Recent years have witnessed an explosion of documentary films from the Nordic countries and Nordisk Panorama – 5 Cities Film Festival 2011, hosted in unusually sunlit Aarhus, could boast yet another selection of high-quality Nordic shorts and docs.
This year’s festival selection was highly varied, with vibrant and deeply resonating films. Films that exhibit a heightened awareness of environmental changes, the financial crisis affecting farms in Denmark (e.g. Pig Country by Andreas Koefoed); that explore human curiosity and the thirst for (scientific and metaphysical) knowledge when isolated and stranded at oceans’ mysterious depths (e.g. Aranda by Anu Kuivalainen); convey a personal drama in the midst of the historical turmoil of the Egyptian revolution (e.g. 1/2 Revolution by Omar Shargawi & Karim El Hakim); tackle the burning issues of immigration and identity confusion in a documentary genre hybrid (e.g. Imagining Emanuel by Thomas A. Østbye), make the silenced voices heard after a traumatizing war experience through a perspective of revaluation and reconstruction (e.g. Solace by Hilde Kristin Kjøs & Karoline Grindaker); redefine the role of art that can change the lives of prisoners (e.g. At Night I Fly by Michel Wenzer); review a woman’s search for freedom and a room of her own through the process of demystification of the famous men in her life (Love Always, Carolyn by Maria Ramström & Malin Korkeasalo, centered on USA literary cult figures of Carolyn’s husband Neal Cassady and her lover Jack Kerouac).
According to the words of the festival director, Karen Rais-Nordentoft, “there are good reasons to celebrate and be proud of such a strong presence, but the position needs to be maintained and supported by continuous and comprehensive promotional efforts”. The festival selection committee, refreshingly, considers gender issues of the films presented, but acknowledges some difficulties when deciding upon the authorship status of collaborative film work made up of a gender-mix of producers, directors and on-screen protagonists. Although many films were centered around a female protagonist, most of the films selected were directed by men and “it seems to be a question of what films are produced, rather than who happens to be in the selections committee”, as Karen Rais-Nordentoft claims.
In the selection of New Nordic Voices, personal and autobiographical stories predominated, especially in Meeting My Father Kasper Højhat (Mødet med min far Kasper Højhat) by Lea Glob and Inbetweener (Dagar emellan) by Erik Bäfving, which portray, in an exhibitionist but touching way, the search for the lost biological father or symbolic father figure and ensuing emotional vacuum and a renewed sense of self-identity through a kind of epiphany or a devotion to conceptual art. An anthropological essayistic and visually experimental piece, Soul Catcher (Sielunsieppaaja) by P.V. Lehtinen, explores the belief system of some aboriginal tribes related to photography and the loss of their souls; the daring debut of Lina Mannheimer’s The Contract (Kontraktet) paints a less ordinary love relationship; Baba, exquisitely directed by Anna Eborn, gives us a realistic glimpse of those less visible lives, concretely set in the Ukraine, but resonating with universal dimensions.
This year’s FEDEORA prize was awarded to How to Pick Berries (Miten marjoja poimitaan), directed by Elina Talvensaari, a superbly mastered visual poem, tackling the social issues of immigration and labour.
Maja Bogojevic, Montenegro, FEDEORA jury member