SFFLA’s cinema cultural exchange

This two-weekend festival brings the top hits of Scandinavia and the Baltics to Los Angeles

Photo courtesy of NFI.no
The film festival kicks off with the Norwegian documentary The Crossing / Flukten, which follows the journey of Syrians fleeing the war in their country.

Special Release

The 18th Annual Scandinavian Film Festival L.A. (SFFLA) arrives at the Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny in Beverly Hills, January 14, 15, 21, and 22 with “top films from the top of Europe” featuring Academy Award submissions and other current films from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Baltic neighbors Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

“The mission of our ‘cinema cultural exchange’” says Festival Founder/Director James Koenig “is to give the savvy L.A. film audience, industry professionals, homesick northern ex-pats, students, and film lovers the opportunity to see an incredible body of work. We like to put the ‘hype’ on hold and focus on the art. And in the process we share stories of love, laughter, untold history, and of our common humanity.”

The festival runs two weekends and starts on January 14 at noon with an award-winning Norwegian documentary The Crossing / Flukten that takes us on the journey of a group of Syrians fleeing war and persecution and looking for somewhere, anywhere to rekindle hope. The day continues at 1:30 with Icelandic Oscar entry Sparrows / Prestir. The story follows a 16-year-old boy whose coming of age is impacted by the Icelandic financial crisis. At 4:00 p.m. the excellent Finnish Oscar entry The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki / Hymyilevä mies draws on the true story of a famous Finnish boxer.

It’s into the evening with the Opening Gala and Buffet at 6:00 leading to opening ceremonies and the opening night film—Danish Oscar entry Land of Mine / Under Sandet from Martin Pieter Zandvliet, which tells the captivating story of a group of young German POWs who are made the enemy of a nation where they are now forced to dig up two million landmines with their bare hands.

On January 15 the day begins with a noon screening of Swedish director Andreas Ohman’s Eternal Summer / Odödliga. Set out on an impromptu road-trip/crime-spree with two young lovers. Lithuania’s Oscar entry Seneca’s Day / Senekos Diena follows at 2:00. The story is set in the final year of Soviet rule and follows a group of teenagers in a group called Seneca’s Fellowship.

At 4:30 it’s Norwegian short Bird Hearts / Fuglehjerter from Director Halfdan Ullmann Tøndel (grandson of Iconic Norwegian actor/director Liv Ullmann). Following the short at 5:00 p.m. is Norwegian feature film All the Beauty / Alt det vakre from Aasne Via Greibrokk. Ten years after their breakup, Sarah agrees to visit her bestselling author ex’s cabin on the Norwegian coast and help with his latest opus, a raw and graphic play exploring their years as a couple. The result is a rekindling full of passions, discontent, sensual pleasure, and regret.

The day wraps up with a duo of Swedish films. First a short from Bahar Pars called Ghettoswedish / Rinkebysvenska at 7:00 followed by the Swedish Oscar entry A Man Called Ove / En man som heter Ove. The film tells the story of a grumpy retiree Ove, (Rolf Larsgaard) who spends his days enforcing block association rules and visiting his wife’s grave, and has really given up on life until an unlikely friendship develops with his boisterous new neighbors. One of those new neighbors is the film’s co-star Barhar Pars, director of Ghettoswedish.

The second SFFLA weekend kicks off on January 21 at 1:00 with Icelandic director Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson’s Heartstone / Hjartasteinn. The film is set in a remote fishing village in Iceland where two teenage boys experience a turbulent summer as one tries to win the heart of a girl while the other discovers new feelings toward his best friend. At 3:30 an Estonian short precedes that country’s Oscar entry Mother / Ema at 4:00—a “Fargo-like” comic crime mystery set in a small town with all the ingredients: secret love affairs, nosy policemen, missing money, and a comatose main witness.

At 6:30 The Commune / Kollektivet from Danish Director Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt) focuses on a middle-aged couple in the 1970s who decide to experiment with communal living and invite a group of friends to move into their house in an upscale Copenhagen district.

The final day begins at 12:30 with a TBA pending surprise and continues at 2:45 with a pair of Latvian offerings—a three-minute animated short preceding the Latvian Oscar submission Dawn / Ausma, based on a Soviet propaganda story about Young Pioneer (Boyscout) Morozov who denounced his father to Stalin’s secret police and was in turn killed by his family.

Finally at 7:00 the festival concludes with A Holy Mess / En underbar jävla jul from Swedish Director Helena Bergström. Simon and Oscar have been a couple for three years and have engaged their girlfriend Cissi to be a surrogate. They haven’t revealed this secret to their families, yet they cannot keep it hidden since Cissi is nine months pregnant. What time could be better for a revelation than Christmas Eve?

Complete schedule and ticket information is available at sffla.net. The box office / festival office telephone number is (213) 864-2893.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 13, 2017, 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.