Seven Nordic “Discoveries” for the Toronto Film Festival
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
- New films by Rasmus Heisterberg, Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson, Juho Kuosmanen, Selma Vilhunen, Izer Aliu, Johannes Nyholm and Amanda Kernell to screen at the gathering
Unspooling from 8-18 September, the Toronto International Film Festival has picked seven Nordic entries for its Discovery section, presenting first films by upcoming directors with important messages: Danish filmmaker Rasmus Heisterberg’s In the Blood [+see also:
interview: Rasmus Heisterberg
film profile], Icelandic director Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson’s Heartstone [+see also:
interview: Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson
film profile], Finnish directors Juho Kuosmanen’s The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki [+see also:
interview: Juho Kuosmanen
film profile], Selma Vilhunen’s Little Wing [+see also:
film profile], Norwegian filmmaker Izer Aliu’s Hunting Flies [+see also:
interview: Izer Aliu
film profile], and Swedish directors Johannes Nyholm’s The Giant [+see also:
interview: Johannes Nyholm
film profile] and Amanda Kernell’s Sámi Blood [+see also:
interview: Amanda Kernell
interview: Lars Lindstrom
The selections come as additions to Icelandic actor-director-producer Baltasar Kormákur’s The Oath [+see also:
film profile] and Danish Dogme director Thomas Vinterberg’s The Commune [+see also:
interview: Thomas Vinterberg
film profile], which will screen as Special Presentations (read the news).
In the Blood – Heisterberg’s directorial debut, after he co-scripted award-winning films by Nikolaj Arcel and Mikkel Nørgaard, among others – portrays a medical student (Kristoffer Bech) who shares an apartment with three friends during their happy-go-lucky days in Copenhagen. He is not ready to say goodbye to his lifestyle of partying, drinking and chasing girls in the Caroline Schlüter Bingestam (for Profile Pictures) production.
Gudmundsson's first feature takes place in a remote fishing village in Iceland. Teenage boys Thor and Christian experience a turbulent summer, as one tries to win the heart of a girl, while the other discovers new feelings towards his best friend. The director also wrote the story, which was staged by Anton Máni Svansson and Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson, for Join Motion Pictures.
Vilhunen’s 2014 short Do I Have to Take Care of Everything? was nominated for an Oscar. Her feature debut, Little Wing, also scripted by her and produced by Kai Nordberg and Kaarle Aho for Making Movies, stars Finnish pop star Paula Vesala and newcomer Linnea Skog and follows a 12-year-old girl, Varpu, who embarks on an impromptu quest to find her mysterious biological father.
Kuosmanen’s The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, which won the Un Certain Regard Prize at this year’s Cannes, is the true story of Mäki (Jarkko Lahti), the first Finn ever to fight for the world championship in featherweight boxing. He lost the match in the second round by knock-out in a packed stadium, but still he thought it was the best day of his life. Jussi Rantamäki produced for Aamu Film Company.
Hunting Flies – scripted and produced (with Khalid Maimouni, for Storyline Pictures) by Aliu – is set at a Macedonian school, where idealistic teacher Ghani (Burhan Amiti, the only professional actor in the film) loses his job when a new political party takes over in government. He tries to get it back by locking up his pupils and forcing them to resolve a generation-long conflict between their villages.
Produced by Lars Lindström, for Nordisk Film Production, Kernell’s Sámi Blood – which she also scripted – stars Lene Cecilia Sparrok in the story of a 14-year-old Sámi reindeer-breeding girl, who in 1930s Sweden is exposed to racism and biology examinations at her boarding school; in order to achieve a better life, she has to become someone else and break all ties with her family and culture.
Written and directed by Nyholm, The Giant follows 30-year-old Rikard, who is autistic and severely disfigured, and lives in a home for disabled people. Separated from his mother since he was three, an event that still torments him, he escapes into a fantasy world, where he is a 50-metre-tall giant. Christian Andrén plays the lead in the Maria Dahlin production for Garagefilm International.
Finally, Swedish director Kasper Collin’s documentary I Called Him Morgan [+see also:
film profile], which will be world-premiered at the Venice Film Festival, will also be on show at Toronto. It tells the story of legendary jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan, who was shot to death by his partner Helen during a performance at Slug's Saloon in New York City’s East Village in February 1972. Collin also produced the film for his own company, with Swedish regional film centre Film Väst.
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