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?

Scandinavian Film Festival LA 2017: A Preview

sffla-header

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.

  • NORWAY

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)

  • SWEDEN

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)

  • DENMARK

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)

  • ICELAND

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)

  • FINLAND

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)

  • ESTONIA

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)

  • LITHUANIA

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)

  • LATVIA

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)

  • CLOSING THOUGHTS

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.

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

 

Los Angeles Culture Challenge for January 2016 & Scandinavian Film Festival LA

January 2016Happy New Year! Is one of your new year’s resolutions to get out more and take advantage of what your city has to offer and to experience something new? January offers many such opportunities for folks in Los Angeles. Popular recurring events continue, such as the weekly family art workshops at Barnsdall Art Park, monthly walking tours of Chinatown, and the annual Scandinavian Film Festival (which is already marked on my calendar, I plan to see the much anticipated Norwegian film The Wave). There are also special events such as the exhibition A Path Appears: Actions for a Better World at the Skirball and Toyota Symphonies for Youth at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. There’s a variety of activities from which to choose. What will you attempt?

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 2 & 3 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking TourThe Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown, Saturday 1/2, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Offered every first Saturday of the month). Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more when guided to the unique treasures–not to mention great bargains–to be found in Chinatown. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A.’s Chinatown.

2016-Oshogatsu-Festival-Year-of-MonkeyOshogatsu Family Festival – Year of the Monkey, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown, Sunday 1/3, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Ring in the New Year and the Year of the Monkey with fun arts ‘n crafts, food, exciting cultural activities, and performances.

Skirball-a-path-appearsA Path Appears: Actions for a Better World, Skirball Cultural Center, ongoing until February 21. Inspired by the bestselling book A Path Appears by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the exhibition is both a gallery installation and a community engagement project—a place where every visitor can take practical, results-driven steps to bring about social change. Get inspired inside innovatively designed pavilions exploring four critical humanitarian issues: education, health, good jobs, and empowerment. Tap into the power of grassroots action as you learn of organizations—both local and around the globe—that are developing workable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. Then join in building a better world as you engage with ActionLab, a mobile-friendly tool that uses storytelling to promote social change and spark a commitment to human rights.

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 9 & 10 *

Scandinavian Film FestivalScandinavian Film Festival, Writers Guild Theater, Beverly Hills, Saturday 1/9 & Sunday 1/10 (also weekend of 1/23 & 1/24). This is a yearly showcase of films from northern Europe and its Baltic neighbors. During the course of two weekends, the festival screens not only films submitted by Nordic countries to the Academy for consideration in the “Best Foreign Language Film” category, but also other Nordic feature films, short movies, and documentaries. During the first weekend is the screening of Norwegian disaster film Bølgen (“The Wave“) followed by the Opening Gala and Ceremonies. See website for schedule and ticket information.

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

Bowers_KwanzaaKwanzaa Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday 1/10, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Celebrate the beauty and excitement of the African American cultural experience in America with a Kwanzaa ceremony, spoken word, drumming and dancing, and 3rd Degree Blues Band.

Free Second Sunday: Thailand, USC Pacific Asia MuseumUSC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday 1/10. The museum is one of a few U.S. institutions dedicated to the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands. Join them this Sunday as they celebrate the arts and culture of Thailand. Activities include Silk Road Story Time, an art activity, Spotlight Tours, and a music/dance/art demo by Thai Community Arts & Cultural Center. See website for schedule. In addition, visitors can peruse permanent and special exhibitions and explore a special interactive family-friendly exhibition called Journeys: The Silk Road which takes guests along the legendary trade route that linked Europe and Asia for more than a thousand years. Admission to the galleries and the day’s programming are free all day.

* MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. WEEKEND OF JANUARY 16 & 17 & 18 *

Barnsdall_Art_Park_SundaysUSA: MLK Day Posters, “I Have a Dream” Painting (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday 1/17, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructor Quan Trang for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

CAAMCAAM’s Annual “Cake for King” Community Celebration, California African American Museum, Exposition Park, Monday 1/18, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. CAAM invites the entire LA community to join them for their annual recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and his life’s work as a charismatic and dedicated leader of the modern civil rights movement. CAAM will offer an art workshop, documentaries, face painting, story time, and slices of homemade birthday cake (while supplies last).

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 23 & 24 *

TSFYToyota Symphonies for Youth: City of Light: Debussy’s La Mer, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Downtown, Saturday 1/23 & 1/30 at 11:00 a.m. The LA Phil’s pioneering Symphonies for Youth mix music with fun and fantasy for children ages 5 to 11 (children under two not admitted). Tour the colorful and rich orchestral music of France with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in celebration of the LA Phil’s French festival. Come for the chance to experience a live orchestra through the fantasy of theater. Each performance is preceded by a choice of art workshops, including an instrumental petting zoo, dance, and more starting at 10am. Buy tickets in advance.

Scandinavian Film FestivalScandinavian Film Festival, Writers Guild Theater, Beverly Hills, Saturday 1/23 & Sunday 1/24. During the second and last weekend of this yearly showcase of films from northern Europe and its Baltic neighbors, you can view a children’s animated movie from Finland, Moomins On The Riviera, based on popular Finnish comic strips, among many other films. See website for schedule and ticket information.

Barnsdall_Art_Park_SundaysBali: Shadow Puppets (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday 1/24, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructor Sarah Hage for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

* WEEKEND OF JANUARY 30 & 31 *

TSFYToyota Symphonies for Youth: City of Light: Debussy’s La Mer, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Downtown, Saturday 1/30 at 11:00 a.m. The LA Phil’s pioneering Symphonies for Youth mix music with fun and fantasy for children ages 5 to 11 (children under two not admitted). Tour the colorful and rich orchestral music of France with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in celebration of the LA Phil’s French festival. Come for the chance to experience a live orchestra through the fantasy of theater. Each performance is preceded by a choice of art workshops, including an instrumental petting zoo, dance, and more starting at 10am. Buy tickets in advance.

Barnsdall_Art_Park_SundaysItaly: Marionettes (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday 1/31, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Join instructor Sarah Hage for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

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