The Scandinavian Film Festival hits the screens of Palace Cinemas this week, showcasing the best of contemporary Nordic cinema from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland. The 2021 programme includes several international festival favourites and award-winners with 20 Australian premieres, highlighting the diversity and sophistication of the Nordic region.
Festival spokesman, Christof Wehmeier, comes to us directly from Iceland with a Q&A offering greater insight into the festival’s selection of Icelandic films.
Christof Wehmeier has been Head of Festival Promotion at the Icelandic Film Centre since 2007, promoting Icelandic feature films, documentary films, shorts and TV Series abroad through international film festivals, film weeks, international relations and doing film co-ordination. Prior to joining the Icelandic Film Centre, Christof worked in film marketing for Sony Pictures and Universal. He has also worked in acquisitions, film festivals and for the Icelandic Film Fund. He’s even done a little acting in Iceland, appearing in Trapped, Brúðguminn and The Last Generation: Ten Commandments.
Christof, you are the Festival Manager at the Icelandic Film Centre. What does your role encompass? What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
My main objective as Head of Festival Promotion at the Icelandic Film Centre (IFC) is to promote Icelandic features, shorts, docs and TV series international wise, namely submitting film projects to international film festivals. I‘m involved in the creation of Icelandic and Nordic Film events through Icelandic film weeks, film days or Nordic Film Festivals in collaboration with the Nordic embassies around the globe. I‘m also heavily involved with various projects in relation to the local and foreign film industry and therefore heavily involved with international film relations. Currently, I’m safeguarding co-ordination of sending out our films to the international film festival circuit.
What differentiates Icelandic cinema to different regions of the world? Do you think it’s important to showcase this region of the world to a global audience?
Yes, I believe so. Icelandic films have their own character and style that really captures foreign markets and audiences. We have a unique way of creating stories. All the Nordic countries have their own voices and style although there are similarities as well. I think foreign audiences are curious about Iceland and its culture that is shown in our films.
Can you speak to the popularity of Icelandic films in Scandinavia and globally?
Icelandic films are quite popular I would say, thanks to “Children of Nature“ the classic film from our renowned Icelandic director Fridrik Thor Fridriksson which turned international eyes towards Iceland. The film was nominated back in 1992 and really created an awareness of Icelandic films. Our film history is not old but still very rich and nowadays there is always an Icelandic film being shown at big A-listed film festivals.
What differentiates Icelandic cinema to different regions of the world? Do you think it’s important to showcase this region of the world to a global audience? And can you talk about the sub-genre Nordic-noir? How does the climate shape a mood and feeling seen across Scandinavian cinema?
There is definitely a different mood that you can sense through Nordic Cinema. Icelanders and the Finns have a particular sarcastic kind of black humor. The same actually with the Norwegians. Then you have this unique very genuine and realistic style of storytelling that you can see when you are watching Swedish and Danish films which are fresh and believable but also carry feel-good elements. This is despite the fact the film in question may cover serious subject matters or themes. Icelandic cinema also plays with its nature which is not there just for the sake of establishing a breathtaking scene, but instead it servers as part of the film and has its own character. I would say that despite everyone talking about “Nordic Noir“, referring to the very popular crime series from the Nordic Countries, the next big thing could be “Supernatural Noir“ allowing the Nordics to start tackling their folklore tales.
There are 5 Icelandic films featured in this year’s Scandinavian Film Festival program. Can you tell us about these 5 films and why you think they were chosen? Do you have a favourite?
The five Icelandic films are fun to watch. They are a good combination of different film style and stories. The Garden by Ragnar Bragason is interesting and fresh in terms of storytelling. Agnes Joy is an uplifting feel-good story about a very realistic relationship between a mother and daughter. Grandma Hofi and The Last Fishing Trip are films that will make you laugh your socks off. The Last Fishing Trip is like a crossover between Sideways and The Hangover but in the Icelandic kind of way. Grandma Hofi is about two older people in their early 70‘s fighting for their rights. You will root for them despite the fact that they are robbing a bank. The County from filmmaker Grimur Hakonarson is a strong film. Grímur always creates unique characters and in this one you will see a very strong woman making a stand and fighting against the system as she demands justice for the whole community that she is living in. I need to be very diplomatic. All Icelandic films are great!
The Scandinavian Film Festival returns to Palace Cinemas and Luna Palace Cinemas this winter with a specially curated programme of films and events, showcasing the best in new Nordic cinema. The festival runs from July 14 to August 4 at Luna Leederville, Luna on SX (Fremantle) and Palace Raine Square (CBD). Tickets can be purchased here.