Film festival brings Nordic cinema to NY

The Nordic International Film Festival offers Nordic views to American viewers

Photo courtesy of NIFF Festival founders Linnea Larsdotter and Johan Matton at this year’s awards ceremony.

Photo courtesy of NIFF
Festival founders Linnea Larsdotter and Johan Matton at this year’s awards ceremony.

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Two Swedish-born actors who now live in New York, Linnea Larsdotter and Johan Matton, turned their love of film and Scandinavia into the Nordic International Film Festival in N.Y. Launched just a little over a year ago, the NIFF held its second event during the last weekend in October.

Larsdotter, the festival’s creative director, filled me in about her and Matton’s background and interest in film. Both have lived all over the world, settling in New York due to education. “We both got accepted into acting programs here and decided rather quickly to make the move across the Atlantic. After graduating, we both were received with open arms by the acting community, so we decided to stay for a while. And a while has now become seven years,” Larsdotter explains.

She studied acting at Malmö University and Forum Dance and Artist Academy in Sweden and in New York at New York Film Academy. Matton started at Kalle Flygare Theater School and NYFA and Circle in the Square in New York.

Both founders are working actors, both onstage and onscreen. “It’s a huge passion of ours,” says Larsdotter. “I am heading down to New Orleans next week to perform in the play Mary’s Little Monster by Thomas Kee. I identify and introduce myself as an actor.”

I also had the opportunity to speak with Matton, the festival director and other half of the founding team, about the festival.

Victoria Hofmo: When and why was the Nordic International Film Festival created?

Johan Matton: We created the festival in early 2015, and had our first event in October last year. It’s a true passion project, and we work year long with the preparations to create the best possible experience for both the filmmakers and the audience. We wanted to expand the bridge between the Nordic filmmakers and the rest of the world and showcase Nordic films in New York.

VH: What is the festival’s relationship to Scandinavia House?

JM: We have worked closely with Scandinavia House for a couple of years, and we’ve been following their film screening series. It was through their incredible support, with donating Victor Borge Hall to us, that made us choose this venue the first year. It worked out so well. And this year, Scandinavia House is co-presenting our opening night film with us and their programmer (former Sundance Programmer) Mary Kerr was selected by us to be one of our jury members this year for the Nordic Feature Category.

VH: How has the festival evolved?

JM: Already last year, we dreamt about being able to present panels for the second year, and it is with such great pleasure we were able to bring some very experienced industry professionals to this year’s festival to speak at our panels. We also expanded to three days instead of two, and we are finding more and more channels to help the filmmakers get the word out there for their film to the press and for distribution.

VH: How many films were featured at this year’s festival?

JM: We screened 20 films this year. We screened two documentary shorts, two documentary features, three international shorts, two international features, eight Nordic shorts, and three Nordic features.

VH: What was new and exciting about this year’s festival?

JM: We are very proud of our incredible panels, with renowned names from the film industry, both international and Nordic. One of our key goals with the festival is to encourage co-productions between the Nordic region and international productions, and our panel co-producing with the North will hopefully inspire to just that. The festival has both the first year and the second year [this year] been free. Audience members who want to come and experience premier independent films can now do so independently at NIFF at no charge.

What is probably most exciting is that the majority of these Nordic Films are U.S. and North American premieres (some even world premieres), so the audience who comes to Scandinavia House will see these films for the very first time since they have not been screened before outside their home Nordic country. We don’t accept any films that have been released outside the festival circuit.

VH: Does NIFF promote showing Scandinavian films in other American venues?

JM: As of now, the festival only screens during the event, but we work closely with the filmmakers to help them showcase their work in the States, either through helping with distribution contacts or connecting them directly to other suitable venues.

The NIFF is quite an endeavor. There is so much quality work coming out of the Nordic countries but so few opportunities to view the films on this side of the Atlantic. So, hats off to Larsdotter and Matton for bringing these wonderful flicks to our shore.

To learn more about the festival, visit

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 18, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.