handling the undead photo by Morten Brun

Source: Morten Brun

Handling The Undead

Two veryr different projects from female directors have been the talk of the industry at Haugesund’s New Nordic Films market this week.

Amanda Kernell won the pitching prize after the Co-Production Market presentation of her third feature film, The Curse - A Love Story while  Thea Hvistendahl’s work in progress Handling The Undead, which reunites Renate Reinsve and Anders Danielsen Lie after The Worst Person in the World, hugely impressed buyers and festival programmers alike

The Curse will follow Kernell’s Venice 2016 premiere Sami Blood and Sundance 2020 selection Charter. No sales agent is attached yet, but partners already on board include co-producers Forest People and backers Swedish Film Institute, Nordisk Film and Filmpool Nord and the International Sami Film Institute. It is about Maidi, a reindeer herder who relies on her local leader, Heikka, who has a crush on her. When Maidi falls in love with Heikka’s cousin, Heikka gives Maidi a curse that makes it impossible for her to work. 

The award goes to the best project in the Nordic Co-production Market and will include an invitation to Cannes Marche’s Producers Network for producer Eva Åkergren of Nordisk.

The pitch jury consisted of Heidi Zwicker of Sundance Film Festival, Inke van Loocke of International Film Festival Rotterdam, filmmaker Hisham Zaman and Liselott Forsman, CEO of Nordisk Film & TV Fond.

Kernell, who is of Sami heritage, spoke passionately about the Sami beliefs in curses and how she personally thought she was cursed as a young woman. The jury said, “The pitch was deeply personal and truly compelling. It promises a unique story about love in a lonely world, focusing on healing rather than victimizing as it allows us into a young woman´s journey into breaking a curse. We were impressed by the vision, depth, and sincerity of the project.”

The filmmaker plans to shoot the film in Sapmi (formerly known as Lapland) in 2024.

In the works in progress presentations, Hvistendahl’s Handling The Undead was a stand-out. “It’s a drama that’s playing with horror and uncomfortable elements,” said producer Kristin Emblem of Einar Film. TrustNordisk handles sales and Neon has already swooped up US rights.

Attendees of the Works in Progress were also intrigued by the first Swedish disaster epic, The Abyss directed by Richard Holm and produced by SF Studios; sparky Norwegian family film Viktoria Must Go, newly boarded by LevelK; the Faroese feature Last Paradise On Earth, a drama about a fish factory worker directed by Sakaris Stora; and Marte Vold’s In This Very Moment, an intimate portrait of one couple over 15 years.

Also igniting buzz was Sex Dreams Love, an ambitious trilogy being directed by Norway’s Dag Johan Haugerud. All three feature films will be ready for 2024 festival launches – potentially at one spring festival, one summer festival and one autumn festival. Motlys producer Yngve Saether compared the films to Krytstof Kieślowski’s Three Colours trilogy: “The films can be experienced separately but if you watch them all together its an even bigger experience,” said Saether. 

The project was also teased in Goteborg in January with new clips unveiled in Haugesund. No sales company is attached yet but the films have already been nabbed by Arthouse Kino for Norway, TriArt in Sweden and Camera Film in Denmark. Haugerud’s last feature, Beware Of Children, premiered at Venice.

UK projects

The Co-Production Market was also boosted this year by including some high-profile UK-led projects, part of New Nordic Films’ two-year focus on the UK.

Producer Angeli Macfarlane of Script Cube pitched Gunnar’s Daughter, a story of a girl who falls in love with a Viking in 10th-century Norway; Barry Crerar will co-produce and Lee Magiday will executive produce. The €8m feature is written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, hot off the heels of She Said and now in post on her directorial debut feature, Hot Milk. 

Another UK production team, Helen Gladders of Gingerbread Pictures and Oskar Pimlott of Pulse Films, pitched Who Goes There, a horror Western about Norwegian sisters who encounter a supernatural force in 1880s Minnesota. Norway-born Astrid Thorvaldsen, an NFTS graduate, will make her feature debut. 

Other co-production pitches included the sci-fi Joe’s Assignment directed by Jens Lien; Norwegian-Iranian director Farzad Samsami’s Morocco-set Zarzis; Iran-set drama Bouran, directed by Ballad Of A White Cow team Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha; Motlys’ Norwegian family Christmas drama Stargate; Danish filmmaker Jonas Kaerup Hjort’s second feature Bestiere, about a woman who develops animal-like tendencies after getting a pig’s heart transplant; and Hanne Berkaak’s animated genre film Pesta set during the Black Death.

Other industry highlights at Haugesund included a session about how the UK and Nordics can collaborate on more co-productions (including a case study from The Damned producer Kamilla Kristiane Hodøl of Elation Pictures; a Europa Distribution panel about Nordic releases in Italy, the Netherlands and the UK; and CAA’s chief data officer André Vargas looking at how Nordic content is faring in the US and global markets.


At the public festival, the Norwegian International Film Festival Haugesund, the critics’ award went to Neighbours by Mano Khali; the audience award was scooped by Tove’s Room directed by Martin Zandvliet; the ray of sunshine award (from cinema managers) went to Kaveh Tehrani’s Listen Up! and the Next Nordic Generation Award went to Marlene Emilie Lyngstad’s short Norwegian Offspring from The Danish Film School.

Haugesund also hosts the annual Amanda awards, Norway’s local academy prizes. Ole Giæver’s Let The River Flow won best film and best director as well as best supporting actor for Gard Emil. 

War Sailor captured four prizes including best actor for Pål Sverre Hagen and best supporting actreses for Ine Marie Wilmann, plus cinematography and costume.

War epic Narvik also won three awards: the audience prize, sound design and visual effects.