New Nordic Cinema at Scandinavia House returns in a virtual format! Celebrate contemporary Nordic filmmaking with us from home by catching some of the best new films in weekend sessions of contemporary feature films and documentaries. Films in the second session of the series from the week February 26 through March 4 are Maria’s Paradise /Marian paratiisi (Finland, 2019; dir. Zaida Bergroth) and The Reformist — A Female Imam /Reformisten (Denmark, 2019; dir. Marie Skovgard).
In Maria’s Paradise /Marian paratiisi, orphaned at a young age, Salome is among the many devoted followers of Maria Åkerblom, a charismatic seer who claims that God visits her in her dreams. Living in a commune in a rural farmhouse, where she spends her days looking after the younger children in the cult, Salome has also never experienced life outside of their sheltered existence. But when one day she accompanies Maria on a trip to town, Salome meets Malin, an irreverent and cynical street girl who shares Salome’s motherless background, and they develop a friendship that brings Malin to the commune. But when Malin quickly sees through Maria’s ruse, Salome is inspired to question her leader’s teachings for the very first time. An intense, intelligent, and often chilling study of cults based on a scandal that took place in Finland in the 1920s, Maria’s Paradise holds up a not-so-distant mirror to our own time, reminding us that demagoguery — whether religious, political, or often a twisted combination of the two — is still very much with us. Acclaimed as an “unsettling, nuanced, fact-based drama” (The Hollywood Reporter) and “intriguing, well-heeled period drama” (Screen Daily). Directed by Zaida Bergroth (110 minutes. In Finnish with English subtitles.)
The Reformist — A Female Imam follows Danish activist and progressive Muslim leader Sherin Khankan over her work to establish Europe’s first mosque led by female imams. Aiming to confront and challenge the fear surrounding Islam, while calling for a new feminist agenda, Khankan and fellow female imam Saliha Marie Fetteh opened the Mariam mosque in Copenhagen in 2016. For more than three years, Danish director Marie Skovgard followed Khankan as she argued to reform the patriarchal interpretations of the Qu’ran, confronting both Islamophobia and Islamic conservatism to champion that idea that the leadership of religious societies should be governed by the wisest and most knowledgeable, regardless of gender. In creating a space to empower women in the community, an encouraging alternate religious interpretations, Sherin and her supporters hope to inspire change. “This well-crafted film is never less than involving and thought-provoking” (Screen Daily). Directed by Marie Skovgard (110 minutes. In Danish, Swedish, and Arabic with English subtitles.)
Festival films will be available to ticket holders all over the U.S. Each session is limited to 250 tickets in an effort to preserve the intimate and communal experience. The sessions will take place over seven days (Friday — Thursday), with all films available for viewing on a virtual cinema screening platform throughout this period. To download viewing instructions and an FAQ, please click here.
About the directors
Zaida Bergroth was born in Finland and studied directing at Helsinki’s School of Motion Picture, Television and Production Design. She has directed the features Last Cowboy Standing (09), The Good Son (11), and Miami (17). Maria’s Paradise is her most recent film.
Marie Skovgaard has launched two projects alongside her directing work. Her first project, Syriatypes, tells the stories of Syrian artists and activists that defy the stereotypes of victimhood and war. The second project is a virtual reality experience around contemporary dance in Senegal in collaboration with Afripedia and CPH:LAB, which premiered at the New Museum in New York. Marie worked on the feature documentary The War Show, winner of the Venice Days Award, and recently completed a documentary series for National Danish Television and the BBC about unaccompanied refugee children. The Reformist is Marie’s second feature documentary.