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They’re hot when it’s cold

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This week has been seriously, properly winter, but that didn’t stop lots and lots (and lots) of people turning out for the opening night of this year’s Scandi Film Fest.

The promised special guest, actor Jakob Oftebro, didn’t make it to the cinema so we missed out on some spectacular cheekbones and piercing blue eyes, but we got the lovely Norwegian Ambassador Unni Kløvstad instead. Her Excellency made a great point in her speech about the prominence of Nordic Noir.

In what seems to be a worldwide revival of TV, it is not just the Americans and British developing interesting product. They are also remaking equally fascinating Nordic originals. Dragon tattoos anyone? Gomorrah? How about The Bridge – so good both the Brits AND the Americans have remade it. However, the Scandinavians don’t just make good TV. Their cinema industry has a long (and seminal) history. Ask any student of film.

So, as expected, the talent of filmmakers whose work is presented as part of this festival is unquestionable. The calibre of the actors involved is the equal of any English speaker and the camera work is stunning.

What I would like to comment on is the entertainment value.

Welcome to Norway, the film screened on opening night, is great cinema. It is hilarious, heartbreaking and … universal. The story of a bigoted failed entrepreneur who tries to make money of the refugees fleeing Africa and the Middle East, it could have taken place anywhere, including Australia. The reactions of his family and the locals, the tangles with bureaucracy and human frailty or strength are themes that we can all identify with and understand. It is screening a couple more times (including this Saturday night) and it is well worth the price of a ticket.

Others films on offer include a lush period production, starring the aforementioned cheekbones, called Gold Coast (not ours, the African one) from Denmark. The shorts alone were visually stunning. The Fencer, a Finnish-Estonian- German coproduction, is set in the Cold War and promises both suspense and great emotion. There are several films from Sverige (sorry, couldn’t resist – Sweden) including a return season of As It Is in Heaven – a fabulous film about a choir that can’t sing – and the sequel As It Is in Heaven: Heaven on Earth.

I won’t go through the whole program but will just mention one more. Even though Nordic cinema is universal, in my opinion, it is also unique. The palette of colours is different to the American one and the emotions of the actors are tempered with a touch of stoicism and minimalism that is refreshing. Never more so that in the unmistakably Icelandic Reykjavik. This film may be ‘a highly relatable jaunt through the universal challenges of relationships and the pressures of running a business’ but it is also true to where it was made and who it represents – proudly Icelandic.

Proudly Scandinavian.

The Scandinavian Film Festival is at Palace Electric until 27 July. Films being screened cover all genres and interests, including Scandinavia’s first disaster film and a documentary on Somali refugees in Sweden who learn to play Bandy (a cross between ice hockey and soccer).

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