Festivali            NORDISK PANORAMA - 5 CITIES: AARHUS

Aarhus, Denmark 2011

Recent years have witnessed an explosion of documentary films from the Nordic countries and Nordisk Panorama-five cities festival 2011, hosted in unusually sunlit Aarhus, could boast of yet another selection of high-quality Nordic shorts and docs.

This year's festival selection was highly varied, with vibrant and deeply resonating film works. Films exhibit a heightened awareness of the environmental changes, financial crisis affecting farms in Denmark (e.g. Pig Farm); explore the human curiosity and thirst for (scientific and metaphysical) knowledge when isolated and stranded at oceans' mysterious depths (e.g. Aranda); convey a personal drama in the midst of a historical turmoil of the Egyptian revolution (e.g. 1/2 Revolution); tackle the burning issues of immigration and identity confusion in a documentary genre hybrid (e.g. Imagining Emanuel), make the silenced voices heard after a traumatizing war experience through a perspective of revaluation and reconstruction (e.g. Solace); redefine the role of art that can change the lives of prisoners (e.g. At Night Fly); review a woman's search for freedom and a room of her own through the process of demystification of the famous men in her life (Love always, Carolyn, centred on USA literary cult figures of Carolyn's husband Neal Cassady and her lover Jack Kerouac).

According to the words of the festival director, Karen Rais-Nordentoft, "there are good reasons to celebrate and be proud of such a strong presence, but the position needs to be maintained and supported by continuous and comprehensive promotional efforts".

The festival selection committee, refreshingly, considers "gender issues" of the films presented, but acknowledges some difficulties when deciding upon the authorship status of collaborative film work made up of a gender-mix of producers, directors and on-screen protagonists. Although many films were centred around the female protagonist, most of the films selected were directed by men and "it seems to be a question of what films are produced, rather than who happens to be in the selections committee, as Karen Rais-Nordentoft claims.

In the selection of New Nordic Voices, personal and autobiographical stories predominated, especially in Meeting My Father Kasper Hojhat and Inbetweener, which portray, in an exhibitionist but touching way, the search for the lost biological father or symbolic father figure and ensuing emotional vacuum and a renewed sense of self-identity through a kind of epiphany or a devotion to conceptual art. In an anthropological essayistic and visually experimental piece, Soul Catcher explores the belief system of some aboriginal tribes related to photography and the loss of their souls; the daring debut of Lina Mannheimer's The Contract paints a less ordinary love relationship; Baba, exquisitely directed by Anna Eborn, gives us a realistic glimpse of those less visible lives, concretely set in Ukraine, but resonating with universal dimensions.

This year's FEDEORA prize was awarded to How to Pick Berries, directed by Elina Talvensaari, a superbly mastered visual poem, tackling the social issues of immigration and labour.

Fedeora jury:
Blagoja Kunovski
Steffen Moestrup
Maja Bogojevic



INTERVIEW: Anna Eborn, Baba
I was looking at what was there

Anna Eborn, born in 1983, is an artist and autodidactic filmmaker from Sweden, working and producing her films in Denmark. She studied Film and Photography in Malmö, Sweden and Human Geography at the University of Gothland, Sweden. She has worked as assistant director for Johan Melin's Profetia and Preludium, before starting to make hew own authorial film projects. Baba is her latest completed documentary film, screened at Gothenburg International Film Festival 2011 and Nordisk Panorama 2011 .

Indian Summer, short doc/fiction. In production 2011
Song for Rhoda, documentary. In production 2012
BABA, 30 min documentary, 2010
Relative Wind, short documentary, 2009
The Brazilian, short fiction, 2009
Take my Sex Away short documentary, 2008
Wildwind, short fiction, 2007


CL: When did you first hear of this community of Swedish women in Ukraine? Why did you want to make a film about them?
I came across the small village of Gammalsvenskby or Zmiivka, while I was developing another project in Ukraine. After some research, I found an old man in Stockholm who was born in the village and I went to his home to meet him. He had not been in the village since just after the fall of the iron curtain. He wrote down ten names of people whom he thought were still alive, and gave me directions on how to make the seven hour drive from Odessa. The women I encountered in the village were extraordinary and beautiful, everyone in their own special way. I knew right when I met them, that there was a film to be made there.

CL: How long did it take to shoot the film?
We shot the film for 10 days.

CL: How much material did you film?
Altogether I think we shot about 35 hours of footage. On top of that, I made a lot of external sound recording. I wanted only the sounds from this place, so that played an important part. No extra sound should enter the mix. Before filming I spent a week doing research in the village, and I had about a month to prepare for shooting when I came back home from research.

CL: How did you feel when you first came in touch with this secluded community? Do these women feel isolated, lonely, abandoned...?
Every political leader ruling Ukraine for the last couple of decades has paid little attention to this rural area. These women were born into a working class and they have stayed in it for their whole life. Many of the women ended up working at concentration camps in Germany. Lida, my main character, was directly sent to Siberia after the 2 World War ended. She was working on camps for 9 years of her youth. It was as if I could feel it sometimes, or see traces of their lives in their eyes. But more direct you can tell from the way their bodies are built. They are short, strong women with thick skin. I think clinging on to the Swedish language was a mental way of surviving and in doing that, they kept strong. The contact with Sweden has been very brief, and during the Stalin years, no contact was possible, so their existence has been known to only a few.

CL: You choose to convey to the audience a fragment of "ordinary" life of several elderly people, mostly women. An amazingly varied series of characters are (re)presented. The camera nuances them with sophistication: some seem to be resigned with their situation, some are nostalgic, some are playful and even display a great sense of humour (in spite of the mediocre conditions in which they live), others are bitter, angry, cynical...
The absurd presence of the fading Swedish language in this, otherwise so Russian world, was extraordinary to me and it was in a sense, also fragmental and bore traces from the past. I felt the urge to show different sides of the community. The characters I choose are those with whom I could feel their character, those who moved me emotionally. I choose to record longer takes and wait and insist on the scene I wanted. So while editing, I was looking at the scenes inside these longer takes and situations captured, which showed me a kind of truth and had a direct, honest and vivid approach. The rhythm of the film comes from the staggering life in the village. It was the village which set the rhythm for the film. I felt it could not be otherwise. And the humour was present, and what was present was what I intended on capturing. I was looking at what was there.

CL: The relationships in this small community are not always easy, sometimes there are sharp confrontations...
I was constantly looking at what was going on in the village, and these small discussions about who drank the last vodka, or when the women rides the bus to church and are afraid of God and natures interference with the upcoming elections, well this was the villagers' own subjects and their daily worries, or quarrels. Due to the "low" built up drama in my film, I was paying attention to these kinds of scenes. The use of gossip and tales creates small examples of how we talk a lot about others but at the same time refer back to ourselves. Gossip might be a way for us to understand our own lives in contrast to others. Another reason for it being in the film is that it well describes the small community.


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