Join us this fall/winter at Scandinavia House for special screenings featuring director talks and Q&As! The Nordic & Baltic Oscar Contenders series returns in with screenings of films chosen by the Nordic & Baltic countries to compete for the Oscar nomination for the Best International Feature Film at the 96th Academy Awards, including screenings and film Q&As of the Swedish contender Opponent on Tuesday, November 14 at 7 PM with director Milad Alami, and the Icelandic candidate Godland on Wednesday, November 15 at 6:30 PM with director Hlynur Pálmason.
Director Niels Arden will be present for a screening and film Q&A of the moving new Danish drama Rose (France/Denmark, 2023), starring Sofia Gråbøl, on Friday, November 17 at 7 PM; and on Saturday, November 18 at 2 PM, Echoes of the Universe — The Music of Kaija Saariaho, a documentary honoring the late Finnish composer, will be presented with a panel discussion.
“A gripping story about masculinity and family values” (Collider) — Opponent/Motståndaren (Sweden, 2023) is a social thriller following Iranian wrestler Iman (Payman Maadi), his wife Maryam (Marall Nasiri), and their daughters Asal and Sahar, who fled their country in the wake of a devastating rumor to live as refugees in northern Sweden; when Iman joins a wrestling club in hopes of improving their chances for asylum, the rumors resurface, taking a toll on his family’s well-being. Director Milad Alami (The Charmer; When the Dust Settles) presents a talk after the screening. The series continues with a special screening of Iceland’s official nomination for the 96th Academy Awards, Godland. Religion and brute animal nature battle one another amid the arresting landscapes of remote late 19th-century Iceland in “a voyage of visual splendor, as terrifying as it is breathtaking” (IndieWire). Danish priest Lucas (Elliott Crosset Hove) makes the perilous trek to Iceland’s southeastern coast with the intention of establishing a church. There, the arrogant man of God finds his resolve tested as he confronts the harsh terrain, temptations of the flesh, and the reality of being an intruder in an unforgiving land. Director Hlynur Pálmason (A White, White Day) will present a film talk following the screening.
On November 17, director Niels Arden Oplev’s Rose tells the story of Ellen (Lena Maria Christensen) and her sister Inger (Sofia Gråbøl), who has been diagnosed with mental illness, as they set off on a coach trip to Paris in the summer of 1997. Inger’s schizophrenia is met with both pity and scorn on the voyage by all but the young Christian, whose curiosity and innocence leads them to develop a friendship. When they arrive in Paris, it is soon clear that Inger holds many secrets, as well as a hidden agenda. Director Niels Arden Oplev presents a Q&A after the screening, discussing his personal connection to the film’s subject.
On Saturday, November 18, Echoes of the Universe: The Music of Kaija Saariaho is a tribute to the life and work of the beloved Finnish contemporary composer Kaija Saariaho, who passed away this summer in the fifth decade of her career, including never-before-seen footage of rehearsals of her masterpiece Innocence. The documentary will screen alongside a Q&A with Saariaho’s family and director Riita Rask, moderated by Richard Kessler, Executive Dean of the College of Performing Arts at the New School.
Two other films in the Nordic and Baltic Oscar Contenders series will also be screening in this weekend’s New York Baltic Film Festival. Lithuania’s selection, Slow, (dir. Marija Kavtaradze, Lithuania, 2023) will be playing on Saturday, November 11 at 8:15 PM. Limited tickets are still available to the Estonian selection, Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (dir. Anna Hints, Estonia, 2023), playing on Sunday, November 12 at 7 PM. Both films will also be presented alongside director talks and Q&As.
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (dir. Anna Hints, Estonia, 2023) follows several women away from their lives and into an Estonian smoke sauna, “where their communion is almost mystic and no topic is off limits.” (Guardian) The resulting documentary is a portrait of the cleansing power of women’s togetherness—with the sauna, a place where everyone gets naked, playing a literal as well as symbolic role. Slow (dir. Marija Kavtaradze, Lithuania, 2023) is a modern romance about two people figuring out the terms of their intimacy. When highly sensual dancer Elena and asexual sign language interpreter Dovydas meet, they form a beautiful bond. Together, they set out to discover new and mutually satisfying ways to delight in each other’s love.
The Nordic & Baltic Oscar Contenders series kicked off on November 1 with a screening and film talk of the Danish candidate The Promised Land with director Nikolaj Arcel and Mads Mikkelsen. It will continue through November and December with screenings of the Norwegian contender Songs of Earth (dir. Margrethe Olin); the Latvian contender My Freedom (dir. Ilze Kunga-Melgaile); and Finland’s contender, director Aki Kaurismäki’s Fallen Leaves, a continuation of his famed Proletariat series; as well as a special screening of Twice Colonized, the Greenlandic winner of the Cannes Film Market’s Award for Best Doc-in-Progress and the Movies That Matter Festival’s Camera Justitia Award, which has been selected a contender for Best Documentary Feature Film. Please continue to check the Nordic and Baltic Oscar Contenders homepage for more updates.