We live in challenging financial times. With this in mind it must be rather difficult to put a decent edition of the Scandinavian film festival Nordisk Panorama together. The tricky thing about Nordisk Panorama is the shifting host cities. It is an annual event but it travels between five Nordic cities (Bergen, Aarhus, Oulu, Malmö, Reykjavik). What this must mean is that sponsors and local business partners, vital to the festival, will have a hard time remembering what the festival is all about when it only arrives in their city every fifth year. In some ways I guess the organizers must start more or less from scratch every time.
This year the event took place in Aarhus, Denmark, and I must say they did quite a good job putting together a programme consisting of a manifold range of documentaries and short films. And being a joint festival of docu and shorts is exactly the strength of Nordisk Panorama. When reality becomes too harsh, you can find refuge in the shorts, and if fiction becomes too irrelevant you can just return to documentary. Also the dynamics between the two genres are vividly displayed when they occur side by side. One quickly notices, not only in narrative and content, but also how stylistic traits and the existence of well-produced form, travels back and forth between docu and short fiction.
In the FEDEORA competition programme were seven short documentaries. Two films about farming and the challenges of globalization: How to Pick Berries (Miten marjoja poimitaan) by Elina Talvensaari, which we awarded with our prize, is a mesmerizing and visually original story about the Thai people coming to Finland to pick berries. Also Andreas Koefoed’s Pig Country deals with the new economic situation by portraying a pig farmer and his four generations of a pig farming family approaching bankruptcy. Two films in the competition programme dealt with loss of a father. The Swedish Inbetweener (Dagar emellan) by Erik Bäfving is a very personal, perhaps too personal, film about the death of the director’s father, whereas Meeting My Father Kasper Højhat (Mødet med min far Kasper Højhat) by Lea Glob is a much more experimental, funny and successfully narrated film.
The most experimental documentary, however, came from P. V. Lehtinen whose film Soul Catcher (Sielunsieppaaja) creates a fascinating look at what it means to look and be looked at when the looking is done with a camera. A simple yet very thought-provoking and stylistically well-done short docu. More traditional was Anna Eborn’s Baba, which portrayed eight elderly women living in Ukraine but with Swedish roots; a film filled with humour, gossip and playfulness. Finally the competition included Lina Mannheimer’s debut The Contract (Kontraktet), which is a very captivating documentary about a French woman who has promised to become the obedient slave of an elderly lady.
Seven very different films showing the diversity of documentary today. Alongside seminars, talks, lots of short films and a somewhat anarchistic tendency regarding structure, I believe Nordisk Panorama 2011 found a successful balance and has proven itself a worthy member on the festival circuit.
Steffen Moestrup, Denmark, FEDEORA jury member