Maverick Danish director Lars von Trier may have won the Palme d'Or in Cannes for Dancer In The Dark, but two other Nordic films, Roy Andersson's Songs From The Second Floor from Sweden and Liv Ullmann's Faithless from Norway, enjoyed just as much buzz on the Croisette. Both relied on backing from Swedish state broadcaster SVT, which has become an important funding source for Scandinavian films in recent years.
Ironically, the broadcaster will be reducing its feature film investment in the future because of a Swedish film act that came into force in January, requiring that the broadcaster direct most of its production funds through the Swedish Film Institute. Despite this, SVT is involved in several more features that will have theatrical releases this year. These include the high-concept children's adventure film Pelle Notale, as well as veteran director Jan Troell's historic drama As White As Snow and Susanne Bier's comedy Livet Ar En Schlager. The last two are co-produced with Nordisk Film Productions.
Aside from broadcasters such as SVT, the Nordic region's film industries are heavily reliant on another source of funding that is about to undergo some big changes: the EU's MEDIA programme. The Danes, in particular, have been very successful in getting EU backing: since 1991 they have received $25.3m (DKr200m) from the MEDIA Programme, about five times the amount invested by the Danish state. Among the companies that have benefited from the fund recently are Egmont-owned Nordisk Film, Thura Film and M&M Productions.
These companies have wasted no time in putting the cash to good use. M&M Productions has backed one of the most promising young Danish talents this year in Anders Thomas Jensen, whose feature debut is Blinkende Lygter. It has also become an active co-production partner in several international projects with UK, German and French outfits.
Thura Film recently closed financing on The Lady And The Thief for writer-director Ole Bornedal. The $8m English-language feature cranks up in the autumn before Bornedal moves on to Dina's Book for Nordisk Film Productions in February.
The only production outfit to benefit from EU funding in Sweden is Memfis Films, which is in post-production on Lukas Moodysson's Together. That has not stopped other companies from backing some big names, however. Director Kjell-Ake Andersson, internationally known for his successful Christmas Oratorio, is completing filming on his comedy drama Family Secrets. It stars acclaimed Under The Sun actor Rolf Lassgard, and is produced by Svensk Filmindustri (SF). SF is also preparing Four Birthdays And A Fiasco, with Swedish broadcaster SVT, a children's comedy to be directed by Catti Edfeldt. The film will shoot in August.
In Iceland, Snorri Thorisson's Pegasus Pictures, another MEDIA funding recipient, is preparing several ambitious international projects including East Of The Moon, to be directed by Swede Erik Gustavson, and Independent People, based on Halldor Laxness' prize-winning novel. It will be directed by Argentine Hector Babenco.
Meanwhile, the dynamic duo behind Zik Zak Filmworks, Thor Sigurjonsson and Skuli Malmquist, are shooting their third feature this year, Dramarama. In this unusual production five newcomers get to share the directing chair. Following the company's first project Fiasco, directed by Ragnar Bragason, comes Cell from writer-director Mikael Torfason, which is now in post-production.
Fridriksson Thor's Icelandic Film Corp, as usual, has several projects lined up this year. Among them is Hal Hartley's Monster, which starts shooting in Iceland and in New York in September.