On a Saturday in late January 2012, Mads Matthiesen was awarded Sundance’s Best Director award in the World Cinema Dramatic competition for his debut feature Teddy Bear. That’s more or less how the year in festivals began for Danish features – as well as for Matthiesen’s film about the hulk-ish bodybuilder Dennis which reaped eight awards in 2012.
Another high achiever was Tobias Lindholm’s A Hijacking, winning nine awards since its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September. This story of modern-day piracy shows Lindholm’s sure sense of realism in what is only his second feature.
The director, though, is already an experienced screenwriter. He and his writing partner, Thomas Vinterberg, scripted one of the year’s biggest festival hits, The Hunt, which took home three awards at Cannes, including one to Mads Mikkelsen for best actor. The film has garnered 14 awards to date, including a European Film Award (and an additional four nominations) to Vinterberg and Lindholm for their script about a kindergarten teacher who is the victim of a witch-hunt in a small town.
Mikkelsen also plays the lead in Nikolaj Arcel’s A Royal Affair which took home two Silver Bears at the Berlinale last year, one to Mikkel Boe Følsgaard (Shooting Star 2013) for best actor, the other to co-writers Rasmus Heisterberg and Nikolaj Arcel. The film was nominated for two awards at the European Film Awards and is currently contending for an Academy Award.
The Berlinale also welcomed Simon Staho’s Love Is in the Air. “We love the film’s breathtaking style,” Generation director Maryann Redpath said. Academy Award winner Susanne Bier’s Love Is All You Need met with a warm reception at its world premiere in Venice. Bier’s romantic drama was introduced to a North American audience at the Toronto Film Festival which presented a total of five Danish films in its line-up.
In early fall, Katrine Wiedemann’s second film, A Caretaker’s Tale, enjoyed its world premiere at the festival in San Sebastian.
The year in documentaries also kicked off at Sundance. Lise Birk Pedersen’s Putin’s Kiss, about a pro-Putin youth organisation, won the Best Cinematography Award (Lars Skree).
Selected for Sundance were also Mads Brügger’s exposé of African diplomacy, The Ambassador, and Omar Shargawi’s eyewitness account from Cairo, ½ Revolution, which later won the main award at the Aljazeera Film Festival in Qatar.
In the fall, The Act of Killing attracted a lot of attention at Telluride and Toronto and later won an award at Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX festival. Joshua Oppenheimer’s disturbing portrait of Indonesian gangsters who took part in the 1965-66 genocide is screening at the Berlinale 2013.
Danish films are usually amply represented at IDFA Amsterdam, and last year was no exception. Nine titles screened in the 25th anniversary edition of the world’s most important documentary film festival: My Afghanistan by Nagieb Khaja, Solar Mamas by Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief, A Normal Life by Mikala Krogh, Dance for Me by Katrine Philp, Mercy Mercy – A Portrait of a True Adoption by Katrine W. Kjær, The Ghost of Piramida by Andreas Koefoed, The Record Breaker by Brian McGinn, Free the Mind by Phie Ambo, and Stealing Africa by Christoffer Guldbrandsen.
In Denmark, Katrine Kjær’s unhappy story about international adoption became the most seen and most debated film in 2012, reaching 1.2 million television viewers (a fifth of the population) and providing newspaper fodder for more than two weeks.