New talent award at CPH PIX

CPH PIX. Denmark's largest feature film festival is gearing up for a fortnight of films, events and talks. A new award this year celebrates Danish director talents. We introduce the nominees for the Politiken Talent Prize aimed at first-time directors, whose films range wide and far.

A brand new animation series, handpicked American indie films, a Leos Carax masterclass, a women-only live screenplay reading and much more. These are but a few of the highlights at CPH PIX, Denmark's largest feature film festival, starting 27 September.

The festival has always had a focus on emerging talents, reflected in its main competition, the New Talent Grand PIX prize, which features ten films by debuting directors. 

This year, the focus is reinforced with a new award, the Politiken Talent Prize for first-time Danish filmmakers, founded in partnership with the Politiken daily. The award is established "to honour and celebrate outstanding new filmmakers who will chart the future course of Danish cinema." The prize, which consists of promotional aid, will be awarded at the official ceremony on 6 October.

Here is an introduction to the six films, all created on a tight concept and audio-visual style consciousness, and all made with support from the Danish Film Institute’s New Danish Screen talent development programme.

Several have already premiered, or will be premiering, at major international festivals.

Sticks & Stones, Martin Skovbjerg Jensen

Martin Skovbjerg Jensen’s 'Brakland' is a dark, intense teen film about the burgeoning friendship between two high-school outsiders – Simon, recently arrived from Copenhagen to the small town of Vesterby, and Bjarke, the local alpha male – who dare each other to step over the line.

Skovbjerg Jensen was behind 'Anton 90', a DR3 POV web series lauded for its fresh take on teen shows. The first-time director is also a member of the electronic music trio Av Av Av, which provided the film’s soundtrack. Christian Gamst Miller-Harris wrote the script, and the film is produced by Eva Jakobsen, Katrin Pors and Mikkel Jersin for Snowglobe.

'Brakland' has been selected for the BFI London Film Festival and the Nouveau Cinema festival in Montreal, both in October.

Christian IV, Kasper Kalle

Kasper Kalle stands apart from his peers by plunging into period drama. But his film’s dynamic editing, intimate spaces and cutting-edge soundtrack are a far cry from the classic period film. Like this year’s other directorial debuts, 'Den sidste rejse' had a tight concept and is set in a single location: a horse-drawn carriage. 

We follow Christian IV on his final journey to Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen, where he wishes to die. But first he is keen to make his ex-wife, Kirsten Munk, admit her sins, and he summons her to his carriage. Cutting between present and past, the film tells the story of their tempestuous marriage through their carriage rides together. Kirsten Munk is played by mother and daughter actors Karen-Lise Mynster and Rosalinde Mynster, while Christian IV is played by Rudi Køhnke and Baard Owe, in his final role. Trine Appel and Kasper Kalle wrote the script, and the film is produced by Claudia Saginario for Good Company Films.

The film is world premiering at CPH PIX.

Cutterhead, Rasmus Kloster-Bro

'Cutterhead' was shot at a construction site for the Copenhagen Metro, as we follow an accident playing out in real time. Rie, a PR officer, is tracking the Eastern European tunnel workers to research an article about the successful European partnership behind the project. Just as they are showing her the boring machine’s enormous cutterhead, disaster strikes, trapping her in a pressure chamber with two tunnel workers, Ivo, a Croatian, and Bharan, an Eritrean. Now, the international partnership is truly put to the test.

'Cutterhead' uses the claustrophobic location as a staging point for a meeting of three people with different worldviews, who have to put their lives in each other’s hands to survive. Rasmus Kloster-Bro wrote the script in collaboration with Mikkel Bak Sørensen, and the film is produced by Amalie Lyngbo Quist for Beo Starling.

World premiering in July at the Swiss genre film festival Neuchâtel Fantastic, the film later screened at several other European genre festivals. This October, it is screening at the festivals in Montreal and Busan.

Holiday, Isabella Eklöf

On a highly topical note, Isabella Eklöf looks at the unequal, complex power dynamics between men and women. A young, seemingly naive woman, Sascha, is visiting her older, criminal lover, Michael, in a Danish expat colony on the Turkish Riviera. Michael lavishes her with expensive dinners, drinks and diamonds. But in return he treats her like a doormat, violently and sexually assaulting her, which the film presents with clinical detachment in extended tableaux.

Starring Victoria Carmen Sonne and Lai Yde, the film caused a stir at its world premiere at Sundance in January, because of its raw depiction of rape and its controversial story about a passive woman who returns to her abuser on her own volition. Already a winner of several supporting actress awards, Sonne shines in her first starring role as hard-to-read Sascha. The script is written by Johanne Algren and Isabella Eklöf, and produced by David B. Sørensen for Apparatur.

Since Sundance, 'Holiday' has screened at a number of international festivals, including in Gothenburg, Istanbul, Moscow, Sydney and Haugesund. The film won an award at September's Austin Fantastic Fest and is moving on to the festivals in Montreal and London in October.

Lifeboat, Josefine Kirkeskov

Josefine Kirkeskov’s psychological drama on the topical theme of refugees is another film set in a claustrophobic location with no means of escape, in this case a lifeboat. Iben and her boyfriend are on a romantic sailing trip in the Greek islands, when they rescue a Syrian refugee woman from the sea. Their new passenger, a source of tension, forces Iben to confront her past. The boat becomes a pressure cooker, where no one can trust anyone else. But the women, each with their own skeletons in the closet, have more in common than they think. 

'Lifeboat' is made by an all-woman creative team, with Nanna Westh as co-writer, Catherine Pattinama Coleman as DP and Rebekka Lønkvist as editor. The film is produced by Mikkel Jersin, Eva Jakobsen, and Katrin Pors for Snowglobe.

'Lifeboat' is having its world premiere at CPH PIX.

Neon Heart, Laurits Flensted-Jensen

Victoria Carmen Sonne also has a central role in 'Neon Heart', an ensemble film about love and regret. In fragments of present and past, the film tells the story of three lost souls whose destinies are tragically intertwined. Laura (Sonne) has recently returned to Denmark after a short-lived porn career in the US. Her ex, Niklas (Niklas Herskind), a nurse’s aide for two men with Down syndrome, slowly starts bending the rules. Meanwhile his younger brother, Frederik (Noah Skovgaard Skands), is planning a robbery to be admitted into a gang. 

'Neon Heart' is written and directed by Laurits Flensted-Jensen and produced by Julie Friis Walenciak for Walenciak Film.

It recently world-premiered in the San Sebastian Film Festival’s prestigious New Directors sidebar.