Venice Days, the Venice Film Festival's independent section modelled on Cannes' prestigious annex festival Directors' Fortnight, has unveiled its 2016 lineup which includes the world premieres of two Danish-produced titles: the drama "Heartstone" by Icelandic director Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson and, as Venice Days' opening film, the feature documentary "The War Show" by Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon.
"Heartstone," developed through the Cannes Festival's Résidence Programme, is Gudmundsson's feature debut. The film is a coming-of-age drama set in a remote fishing village and portraying the journey of friendship and love that two boys, Thor and Christian, go through as one tries to win the heart of a girl while the other discovers new feelings toward his best friend.
Newcomers Baldur Einarsson and Blær Hinriksson play the two friends, and the cast also includes Søren Malling, who has gathered international attention for his roles in the series "The Killing" and "Borgen" and films such as "The Hijacking" and "Men & Chicken."
Gudmundsson, a graduate from the Icelandic Art Academy, received a Special Mention at Cannes for his short film "Whale Valley," also nominated for a European Film Award. The director took home a string of prizes for his 2014 short film "Ártún."
"Heartstone" is written by Gudmundsson, and Jesper Morthorst and Lise Orheim Stender are producing for SF Film Production, in a close co-production setup with Anton Mani Svansson of Icelandic company Join Motion Pictures. The film is backed by the Icelandic Film Center and the Danish Film Institute.
The War Show
Selected as the opening film of Venice Days is Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon's documentary "The War Show."
In 2011, Syrian radio DJ Obaidah Zytoon and her friends are swept into the Syrian uprising. They live in a circle of artists and activists and begin to film their lives as they take to the streets in rallies against President Assad. But as the country spirals into a bloody civil war, their friendships are tested by imprisonment, death and violence. Zytoon leaves Damascus and travels to her hometown Zabadani, the centre of rebellion in Homs, and to northern Syria where she witnesses the rise of extremism. A highly personal road movie, "The War Show" tracks the destiny of Syria as we follow a group of friends whose lives and dreams turn into nightmares as their country descends into chaos.
Andreas Dalsgaard, who graduated as fiction film director from the National Film School of Denmark in 2009, debuted as documentary director with "Afghan Muscles" (2007), winner of the Best Director prize at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles, and has since released "Bogota Change" (2009), "The Human Scale" (2012), the doc-fiction "Travelling with Mr. T" (2012) and "Life is Sacred" (2015).
"The War Show" is scripted by Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon, with Miriam Nørgaard, Alaa Hassan and Ronnie Fridthjof producing for Fridthjof Film. The film is made in collaboration with Dharmafilm and co-produced with Oktober Oy of Finland, and it has received funding from the Danish Film Institute.
Also selected for Venice Days are two feature films involving Danish co-producers, "Quit Staring at My Plate" (Croatia-Denmark) directed by Hana Jusic and co-produced by Beofilm, and "Sami Blood" (Sweden-Denmark-Norway) by Amanda Kernell with Nordisk Film on board.