Russian feminist punk rock protest group Pussy Riot is on the poster and Russia is in focus at Sweden’s 37th Göteborg International Film Festival (Jan 24-Feb 3) – the largest showcase in the Nordic countries.

The selection of 20 films “is both artistically strong and takes up current subjects, such as freedom of speech and distribution of resources,” explained the festival’s artistic director Marit Kapla.

The focus includes Russian director Aleksej German’s Hard to Be a God (Trudno byt Bogom), completed by his wife Svetlana Karmelita and son after German’s death.

Taisija Krugovykh and Vasilij Bogatov’s Pussy versus Putin, about Pussy Riot’s action, will be introduced by the directors, as will Alexander Gentelev’s Putin’s Games.

Unspooling almost 500 films from 76 countries at 25 venues, adding seminars, concerts, talk-shows and exhibtions, the festival – which last year registered 132,447 admissions – will again honour Best Nordic Film with a Dragon Award and SEK 1 million ($150,000) cash, this year from eight nominations.

Among the contenders are Norwegian director Hisham Zaman, whose Before Snowfall (Før snøen faller) won last year; his new film is Letter to the King (Brev til Kongen).

Two of the entries - Benedikt Erlingsson’s international prize-winner, Of Horses and Men (Hross ís oss), and Ragnar Bragason’s Metalhead (Málmhaus)- are from Iceland.

A retrospective of films from the country, covering 20 years of production, will be featured with several recent films “manifesting Iceland’s distinct character in a refreshing and personal way”.

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur will receive the first Honorary Nordic Dragon.

The traditional Honorary Dragon will for the first time be given to an actor, Ralph Fiennes, “who grants a mysterious aura to films of all genres, and whose acting is characterised by gravity, vigor and extraordinary presence.”

Fiennes will host a masterclass before a screening of his latest film, The Invisible Woman, his second as director, about Charles Dickens’ love affair with a young actress.

Göteborg will roll out the red carpet for “the biggest, best and most talked-out movies from Hollywood, Nigeria and Norway” in its gala section, and eight films will enter the competition for the Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award, including UK director Steven Knight’s Locke and Bulgarian director Maya Vitkova’s Viktoria.

Swedish premieres comprise the first screenings of Swedish directors Maria Blom’s Hallåhallå and Tarik Saleh’s Tommy.