The Nordic Program - Victoria Film Festival

Victoria Film Festival

The Nordic Program

For the 2020 Victoria Film Festival, we have programmed a collection of new independent Nordic films. We’re proud to share the stories created in doing so with the world through the help of The Nordics supporting partnership. We invite you to join us in sharing the institutional, artistic, and personal stories that are generated by these film events with the world through social media: follow these stories on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

The Nordic values of openness, compassion, and creativity are shared and felt by like-minded film lovers in Canada and all over the world. Through talk events and a dedicated social media campaign, the Victoria Film Festival will give shape to a broad “Community of North” that represents the shared values of the Nordics, Canada, and other progressive pockets of people in the world.

Traces are not about showing The Nordics to the world, they are about showing The Nordics in the world. The 7 Nordics films the VFF has programmed share traces of north with Canadian audiences and the world: new ideas, shared feelings, and common values. Welcome to the Community of North!

And Then We Danced

Director: Levan Akin

Sweden, Georgia, France | 2019 | 113 min

Gold Q-Hugo Award Chicago International Film Festival

A fascinating story of love and liberation in ultraconservative modern Georgia, a country at the intersection of Europe and Asia. Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) has been training from a young age at the National Georgian Ensemble with his dance partner and girlfriend Mary (Ana Javakishvilli). His world turns upside down when the carefree and handsome Irakli (Bachi Valishvili) arrives and becomes both his strongest rival and desire.

Merab lives with his mother and grandmother along with his brother, who though very talented, is actually a mess.  When Merab and Irakli begin to feel an attraction they know the risks are high as another dancer was recently outed and ended up on the street.

More than a coming of age love story, And Then We Danced might be compared to Call Me by Your Name but here the film carries an authenticity and rawness that Guadagnino’s film lacked. A multi-award winner And Then We Danced features professional dancer and acting newcomer Gelbakhiani. An absolute revelation, the actor conveys his doubts, honesty and primality effortlessly. Georgian dance is a rigorous masculine dance where every nuance must express the dominance of the male. The milieu of the dance world, a world that balances control and freedom, is a perfect backdrop for the story.

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A White, White Day | Hvítur, Hvítur Dagur

Director: Hlynur Pálmason

Iceland, Denmark, Sweden | 2019 | 109 min

Rising Star Award Cannes Film Festival

In a remote Icelandic town, an off-duty police chief, whose wife died in a tragic accident, begins to suspect a local man of having had an affair with her.

The rugged lead is as compelling as the landscape he fits so well within. In A White, White Day, director Pálmason examines the type of traditional male masculinity that tends to inhabit such remote environments by following Ingimundur (Ingvar Sigurðsson) as he investigates the life of a woman he thought he knew. Sigurðsson, one of Iceland’s greatest actors, plays the grieving widower with great subtlety as he shifts between stoicism and small glimpses of who he was before the accident, as reflected in his interactions with his granddaughter (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir).

Playing with metaphor – the landscape, the house that Ingimundur can’t finish – Pálmason

pushes the story to unexpected lengths both dramatically and stylistically as he creates a powerful examination of a man in pain who has no culturally acceptable way to express himself.

From the opening sequence, cinematographer Maria von Hausswolff puts on screen a remarkable sense of Iceland. It’s as if her camera along with Pálmason’s vision has captured the breath of the place.

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Pity the Lovers | Vesalings Elskendur

Director: Maximilian Hult

Sweden, Iceland | 2019 | 105 min

“Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.Joan Crawford.

When are we ready to take the plunge and commit to a long-term relationship? What is the nature of our hesitation?

Two brothers in their mid-thirties, Oskar and Maggi, find themselves, through an unexpected turn of events, living together in their parents’ home in the suburbs of Reykjavik. They are both longing for love and are both single for different reasons. Oskar is shy and uses his pug Otto as an excuse to pursue his long-time crush, Anna, a veterinarian. Maggi is focused on conquest, never staying with anyone long enough to achieve a deeper connection.  As their friends partner up and begin the next stages of their lives, the brothers are increasingly feeling left behind, both longing for a fulfilling relationship while neither has a clue how to achieve it.

Skillfully directed by Swedish director Maximilian Hult, and propelled by an extremely talented Icelandic cast, the story is full of delightfully realized characters. The Goths, artists and eccentrics that surround the brothers all serve to celebrate the joy and struggle it is to be human. Frequently funny, yet never descending into slapstick or parody, it walks a comic fine line as it explores relationships and what it is to grow and love and deepen our connections.

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The Men’s Room | For Vi Er Gutta

Director: Petter Sommer, Jo Vemund Svendsen

Norway | 2018 | 74 min

Audience Award Krakow Film Festival Documentary

A group of 25 Norwegian men in their prime get together every Tuesday to sing dirty rock songs and drink beer in this very joyous documentary.

The men have promised to sing at each other’s funerals but what they hadn’t anticipated is how soon that might happen. Their choir director has a cancer diagnosis yet these closely-knit men plunge on without a whiff of sentimentality showing.

Meanwhile the choir is preparing for its biggest gig to date as the warm-up act for Black Sabbath before their concert in Norway 2016. The countdown has started, and our band of choirboys try to keep their spirits high with ribald songs about the trials of middle-age, while they also prepare to say farewell.

Their irreverent banter is always respectfully playful and the singing provides the vehicle for sharing their thoughts and opening up, joking with each other as they do. Rarely has a film been so quietly amusing, and surprisingly moving.

Directors Sommer and Svendsen film without artifice – no jiggly camera or extreme close-ups but rather it settles amongst the men and you feel like part of the choir. The Men’s Room is refreshingly clear and straight forward storytelling.

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The Seer and The Unseen

Western Canada Premiere

Director: Sara Dosa

Iceland, USA | 2019 | 86 min

Golden Gate Award San Francisco Film Festival Documentary

In her newest documentary Sara Dosa explores the world of invisible elves, financial collapse and the surprising power of belief. All told through the story of an Icelandic woman named Ragga – a real-life seer who speaks on behalf of nature under threat.

Allegedly, more than half of Iceland’s population (members of the Icelandic parliament included) still believe in huldufólk – the hidden folk. Elves, dwarves and trolls are not only an integral part of Icelandic myth and history but they are also an important part of the future with the fight for environmental justice and conservation.

When the largest bulldozer in the country threatens to demolish a vital and unspoiled volcanic rock believed to be home to huldufólk, Ragga and a team of activists step in to resist. By framing her concern for the elves as a potentially symbolic manifestation of more tangible environmental activism and conservation, we get to see the importance of connecting with nature and saving those whose voices we may not hear.

The Seer and the Unseen provides a lens for even the most skeptical viewers to identify real-world weight in a whimsical world. The documentary smoothly integrates personal and political stakes with a light touch, exploring the surprising power of belief and the invisible forces – be they elves or the market – that shape our visible worlds and transform our natural landscapes. And it’s magical.

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Maria’s Paradise | Marian Paratiisi

Director: Zaida Bergroth

Finland | 2019 | 110 min

Based on the real-life exploits of a Finnish cult in the 1920s, Maria’s Paradise is a riveting and atmospheric analysis of the nature of devotion and the intense narcissism that drives cult-like leaders.

Salome (Satu Tuuli Karhu) was orphaned at a very young age and taken in by Maria Åkerblom (Pihla Viitala), a mysterious and charismatic sect leader who resides with a group of devoted followers in an enormous country estate just outside of Helsinki. Maria, claiming that God has been visiting her in her dreams, has the power to convince her coterie to do practically anything.

All Salome has ever known is life in the sect under Maria’s power. One day, that changes as she, for the first time, accompanies Maria on a trip to town. While Maria is busy shopping for a new hat, Salome meets Malin (Saga Sarkola), a young woman making her living on the streets.

A short while later, in Maria’s absence, Salome invites Malin to live in the cult’s mansion after one of her clients abuses her. Once Maria returns however, Malin starts to see through the leader’s ruses and inspires Salome to question her leader’s teachings for the very first time.

Maria’s Paradise is an effective thriller-drama, that in a powerful and sophisticated way explores the charisma and power some people have over others. The film skillfully holds up a mirror to our own times, pointing out how demagoguery and manipulation is very much present today.

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Queen of Hearts | Dronningen

Director: May el-Toukhy

Denmark | 2019 | 127 min

Audience Award Sundance Film Festival

Best Narrative Feature Philadelphia Film Festival

A recent Festival favourite and Denmark’s foreign language Oscar submission, May el-Toukhy’s Queen of Hearts is a powerful and emotionally charged moral tale with a calmly dramatic, uncanny Nordic flair.

Anne is a dedicated and successful lawyer working with abuse victims and adolescents in trouble. She lives in a modern, elegant property on the edge of a Danish forest with her husband Peter and twin daughters. Her harmonious life takes an unforeseen course however, when Gustav, Peter’s troubled adolescent son from a previous marriage, moves in with the family and ruins their established bliss. After a rough beginning, Anne warms up to Gustav and they develop a bond. As the connection grows, a veil of uncertainty slowly begins to fall over Anne’s life and the mysterious boy becomes an immoral temptation. Suddenly her strong sense of right and wrong disintegrates and she crosses a border with fatal consequences.

An intricate character study of an unexpected abuser and the havoc her actions cause, Queen of Hearts is one of the most emotionally charged films seen this year.

Empowered by a brilliant and powerful performance by Trine Dyrholm, who won multiple Best Actress Awards at Festivals around the world, the film creates a complex story that is not easily shaken.

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