HotDocs 2017 Documentary Film Festival Nordic Film Selection

I absolutely love Toronto’s lively film scene, and am happy to report the Nordic documentaries at the HotDocs 2017 Film Festival. This year offers a remarkable selection of Nordic documentary films that probe into the culture and current events of today’s Scandinavian societies. As a lover of film, I highly recommend viewing this year’s HotDocs films for more cultural insight. Here’s another opportunity to hear the Nordic languages with English subtitles…. then learn something new!

Please visit the HotDocs Film Festival site for more information on tickets and showtimes. Happy film viewing!

69 Minutes of 86 Days – Syria 360° (Sweden/Norway)

Through a crowd of refugees standing by a shoreline, a wide-eyed young girl with a puffy coat and a Frozen backpack emerges, about to start a very long excursion. Three-year-old Lean is our focal point as she and her family trek through Europe with the goal of reaching her grandfather and a new home in Sweden. With minimal dialogue, we travel alongside Lean and get to understand the deep courage and will Syrian refugees must have as they search for a better life. Part of a new wave of documentaries that depict the various elements of the Syrian crisis, 69 Minutes of 86 Days takes a poignantly humanistic approach. In its quiet beauty, it unravels the physical and emotional challenges refugee families face every day. While Lean may not fully understand what she’s experiencing, her strength and optimism shine through, giving hope to those who need it the most. Gabor Pertic

The Monster (Sweden/German)

As a child, Elena had a fascination with the blood and gore of splatter movies. As she matured, this bloodlust became her dark and dirty little secret. We join her on a journey of discovery and awakening as she tries to come to terms with her very particular tastes. Eileen Arandiga

A Bastard Child (Sweden)

In early 20th century Sweden, an unmarried woman gives birth to a baby girl, a great shame to her family and the conservative mores of the time. Labelled a whore, she is forced to place her “bastard” in various shelters, foster families and orphanages, where little Hervor grows up in dire conditions, unwanted by all and rejected from society. Like a real-life version of a Charles Dickens novel, this is the moving childhood story of artist Knutte Wester’s grandmother, who later became a pioneer of women’s rights. Drawing from her vivid recollections, Wester illustrates this extraordinary memoir with a mix of haunting watercolour paintings and poetic archival footage. A testimony to how powerfully animation can bring tales from the past to life, A Bastard Child is also a striking reminder that society always feels the need to create outcasts as a way of uniting its members. Charlotte Selb

Recruiting for Jihad (Norway)

Filmmakers Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen and Adil Khan Farooq followed the well-known Islamist missionary Ubaydullah Hussain for three years. A charismatic and intelligent man, he is also a recruiter with ties to ISIS who acts as the spokesperson for The Prophet’s Ummah, a Salafi-jihadist organization in Norway. Hussain is more than happy to share his views and practices with the camera, offering unparalleled insight into the life of an extremist. At first presenting himself as rational, open-minded and tolerant, Hussain’s ideological contradictions and prejudices are slowly revealed in this compelling and eye-opening exposé. The stakes get even higher as people we see Hussain recruiting become linked to terrorist acts. Eventually the documentary footage is seized by police as evidence, leading to a court case that also raises questions about freedom of the press. Recruiting for Jihad is an essential and groundbreaking piece of investigative filmmaking. Adam Cook

Tongue Cutters (Norway)

Cod tongue is a delicacy in Norway, and the job of cutting the cod’s tongue is traditionally reserved for children. In this charming and whimsical coming of age story, nine-year-old Ylva dreams of following in her family’s footsteps and earning money by working a season in the fisheries of northern Norway. Leaving her big city Oslo life behind,
she arrives in a small fishing village and meets 10-year-old Tobias, a highly skilled and ambitious tongue cutter who takes her under his wing and shows her the art. With slickers on and knives sharpened, the joyful duo dive into
their work. Over time, they discover they have much in common, and as Tobias’ big dreams inspire Ylva, their bond grows. A beautiful friendship is formed while knee-deep in fish heads. Heather Haynes

…when you look away (Denmark/Norway)

Have you ever known who was calling before you answered the phone, or felt you were being watched while in an empty room? Is it possible to exist across multiple worlds simultaneously? When her young daughter insists she’s sometimes human and sometimes an animal, filmmaker Phie Ambo wonders what else might exist outside a singular human consciousness. Committing to the principal of randomness, she plumbs the minds of various leading thinkers, from the
father of string theory to a Buddhist monk, from a clairvoyant to a janitor. Just as impressive as their fascinating ideas, however, is the visual correlative of this ever-deepening metaphysical query. Who would expect the mysteries of existence to lurk inside the grease trap at an amusement park or in a single cup of tap water? Prepare to have your reality permanently altered by this mind-boggling, impossible and thoroughly compelling film. Myrocia Watamaniuk

Front View of My Father (Denmark)

Father and daughter engage in a series of playful games and trust exercises on a soundstage. Silly exchanges lead to serious discussion about the divorce that deprived them of a deeper relationship. A marvel of multi-camera production, staging and spontaneity, this experimental documentary captures unspoken moments of searing honesty and love, and poses questions most would never dare ask a parent (for fear of the answers). Angie Driscoll

Out of Thin Air (Iceland)

“Every Icelander knows about this case.” Iceland in 1974 was a bucolic country of farmers and fishermen, living in a kind of perfect isolation, far from the troubles of the world. Crime was rare, murder rarer still. Then two men disappear under suspicious circumstances and foul play is suspected. The country demands a resolution. Police launch the biggest criminal investigation Iceland has ever seen. Finally, six people confess to two violent murders and are sent to prison. It seems the nightmare is over. But it was far from over. Incredibly, this infamous murder case is still being tried, debated and re-examined today. This taut psychological thriller incorporates archival footage, personal diaries, false confessions, dramatic recreations, wrongful convictions and multiple narratives to explore the most intense criminal investigation in Iceland’s history.

Every Other Couple (Finland)

Every year, new couples make the sacred marriage vow to stay together until death do they part. But statistically, many marriages don’t last. In this deeply personal and touching story, award-winning filmmaker Mia Halme takes us into the intimate and secret spaces of several Finish couples as they go through their separation processes. Reflecting on happier times when love blossomed, they recount that fateful and unforgettable day when they knew the marriage was over and they had fallen out of love. Coping with the stigma of a broken family, financial concerns and how to navigate redrawn social circles, they must face their own pain. In some cases, they must also move forward for the well-being of their children. How do you pick up the pieces when the life you were accustomed to living has dramatically changed? Heather Haynes

Heart of the Land (Finland)

A couple on the verge of retirement run a small dairy farm in the Finnish countryside. Without anyone to carry on
the family farming tradition, the work of generations is quietly coming to an end. A film about letting go that won’t soon let you go, this unforgettable record of the farm’s final year brims with affection for the land, its livestock and lifestyle. Angie Driscoll

Hobbyhorse Revolution (Finland)

Once the plaything of children, the hobbyhorse—a stick with a horse’s head—takes on greater importance and symbolism for a group of Finnish teens who organize flash mobs and post videos dedicated to the object of their devotion. The (mostly) girls who practise competitive hobbyhorse dressage and show jumping are not horsing around. With backs straight, shoulders square, knees up and toes pointed, these fantasy athletes are part of an underground scene and sport that’s taking hold of a new generation of riders—who also happen to be the ride. With a punk rock attitude,
these hobbyhorse rebels use make believe and social media to challenge what’s considered age-appropriate or different. Bullies be damned. Hobbyhorse Revolution catches a trend in its infancy along with the imaginative and
brave pioneers who refuse to be categorized or kept down for being true to themselves and their passion. Angie Driscoll

A Home in Memory (Finland)

“Everything has to go in the end.” This truism is never so prescient as when a multigenerational family home is being packed up and said goodbye to. This family drama plays out one room, one photo, one conversation at a time, piecing together a whimsical portrait of the little things that make a house a home. Eileen Arandiga

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Categories: Swedish Culture


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