Scandinavian Film Festival in L.A. brings together unforgettable Nordic films to U.S.

by Oliver Carnay

It was my first time to attend this festival of films from Nordic countries and it was such a pleasant experience discovering great movies which you never get to watch in U.S. theaters. Thank you to my good friend and film buff Georges Aintablain for introducing me to the very accommodating Jim Koenig, founder and Director of Scandinavian Film Festival L.A. (SFFLA). The event held at the Writers Guild Theater on South Doheny Dr. and Wilshire Blvd run in two consecutive weekends -- January 18, 19 and 25, 26, 2014.

Celebrating its 15th anniversary in Los Angeles, films from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, in collaboration with Baltic Film Expo@SFFLA -- neighbors include Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, the American Scandinavian Foundation of Los Angeles is focusing cinema cultural exchange and recognizes that L.A. is a capital film world that needs to connect with its communities -- sharing stories, history, personal and cultural identity via films from the Nordic parts of the world.

Among films that captured my attention and that lingers in my “favorites” list this year are the following:

“Of Horses of Men” tops my list, which is Iceland’s 2014 submission to Oscars Best Foreign Language Film. With luscious cinematography and striking landscape, writer/director Benedikt Erlingsson weaves a fascinating interlinking stories with horses images and darkly amusing tales of death and sex through more disturbing tales that bond men and horses.

"Of Horses and Men" Trailer:

“Paavo, A Life in Five Courses” is documentary that personally touched my heart. The story of a Finnish farm boy Paavo Turtianen who was hired by Parisian Swedish theatre producer Lars Schmidt and his wife, actress Ingrid Bergman. The couple adopt and trained Paavo to navigate among the rich and famous, and moved to New York to become an acclaimed chef and event planner for high society. Isabella Rosellini shares her personal and intimate revelation growing up with Paavo.

"Paavo: A Life in Five Courses" trailer:

“Mother, I Love You” (Latvia’s submission to 2014 Best Foreign Language Film) and “The Hunt” (Denmark’s entry and was shortlisted as this year’s 5 Oscar contenders) are two of the most memorable films I’ve seen at past festivals (L.A. Filmfest and Palm Springs Film Festival) but I would like to mention here that I was happy that both have screened here again at this festival.

"Mother, I Love You" trailer:

"The Hunt" trailer:

“The Disciple” (Finland’s entry to this year’s Oscars Best Foreign Language Film) is worth mentioning on this list. A coming-of-age film set in 1939 where a 13-year old kid arrives to work as lighthouse master assistant. But as he grew relationship to his master’s amiable son, he discovers the family’s dark secret. Shot beautifully like a classic painting, with a haunting musical score that complements the isolated location and peaceful backdrop, the writer and director created a suspenseful, dramatic and engaging experience to its audience. The actors were exquisite, too!

"The Disciple" trailer:

“Two Lives” (Germany’s entry to 2014 Oscars Best Foreign Language Film) is a story of a former covert intelligence officer who have protected her identity, long hidden as a wife and mother, but forces to come out when a lawyer asks her mother to witness in a trial against the Norwegian state on behalf of the war children. With a rare and special appearance of legendary actress Liv Ullman, the film has its tension and drama, although the ending is a bit abrupt.

"Two Lives" trailer:

And lastly, “We Are The Best” which is totally one of the best I’ve seen. A coming-of-age film set in Stockholm in 1982. Three 13-year old girls, appears to be brave and tough, but confused and weird start a punk band with no clue on how to pull strings on a guitar, or beat a drum. But the most admirable happens as they stick together to become true to themselves and never afraid to stand up on what they believe is best for them.

"We Are The Best" trailer:

I’m looking forward to next year’s 16th presentation!