Oscar foreign film entries with three short-listed 2017 Oscar nominated films to screen at 18th annual Scandinavian Film Festival in L.A. (SFFLA)

by Oliver Carnay

There are many reasons to check out the upcoming 18th annual Scandinavian Film Festival, which will run for two weekends (January 14 & 15 and January 21 & 22) two Saturdays and Sundays! The festival’s venue and screenings will be at the Writers Guild Theater (135 S. Doheny in Beverly Hills, California, corner Wilshire Blvd.).

Yearly, it continuous to fascinate this writer the amazing Nordic films Hollywood has been deprived in regular theaters. For foreign movie lovers, this is an opportunity to watch outstanding films (shorts, documentaries, and feature films) from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden -- along with Baltic neighbors -- Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Included in the program are Oscar submissions and one film that has been short-listed and screening at the fest is Finland’s “The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mãki (Hymyilevä mies), directed by Juho Kuosmanen (screening at 4 p.m. this Saturday, January 14) . Awarded the Un Certain Regard Prize at the recent Cannes Film Festival, this charming film is the true story of a Finnish boxer who had a shot at the 1962 World Featherweight title, the real-life showdown between Finnish boxer Olli Mäki and American champion Davey Moore in 1962 Helsinki.

Same day, this Saturday, Denmarks Oscar entry “Land of Mine” (Under Sandet), beautifully directed by Martin Pieter Zandvliet, is screening at 7:30 p.m. I saw this film at the recent AFIFEST in November and I was floored by its cinematography, its great plot and acting by the ensemble cast members. The setting takes place in the aftermath of World War II when a group of surrendered young German soldiers are ordered by Allied forces to remove their own landmines from the coast of Denmark.

On Sunday, January 15, at 2 p.m., the festival is screening Lithuania’s Oscar Best Foreign Language film entry “Seneca’s Day” (Senekos Diena), directed by Kristijonas Vildziunas. Premise: Set in Vilnius in 1989, in the final year of Soviet rule, the film follows a few teenagers gathered in a group called Seneca’s Fellowship who are broken apart by a love triangle. A quarter of a century later, with disillusionment haunting his apparently successful life, one member of the group feels he has betrayed his youthful ideals and delves into a Pandora’s box of memories.

Same day Sunday, catch the 7:15 screening of Sweden’s Oscar entry “A Man Called Ove” (En mansom heeter Ove), directed by Hannes Holm. If you missed it at a Laemmle screening, you won’t want to miss this chance. The film tells about “Ove,” an ill-tempered, isolated retiree who spends his days enforcing block association rules and visiting his wife’s grave, who is finally giving up on life while he develops an unlikely friendship with his boisterous new neighbors.

Also screening during the SFFLA second weekend, Saturday, January 21 at 4 p.m. is Estonia’s Oscar Foreign submission “Mother” (Ema), a comic crime mystery set in small-town Estonia. “Elsa” is the mother and full-time caretaker of Lauri, a teacher who has been in a coma since being shot under suspicious circumstances -- secret love affairs, nosey policemen, missing money, and other things will be revealed.

“Dawn” (Ausma), Latvia’s Oscar Best Foreign Language entry, directed by Laila Pakalnina, is screening on Sunday, January 22 at 3 p.m. Based on a Soviet propaganda story about Young Pioneer (the Soviet equivalent of a Boy Scout) Morozov, who denounced his father to Stalin’s secret police and was in turn killed by his family.

The Opening Gala will have foods and drinks. You can reserve tickets or purchase a festival “Passport” or a “Gala Pass,” browse more films participating and get detailed information and Schedule by logging on to www.SFFLA.net