A good TV and a few bucks are all film lovers of the US and Anglophone Canada need to visit a Nordic film festival. On 1 May a rare Video on Demand festival is launched, presenting handpicked Scandinavian films available for download until 1 November.
"There's no doubt that Scandinavian film is gaining momentum now." The Nordic Film & TV Foundation initiated this First Annual Scandinavian On Demand Film Festival with globalization funding from the Nordic Council of Ministers. Director Hanne Palmquist has great expectations for the festival concept.
Vote for your favourite
"You're supposed to sit in your living room and have movies brought to you that have been through a selection process – like on a festival. Our hope is that this will create a synergy effect between the films and add weight to each film."
"We're cooperating with the on-demand channel Eurocinema which has a lot experience with European film in the US. At present 36 million households can access the channel. That's quite a lot – considering that the domestic market in the Nordic countries covers 24,5 million citizens. Through the globalization pool we support the marketing which means the films can launch jointly on a greater scale than if we had to hype them individually."
As part of the launch the audience – similar to a festival jury – can give their favourite films and actors a vote and also win prizes. "It could be a trip to Scandinavia," Hanne Palmquist suggests.
The festival opens on 1 May with the first four films, "Limbo" by Norwegian Maria Sødahl, "Suddenly" by Swede Johan Brisinger and two films by Danish director Nikolaj Arcel "Truth About Men" and "King's Game". When the festival ends on 1 November 12 films have been available for download for the discerning North American art house audience.
Hanne Palmquist observes that Nordic film generally carries an aura of quality for US viewers and that the character-driven stories in particular appeal to the American audience.
"There is no doubt that Scandinavian film is gaining momentum now. The Swedish "Let the Right One in" and the Millennium trilogy generated attention. Refn's "Valhalla Rising" and Trier's Antichrist did well on VoD. And especially Susanne Bier's success at the Oscars added thrust to the Nordic wave."
An unexploited potential
Each of the 12 films are 4.99 to 6.99 per download. They are available with English subtitles across all of North America for viewers with cable or satellite – and they can be streamed online.
"Nordic films tend to have unused VoD rights. So we considered how we could utilize this potential," Hanne Palmquist explains. Thus, the first Nordic VoD festival is also intended to be an experiment of sorts where the Nordic Film and TV Foundation tests a new business model.
"We chose the US because it's the most attractive market for VoD. They have extensive technology for downloading films to TV. Denmark is getting there but in the States we can gather valuable experience. A core ambition for us naturally is to ensure income for the selected movies. Since the Nordic Film & TV Foundation covered the launching costs the revenue will go straight to the rights holders. But the festival is also an attempt to gain insight into the market by kickstarting a development already taking form."
Whether the festival will have a second edition, time will tell, Hanne Palmquist says. "We have the resources to arrange another VoD festival in 2012 but we won't decide yet if we'll bet on the North American market. Is it a good way of working with the films in relation to VoD? We won't know until the 1 November."