A fresh Danish platform on Nordic film heritage, a Swedish festival devoted to cinema history, nine Nordic sites among European Film Treasures. Classic is alive and kicking up North.

”We sometimes tend to forget what’s close to us, which in a way has been the case in the Nordic countries. Nordic films, for example, have had a hard time reaching our cinema screens, and here in Denmark we’re getting increasingly worse when it comes to understanding Norwegian and Swedish. With the “Norden på film” project, we want to use the film medium in order to move closer together and learn from and about each other. Additionally, we simply want to showcase some of these wonderful and rare films, which would otherwise have been overlooked.”

Sara Prahl is the project manager of the “Norden på film” (“The Nordics on Film”) initiative, a brand new collaboration between the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish film institutes, The National Library of Norway and the respective national cinematheques and film archives in close involvement. The main funder is the A.P. Møller Foundation, with the main operation conducted out of Copenhagen. The website platform fittingly premiered this year on March 23rd, the official Nordic Day (commemorating the 1962 Helsinki Treaty). The idea, explains Sara Prahl, grew out of a predecessor called “Danmark på film” (“Denmark on film”), launched in 2015.
To "The Nordics on Film": CLICK HERE.

“This is a site where a national film heritage, primarily documentaries, has been digitized and made available to the Danes in order to provide the history of Denmark. We focused on various themes and produced special related articles, we created a map of Denmark where you can point to and get to see clips from a certain region, including the North Atlantic with Greenland and the Faroe Islands and Iceland. It turned out to be a great success, so we gradually started to think of a bigger picture, covering the full Nordic area. We reached out to, as a first feeler, the Norwegian and Swedish film archives, and asked if they were interested in a joint project in which we could use our joint cultural heritage in order to tell Nordic stories. The response was very positive, and we also received funding for the project. The objective is both getting to know more about our respective cultural and artistic heritage, making it available, and to dig further into various areas of special interest, but also to strengthen the collaborations and interactions between the various Nordic film institutes, the film archives and related bodies – in short, getting to know each other better and to collaborate across our borders. I hope for a bond that can resonate in the years to come, also after this project is finished.”

The national cinematheques are also on board the project, with special screenings and themes in the spirit of the initiative. For the current spring season, old and new film classics such as the 1947 Swedish Oscar winner Symphony of a City (Människor i stad), the Danish 1960 Oscar nominee A City Called Copenhagen (En by ved navn København), the 1996 Danish new wave sensation Pusher, and the two recent Cannes hits, Sweden’s The Square (2017) and Norway’s The Worst Person in the World (Verdens verste menneske, 2021), will grace cinematheque screens in Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen. One of the missions, at times a challenge, is to get the audiences to experience the film works of the neighbouring countries, reflects Sara Prahl.

“When we talk to the distributors in the various Nordic countries, many of them will say the same thing: it’s been quite difficult to get a Swedish audience to watch a Norwegian film, or a Danish one to watch a Swedish film, and so forth. We hope to bring in a positive approach, where we show people that these films from our respective countries exist, and that there are lots of them, that they’re really good and worthy to be proud of, and that they are great discoveries for those who hardly or never knew they even existed.”

The plans also include a branch into the educational section, with various types of films offered in schools, as well as – hopefully and eventually – bringing the full Nordic region, including Iceland and Finland, into the project.

“There’s already a quite solid Icelandic involvement. They’ve created their own site, “Ísland á filmu” – in the same vein as our Danish and Nordic ones. As a first step, we have started out in an area where we share the same language roots, at least for the initial launch. But we have the ambition to expand into the full Nordic region with some of our initiatives. There are many things to discuss and evaluate, and I hope to divulge more in the time to come. Just keep an eye on the website – we will update and bring out the news as soon as it arrives. It’s open and available for everyone to see, all over the world – totally free.” To "Iceland on FIlm": CLICK HERE.

Meanwhile, in the province of Småland in the South of Sweden, namely the town of Värnamo, home of classic modern furniture design, a film festival was launched in 2022. Devoted entirely to classic cinema and taking place in April, it has just celebrated its third edition. Heads of the operation are Lars Alkner, local municipal head of culture, and Kalle Boman, film professor at the Valand Academy of Art and Design in Gothenburg. The two met during an arts exhibition in 2015 where director Ruben Östlund was also present, showcasing together with Boman an installation known as “The Square”, which later turned into both an award-winning film and also a permanent local fixture, as the original The Squaresquare is now located in the main Värmano square.

“So we happened to be part of modern film history,” says Alkner, who discussed doing something more together with Boman. “Like a film festival. Why not, indeed, a historical film festival?” Boman was game, and reflected on cars. “A car is considered vintage after 25 years. So we decided that a film is historical after 25 years – with no limit back in time. We show films from the 20s, the 30s, the 40s, every decade up to the 90s. There is a certain focus on Swedish films, but not exclusively. I like the educational, cultivating aspect. The audience takes part in and becomes aware of our cinema heritage, and in the right venue, which is the cinema theatre.”

The 2024 Värnamo programme showcased, to name a few, Ingmar Bergman’s The Silence (Tystnaden, 1963), Andrei Tarkovsky’s Sweden-shot The Sacrifice (Offret, 1986), a selection of short films by Roy Andersson, and a restored version of Mauritz Stiller’s The Atonement of Gösta Berling (Gösta Berlings saga, 1924), complete with live musicians. Children’s films, musicals, documentaries and avantgarde experiences were also on the menu. Present guests included Jan Troell, Pernilla August, Björn Runge, Lasse Åberg and other luminaries, spanning various seminal eras of film history. A close collaboration with the Swedish Film Institute and its film archive provides access to a vast selection. Likewise, the Svenska Bio cinema chain is a close ally, and its CEO Peter Fornstam is a passionate board member. The festival currently looks forward to getting into a more Nordic scope. “We are getting back to certain people year after year,” says Kalle Boman. “We have a Jan Troell, preferably with Jan present, we have something by Bo Widerberg, by Ingmar Bergman, and by Roy Andersson. All very good, but I’d like to expand the geography a little bit.” Lars Alkner feels very optimistic. “The first year we got the question “What’s a historical film festival?”, and the second year, they asked “Why in Värnamo?” – to which the answer is that we came up with the idea; sometimes you know, Stockholm is the outskirts and we are the centre. And this year, it’s been ‘What are the dates for this year’s edition?’” The 2025 instalment is already joyfully being prepared.
To read more about the festival: CLICK HERE.

Finally, and only a few days after the Värnamo festivities, in the outskirts of Stockholm, a distinguished honour was bestowed upon the vintage film studio of Gamla Filmstaden, where at least parts of The Atonement of Gösta Berling were shot in 1923-24, and around 400 other films between 1920 and 1999, mainly under the operation of SF Studios. Henceforth, Gamla Filmstaden sorts among the Treasures of European Film Culture, as appointed by The European Film Academy. Currently, 49 places “of a symbolic nature for European cinema, places of historical value that need to be maintained and protected not just now but also for generations to come” have been designated by the Academy. Of these, no less than nine culturally significant sites are to be found in the Nordic region. They include the Skjoldenæsholm Castle in Denmark, Reykjavik’s Kaffibarinn café in Iceland, Jar’s Filmparken in Norway, Helsinki’s Senate Square and Tampere’s Kino-Palatsi cinema in Finland and three sites in Sweden: Hovs Hallar (where Death is always game for some chess), the Bergmancenter on Fårö Island and Tjolöholm Castle. To see the full list: CLICK HERE.

Film heritage seems to be alive and kicking, this spring of 2024, up North.