A new Nordic wave is sweeping the Croisette

With three Scandinavian directors vying for the Palme d’Or, a new generation of filmmakers is making its mark on the Cannes scene.

After Ingmar Bergman and Lars von Trier, a new generation of Scandinavian filmmakers, sometimes with a double culture, imposes itself on the front of the stage, with no less than three directors in the running for the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year.

Swede Ruben Östlund, 2017 Palme d’Or for The Squareis back on Saturday with Without filter . His compatriot Tarik Saleh (his film is presented on Friday) and the Dane Ali Abbasi, whose films take place for one in the Egypt of his father and for the other in the Iran of his childhood, are for the first times in competition. For Claus Christensen, editor-in-chief of the specialist journal ekkoNordic cinema, and particularly Swedish and Danish productions, have in commonpushing the limits of cinematic languageone of the reasons for their appeal. “There is both this mission of entertainment but also sometimes to challenge the public“, he explains to AFP. In 2018, Ali Abbasi, archetype of Danish auteur cinema, won the Un certain regard prize at Cannes with Border (Grans)a fantastic tale about a deformed customs officer.

At the time, the current 40-year-old already had plans to make Mashhad Nights. Filmed in Jordan, because the conditions of filming in Iran prevented complete creative freedom, her third opus follows a journalist investigating a serial killer in an Iranian holy city. A work apparently very far from the previous one. “You cannot catalog it. When you think you’ve grabbed it, it changes shape and does something else“Summarizes its producer Jacob Jarek. Just before the Croisette, he directed episodes of a series for HBO based on a successful video game, The Last of Usproof of the variety of his cinematic interests and the flexibility of his generation.

Perspectives from elsewhere

For Tarik Saleh, born in Stockholm fifty years ago from a Swedish mother and an Egyptian father, multiculturalism is a crucial component of his cinematographic work, as for Francis Ford Coppola and Milos Forman. Being a second-generation immigrant gave him the necessary perspective to unfold the story of Boy from Heaven. “You are both inside and outside, and it’s kind of the role of the director (…) to see both the similarities and the differences“. Being an outsider was also essential for the making of the film, for which his Egyptian colleagues would have been “thrown in jail“, he explains to AFP. Filmed in Arabic, like his hit thriller Confidential Cairo Award-winning at Sundance in 2017, the thriller follows a poor boy who gets a scholarship to the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo and finds himself embroiled in a political drama with religious overtones.

Very eager not to be pigeonholed, Ali Abbasi, from the Iranian upper middle class, believes that the social environment often takes precedence over geographical origin. “You arrive with a background, a skin color, a gender. But those things don’t matter as much as some people think, they’re more fluid compared to one thing: your class“, he assured politics in 2018.

Class reflections also figure prominently in the work of 48-year-old Ruben Östlund, the most established of the three competing Scandinavian directors. With Without filter, it offers a parody of the fashion world and the appearance-obsessed super-rich. Before The Squareonly two Swedish productions had been awarded the Palme d’Or.

For its part, Denmark received two supreme trophies, in particular for Dancer in the Dark by Lars von Trier in 2000. Two other Nordic films, the Norwegian Sick of Myself by Kristoffer Borgli and the Danish-Icelandic Godland by Hlynur Pálmason are present at Cannes, in the Un certain regard section.

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A new Nordic wave is sweeping the Croisette