neither goal was accomplished unfortunately, but it was still a fantastic outing, one that I want to try again now that I know the lay of the land. Continue reading

Dark Shadows Premiere and After Party

When people think of Los Angeles, what comes to mind is often movie making and movie stars.  Along with that comes premieres and after parties.  During my time of living in LA, and due to the fact that I married into a movie-making family, I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to attend a few movie premieres, the most recent of which was Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, and what an evening it was.

My husband and I arrived at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood in a car with my father-in-law, my husband’s brother and his wife.  After a few photos of us all together at the beginning of the red carpet, we left my father-in-law behind to continue with the photographers, and we proceeded onwards to the entrance of the theater.  Once inside we helped ourselves to the free popcorn and sodas and headed to our seats.  We were not allowed to linger in the lobby during this special event.

The movie eventually began.  It takes a while for all the stars to make their way down the red carpet and to their seats.  During that time, we hung out in our seats munching our popcorn and caught occasional glimpses of famous faces and said hello to more familiar ones.

An interesting aspect of movie premieres is that there’s applause at every name and company that comes up in the credits, and then of course there’s great applause and many congratulatory greetings at the end.

After the movie, we all headed across the street to the after-party.  We were guided down the middle of Hollywood Boulevard as crowds of fans, and probably some lucky tourists who were at the right place at the right time, tried to get views and photos of the stars from behind the barriers.

A tent had been set up in a parking lot and it was decorated and adorned to look just like we were entering the mansion that was a focal point in the movie.  Inside chandeliers and disco balls were hanging from the ceiling, just like in the party scene in the movie.  In the movie’s mansion, there is a grand staircase and of course this staircase was featured at the after party as well.

The highpoint of the evening was a performance by Alice Cooper.  Alice Cooper performs at a party in the movie, and he took the stage with gusto at the after party as well.  What we soon discovered was that Johnny Depp was also on stage, playing guitar.  Soon, another famous guitarist joined them, Joe Perry of Aerosmith.  And then what do you know, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and American Idol fame jumped on stage as well.  It became a super star-studded concert performance of epic proportions, about which you can read more here if you’re interested.

Can you pick out Johnny Depp, Joe Perry, Steven Tyler, and Alice Cooper?

Not all after parties have this kind of entertainment.  This one will stand out for a long time.