Scandinavian Film Festival highlights

The  Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival opens this week at Palace Cinemas, with another strong program showcasing the best in Nordic cinema. 

Once again it’s been curated by veteran festival programmer Elysia Zeccola, who well understands why the region’s films appeal to local audiences. “We appreciate their droll sense of humour,” she explains. “The themes that seem to come through every year of immigration, integration and prejudice are also very topical at the moment, and universal.”

Indeed, but it always fascinating to get a perspective from a very different point of view. It’s hard to imagine a film as hard-hitting as What Will People Say (pic above), which deals with a Norwegian teen’s fights against the traditional values and expectations of her Pakistani parents, being made in Australia or even being screened in cinemas outside of festivals like this one.  

The same could be said for A Horrible Woman – a dark comedy which cleverly explores a dysfunctional relationship from the man’s point of view. You read that correctly – a man. Here the title alone would have our culture war warriors frothing, but back in its “progressive” homeland of Denmark, it won Best Screenplay and Best Actress at the Danish Academy Awards.

So, for all those brave enough to venture outside the cocoon of our own social and cultural norms, here’s five more festival highlights. It’s a provocative selection of the films that have already won both domestic and international festival awards, as well as attracting lavish critical praise. Just go along with an open mind and a spirit of adventure, you won’t be disappointed…

 Festival opener Under the Tree (above) is a very dark comedy from Icelandic writer-director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson. The shade from a front-yard tree sees the already simmering tensions between two families come to the boil in an astute observation of suburban mores. “Unsettlingly perceptive as well as absurdly comedic,” is  Screen Daily‘s critical verdict.

 Norwegian supernatural drama, Thelma follows a student who moves to Oslo where she discovers that she has terrifying powers. Directed by Joachim Trier, the film was selected as Norway’s foreign-language Oscar entry. “An electric erotic thriller,” writes the UK Observer

 Multi-award winning drama including winner of Best Film at the 2018 Danish Academy Awards, Winter Brothers (above) filmed across Denmark and Iceland, follows two brothers whose routines, habits, and rituals are ruptured by a violent feud with a neighbouring family. “A confidently handled, promisingly edgy feature debut,” writes Hollywood Reporter

 Inspired by true events, While We Live is the Danish Academy Award nominated drama which follows four people in Northern Denmark and how their fates intertwine after a tragic accident. There’s only one review on IMDB – unfortunately in Danish, but its is  ★★★★★ 

 And finally the vibrant comedy Amateurs (above) which won the 2018 Göteborg Film Festival award for Best Nordic Film acts as a commentary on the changing face of Sweden. Charged with making a promotional video for their provincial town using mobiles and selfie sticks, two high school girls instead document its tensions and declining fortunes. “One of the best films—if not the best film—at Tribeca this year,” claims

The Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival runs from July 10 to 29 at Palace Norton Street, Palace Verona and Palace Central. Other cities include Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide Hobart, Perth and Brisbane – check the website for venues and dates, and to make bookings.

Compiled by Russell Edwards