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Stories of empowerment, family issues dominate Nordisk Panorama pitches


Nordisk Panorama / PHOTO: Annika Pham

More than 20 documentary projects were pitched to 300 professionals at Malmö’s Nordisk Panorama Forum that closed on Wednesday.

Top directors that grabbed audiences’ attention with thought-provoking, moving, engaging and entertaining projects include Simon Lereng Wilmont, Maryam Ebrahimi, Magnus Gertten, Andreas Koefoed, rising talents Ellen Fiske, Katrine Philp among others.

Newcomers that pitched buzzed about projects include Iceland’s Gudjón Ragnarsson (Raise the Bar), Denmark’s Thora Lorentzen (Absolute Beginners), winner of the 2017 Nordic Talents Pitch Prize, Finland’s Einari Paakkanen (Mother Karaoke), Lin Alluna (Twice Colonized).

The panel of 26 Nordic and international decision-markers that gave their input after each pitch included France Television’s Caroline Behar, ZDF/Arte’s Sabine Bubeck-Paaz, BBC’s

Hayley Reynolds, American Documentary/POV’s Chris White, Tribeca Film Institute’s Monika Navarro, and CBC’s Charlotte Engel. 

Commenting on the pitching sessions, sales agent Maëlle Guénégues of Cats & Docs, long time attendee said: “The level of pitches at Nordisk Panorama Forum is always outstanding. This year you had quite a few debut films, but produced by experienced companies, therefore of the same high quality. Unlike pitching sessions at other documentary markets and festivals where projects in early stage of development or production struggle to get co-financing, especially from broadcasters, the strong co-production environment in the Nordics and support from local film institutes, secure a firmer and safer ground to initiate negotiations."

Guénégues was pleased to view clips of the Icelandic project Raise the Bar, picked up last year at Nordisk Panorama where the film was introduced in the Observers+ section.

First time attendee Lauren Valmadre of sales company LevelK said: “The pitching projects were diverse inspiring and intriguing, and the feedback from the international experts was very useful as this gave us a first hint of international interest on a project.”

Full list of documentary projects pitched: 

  • A House Made of Splinters (DK)
    Directed by Simon Lereng Wilmont, produced by Final Cut for Real 
    Expected delivery: 2021
    While war is raging in Eastern Ukraine, an orphanage run by social workers is a temporary haven and safe space for kids who can stay there for nine months.

    The director of The Distant Barking of Dogs said: “The orphanage is a place of tragedy but also of nurturing and care, the beginning of a new life for some of the kids. I want to capture the human love and care from the social workers, and how they help the kids gain in strength in their turbulence lives.” 

Stories of empowerment, family issues dominate Nordisk Panorama pitches

A House Made Of Splinters / PHOTO: Final Cut For Real
  • Absolute Beginners (DK)
    Directed by Thora Lorentzen, produced by Danish Documentary
    Expected delivery: April 2021
    The docu-series set in a residential art school, the Kleijtrup efterskole, follows during a year, the daily lives of a group of students, their insecurities and emotional relationships.
  • An Elephant in the Room (DK)
    Directed by Katrine Philp, produced by Good Company Pictures
    Expected delivery: September 2020 
    At the home Good Grief in New Jersey, US, children meet to deal with grief, the passing of a parent or a sibling through play. Philip who moved to New Jersey with her family to be close to her characters, says she has filmed six children for over a year to see how they interact and adjust. “The film shows grief from a child’s perspective but it’s also a celebration of childhood.” 
  • A Moroccan (FI)
    Directed by Hannu-Pekka Vitikainen, produced by Zone2 Pictures
    Expected delivery: November 2020
    Turku, a young man, friend of a terrorist who committed a terrorist act, has to deal with post-traumatic stress.
  • Born to Struggle (Asieh, the Lost Girl of Rohingya) SE 
    Directed Maryam Ebrahimi, produced by Nima Film
    Expected delivery: May 2020 
    Ebrahimi and her partner, director/producer Nima Sarvestani, have travelled twice to Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugee camps where 1.3 million people try to survive. “The film will be about hope; we want to show a small group of Rohingyas, their daily lives in the camp, as they fight for human dignity and justice,” said the Emmy award-winning director.
  • Gold Miners (FI) 
    Directed by Inka Achté, produced by Napafilms, in co-production with Auto Images (SE)
    Expected delivery: June 2021 
    Mustafe moves with his family back to north of Somalia where he comes from, when gold is found on his ancestors’ land. But swapping life from Finland to one of the poorest nations in the world comes with surprises and sacrifices.
  • Full Steam Ahead (IS) 
    Directed by Greta Ólafsdóttir, Susan Muska, produced by Bless Bless Productions in co-production with Compass Films
    Expected delivery April 2020
    Different generations of women struggle to establish their place in the geothermal industry, dominated by men.
  • Fly So Far (SE) 
    Directed by Celina Escher, produced by Pråmfilm, co-produced by Sugar Rush Productions
    Expected delivery: November 2019
    Teodora Vásquez fights with her movement The Seventeen, for women imprisoned in El Salvador for having had a miscarriage or an abortion. First time Swiss/Salvadoran director Celina Escher said the film shows the transformation of a woman - from victim, to social fighter.
  • Images of a Nordic drama-Who is to Judge what is true art? (NO) 
    Directed by Nils Gaup, produced by Paranord Film
    Expected delivery: May 2020
    An art collector is met with unexpected resistance from Norwegian art institutions, as he tries to get a local painter -Aksel Waldemar Johannessen-recognised as a major artist. Oscar-nominated Gaup (Pathfinder) said he will focus on the art collector’s power struggle with the ‘mafia’ art world in Norway as they try to block him from launching Johannessen on the global art scene.
  • Leaving Jesus (SE) 
    Directed by Ellen Fiske, produced by Momento Film
    Expected delivery: April 2020
    A group of people suffering from ‘religious trauma syndrome’, gather at a retreat in San Francisco. Fiske (Scheme Birds) said the film will follow several characters in their daily lives, outside and inside the retreat. It will explore their inner psychological battles as they try to break free from their family, their friends and from God.
  • Mother Karaoke (FI)
    Directed by Einari Paakkanen, produced by Napafilms
    Expected delivery: June 2021
    Portrayal of Finland’s quirky Karaoke culture through the lives of 4-5 characters. Producer Marianne Mäkelä said: “the film celebrates the power of music and how we humans find the strangest ways to cope with life and acceptance.”
  • Nelly & Nadine (SE)
    Directed by Magnus Gertten, produced by Auto Images
    Expected delivery: April 2020 
    Third film by Gertten after Harbour of Hope and Every Face Has a Name, focusing on survivors from concentration camps, who arrived in Malmö in April 1945. Nelly & Nadine is the unlikely love story of two women who fell in love in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

    Now Nelly’s grandchild, French woman Sylvie Bianchi, has finally opened the many boxes with Nelly & Nadine’s unseen personal archives, hidden in an attic, in which they describe their passionate love affair.

    “It’s about the power of love that helps to overcome any circumstance,” said Gertten who describes the diaries from the women as “extremely moving”.
  • Raise the Bar (IS) 
    Directed by Gudjón Ragnarsson, produced by Sagafilm Productions
    Expected delivery: fall 2020 
    A team of 9-11 year-old basketball girls have an unusual coach who constantly challenges them and tries to empower them. “It’s a coming of age story, about overcoming obstacles,” said producer Margrét Jónasdóttir.

Stories of empowerment, family issues dominate Nordisk Panorama pitches

Raise The Bar / PHOTO: Sagafilm Productions
  • The Kind Stranger (FI) 
    Directed by Sini Hormio, Anu Silfverberg, produced by Kinocompany  Expected delivery: November 2020  
    The film is about people who try to offer soothing moments on the web using ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response). 
  • The Choir (SE) 
    Directed by Amanda Pesikan, produced by Mantaray Film 
    Expected delivery September 2020 
    The film about a gospel choir in one of the world’s most secular countries raises questions about people’s need for togetherness and spirituality. It follows Cedwin, leader of the Tensta Gospel Choir as he loses grip on his choir members.

Stories of empowerment, family issues dominate Nordisk Panorama pitches

The Choir / PHOTO: Mantaray

  • The Silence of Oil-The Kielland Disaster (NO) 
    Directed by Stian Indrevoll, Håvård Klyve-Parr, produced by Screen Story.
    Expected delivery: September 2021
    The investigative documentary tries to uncover the truth about the companies and individuals responsible for the second biggest oil rig disaster in the world.
  • Twice Colonized (Greenland/Denmark/Canada)
    Directed by Lin Alluna, produced by Anorak Film (Greenland and Denmark), with Eyesteel Film and Red Marrow Media (Canada).
    Expected delivery January 2021
    Inuit lawyer Aaju Peter is a well-known activist from Greenland, now based in arctic Canada. When her son dies, she embarks on a journey to bring her colonizers in Canada and Denmark to justice, while struggling with her own demons. The film is about empowerment, sharing your pain so others can overcome theirs, said newcomer Alluna.

Stories of empowerment, family issues dominate Nordisk Panorama pitches

Twice Colonized / PHOTO: Anorak Film
  • Ultras (SE) 
    Directed by Ragnhild Ekner, produced by Story AB
    Expected delivery: December 2021
    Through epic images of football ultras from 10 countries, the film will portray a subculture, still mysterious and inaccessible for most of us. The director - herself part of that subculture - said she will focus on the thrilling preparations before the games, group behaviour, alongside the darker side of that subculture, often associated to ultra-nationalism.
  • Utøya Survivors (NO) 
    Directed by Sigve Endresen and Aslaug Holm, produced by Fenris Film, in co-production with Motlys.
    Expected delivery: February 2021
    The film investigates what has happened to some of the young people who survived the July 22, 2011 terrorist attack in Norway, the politically active who are now confronted by the same ideas from right-wing extremists, mainstream politicians in Norway and other EU nations.