Nordic talents are celebrated once again at CPH:WIP
by Marta Bałaga
- Six outstanding Nordic projects were selected for this year’s documentary works-in-progress session
For the third time, six Nordic works in progress have been presented at CPH:WIP, the industry segment of CPH:DOX (20-31 March), chosen in conjunction with the various Nordic film institutes. “We curate the selection, making sure the titles reflect the festival’s commitment to strong documentary films from the Nordic region, also expressed in the NORDIC:DOX Award,” said Tereza Simikova, head of CPH:FORUM. “As it is increasingly hard to finance ambitious films within the development period, we are determined to follow up with projects that start their careers at CPH:FORUM in order to celebrate the progress they’ve made, but also to support new projects that need a final push. With the event’s Nordic focus, we highlight the richness and variety of documentaries continually coming from our home region.”
The event, moderated by deputy director of First Hand Films Gitte Hansen, kicked off with The Self Portrait – a fearless take on Norwegian photographer Lene Marie Fossen, who stopped eating at ten years old. “We believe that this film can change people’s view of the deadliest of all mental illnesses, anorexia, which is the third most common cause of death among women in Europe,” said Espen Wallin, who directed the film with Katja Hogseth and Margreth Olin. “It’s crucial to confront people’s prejudices. One could ask: ‘Why can’t she just pull herself together?’ She can’t. But she can, in the hands of the right psychiatrist, meet her deepest fears,” she added. “Lene needs someone to believe in her with the same force that’s behind her need to survive and to tell her story, both in her photos and in this film.” The movie is being produced by Speranza Film, and its international sales are handled by Cinephil.
This was followed by the creative documentary Sjalo – The Island of Souls by Lotta Petronella, produced by Johanna Tarvainen, of Finnish company MADE, and devoted to a remote island in the Baltic Sea that used to host a mental asylum. “I am interested in how we create history and memory. How do we decide whose stories are worth writing down?” wondered the director. “It’s a film about the soul and the things that happen within. It’s a place where beauty and horror occupy the same space, haunted by its past.” Although aided by materials found in the archives, Petronella decided to add her own voice to the equation. “As an artist and a creative person, I have the right to imagine. I have gone through my own shit, so hopefully through my knowledge and the knowledge of the people I am working with, we can reveal something important.” The project, currently in search of a distributor, is slated to be finished by the end of the year.
Difficult topics were also broached in Tone Grottjord-Glenne’s film Girl in the Mirror, dealing with the harrowing journey of a survivor of sexual abuse, Emilia, who was repeatedly raped by her stepfather from the age of six. “When she was a child, she tried to tell her story in so many ways. But so many grown-ups who could have done something to help her didn’t have the tools to understand,” explained Grottjord-Glenne. “She said to me: ‘I just want to be the voice for other young people, but mostly I want to be a wake-up call for adults.’ Every country has an Emilia.” The Norwegian-Danish project is being produced by Anita Rehoff Larsen, of Sant & Usant, and a social-impact campaign is being planned to accompany the movie.
Magnus Gertten’s With Love and Tonje Hessen Schei’s iHuman brought in more thriller-like elements. The former, dealing with betrayal, politics and one woman’s determination to right the wrongs inflicted on her family, is being produced by Ove Rishoj Jensen, of Auto Images. Due to its sensitive subject matter, the participants were urged not to reveal too many details. An entirely different proposition, iHuman concentrates on the rapidly developing artificial intelligence industry. “Today, we are part of an unprecedented social control system where artificial intelligence enables authoritarian-like machines that threaten our very democracy,” declared Hessen Schei, while also explaining how she got the chance to follow some of its pioneers. “Being against the CIA and the US Air Force [in her previous film, Drone [+see also:
film profile]] was nothing compared to these giants. Their absolute arrogance and the way they wield their power, with no transparency and no accountability, have been pretty terrifying.”
With her producer, Jonathan Borge Lie, of UpNorth Films, stressing that the developments within the artificial intelligence industry “concern every one of us”, the same could be said for Carl Olsson’s tender A Place Above the Sky (De Andra Film), described as a “film about life surrounding death”. Or, to be more precise, all of those people responsible for enabling a smooth ride to “the other side”: transporters, morgue attendants, undertakers and priests, for example. “All of these characters constitute a world of its own – it’s a portrait of this specific industry. In this universe, the existential is constantly clashing with the mundane,” said Olsson of his co-production between Sweden, Denmark and Estonia. “There is this contrast between death as an idea and death as work.”
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.