2021 Scandinavian Film Festival (January 7-10 and January 14-17) will offer short films and some bonus screenings according to Founder and Festival Director James Koenig
ANOTHER ROUND (Oscar submission - feature) Druk (Denmark), 2020, 117 minutes, from acclaimed director Thomas Vinterberg is one of the Oscar contender films to be screened at the upcoming 2021 SFFLA
There’s a theory that we should be born with a small amount of alcohol in our blood, and that modest inebriation opens our minds to the world around us, diminishing our problems and increasing our creativity. Heartened by that theory, Martin and three of his friends, all weary high school teachers, embark on an experiment to maintain a constant level of intoxication throughout the workday. If Churchill won WW2 in a heavy daze of alcohol, who knows what a few drops might do for them and their students? After positive initial results, the teachers’ little project turns into a genuine academic study, and the group feels alive again; . but as others go off the rails, it becomes increasingly clear that while alcohol may have fueled great results in world history, some bold acts carry consequences. “The best movie ending of the year”—New York; “An exhilarating, existentialist film about day drinking”—Vox; “One of the director’s most absorbing works”—The New Yorker
by Oliver Carnay
As previously mentioned in my other article (read here) the annual Scandinavian Film Festival (SFFLA) that is normally being held at the Writers Guild Theater on Wilshire Blvd. and Doheny Dr. is going virtual online for the first time. And as usual, it occupies two weekends. This year, the dates you should watch out for are January 7 through the 10th and another set is scheduled from January 14 through 17th.
Yearly, the SFFLA is one of the festivals in Los Angeles that I look forward to attend. Not only I've enjoyed the great films in the program but its Festival Director and Founder James Koenig, is one of the most accommodating and friendliest. I caught up with him recently and here is an excerpt from our conversation. Please read on ..
HOLLYWOODFLIP: How is life treating you personally during this pandemic?
JAMES: This has been the craziest year ever with COVID-19 taking it’s toll on our lives. The numbers are staggering— and some act “victimized” because they can’t get their nails done and their roots are showing. Talk about surreal— but all the more reason that images on screens and the sharing of our stories— our lives, really— is so important. I honestly thought there wasn’t much choice but to cancel the festival this year. But I agonized over it because I didn’t want to disappoint our audience— and in our own small way, I didn’t want the virus to win.
HOLLYWOODFLIP: How did you weigh the pros and cons of pursuing it and the challenges, whether it's for sponsorships, attendance, the venue, publicizing it.
There are “unknowns” that had to be considered— pros and cons— but many of our sponsors were onboard with moving ahead. Two aspects of the festival “in the theater” that I love are: 1) the shared film experience and 2) the big screen. In a virtual format, people can certainly “share” the experience, but they must rely on their computer screens and television screens. But that can be cozy too.
HOLLYWOODFLIP: This is the 22nd anniversary year of SFFLA and due to Covid scare, the festival is going virtual online. Some festivals have opted to cancel,but you decided to continue this year. How and when did you start reaching out to Scandinavia House in New York? What was the process?
JAMES KOENIG: In the course of exploring the various issues of “going virtual” the opportunity of combining efforts with Scandinavia House in New York developed and helped us both carry on with our bi-coastal efforts.
I’ve been acquainted with Kyle Reinhard at Scandinavia House in New York for years. We both worked with a wonderful, wonderful Danish woman Jytte Jensen, who was one of the heads of the film department at MOMA. Scandinavia House in New York has been doing their Oscar screenings for around 20 years. Over the years we’ve sharing information, sharing prints and all that—When we started we were dealing with films on reels. We would both be watching the weather reports because sometimes a film would screen in one place or the other and had to go overnight for a screening the next day on the opposite coast.
HOLLYWOODFLIP: Can you relate to our readers the first time you got involved with SFFLA? When you look back from when it started and you've seen the festival has grown, what do you feel are the greatest achievements the festival had so far?
JAMES KOENIG: You asked about how I got involved in SFFLA— I’m both the founder and director—so I guess you could say I got pregnant with the idea after a private screenings of Liv Ullman’s directorial debut— (an excellent film called “Sofie”). The film wasn’t being distributed in the U.S. and I lamented “How many wonderful films are ‘out there’ that we have little opportunity to see.” The idea was born— and had about a nine month gestation period. And what better way for countries to connect with Los Angeles than through film."
HOLLYWOODFLIP: I noticed that this year, the program only features Oscar submissions and you have omitted the shorts.
JAMES KOENIG: We WILL be screening some shorts before some of the features— but those are not listed just yet. But there are some excellent shorts that will be, shall we say, bonuses!
HOLLYWOODFLIP: What is your personal wish for next year's SFFLA, and your goal for SFFLA in the next five years? What are the things you want to see happening?
JAMES KOENIG: Hopefully by next year we will all be back in theaters and concert halls— But the film community and the arts community in general has learned some good things by having to be creative. Virtual does open some opportunities as well. We are all getting used to new opportunities that come from being able to be together when we’re in different cities or even different countries.
HOLLYWOODFLIP: What key festival elements would you like to see for SFFLA to preserve despite the situation we are in right now? What positive change might this bring to the industry?
JAMES KOENIG: To me, the important thing is that we share our stories— and in doing so, we share our uniqueness and our common humanity. We’ve failed if a “people connection” doesn’t happen because of the images and stories we share. It’s all real— Some years ago now, we added the Baltic countries to our festival— We bring you “Top Films from the Top of Europe.” Retired Danish Ambassador Martin Kofod, who was Consul General in Los Angeles and was extremely helpful when we launched the festival wrote to me: “I am really pleased that you are including the Baltic countries in SFFLA. It is more important now than ever to affirm the ties of these countries with the west… and your efforts have a distinct diplomatic component.” The thing is— stories aren’t just “stories”— they’re real life.