The director just graduated from the Norwegian Film School, like fellow graduates and Special Mention prize winning director Kerren Lumer-Klabbers and writer Emil Wahl.
Nordisk Film & TV Fond’s sought-after Nordic Talents pitching and networking event, held exceptionally this year due to Covid-19, closed last night with a virtual awards ceremony, followed online by around 200 Nordic and international participants.
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A total of 15 projects from 19 students, freshly graduates from six Nordic film schools were pitched between October 21-22. This year’s jury consisted of Swedish director Amanda Kernell (nominated for the 2020 Nordic Council Film Prize with the film Charter), Icelandic writer and showrunner Sigurjón Kjartansson (Trapped, Katla), Danish documentary filmmaker/producer Eva Mulvad (Love Child, The Good Life), Finnish producer Jussi Rantamäki (The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki) and NRK executive producer/commissioning editor Tone Rønning (Lilyhammer, Valkyrien, Immigrant-ish).
The jury unanimously awarded the Nordic Talents Pitch Prize of NOK 250,000 to Norwegian/Kurdish Hazhir Ibrahimi for his documentary project KOLBAR. Ibrahimi graduated from the Lillehammer Norwegian Film School with the documentary short film Please Wait… Kolbar centres on 16-year old boy, working between Iran and Iraq. In order to make money and fulfil his dream, he has to become a ‘kolbar’, or semi-legal porter transporting goods across borders.
“The Kolbars have a tough life in the mountains and risk their lives to make a living” said Ibrahimi, who himself grew up in the Kurdistan region on the Iranian border. “My intention is to follow the young boy on his perilous trip for a full year. But I will also focus on the main protagonist’s dreams and on his family” said the director.
The jury said in a statement; "The main prize goes to a film, with a strong cinematic ambition. It will take us on a ride out of the privileged comfort zone, and give voice to those who no one listens to. In the cold mountains on the border of Iraq, children have to grow up fast. Not many options are left for them. In this no man's land, the best option to make a living is a job as a smuggler, which might send you to prison or to your death on a steep mountainside – or maybe you will earn enough to go back to school. A slice of life that is invisible but relevant to us in the Nordic countries, as we are multi-cultural societies. The creator has a clear message to the world: It is not until you have a place in the media, that you have a place in society. We are sure that the director Hazhir Ibrahimi with the film Kolbar can bring us a heart-wrecking and hopeful story from the snowy mountains, where he himself spent his childhood."
Reacting to his award, the gobsmacked Ibrahimi said: “My whole life has been dependent on opportunities and Nordic Talents is one of the best ever. I promise I will use it the best way possible.”
Nordic Talents’ second award or NOK 50,000 Special Mention Award was handed out to Danish-born director Kerren Lumer-Klabbers and Norwegian writer Emil Wahl for the fiction project WOMAN WALKING.
Lumer-Klabbers and Wahl’s graduation film from the Norwegian Film School Papapa just won Best Norwegian Short Film at the Bergen International Film Festival and was finalist at the Student Academy Awards.
Their fiction project Woman Walking is an absurd drama about a woman who is walking in a field apparently in meaningless pattern. Her family and the local community go crazy in an attempt to find out why.
The jury said in its statement: "The Special Mention goes to a pan-Nordic team that struck us as dynamic, with a creative energy between them. It is a project where an absurd event let us see behind the curtain of a dysfunctional family. The project needs developing, but the unique mix of absurdity and psychological realism, together with the craftsmanship that they both have shown in their graduation film Papapa was so intriguing that the jury has decided to give the Special Mention to director Kerren Lumer-Klabbers and writer Emil Wahl for the project Woman Walking."
Both the Nordic Talents Pitch Prize and Special Mention Prize are development grants from Nordisk Film & TV Fond.
Commenting on this year’s new Nordic voices, multi-award filmmaker Eva Mulvad and co-founder of the established company Danish Documentary said: “With my background, I was of course super happy that a documentary film won the top award. Also, the NOK 250,000 cash prize is very significant for the making of a documentary film and this project will definitely benefit from this development money.”
Mulvad was also pleased to see filmmakers blurring the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction, with each genre nurturing one another. “Quite a few fiction projects were inspired by true events and used documentary tools to build their stories. That was very interesting,” she said.
Seasoned writer Sigurjón Kjartansson, Head of Development at Baltasar Kormákur’s company KVK Studios, felt many projects were “brave”, sometimes touching “inflammable subjects” [teen paedophelia, mental health disorder, rape], but with “strong visual senses”.
NRK’s long-time commissioning editor/exec producer Tone Rønning concurred with her co-jurors: “I was both surprised and felt uplifted by the innovative projects at a very high level, many of which pushed the boundaries between classic storytelling and genres. We even discovered the new terms ‘Playful cinema’ with Danish creative duo Kim Lütze Hjælm and Alex Kristensen for their project The Scavenger, and ‘Cli-fi’ with the climate-oriented sci-fi The Pacific Patch People. I also liked the fact that this project was pitched by a production designer [Lisanne Fransen]. These are also storytellers and it’s an interesting starting point for a project,” said Rønning.
The TV executive also underlined the awards clean sweep from the Norwegian Film School. “After having lagged behind Sweden and Denmark, there has been a significant rise in quality content from Norway. This is our decade,” she claims.
Writer/director Amanda Kernell who attended Nordic Talents 2013 with the idea for her award-winning film Sámi Blood, praised the high quality of many projects, both in form and content. “Many projects were extensions of graduation films or pilots on which they had been working for a long time. As writer/director, I was particularly interested to see the filmmaking process.”
Producer Jussi Rantamäki, CEO at Aamu Film Company who had attended Nordic talents eight years ago, said he saw a big leap forward in quality. “I was surprised by the breath of talents and courage of those rising filmmakers in tackling challenging topics, but still in personal ways that moved me and made me laugh,” he said.
Among regular Nordic Talents attendees, Silje Riise Næss, Feature Film Commissioner at the Danish Film School said: “The [Nordic Talents] programme had it all – format wise, we saw ambitious series, documentaries, mockumentary, animation, hybrids and web series, in addition to fiction in the traditional feature length format. And I think I noticed several projects that could have a potential to speak to children and young people as well as a more mature audience at the same time.”
Commenting on Nordic Talents live event, she added: “I also have to say I really appreciated the way the digital version of Nordic Talents managed to maintain the important element of the live jury. I loved how the interaction between the understanding and knowledgeable jury members and the well-prepared talents shed light on every project, and at the same time made us all lower our shoulders and enjoy the ride.”
The virtual Nordic Talents was followed by Riise Næss and several of her colleagues on a big screen at the Danish Film Institute. “We decided a couple of weeks ago to try to recreate the focus and the good social atmosphere that normally characterises Nordic Talents. So we sat together with our coffee and our no less than 1 meter private space and applauded the coming Nordic film generation. We will surely repeat the exercise next year -if we have to!” she said.
Another long-standing Nordic Talents devotee Helen Ahlsson, Film Commissioner at the Swedish Film Institute said she enjoyed the digital programme, with teaser clips from the graduating talents and good moderating from Nordisk Film & TV Fond’s documentary senior advisor Karolina Lidin. “This is extra important in the virtual space,” she noted.
Stine Bomholt-Hansen, LevelK Acquisition Executive said: “Nordisk Film& TV Fond has once again selected an eclectic mix of projects, so it was catered to everyone’s tastes. I liked the courage some of the projects showed when it came to challenging the traditional themes and there were both very poetic and very anarchistic stories there, showing great creativity and vision. Taking the circumstances into consideration, the pitches were good, but Zoom will never be as good as being there live,” she noted.
For further information on Nordic Talents 2020 CLICK HERE.