Did it all start with The slaughteris that Sarah Lund and her big wool sweater? “I believe the success of Scandinavian series has given the world an appetite for their talent,” says Mike Goodridge, London-based founder of Good Chaos, who is currently co-producing three Nordic feature films.
There are many theories as to why Nordic movies are so popular internationally right now. You could go back much further than buying British broadcasting giant BBC The slaughter, The bridge and Borgen in the early 2000s to the region’s strong auteur traditions exemplified by Ingmar Bergman, to Dogma 95 making international waves or Aki Kaurismaki bringing Finnish dark comedy to the world.
The Nordic countries are certainly experiencing a boom period. another round won the 2021 International Feature Film Oscar and the 2022 shortlist had four of its 15 selections from the Nordic countries (including two – Denmark To flee and Norway The worst person in the world — obtaining nominations). There were 11 Nordic titles shown at Cannes 2021, Finland had a record four feature films at Sundance and there are now nine Nordic selections at the Berlinale.
So is it something in the fjords? Experts say there are a host of reasons why the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – are booming creatively.
Regular financial support from the government is an obvious factor: each of the countries has a national film institute which finances local productions and co-productions; there are also regional funders such as the Swedish powerhouse Film i Vast and the pan-regional funder Nordisk Film & TV Fond, which is supported by public and private companies. And streamers like Netflix and local players like Viaplay are increasingly investing in quality local language content.
Liselott Forsman, CEO of Nordisk Film & TV Fond, says the creators have found a balance between artistic and commercial projects. “Thanks to streaming services, the artistic and the popular have come together,” she says. “So much content is being created that only the original stuff gets past the bar. In the Nordics, we’ve struggled to engage an audience and also to have relevance. It’s something that utility companies have fought for. battered – this was never a sausage factory pushing production after production.
Forsman adds, “There are the films in the festival and the films that attract large audiences, and that middle ground is something we’re good at in the Nordics.”
One such example is that of Thomas Vinterberg another rounda national and international box office success, also appreciated by critics and festivals (it was selected for Cannes 2020, played in Toronto and won the Best Actor award in San Sebastian).
Ruben Östlund is another example of a filmmaker who appeals to festivals, critics and audiences. “He has a sense of humor and people identify with his characters,” Forsman says. “He plays with form without scaring anyone and also without compromising.”
Östlund’s new movie triangle of sadness brought together many Scandinavian and international partners. But none of them want to try to change Östlund’s unique voice. As Forsman puts it: “The most local is the most global – this was understood in the Nordic countries since 1990.” That year, the fund was established, encouraging films and TV shows from countries to maintain their own country and filmmaking persona, but also helping them cross borders.
Private investors understand this too. As Alexander Bastin, SVP and CEO of NENT Studios, said during a recent Nordisk Film & TV Fond panel: miss out on global opportunities. We need to tell the best local stories to attract audiences. It is not an option to go for generic equalized content.
Danish producer Monica Hellström (To flee) adds that streamers entering the Nordic market in droves “have opened up more possibilities… they’ve enabled a lot more content to be produced, and also more domestic content that has a clear international ambition.”
In 1959, decades before the word “streamer” existed, the region’s public service broadcasters were officially collaborating on series. “Why it’s been so easy for us to co-produce is that we share the story, we share the same societies well-being and the same values,” says Forsman. “But as nationalities we are different, and we have learned to see the differences and share what unites us.”
Each of the countries has a small population, so working together on major projects to travel at least within the region — or beyond — is a long-established practice. Hellström says: “International collaborations and focus have always been essential for many northern filmmakers, as our own markets are not big enough and so we often depend on selling our films abroad.
Some recent successes have crossed even more boundaries — To flee of cours; Christian Tafdrup’s Sundance Hit Speak no evil was filmed in Denmark, the Netherlands and Italy; Compartment no. 6 shot mostly in Russia; triangle of sadness did much of its filming in Greece. Berlinale Panorama Selection beautiful beingsdirected by Icelandic Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson, is a co-production with Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
Tafdrup says his film Speak no evil was reinforced by fire across Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands. “It was also fun to shoot overseas,” he adds. “Here in Denmark, we know everyone when we do castings. So it was great on the Dutch cast to meet 15 actors and actresses that I didn’t know at all. I think it’s good to be a foreigner as a director, because sometimes at home I feel too safe. We have seen the same streets in Copenhagen in many films. So being on different ground gives you a kind of freedom.
Goodridge’s slate at Good Chaos includes triangle of sadnessFinnish director Jalmari Helander’s World War II action film Immortal and Nordic comfortthe latest feature from Icelandic Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson.
Goodridge notes that, on a practical level, the Nordic countries are easy co-production partners because everyone speaks English (in fact triangle of sadness will be Östlund’s first film mainly in English). But on a more artistic level, he says, “I’ve always loved the culture of storytelling in the individual territories of the Nordic countries, and I feel very distinct cultures in each of the countries. I think there is a fresh approach and very clear author voices there.
Hellström believes that Bafta and the Oscar nominee To flee has benefited not only financially but also creatively from all of its partners. “Perspectives from other countries are important in raising the quality of any film that has international ambitions,” she says. “The fact that our French co-producers, Vivement Lundi! and Arte France, contested the aspects of To flee throughout the process and brought in talented creatives to work with Jonas and the team at [animation company] Suncreature only improved the storytelling and the process.
This tradition of collaboration is vital, adds Hellström. “We have always worked across borders. This openness to collaboration has strengthened the films, as we learn from each other, share talents, and remain curious about ways to tell stories.
The best upcoming Nordic titles sold at the EFM
Charades sells Nordic comfortthe English language debut from Icelandic director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson, currently shooting with an international cast including Timothy Spall and Sverrir Gudnason.
The second feature film by Danish director Malou Reymann Indiscipline had a strong reaction after footage was released at Gothenburg’s Work In Progress event. The drama is about teenage girls in a 1930s home for “morally weak” young women. TrustNordisk manages the sales.
REinventing is selling Wife drama from director Bjorn Runge Burn all my letterswith Bill Skarsgard, Asta Kamma August and Gustav Lindh.
For children, Dutch Features Global Entertainment is selling a Swedish family film Mini Zlatan and darling uncle. Les Films Du Losange have a Norway-Belgium family animation titin, based on the true story of an explorer’s dog on an expedition to the North Pole; and Sola Media sells a Norwegian family film Three wishes for Cinderella with pop star Astrid S.
Some of the highly anticipated feature debuts on the market include Finnish director Mikko Myllylahti The woodcutter’s story, sold by Totem; by Finnish director Aino Suni beast of heart (sold by Kinology), about a 17-year-old rapper who has a powerful bond with her new French half-sister; and Karoline Lyngbye Overlay (sold by TrustNordisk), a Danish thriller about a family struggling for their lives in a Swedish forest. Norwegian Newcomer Erika Calmeyer Delivers Thriller Drama Storm with Ane Dahl Torp, while theater veteran Christian Lollike debuts with a Danish satire The cake dynasty (sold by LevelK).
On the episode side, Lars von Trier is preparing the third and final season of the cult hit The kingdom, being readied for a 2023 launch and sold by TrustNordisk, continuing its chilling and fun story about good and evil in a Danish hospital. The cast includes Ghita Norby and Nicolas Bro.
REinvent recently struck a deal with BBC Four for a six-part series Trom, the first major international television production set in the Faroe Islands (Denmark is a co-producer). Ulrich Thomsen stars as a journalist who returns to the Faroe Islands when his daughter is in danger.