The Northern Lights Film Series highlights films with an emphasis on Iceland and other circumpolar nations including Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Russia, Greenland and Canada’s North!
Generously sponsored by Claire Gillis & Ernest Stefanson.
A White, White Day
dir. Hylnur Palmason
2019 | Iceland /Denmark / Sweden | 109 min.
In a remote Icelandic town, an off-duty police chief (a chilling Ingvar Sigurdsson, who received Cannes’ Critics’ Week award for Best Actor for his performance) begins to suspect a local man of having had an affair with his late wife, who died in a tragic accident two years earlier. Gradually his obsession for finding out the truth takes over his life and inevitably begins to endanger himself and his loved ones. Combining classic thriller tropes with a distinctly Nordic arthouse sensibility, the second feature from Hlynur Palmason “engages in storytelling that’s both powerful and fresh throughout, marking him as a talent to watch” (The Hollywood Reporter)
County, The (Héraðið)
dir. Grímur Hákonarson
2019 | Iceland / Denmark / Germany / France | 92 min
The new film from Grímur Hákonarson, director of Rams. Set in a small Icelandic farming community, THE COUNTY tells the story of Inga, a middle-aged dairy farmer who rebels against the all powerful local Cooperative. Inga tries to get other farmers to join her in rising up against the Co-op’s corruption, but encounters great resistance, forcing her to confront the community’s dependence and loyalty to this single, dominant enterprise. Inga must use her resourcefulness and cunning to break free of the Co-op’s grasp and finally live life on her own terms.
dir. Runar Runarsson
2019 | Iceland / France / Switzerland | 79 min
Iceland, Christmas time. As everyone prepares for the holidays, a peculiar atmosphere falls upon the country revealing emotions of both excitement and concern. In the middle of the countryside, an abandoned farm is burning. In a school, a children’s choir is singing Christmas carols. In a slaughterhouse, chickens are parading along a rail. In a museum, a mother is arguing with her ex-husband on the phone. In a living room, a young girl is making her grandmother try on her new virtual reality headset – Through 56 scenes, Echo draws a portrait, both biting and tender, of modern society.
Last Autumn, The (Síðasta haustið)
dir. Yrsa Roca Fannberg
2020 | Iceland | 78 min
In a remote part of Iceland, a long line of farmers has kept an ancient sheepherding tradition alive for centuries—year after year, season after season, in one of the most desolate parts of the world, framed by inhospitable terrain and the imposing presence of the Arctic Ocean. However, the world has evolved and the natural bounties and rituals are starting to give way to a more streamlined industrial complex. Farmer Úlfar has one final season left and must accept that his traditional way of life is coming to an end. Through stunning visuals and sombre nostalgia, The Last Autumn captures a beautiful place and time that, even as it fades, will linger in the cold air for centuries longer. – Hot Docs 2020
Painter and the Thief, The
dir. Benjamin Ree
2020 | Norway | 102 min
When two paintings by Czech naturalist Barbora Kysilkova are stolen from an Oslo art gallery, Norwegian authorities quickly identify and arrest the two thieves but find no trace of the paintings. Hoping to learn what happened, Barbora approaches one of the thieves, Karl-Bertil Nordland, at his criminal hearing. She asks if she can paint his portrait and, contrite, he agrees. What follows—over a series of portraits and many years—is an extraordinary story of human connection and friendship.
Using a structure that cleverly shifts perspectives, Norwegian filmmaker Benjamin Ree unfolds the fraught lives and vulnerabilities of two souls who come to recognize themselves in the other—the darkness, wounds, compulsions, and self-destructive behavior. Ree captures the revelatory moment when Bertil, a junkie and petty crook who has done jail time, first sees his portrait and breaks down completely. Throughout the film, our understanding of both people—and even the stolen paintings—changes entirely. In life, certain aspects of human nature defy comprehension, and yet Ree materializes them in a way that is accessible and transcendent.
dir. Daniel Borgman
2019 | Denmark | 92 min
Liv, a precocious thirteen-year-old, lives deep in the forest with her simple-minded father Jens and her obese, bedridden mother Maria. Sheltered from the outside world the family survives on what they can find in nature. Here, even the smallest things have a soul, and the greatest meaning can be found in the journey of an ant into the sap of tree roots. What Liv doesn’t know, is that her parents have a dark secret; they have made the outside world believe that she is dead in an attempt to escape society’s norms and demands. Liv’s curiosity however propels her to venture into the world, and suddenly, their reclusive existence is threatened by increasing interference from the outside.
Take Me Somewhere Nice
dir. Ena Sendijarevic
2019 | Netherlands / Bosnia and Herzegovina | 91 min
On the edge of adulthood, Alma leaves her mother’s home in the Netherlands and travels to her native Bosnia to visit the father she’s never met. But from the start nothing goes as planned. Her cousin Emir gives her a frosty reception and mocks her easy life in the West. At the same time, undeniable sexual chemistry leads Alma into a passionate relationship with Emir’s best friend, the troublemaker Denis. As the obstacles mount, Alma stays fearlessly determined to follow her plan and find her father. She just has to figure herself out first.
High on the reckless energy of youth and the rush of adult discovery, the rebellious trio sets off on the adventure together, embarking on an increasingly unpredictable road trip through the scorching Bosnian heartland. Over the course of the journey, Alma will learn to accept and understand herself, embracing all challenges that come her way.