I consider myself to be a good Canadian girl. Minus 40 weather be damned- I’ve got places to go and people to see. Twenty articles of clothing later I’m heading out into the eyelash-freezing, forehead numbing, unsightly snot-inducing wind and snow. We’re Canadians-we laugh in the face of winter’s harsh blows! We’re united in refusing to be defeated by the season! I take pride as an Ottawain to know that every year people flock from all over to be “one of us” to participate in celebrating all that winter has to offer in the form of Winterlude.
Still… I’m torn. I know full well that after a few hours I’ll be yearning with every wool-entombed fibre of my being for a warm place to cozy up and restore the feeling in my toes: but I’ll be damned if I let winter force me to skip the festivities. What’s a girl to do?
Hallelujah, the solution to my problem: Bright Nights: The 4th Baltic-Nordic Film Festival.
Just down the road from the main festival grounds, over at the Library and Archives on Wellington, this Winterlude-related event boasts an impressive showcase of films from our fellow northern nations. (Bonus: it’s held in a heated space!)
Curated by the Canadian Film Institute in close collaboration with the Embassies of the Baltic and Nordic nations, Bright Nights boasts a wide range of films — documentary, drama, comedy, family, historical — selected to showcase the exceptional talent in Baltic and Nordic cinema.
It’s a process that CFI Director Tom McSorley and Progammer Jerrett Zaroski take very seriously. The films they present need to embody the spirit of these national cinemas while also appealing to the sensibilities of a Canadian audience: not necessarily an easy task.
While it would perhaps be easier to seek out films that predominately focus on the long-held image of Canadian identity as “man (woman) vs. the wild” there are much deeper veins that Bright Nights has chosen to explore.
As Zaroski points out “films of these regions can often have themes and tones that are particularly familiar to Canadian audiences, and found in Canadian filmmaking… maybe it’s something that comes with climate. Dark tones, political relevance, existential conflicts of self, and dry or surreal humour are quite common.”
Definitely heavier fare than some other Winterlude activities such as, say, tobogganing…but more than worth the quick walk down Wellington. Not to mention this could be your one-and-only chance to see these productions. All films screened at Bright Nights will be premieres to Ottawa, and due to the nature of foreign-film distribution they may never be seen here again. So don’t miss it!
The festival features films from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Iceland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Norway:
Veregrupp (Blood Type) Dir. Leeni Linna (In Estonian, with English sub-titles)
This is an intense, philosophical documentary about professional Estonian soldiers in the Afghan war. A provocative film about the warrior mentality and spirit, as well as the consequences of war itself, Blood Type probes beneath the surface of this all too common geopolitical phenomenon. Opening night reception to follow!
NOTE: Director Leeni Linna will attend the screening to introduce and discuss her film.
Inn i mørket (Into the Dark) Dir. Thomas Wangsmo (Norwegian, with English sub-titles)
On a dark winter evening, driving home with his family, Jan accidentally runs over his neighbours’ eight year-old son. As time passes, the immediate sorrow and disbelief of the boy’s father starts to give way to suspicion. Brilliantly acted and with a tautly constructed script, Into the Dark is a powerful human drama.
Narcizas (Narcissus) Dir. Dovil? Gasi?nait? (Lithuanian, with English sub-titles)
The film revolves around Theodore, a talented musician with a flourishing career. He seems to have everything, but is not happy. Although he causes a lot of trouble to friends and relatives they can’t resist to his narcissistic charm. An intriguing character study bolstered by remarkable music, Narcissus is an examination of the nature of human happiness.
Tavarataivas (My Stuff) Dir. Petri Luukkainen (Finnish, with English sub-titles)
In the midst of an existential crisis following a recent relationship break-up, documentary filmmaker Petri Luukkainen begins his experiment: he locks away all his possessions in storage, allowing himself to retrieve only one item per day. Naked at midnight on the first day, Petri has ahead of him 365 days of creative living. A wryly original and eccentric approach to self-help, Finnish-style. An amusing and insightful must-see for anyone who has too many possessions.
Mammu, es tevi m?lu (Mother, I Love You) Dir. J?nis Nords (Latvian, with English sub-titles)
Twelve year-old Raimonds lives in an ordinary Riga high-rise apartment with his mother and spends most of his free time zooming around on his kick-scooter or hanging out his friend, Peteris. Thanks to Peteris’s mother’s work as a cleaning lady, the two have access to an unoccupied furnished apartment which they begin to frequent. An excellent, thoughtful drama about childhood’s end, Nords’ debut feature film captured the Grand Prize of the International Jury in the Generation section of the 2013 Berlin Film Festival.
Moonrider Dir. Daniel Dencik (Danish, with English sub-titles)
A coming-of-age story about the bike rider Rasmus Quaade which follows Rasmus’ struggle to become a professional rider. Rasmus’ constant reflections on life and death become his biggest obstacle in reaching his goal of becoming a World Champion. Shot on Super8 and raw helmet-cam, Moonrider is a compelling documentary about the struggle for confidence by a fascinating young man.
Djúpið (The Deep) Dir. Baltasar Kormákur (Icelandic, with English sub-titles)
Selected as the Icelandic entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards, acclaimed director Kormákur’s (101 Reykjavik, Contraband), incredible film is based on the true 1984 story of a young fisherman. The story focuses on Gudlaugur (Gulli) Fridthorsson, who survived for six hours in the freezing North Atlantic after his trawler capsized- throwing the crew into the freezing North Atlantic and leaving Gulli alone, floating in the freezing waters.
Dom över död man (The Last Sentence) Dir. Jan Troell (Swedish, with English sub-titles)
From legendary Swedish filmmaker Jan Troell comes an exquisitely rendered historical drama based on the life of journalist Torgny Segerstedt, who alerted the Swedish public to the threat of Fascism in the 1930s. Set between 1933 and 1945, the film focuses on the life and career of Segerstedt, a Swedish newspaper editor who was a prominent (and courageous) critic of Hitler and the Nazis during a period when the Swedish government and monarch were intent on maintaining Sweden’s neutrality and avoiding tensions with Germany.
Bright Nights: The 4th Baltic-Nordic Film Festival runs from Saturday February 1st 2014- Wednesday February 12th in the Auditorium of Library and Archives Canada (395 Wellington Street). View the official trailer:
Tickets can be purchased at the box office: open outside the Auditorium half an hour before screening time. Cost/screening is $12.00 for non-members; $8.00 for CFI Members, seniors (65+) and students. Festival passes for all 8 films are also available: $50.00 for non-member and $40.00 for CFI Members. Please note: cash only.