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 *
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 *
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 *
- Feature Film by Gustav Möller (2018)
- Shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film
- Screening: Saturday, 1/5, 7:30 p.m. (85 min)
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.
- 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 *
- 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.
- Feature Film by Benedikt Erlingsson (2018)
- Winner of Nordic Council Film Prize 2018
- Screening: Sunday, 1/6, 1:00 p.m. (101 min)
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.
- 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 *
- Feature Film by Teemu Nikki (2017)
- Nominee for Nordic Council Film Prize 2018
- Screening: Sunday, 1/6, 11:00 a.m. (85 min)
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 *
- 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 *
- 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.
- 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 *
- 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 film. The 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?