Göteborg Opens With ‘So Damn Easy Going,’ Honors Luca Guadagnino

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Energized by the second strong year in a row for Scandinavian cinema, a hybrid 45th Göteborg Film Festival will open with Christoffer Sandler’s “So Damn Easy Going” in main Nordic Competition, alongside Juho Kuosmanen’s “Compartment No. 6” and Eskil Vogt’s “The Innocents.”

Despite new theater capacity controls announced by Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson on Monday, Göteborg, which had anticipated the tighter restrictions, is pressing ahead with its plans for an on-site festival with select online screenings of some 50 films for Sweden, festival artistic director Jonas Holmberg told Variety.

Luca Guadagnino will receive an Honorary Dragon Award, attending the festival and participating in an on-stage conversation after the screening of “Call Me By Your Name” on Feb. 3.

Playing Lady Jessica Atreides in “Dune,” Rebecca Ferguson (“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”) will pick up a Nordic Honorary Dragon Award.

Produced by Sweden’s Cinenic Film, the company behind Sundance 2019 best directing winner “And Breathe Normally,” the same-gender coming of age love story “So Damn Easy Going” comes after Göteborg has opened every single year since 2018 with a new film by an upcoming director.

“The opening film is such an important event because it garners so much attention, so it’s key for us to turn the spotlight onto an emerging talent and a film which has not been seen before – to create a sense of discovery,” said Holmberg.

Four of the eight movies in Nordic Competition this year are female filmmakers’ first fiction features

Göteborg has been pushing for gender equality for the last six-or-seven years, said Holmberg. This year, 48% of festival entries are directed by women, he added.

There’s good word-of-mouth on the festival closer “Day by Day” from Swedish powerhouse FLX (“The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window,” “Quicksand”), which is helmed by “The 100-Year-Old Man’s” director Felix Herngren.

“So Damn Easy Going” will vie for the Best Nordic Film Dragon Award with three high-profile 2021 Cannes critics’ favorites, two ultimate winners: Off-beat Russian train romance “Compartment No. 6”; out-there Islandic maternity drama “Lamb,” with Noomi Rapace; and arthouse horror chiller “The Innocents.”

Further contenders take in San Sebastian hit “As In Heaven,” a period drama capturing budding young female consciousness;  buzzed-up psychological thriller “Heartbeast”; female-centric road movie “Maya Nilo (Laura)”; and the awaited French village-set documentary tragicomedy, “Excess Can Save Us.”

Beyond the two main Nordic competitions, Noomi Rapace is said to be on fine form in Adam Berg’s Nordic star-packed “Black Crab,” Netflix’s biggest Nordic production to date, a big budget action-thriller about ice-skating soldiers on a secret mission to stop the advancing enemy.

Other potential standout world premieres take in sidebar Nordic Light’s “Man and Dog,” from Stefan Constantinescu, about a man consumed by jealousy who risks losing everything while searching for the truth; “12 Dares,” a playful and action-packed coming of age-story tipping its hat to early Guy Ritchie’s gangster films, directed by Izer Aliu who scored with “Countrymen”; and “Miss Viborg,” the debut of Danish director Marianne Blicher, a drama populated by colorful characters.

The festival’s Disorder strand includes Swedish director Ylva Forner’s “The Schoolmaster Games,” a queer boarding school drama based on Kristofer Folkhammar’s acclaimed novel of the same name and inspired by high school films and gay porn.

Running Jan. 28 through Feb. 6, 2022’s Göteborg Festival unspools just after entries from four of the five Nordic countries have been shortlisted for the International Feature Film Oscar and eight Scandinavian titles have been selected for Sundance. Outside the U.S., no other region in the world comes close to that.

“There are many more new and interesting filmmakers breaking through, especially now from Norway and Finland. Filmmakers inspire one another. There’s also a strong Nordic film support system. It’s important that policy and decision makers recognise the very high quality and international and regional impact of more cultural kinds of movies,” said Holmberg.

Göteborg will screen around 200 films this year, way down from its 350-plus pre-pandemic levels.

“We need to have longer pauses between screenings because of security concerns and we’ve been talking about having a slightly smaller programme for several years,” Holmberg added.

A breakdown of movies in Göteborg’s two main Nordic sections:

Nordic Competition

Opening Film: “So Damn Easy Going,” (Christoffer Sandler, Sweden, Norway)

Joanna, 18, with an ADHD disorder, is desperate to scrape together the money for meds as she falls heads over heals for charismatic and confident fellow teen Audrey. Sold by TrustNordisk, the film is “charming with some exciting fresh faces, a great visual style and a modern tone, and the same edge as ‘Ninjababy,’” says TrustNordisk’s Naya Mшrch-Jessen.

Closing Film: “Day by Day,” (Felix Herngren, Sweden)

A humor-laced heartwarming play, like the fest opener, for a broad audience in the tale of the inmates, caretaker and cleaner of a retirement home who set off from Sweden to Switzerland to fulfil an old man’s last wish. Directed by Herngren, one of Sweden’s biggest marquee names whose credits take in smash TV hits “Solsidan” and “The Bonus Family” and movies “The 100 Year-Old Man…” and “Disappeared.”

Day By Day
Credit: Ola Kjelbye

“As In Heaven,” (Tea Lindeburg, Denmark)

A big winner at September’s San Sebastian festival for Netflix series “Equinox” creator Lindeburg, voted best director, and Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl, its lead. Set on a farmstead in late nineteenth century West Jutland, a movie that bucks social realism to explore a budding you female consciousness.

“Compartment No. 6,” (Juho Kuosmanen, Finland)

Kuosmanen’s B&W debut “The Happiest Day In The Life Of Olli Maki” won Cannes’s top Un Certain Regard prize in 2016. His follow-up, a “humdrum and heart swelling” train-bound love story,” Variety said, went one better, winning Cannes Grand Prix and a big multi-territory deal with Sony Pictures Classics, and being shortlisted for the International Feature Film Oscar.

“Excess Will Save Us,” (Morgane Dziurla-Petit, Sweden)

A feature version of the France-born, Sweden-based director’s short of the same title, a European Film Awards  nominee and best short winner at Sweden’s 2020 national guldbagge awards. “a documentary shot as a tragicomedy,“ straddling documentary and fiction, the director’s first feature depicts paranoia in a hamlet in northern France where part of her family lives.

“Heartbeast,”  (Aino Sumi, France, Finland, Germany)

Sold by Kinology and winner of the prestigious €20,000 Eurimages Co-Production Development Award at the Tallinn Baltic Event, the tale of an increasingly dark relationship between a Finnish and French step-sisters. Pic marks the fiction feature debut of Sumi, director of multi-prized shorts “Turnaround” and “Wolf Carver.”

“The Innocents,” (Eskil Vogt, Norway, Denmark, Sweden)

Another Scandi Cannes standout, a “beautifully creepy fable about kids with powers” which offers “superbly atmospheric, deftly crafted horror” from Vogt, a a co-writer and producer on Joachim Trier’s Oscar shortlisted “The Worst Person in the World.”

“Lamb,” (Valdimar Jóhannsson, Iceland, Sweden, Poland)

Starring Noomi Rapace in what Variety describes as a “creepy-funny-weird-sad”  “modern-day take on some ancient, pre-Disneyfication fairy tale. Sold by New Europe Film Sales, a Cannes Un Certain Regard special jury prize winner for originality and an A24 U.S. pickup.

“Maya Nilo, (Laura)” (Lovisa Sirén, Sweden, Finland,Belgium)

Another female filmmaker’s first feature, sold by Totem Films, a road movie about three women from different generations battling for independence. Project was pitched at Haugesund’s New Nordic Films last August.

Nordic Documentary Competition

“Golden Land,” (Inka Achté, Finland, Sweden, Norway)

After growing up in Finland, Mustafa takes his family back to Somaliland after gold is discovered on his land there. An identity drama from filmmaker and fest distributor Achté, following up her debut, “Boys Who Like Girls.” CAT&Docs handles sales.

“Name of the Game,” (Hávard Bustnes, Norway)

World premiering at IDFA’s 2021 Frontlight section, a portrait of disgraced politician Trond Giske and a film about a political culture with its own set of laws. Bustnes told Variety.

“Good Life,” (Marta Dauliūtė, Viktorija Šiaulytė, Sweden, Lithuania, Finland)

A longterm chronicle, initiated in 2015, of technological innovation and its social and political implications  tracking 30something entrepreneurs on the tech startup scene.

“A House Made of Splinters,” (Simon Lereng Wilmont, Denmark, Sweden, Finland)

A buzzed-up title from Denmark’s two-time Oscar-nominated Final Cut for Real (“The Look of Silence,” “The Act of Killing”), producer of the Oscar shortlisted “Flee.”  A portrait of an orphanage in war-torn eastern Ukraine, set to world premiere at Sundance.

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A House Made of Splinters
Credit: Goteborg Film Festival

“Love & Divorce,” (Maud Nycander, Sweden)

The latest from unflagging Swedish doc filmmaker Nycander, co-director of doc feature smash hit “Palme.”

“Kandis for Life,” Jesper Dalgaard (Denmark)

The biggest Danish documentary of 2021 in box office terms, music docu biopic from newcommer Dalgaard on the extraordinary fan idolatry sparked by the lead singer of Kandis, Scandinavia’s biggest entertainment band.

“The Mission,” (Tania Anderson, Finland, Germany)

Another Sundance 2022 world premiere, distributed by Autlook Filmsales, a study of the inner lives of four young Latter Day Saints missionaries, dispatched from the U.S. to convert the Finns.

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The Mission
Credit: Goteborg Film Festival

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