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August 23, 2017
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Masterful shots emerge from four Scandinavian gems at Pantalla Pinamar

A scene from Amanda Kernell’s powerful coming-of-age drama Sami Blood, featured at Pantalla Pinamar.
A scene from Amanda Kernell’s powerful coming-of-age drama Sami Blood, featured at Pantalla Pinamar.
A scene from Amanda Kernell’s powerful coming-of-age drama Sami Blood, featured at Pantalla Pinamar.
By Esteban Colombet
For the Herald
The seaside movie treat of
Pantalla Pinamar, which is traditionally billed as an Argentine-European film encounter, featured among the foreign guests of its 13th edition Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway in a section called “Last Nordic Postcards.”
Four films were screened this week in Pinamar under this label, all of them stirring in their own right, each taking to their particular topics with different degrees of adeptness.
One of the most powerful such “postcards” comes from young director Amanda Kernell’s 2016 debut feature Sami Blood (“Same blood”), a coming-of-age drama which delves straight into 1930s Sweden’s discrimination of the Sami people. The film premiered in Venice, where it won the Europa Cinemas Label Award and the Fedeora Award for Best Debut Director last year.
Writer/director Kernell drew inspiration from the story of her own grandmother, which lends Sami Blood a particular sense of authenticity and depth. The film focuses on Elle Marja, a 14-year-old Sami girl who grows up in a family of reindeer-herders in Lapland, where — given the widespread discrimination faced by her people — she dreams of escaping her narrow existence and rising above her station by studying in Uppsala.
While her teacher admittedly sees the girl as one of her best students, Elle Marja is submitted to hair-raising humiliation due to her ethnicity: in one of the movie’s most petrifying scenes, state inspectors measure her body with different instruments and take nude photographs to make sure she’s apt for schooling. It’s what the Swedish system typically subjected the Sami population to in those times and the director doesn’t under- or over-dramatise this episode.
Kernell portrays the young girl’s endeavour with powerful insight, using mostly natural light and without lingering on the horrific shades of the story. But Elle Marja’s struggle to fight her humble beginnings in life is not reduced at the mere cost of said struggle: the path of self-betterment will not drive her to be better but will eventually drive her away from her roots, as the assimilation into the culture she chooses will mean the near annihilation of the identity with which she was born. Her struggle to run away from one into the other is replicated throughout the film, and, as Kernell implies, throughout her life.

Harrowing
history lessons
Another harrowing history lesson comes from Denmark this time, from Martin Zandvliet’s wartime drama and Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee Land of Mine (Under Sandet), a 2015 feature inspired by real events: the German POWs sent to clear mines in Denmark after World War II. According to historic records, some 2,000 German soldiers are believed to have been forced to remove mines and nearly half of them lost their lives or limbs, while many were only teenagers.
For his third fiction film, the Danish writer-director has taken on a controversial and morally divisive chapter in Denmark’s postwar history. According to the British authorities, Denmark’s actions were tantamount to war crimes: the Geneva Convention of 1929 banned the use of POWs in dangerous activities. But since the prisoners had allegedly “voluntarily surrendered to the enemy,” the law could be bypassed.
Land of Mine brings this historic episode into focus through the story of 14 teenagers who are hastily trained to disarm anti-personnel mines before being driven to a beach for three months to work on removing real mines from the war. The man in charge is so driven by bitterness for the Germans after five years of occupation that he has no qualms about the inhuman conditions that the prisoners are facing, the food shortages or the young boys risking their lives over past grievances.
Zandvliet plays with the escalating tensions building from contrast between the idyllic setting and the youthful beauty of the prisoners and the constant promise of death and mutilation lurking under the bright white sand.

Contemporary
approaches
More contemporary approaches come in the other two films included in the “Last Nordic Postcards” selection.
Two Nights Till The Morning (“2 yötä aamuun”), by Finnish director Mikko Kuparinen, offers a new twist on the already successful story of strangers coming together in a foreign country in Europe and discovering each other over a short period of time.
The film stars Marie-Josée Croze of The Barbarian Invasions fame and Mikko Nousiainen as a French architect and a Finnish DJ meeting at a hotel bar in Vilnius, Lithuania, during a layover. Their connection develops slowly as the French workaholic pretends to not understand or speak any English and the laid-back Finn manages to work his way around her elusiveness. But their one-night stand takes an unexpected turn as a volcanic ash cloud grounds all flights and she is left with the choice of spending another night with the man she just ditched or battle it out alone — and without a room, after having checked out before hearing the news about the ash cloud.
As the pretence comes undone, the natural and engaging conversation reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise emerges and the two strangers begin to discover each other through refreshing revelations.
In Late Summer (“Sensommer”), by self-taught Norwegian filmmaker Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken (born 1989), an elderly author losing her battle with cancer secludes herself in the French countryside when a young couple on vacation intrudes on her thoughtfully planned swan song. While she unwillingly starts to connect with the young people, who are taking a trip while awaiting the arrival of their first child, the olde radual separation from life are torn apart by youthful desires, the sense of seclusion turns into a dangerous power struggle with haunting outcomes.                                             w
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