Copenhagen Documentary Film Festival 2022: Four films in the Nordic award that examine electro-sensitivity, burnout, karaoke, and the Swedish pandemic strategy

Copenhagen Documentary Film Festival (CPH:DOX) is back for 2022, starting on 23rd March and finishing this coming weekend. This year sees the return of in-person events and screenings all over Copenhagen city, and we flew out there to check it out!

We are focusing on just the Nordic Documentaries (Nordic:DOX) award, which features 12 films by Nordic directors. Here are the first four:

Electric Malady

Director: Marie Liden | Great Britain

At last year’s CPH:DOX festival we saw Cille Hannibal’s ‘He’s My Brother’, a documentary which followed one family’s struggle to take care of a son/brother who is blind and deaf needs constant assistance, impacting on the whole family physically, psychologically and emotionally.

Along a similar theme, Swedish born filmmaker Maria Liden who is now based in Glasgow, premiered her feature debut ‘Electric Malady’ at CPH:DOX. The film takes us to Sweden and into the world of a family whose son/brother, William, suffers from electro hypersensitivity. This means that he can’t be near anything that has Wi-Fi signal or sends an electric pulse, without getting very ill.

Because of this, William lives an isolated life inside his cabin deep in the Swedish woods, where he rarely ever goes outside, and must wear protection to prevent himself from getting the crippling headaches and illness that follows exposure to even the smallest amount of radiation and electro waves.

At times, the vision of William swaying to his favourite music while completely covered in sheets, or trying not to set himself on fire while cooking chicken for dinner, is comical. He is like a kid who never grew up. But as we start to see the extent of his condition and the devastating impact it has had on his life, his mental health, and his family – as we see him cowering in his foil-lined bedroom reminiscing on how life used to be – this bizarre story becomes heart-breaking and full of sadness.

Heading towards 40, William’s hope is fading fast of ever finding a cure for this crippling condition and a reason to go on living.

The documentary is delicately handled by Maria, raising awareness of this little-understood and often completely dismissed medical condition. Perhaps this intimate view into William’s world will bring new hope that one day him, and others like him, will find a way to be free again.

Certainly one of our stand out pieces so far.

Electric Malady

Karaoke Paradise

Director: Einari Paakkanen | Finland

Finland’s Karaoke Paradise has a similar feel to one of our favourite’s of the year – Calendar Girls. Karaoke Paradise, like Calendar Girls which premiered at Sundance earlier in the year, follows individuals who have found solace, meaning, and friendship through a creative outlet – this time, singing karaoke.  

As Finland yet again tops the list of happiest nations in the world, this documentary tells some sad stories of loss and loneliness, and how music and singing can have a healing effect. Among the sadness though is some good Finnish humour, fun, and friendship, which leaves you with a warm glow afterwards.

Look out next week for our interview with the director Einari Paakkanen who discusses how the film came to life – and his favourite Karaoke song (of course)!

Karaoke Paradise

Behind the Swedish Model

Director: Viktor Nordenskiold | Sweden

Imagine you have settled down to watch a tense movie about a pandemic, however you already know what happens – this is a bit how it feels watching Behind The Swedish Model. From the outset, we are plunged into the chaotic early days of the emerging pandemic, following the Swedish Health Minister and the team behind Sweden’s controversial Covid strategy that seems to differ from the rest of the world’s.

The film is a candid behind-the-scenes look at the difficult dilemmas experienced by these human beings who are trying to balance politics, the nation’s physical health, mental health, and the economy – all while dealing with their own personal issues – and handle the constant interest, and often criticism, from the rest of the world.

It touches on the role that Swedish culture played in the strategy, and just how much of a complex situation dealing with a pandemic is, and there are no right answers that will keep everyone happy. One of the key figures the film follows is now-famous Anders Tegnell, whose expertise and experience specialising in infectious diseases makes him the pivotal figure in crucial decisions. This role saw him hailed as both a villain and a hero.

Whatever you think of the Swedish model for dealing with Covid19, witnessing Anders’ resolve and how he copes with the ever-evolving situation, while keeping calm, trusting in his knowledge and the data, is truly captivating stuff.

Anders Tegnell in Behind the Swedish Model

The Happy Worker

Director John Webster | Finland

This quirky part-animated film examines the changing world of work since the industrial revolution. It pokes fun at our cliché corporate office ‘game’ that is making the rich richer and the rest of us poorer and more miserable.

It asks: why, when we so much incredible technology and we are all so much more productive, are we still working like we did decades ago and experiencing an epidemic of chronic work dis-engagement and burnout?

Why are people not treated with more humility? Why is the CEO paid so much? And why oh why are the people who do the most valuable work in our society the ones who are lowest paid?

The film flips between humorous history lesson and a focus group for burned out millennials, as we hear personal stories of office workers who have suffered the effects of our modern working world and reached their limit.

Despite it’s quips and jovial animations, it is a serious wake up call to the charade many of us are playing out in our toxic, corporate, capitalist, work culture. We’re all chasing our dreams of more, more money, more status, more productivity – to achieve society’s version of success – but at what cost?

As millennial office workers ourselves, we could certainly relate to this film and felt it is an important message for everyone out there to hear. The style of the film is incredibly engaging, and was both educational and entertaining.

The Happy Worker

CPH:DOX is currently happening in Copenhagen and finishes this weekend – if you are visiting be sure to check out all the films on offer through the city –

Feature by Alex & Claire Minnis