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Although the Nordic film industries can look back on 2003 as a year when local market shares either boomed - as in Norway and Finland - or maintained a solid streak - as in Denmark and Sweden - the many unresolved issues of government funding threaten to make 2004 a different matter.
The situation is most critical in Norway and Sweden, where the success of local films has exposed a fundamental flaw in the funding systems. The automatic ticket-support systems have been under-financed to such a degree that it has influenced the budgets allocated for production support - in short, because some films do really well at the box-office, less money can be invested in the production of new films. This reward system is not new and was instigated because it otherwise would be impossible for producers to get their investments back in small local markets.
This problem has been evident in Sweden since 2002, where the government stepped in with an emergency package, but the new film agreement needs an increase in overall funding for this problem to be resolved. However, though this will eventually mean that fewer films are made, what is most evident is that films are produced more cheaply and in some cases pushed into production before they have been properly developed.
That said, a number of new Swedish films have already picked up quite a buzz. Apart from the obvious like Lukas Moodysson's untitled new film, they include Bjorn Runge's recently released drama Daybreak, Peter Dalle's Skenbart and Daniel Espinosa's The Babylon Disease.
In Norway the problems surrounding state funding come at a time when local films are enjoying a success rarely, if ever, seen before. However, since the government has refused to allocate more funding to the Norwegian Film Fund, neither the ticket support system nor the high number of new local films produced can remain at their present level. Next year will nevertheless see even more films released: up to 20, based on the funding allocated in 2003, when the average budget dropped by some 25%.
As in 2003, a number of new talents will be worth keeping an eye on. They include Sara Johnsen, who makes her feature debut with the crime drama The Guy In The Snow, Aksel Hennie's coming of age drama Uno and Arild Oestin Ommundsen's follow-up to the low-budget hit Mongoland with the love story set among Norwegian surfers, Monsterthursday.
In Iceland things seems finally to be moving again after almost a year's gap in production due to the restructuring of the Icelandic Film Fund, now called the Icelandic Film Centre. Next year will not only see considerably more local releases, it should also see a number of highly anticipated new films go into production after being on ice through 2003.
Among these are A Man Like Men director Robert I. Douglas' football drama comedy Eleven Men and several other projects from the new collaboration between producers Julius Kemp (A Man Like Me) and Ingvar Thordarsson (101 Reykjavik).
Whether 2004 will be the year where the competing epics, A Gathering Of Foes and Njala Saga, based on the classic Icelandic sagas from the island's most acclaimed filmmakers, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson and Baltasar Kormakur, will get underway, remains to be seen.