Mads Brügger and May el-Toukhy selected for Sundance

FESTIVAL. May el-Toukhy's drama 'Queen of Hearts' and Mads Brügger's documentary 'Cold Case Hammarskjöld' are making their world premiere in the international competitions at the Sundance Film Festival. The 2019 edition in January marks Brügger's third time in competition.

Two Danish films will be part of the next line-up for the Sundance Film Festival, which announced Wednesday 28 November the greater part of its feature-length film selection for the 2019 edition, running 24 January – 3 February. 

May el-Toukhys psychological drama 'Queen of Hearts', with Trine Dyrholm in the lead, is selected for the World Cinema Dramatic Competition as one of twelve international titles from emerging talents. At the most recent festival in January, Gustav Möller's 'The Guilty' and Isabella Eklöf's 'Holiday' were invited to the same competition, with Möller's thriller taking home the Audience Award.

In competition for the third time at Sundance is director Mads Brügger, whose 'Cold Case Hammarskjöld' about the death of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld is selected for the World Cinema Documentary Competition, vying for the title as best non-fiction feature among the twelve films in the line-up. Brügger has been in the same competition twice before, winning the Grand Jury Prize in 2010 for 'The Red Chapel'.

'Queen of Hearts' and 'Cold Case Hammarskjöld', both produced with support from the Danish Film Institute's Commissioner Scheme, will be celebrating their world premiere at Sundance.    

The Sundance Film Festival launched its first edition in 1985 and is based on founder Robert Redford's ambition to promote groundbreaking cinematic narratives. The festival in Park City, Utah, is considered to be one of the most important platforms for European art cinema in North America.

Queen of Hearts

In May el-Toukhy's second feature film, 'Queen of Hearts', prominent Danish actress Trine Dyrholm plays the lead as Anne, who runs a successful law firm specialized in cases involving children and youth. She is known for her uncompromising approach to her work. She is happily married to Peter, with whom she has twin daughters, but the family's life is stirred when Gustav, Peter's reckless teenage son from a previous marriage, moves in with them. While Peter has a hard time reconnecting with his long-lost son, Anne is used to handling difficult youngsters in her job and finds a way to establish a bond with Gustav. Gradually their relationship evolves, and when Anne seduces Gustav, she jeopardizes both her career and her family. Soon she finds herself drawn towards a choice with unimaginable consequences.

The script is written by Maren Louise Käehne in collaboration with el-Toukhy, the two continuing their collaboration from the director's feature debut, 'Long Story Short', for which they won a national Bodil Award for best script. Käehne has written several episodes for the television series 'Borgen' and 'The Bridge', and her latest feature film credit was for Ali Abbasi's 'Shelley'.

Trine Dyrholm's most recent credits include the title role in 'Nico, 1988' and Thomas Vinterberg's 'The Commune', for which she won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Festival.

Additional actors include Gustav Lindh as stepson Gustav and Magnus Krepper as Anne's husband Peter.

'Queen of Hearts' is produced by Caroline Blanco and René Ezra for Nordisk Film. Trustnordisk is handling international sales. The Danish premiere is set for 28 March 2019.

Cold-Case-Hammarskjold_foto-Tore-Vollan
The selection of 'Cold Case Hammarskjöld' marks Mads Brügger's third entry into Sundance competition. Foto: Tore Vollan

Cold Case Hammarskjöld

In 'Cold Case Hammarskjöld', a political thriller documentary, director Mads Brügger and Swedish investigator Göran Björkdahl attempt to clarify the possible assassination of Dag Hammarskjöld. Together, they return to the place in Africa, where the UN Secretary-General lost his life in a mysterious plane crash in 1961. In Zambia, Congo and South Africa, however, the two men encounter traces of evil and cruelty that exceed their wildest imagination.

In 2010, Brügger's 'The Red Chapel' won the Grand Jury Prize in Sundance's World Cinema Documentary Competition. In 2012, 'The Ambassador' also screened in competition. Brügger's most recent title, his fiction debut 'The Saint Bernard Syndicate' from 2018, was awarded at the Tribeca Film Festival.

'Cold Case Hammarskjöld' is written by Brügger, and the film is produced by Peter Engel for Wingman Media. DR Sales is handling international distribution. A national release date is not yet scheduled.

More about Sundance and Danish films

The Sundance Film Festival will be making more lineup announcements over the following weeks. See more at sundance.org.

Danish films have previously won three awards in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, which ran for the first time in 2005. That year, Susanne Bier received the audience award for 'Brothers.' In 2012, Mads Matthiesen won the best directing award with 'Teddy Bear'. Most recently, at the 2018 edition, Gustav Möller took home the Audience Award for 'The Guilty'. 

Three Danish documentary films have received the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Documentary Competition: Eva Mulvad's 'Enemies of Happiness' in 2007, Mads Brügger's 'The Red Chapel' in 2010 and Feras Fayyad's 'Last Men in Aleppo' in 2017. In addition, Lise Birk Pedersen's 'Putin's Kiss' and Anders Østergaard's 'Burma VJ' have also been awarded in the category.

See overview of Danish films at Sundance over the years