The drama Hope, written and directed by Maria Sødahl, and starring Sweden’s Stellan Skarsgård, competes for a Best Film nomination, at European Film Awards.This year, two of our documentaries are among the 13 shortlisted for a nomination as Best Documentary: Self Portrait, directed by Margreth Olin, Katja Høgset and Espen Wallin, and Gunda, produced by Sant & Usant and directed, written, and edited by Viktor Kossakovsky. In addition,
Over 3,800 members of the European Film Academy vote for the five nominations in the categories European Film, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenwriter. The nominations will be announced on November 7th at the Seville European Film Festival in Spain, and the winners will be revealed during the European Film Awards ceremony on December 12th, which this year will be run online from Berlin, instead of as previously announced in Reykjavik.
In June, Norway became a support member of the European Film Academy. NFI Director Kjersti Mo said at the time: «Artistic freedom and freedom of expression are important values for us. It is therefore natural that Norway, through NFI, supports the important work that EFA is doing. As a support member of the EFA, we will be more integrated in the European ‘film family’, which will strengthen Norwegian films and our film industry.»
The shortlisted documentary Self Portrait follows art photographer Lene Marie Fossen as she struggles with her anorexia until shortly before her death in 2019. It is a film about the power of art that also raises important questions about what kind of treatment someone suffering from severe anorexia needs.
«Lene photographed others, but also herself. Through her self-portraits, she was able to give a face to psychiatry’s most deadly disease and show off all its masks - and the enormous pain that accompanies the disease, » says filmmaker Olin of the late artist. «Lene’s photographs touched upon general suffering and she saw the beauty in life’s brutalities, like playfulness and willpower among the refugee children she met on the beaches of Lesvos. »
Self Portrait was nominated for three Amanda Awards (Norway’s Oscar), winning the award for Best Documentary. Produced by Margreth Olin for Speranza film (she is also the co-writer and co-director of the documentary), the film received development and production grants from the NFI. It is a co-production between NRK, ARTE and Speranza Films, and international sale is handled by Cinephil.
Filmmaker Margreth Olin has a long and distinguished career. Her first documentary feature, In the House of Angels won the Amanda award in 1998. She received her second Amanda for My Body (2002). The dogumentary Raw Youth, presented by Lars von Trier, was nominated for a European Film Award in 2004. Olin also makes fiction features. The Angel (2009) won over critics, audiences and award-juries alike. The drama was the Norwegian candidate for the 2010 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. Olin is also the managing director of Speranza Film and a sought-after lecturer in Norway and abroad, often focusing on topics from her films, and techniques of storytelling.
The other shortlisted documentary is Gunda. Produced by Sant & Usant, the American-Norwegian co-production was written, directed and edited by the Russian filmmaker Viktor Kossakovsky. Norwegian cinematographer Egil Håskjold Larsen, who previously wrote and directed the Amanda winning documentary Hvordan man vender tilbake (2019), photographed the film. Gunda had its world premiere during the Berlinale in February 2020.
Gunda follows the daily life of a pig, two cows, and a one-legged chicken in an effort to show animals as individuals. In industrialized countries, we tend to forget that animals are conscious beings and the film asks the questions: What do they really think about us? What would they tell us if we could speak with them? Can we understand them by opening up and carefully observing them? With Gunda, Kossakovsky demonstrates that animals both feel and are conscious, and therefore it becomes unthinkable that we refuse to make the changes needed to stop the cruelty to animals and our thoughtless animal slaughter.
For his 15 documentaries, director Kossakovsky has won more than 25 international awards. He has collaborated with the Norwegian production company Sant & Usant since 2015, when they made the children’s documentary Varicella (2015). The film won the Message-to-Man Film Festival in Russia and received a Special mention in the IDFA competition program. Earlier this year, Gunda attracted attention at Cannes and during DOC Norway in Bergen.
Cinematographer Egil Håskjold Larsen filmed Gunda’s domestic animals. Usually he photographs his own films, and he was nominated for an Amanda for his debut documentary 69 Minutes of 86 Days (also produced by Sant & Usant), before taking home the award for Hvordan man vender tilbake.
Sant & Usant is one of Norway’s most experienced documentary film companies. Co-founded by Tone Grøttjord-Glenne and Anita Rehoff Larsen in 2006, their films have won several international awards. Now they are working on what will be Norway’s first Netflix Original documentary, Sisters on Track. This film follows three teenage sisters from Brooklyn, New York, who were discovered in a homeless shelter in 2015 and today are Olympic-bound sprint runners.
Animal activist and Oscar-winning actor, Joaquin Phoenix is the film’s executive producer. To Screen Daily, he stated that the Norwegian documentary «is a film of profound significance and artistry» - and praised Victor Kossakovsky for his portrayal of the animals’ existence.
Gunda is co-produced by two-time Oscar nominee Joslyn Barnes from Louverture Films in the USA, and it was funded by the NFI, Fritt ord, the Media program in Creative Europe, the Artemis Rising Foundation, Empahty arts and Storyline studios. The film had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in February.
Hope aims its sights on the Best Film Award
Hope, written and directed by Maria Sødahl, has been shortlisted for nomination for the Best Film Award. The drama is based on writer-director’s own story. On Christmas Eve 2012, Sødahl was told that her lung cancer had spread to her head. In the film, Andrea Bræin Hovig portrays the character based on her, while Stellan Skarsgård plays her husband. Over a chaotic Christmas celebration, the couple tries to get answers from the health service about what the wife’s diagnosis means, as well as struggle with what to tell the children, and ponder whether their relationship has suffered insurmountable while they have been focusing for too long on six children and their artistic careers. Hope had its world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival. has prevously been screened at the Berlinale.
«The real events were so intense that they had to be muted in the film, » admits Sødahl, whose chance for survival was considered minimal. During his thirty years in the field, her specialist had only experienced a handful of patients with a similar diagnosis survive.
«For me, this meant a gigantic hope, while my husband saw it completely differently,» she recalls. «To him, it was a death sentence.»
Seventeen of the roles portrayed in the film were given to real health professionals, as Sødahl believes actors attribute too much empathy to such roles. «In my opinion, their performances are not credible. Healthcare professionals are human beings who pick up their children from the day-care centres and fights with partners; they are not saints.»
Many years passed before Sødahl was able to accept that her death had been cancelled. «Hope grew, almost imperceptibly, bigger and bigger. Therefore I named the film Hope.»
Maria Sødahl graduated from the the Danish Film school in 1993. Her feature film debut came with Limbo (2010), for which she won Best Director at the Montreal World Film Festival. The film was nominated for ten Amanda awards and received five. Hope was nominated for eight Amandas and won two: Andrea Bræin Hovig for Best Actress and Jørgen Stangebye Larson for his production design. TrustNordisk handles the film’s international sales.
In addition to Hope, the Swedish-Danish-Norwegian film Charter, starring one of Norway’s most acclaimed actresses, Ane Dahl Torp, is among the features shortlisted for Best Film. Charter is now on the shortlist to become Swedens Oscar-contender.
Written and directed by Amanda Kernell and produced by Lars G Lindström & Eva Åkergren, Charter tells the story of Alice, a divorced mother who has not been able to see her children for months as she awaits a custody verdict. When her son calls in the middle of the night, Alice takes action, abducting the children on an illicit charter trip to the Canary Islands. The film was screened at various film festivals earlier this year.