Nordic Watchlist Best of 2021: DOCUMENTARIES

In 2021 we attended our first film festival – all be it digitally – in the shape of CPH:DOX and a whole new world of Nordic features opened up to us. The Nordic region isn’t all Nordic Noir and brilliant cinema, but also some incredible documentaries!

We share, in no particular order, ten documentary films we saw and loved in 2021 that you need to put on your radar.

Flee | Denmark

Director: Jonas Poher Rasmussen

It is a powerful piece that details the challenges encountered by a man who came to Denmark from Afghanistan, as he tells the story of his past to a good friend.

It is beautifully animated, heart-breaking, and so relevant. The good news is that this will be getting a release next year in cinemas.

A Hero’s Journey to the Third Pole | Iceland

Directors: Andri Snær Magnason & Anní Ólafsdóttir

A stand out favourite of ours, which you can currently buy or rent on Apple TV which is great! A Hero’s Journey focuses on a fascinating story of mental health struggles, as the two directors follow famous Icelandic musician Hogni on a journey to India to help an old friend who, like him, suffers from a bi-polar condition.

Big vs Small | Finland

Director: Minna Dufton

Minna Dufton’s surfing documentary has been making waves at festivals this year, and at London’s Surf Festival it picked up an award and a standing ovation! That isn’t bad going really, is it?

Minna’s film is a journey of discovery for surfer Joana Andrade who tackles the giant waves of Navarre but heads to the frozen Finnish lakes to overcome a deep fear, and in doing so opens up about facing her toughest demons. You can find out how this story even started by seeing Alex’s interview with the director HERE.

He’s My Brother | Denmark

Directors: Cille Hannibal & Christine Hanberg

He’s My Brother is a truly outstanding documentary that follows the incredible relationship between Christine and her brother Peter. Peter was born deaf and blind – with his sister and parents acting as carers for him.

Shouldn’t there be more care for him? Yes, but his care required is so specific that it has become almost impossible to find anywhere that can accept him – so we follow Christine as she goes through the motions of accepting that looking after Peter will be part of her life. It is a beautiful bond to witness and all the emotions and honesty are caught here.

Dark Blossom | Denmark

Director: Frigge Fi

We truly hope that Dark Blossom finds its way to our screens at some point in 2022 – it is moving and comedic, giving it all the feels of a future cult classic. Director Frigge Fi has discovered a trio of fascinating individuals who are well into the goth scene, but soon one of them discovers love and things get strained between the trio – will they be able to overcome it?

Canon Arm and the Arcade Quest | Denmark

Director: Mads Hedegaard

A wonderful feel-good documentary from Mads Hedegaard that follows a group of arcade-loving friends who group together to support their friend Kim to try and beat a crazy world record. It is a beautiful take on friendship, bonding, and the quirks we all have that help us get through the tough times in our lives. This is a brilliant partner in crime to Frigge Fi’s Dark Blossom.

Raise The Bar | Iceland

Director: Gudjon Ragnarsson

Ragnarsson’s documentary follows an Icelandic basketball team’s coach, whose unorthodox coaching skills are called into question, especially as he is training a young girl’s team.

Raise The Bar captures the highs and lows of this coaching relationship, with the parents, the girls, and Icelandic authorities – it is quite an eye-opener and essential viewing in the era of gender equality.

Gabi, Between Ages 8 to 13 | Sweden

Director: Engeli Broberg

Engeli Broberg’s poignant documentary follows young and innocent Gabi as she grows and changes through the tender ages of early adolescence. Follow the journey as Gabi, and her family, explore growing up, gender identity, sexuality, love, friendship, and understanding and accepting ourselves and others.

A powerful message that Gabi writes to her future self opens the film and she revisits it at the end. It’s an important reminder to be patient, kind and true to ourselves, and to others who are different from us.

Follow You Home | Denmark

Director: Kathrine Ravn Kruse

With Flee taking a lot of the spotlight on refugees, you should take time to also look out for Kathrine Ravn Kruse’s heart-wrenching documentary that follows two Afghan brothers who are finally reunited after 9 years apart from each other.

Popal has been granted asylum in Denmark but when his brother Darmal’s asylum is rejected, they realise that their reunion might not last as long as they had dreamed of.

Follow You Home focuses on their battle to try and keep Darmal from being sent back and the uphill struggle they have to tackle.

Look At Me | Denmark

Director: Christian Falsnaes

This was a fascinating documentary that also acts as an experiment put together for Christian Falsnaes and Minni Katina Mertens and released at CPH:DOX – to best understand the ideas behind it, read the interview with Minni HERE.

We’ve really only scratched the surface – there are many more to discover so keep following us to find out about these!

Feature by Alex & Claire Minnis