The National Film School of Denmark that hosted the 13th Nordic Talents with Nordisk Film & TV Fond had a clean sweep last Friday at the awards ceremony in Copenhagen, as all four possible wins were handed out to its graduating students. Two of the winning students are from Sweden, one from Denmark and one from Iceland, a proof of the school’s ability to attract talents from the entire Nordic region.

The Swedish documentary filmmaker Maria Bäck (see story below) who had moved the 200+ Nordic Talents audience with her poetic 30 minute film Mother is God portraying her mentally-ill mother, ended up winning the top NOK 250,000 Nordic Talents Pitch Prize for her project I Remember When I Die in which patients will be asked to choose the memory they will think of when they die. 

The NOK 50,000 Nordic Talents Special Mention Prize was handed out to the Icelandic Hlynur Pálmason for his project Winter Brothers, a brothers’ odyssey set in a religious worker environment in winter.  The director had already displayed his craft as filmmaker with his graduation film The Painter, winner of Best Danish Short Film in Odense a few weeks ago.

The five member jury (pictured) comprising Icelandic producer Agnes Johansen, filmmaker Ruben Östlund, YLE Commissioner Erkki Astala, filmmaker Tobias Lindholm, and Norwegian Film Institute’s Documentary Commissioner Kristine Ann Skaret stated about Maria Bäck: “It's hard to deal with heavy subjects in a light manner. But here we have a filmmaker who not only has the courage and skill to do that but who already has developed a specific, coherent visual language, and who is able to invest herself wholeheartedly into the film."

The jury’s comment about Hlynur Pálmason was the following: “We were impressed by his graduation film which proved his ability to create a special universe. And especially in one pitch we could already imagine the images of the new world the film maker is going to create for us. Here, we believe, is a true Nordic talent, who we look forward to pulling us through his new universe with two brothers and a gas tank."

The parallel SF Award for Best Children and Family Pitch (SEK 30,000) went to the animation project Billy and Reed’s Excellent Adventures, introduced by Danish scriptwriter Simon Weil and producer Lian Yang. The SF Jury said: “We would like to reward a project which we think will be a film full of fantasy, adventures and energy, but still with a great comment on modern society underneath. We can't say it any better than the writer himself: what makes you different makes you unique.”

The second parallel award, the SEK 30,000 Filmlance Seriously Big Humour Student Film Award was given out to the documentary Blessed Be This Place by Swedish director Carl Olsson. The multi-plot story about our search for identity and a place to belong was produced by Julie Waltersdorph Hansen, just like Pálmason’s films. Filmlance’s Jury described the film as ‘an intelligent story about everyday life told in a visual way with extreme precision when it comes to framing, lighting and editing. Within this frame we get to meet the most likeable characters on a journey with a common end. The jury smiled and sat in silence when this film with its subtle humour ended with the final line; it snows!”

Commenting on the overall quality of the 28 graduation films and 18 pitches performed to an audience of over 200 industry people and soon to be film professionals, Nordisk Film & TV Fond’s documentary consultant Karolina Lidin felt there was ‘an impressive range of genres, voices and visions’. “The jury had a difficult task with so different and vibrant contenders, but it is hard to disagree with the final choice of the Main Prize Winner. Maria Bäck's graduation film, Mother is God, and her new project, I Remember when I Die, immediately show her unique talent of treating serious, complex subjects with cinematic originality and a disarming lightness of touch. From a documentary standpoint, it was a truly promising batch of aspiring documentarians we were presented with during Nordic Talents. Lots to look forward to!!

The National Film School of Denmark’s graduating student Julie Waltersdorph Hansen praised the pitching training supervised by Karoline Leth and Paul Tyler. “Besides being the venue to tune your pitch to the finest, the pitch preparation was also a good platform for networking with your new Nordic colleagues since all the Nordic Film schools are represented. “

Pálmason felt the idea of screening the graduation films before the pitches was ‘extremely clever’. “It shows that Nordic Talents is all about filmmakers and their work. We are not performers. The audience is given a chance to evaluate the most important thing, before the pitches, which is the film.”