By Scandinavia On My Mind
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Four years on and Australia’s love affair with Scandinavia shows no signs of slowing down.

Next month, the annual Scandinavian Film Festival returns. We spoke to director, Elysia Zeccola, who gives us a taste of what audiences can expect.

How has the Scandinavian Film Festival grown since it first began in Australia?

When I curated the first line-up four years ago in 2014 I was trying to include a diverse selection of films from each of the five Nordic countries represented, I wanted these amazing films to be seen on the big screen. I was blown away by the reaction –over 20,000 people came in that first year. Last year we attracted over 30,000 film lovers. The festival is growing each year as people discover more and more what great films this region makes.

Australia and Scandinavia could not be further apart geographically. What is it about these films that are so appealing to Australian audiences?

We have a huge appetite for Nordic noir thanks to all the gripping TV series that have introduced us to this genre with its dark story lines often set against bleak Nordic backdrops, with well-drawn characters and direct no-nonsense dialogue. They don’t mince their words! The comedies also have a uniquely Scandi-feel, I think Australians just get the Scandi droll, deadpan humour. The stunning settings are also appealing, Icelandic films in particular have a very strong sense of place and I think we are attracted to the exotic-ness of the landscapes.

What are the highlights of this year’s festival? Is there any recurring theme to the films?

Opening night: The Other Side of Hope.

Opening night: The Other Side of Hope.

Migration, integration, prejudice and the refugee crisis are recurring themes this year. We are opening with Aki Kaurismäki’s funny and touching tragicomedy, The Other Side of Hope,  about a handsome Syrian refugee who arrives in Finland and faces some highs and lows before being befriended by a compassionate Helsinki restaurateur. Our closing night selection is A Hustler’s Diary, about a Turkish-Swede from the ‘burbs who is more than just your average street criminal. Another festival highlight is Sami Blood, which explores the removal of indigenous Sámi children from their parents to be re-educated in boarding schools, which echoes Australia’s own dark history.

Nordic noir fans won’t be disappointed with A Conspiracy of Faith, the follow up to The Keeper of Lost Causes and The Absent One. This is Jussi Adler-Olsen’s best adaptation yet and is a must-see highlight for fans of Scandi noir. I also highly recommend Darkland, an exhilarating revenge thriller starring Dar Salim. And for something funny (in a dark Scandi way of course!) Small Town Killers is outrageous and hilarious, it follows two husbands who hire a hitman to kill their wives, but the tables are turned on them.

Making a killing: Small Town Killers.

Making a killing: Danish comedy, Small Town Killers.

The Scandinavian Film Festival runs from 11 July to 6 August in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Hobart.

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