In a strong year for promising Nordic filmmaking voices, National Film School of Denmark graduates Anita Beikpour and Thora Lorentzen were awarded the top two pitch prizes yesterday in Copenhagen.

Beikpour won Nordisk Film & TV Fond’s NOK 250,000 Nordic Talents Pitch prize for her documentary film I Believe I can Fly, while Lorentzen picked up the NOK 50,000 Special Mention for her documentary series Absolute Beginners.

A total of 15 projects from Nordic film graduates – including seven documentaries from the National Film School of Denmark - were vying for the awards handed out as development money from Nordisk Film & TV Fond.

The jury consisting of filmmakers Juho Kuosmanen (The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki), Maria Bäck (I Remember When I Die), producer Lina Flint (Nordic Spring), NRK head of Drama Ivar Køhn and Cannes Marché du Film rep Julie Bergeron said they were ’overwhelmed by the quality, creativity, diversity and passion in all the films and pitches’ and that choosing the final winners was a ’very hard decision’.

They said about the winners: "the Nordic Talent Pitch Prize goes to I Believe I Can Fly by Anita Beikpour - a very ambitious, touching and promising director with a strong vision and a project with an exciting character and a very interesting mix between elements. We hope the prize will give this film wings to fly very high."

"The Nordic Talent Special Mention goes to Absolute Beginners by Thora Lorentzen, a director who showed great courage and unforgettable scenes in her graduation film [Either Or], and we are sure she will bring that strong personal voice and sensitivity to her next project.”

I Believe I Can Fly will be produced by Patricia Drati of Good Company Pictures. The film follows the young Rikke who dreams about becoming the next big rapper in Denmark.  

During her pitching in front of 200+ industry people and Nordic graduates, Beikpour said her project is about ’a woman on the edge of society, trying to make something of her life’. Herself a fan of rap music, the director said she is ’dreaming of making a film that youngsters in particular can relate to’. Visually, she will combine traditional documentary filmmaking with animation and poetic dream-like sequences used for her graduation film Walk with Me.

Absolute Beginners will be produced by Kristine Barfod of Danish Documentary. The a coming-of-age documentary series follows the emotional relationships between a group of teenage students, over a period of a year at the Danish music residential school ’Ollerup Efterskole’. Lorentzen, herself a former Ollerup student, said the film is about ’love and friendship and insecurities that come with it’. She will apply a mix of fiction and non-fiction techniques, including the writing of the script with the main characters.

Other strong contestants this year were the Danish political thriller Denmark by Ulaa Salim, the Danish documentary feature project Kim Cannon Arm by Mads Hedegaard, produced by Good Company Pictures, the Finnish web series Tero Wants a Girlfriend directed by Janne Vanhanen, co-written with Veera Lamminpää, and Danish animated series Savanna Camping by Amalie Næsby, produced by Nicas Caroc Warner for A Films.

Commenting on the two-day Nordic Talents event, NRK’s Ivar Køhn said the professional level of this year’s crop was ’amazing and inspiring ’. He also enjoyed the producers’ pitch session, chaired by Zentropa co-founder Peter Aalbæk Jensen. ”It was fun to see established people meet rising talents and to see up-and-coming producers now working in established companies.”

Producer Lina Flint cited some of the dominating themes, parenthood and the need to belong, and said she had rarely been touched by so many projects.

Director Maria Bäck felt the most interesting pitches and films were those where directors expressed a ’closeness to their projects’.” She added: "Both Absolute Beginners and I Believe I can Fly are personally connected film projects with strong visions in which the ’directors want to tell a story and explore whatever genre and style that works best for that story."

Director Juho Kuosmanen also enjoyed the variety of projects in themes and form and was suprised by the number of Finnish comedies.

First time attendant at Nordic Talents, Julie Bergeron felt the event ’should be copied elsewhere’. She said: ”this is an amazing chance for students to pitch their projects to a professional audience, and it was a great idea to screen before each pitch, the graduation film which is often where film students have the most freedom to express who they are."

She added: ”It’s a great year for Scandinavia, with a Best Director award in Berlin [Aki Kaurismäki with The Other Side of Hope] and a Palme d’or in Cannes [Ruben Östlund’s The Square]. It is exciting to see the next generation of talents – many female directors - with projects connected to reality and blurring the genres.”

For further information about Nordic Talents, CLICK HERE.

Our ’Nordic Talents to Watch’ will be published on Tuesday.