We’ve dived into the digital library of documentaries showcasing at the Copenhagen Documentary Film Festival, CPH:DOX, to see as much as we can and pick some stand-out films from the Nordic region.
So, in no particular order, here are our top 10 Nordic picks from Copenhagen’s documentary festival to put on your watchlist!
And the King Said, what a Fantastic Machine | HIGHLIGHTS
Axel Danielson & Maximilien Van Aertryck | Sweden & Denmark
This was the first film we saw from CPH:DOX and one that has been in our sights ever since we read about its premiere at Sundance Film Festival.
This documentary takes a look at the history of capturing our lives through photography and film, from the first photo ever taken to the millions of images now shared daily, perhaps even every second, across the internet and social media.
Showing some fascinating footage from the past and present, including the lengths people go to chasing views and viral fame – the documentary is a fascinating and thought-provoking watch of just how far technology has come in a short time, and just how obsessed we are now with documenting everything about our lives while paying to view others’.
The Gamer | NORDIC: DOX AWARD
Petri Luukkainen & Jesse Jokinen | Finland
We travelled next to Finland to follow the story of Bona, a 17 year old professional gamer who has hit a brick wall when it comes to winning his games, always falling into second place.
It is a mental block he wants to overcome and in doing so he gets the professional help from sports psychologist, Mia.
With the arrival of an old nemesis threatening his place on the team, Bona must work with Mia to overcome his inner conflicts and achieve his dreams – but will he?
The world this documentary throws us into felt alien to us and though one may not be able to associate themselves with the world of competitive gaming, the conversations and revelations between the film’s subject and Mia will certainly give us all some tips on how to perform at your best, believe in yourself, and achieve our goals – whatever they are.
Lynx Man | NORDIC: DOX AWARD
Juha Suonpää | Finland
Juha Suonpää’s Lynx Man is set in the beautiful wilds and woodland of Finland, where we follow a man living close to nature and filming animals in their natural habitat, including his study of the endangered and elusive Lynx. He’s passionate about this species, and protecting all of the animals he lives amongst, he himself a creature in the forest.
Setting up cameras in the wilderness around his cabin we see wonderful and playful footage of wildlife as they appear in the twilight hours. From moose to hares, elk and reindeer – there is plenty see, making this feel at times like a David Attenborough series – only it is narrated by the extraordinary subject, the Lynx Man.
Vintersaga | DOX: AWARD
Carl Olsson | Sweden
This has been one of our standout favourites, perhaps because it reminds us of one of our favourite Icelandic pieces, Echo. Here, director Carl Olsson (who directed the excellent Meanwhile on Earth – which can be found on Netflix) takes on a series of vignettes during the dark winters in Sweden which are loosely based on the Swedish song Vintersaga.
You will discover much humour and beauty, plus the fun of seeing how perhaps stories might interlink.
Labor | NORDIC: DOX AWARD
Tove Pils | Sweden
Director Tove Pils travels between Sweden and San Francisco following the lives of a set of young people who turn to sex work to fulfil their need for expression, acceptance, control, money, and, actually, a sense of freedom.
The film examines and challenges many preconceptions we have about sex workers, sexuality, and sexual desires. Without any graphic scenes, the film delicately tells personal stories of ordinary people living hidden, extraordinary lives, who are both proud of what they do, but also feel shame due to the judgement of others and society.
Being a sex worker is like any other job, but there are a myriad of complex layers involved in getting naked not only physically, but also emotionally and psychologically. Why did they choose this life, and where will it lead?
Voice | NORDIC: DOX AWARD & world premiere
Ane Hjort Guttu | Norway
This one feels a bit meta, like a documentary within a documentary within a documentary… Rhea, a documentary filmmaker for Norwegian TV wants to make a film about a group of young people in Oslo who are using film as a medium to tell their own stories.
The young people are activists, who are playing themselves in the film, and start to resist the idea Rhea has for her film about them, and she struggles to let go of control of her own vision.
The director, Ane Hjort Guttu, has previously shown short works at CPH:DOX but this is her first feature film and she’s achieved a witty, satirical film that is entertaining.
Megaheartz | NEXT: WAVE AWARD
Emily Norling | Sweden & Norway
An extraodinary experimental piece in the NORDIC:NEXT WAVE category by Emily Norling. A pulsating soundtrack rumbles through the stories of four women and their struggles with love and life.
This had glimmers of Julia & I which won the NORDIC:DOX award in 2021 when we first ever covered CPH:DOX. Norling is clearly a talent to look out for.
Fighters | NORDIC:DOX AWARD
Jon Haukeland | Norway
Jon Haukeland’s Fighters is a cleverly put together documentary film that has its two central subjects re-enact the story of how they met and the challenges that they both faced from that moment onward. Mamo is a kid on the wrong side of the tracks and when his path crosses with youth worker Berat, it looks like the pair can work together to get him back on the right side of them, but could Berat’s own challenging past cause issues?
The documentary has fictious elements blended in and in doing so this plays out like a film acted out by its real subjects – its a clever move and the film has proven a great success in Norway.
After Work | DOX: AWARD
Erik Gandini | Sweden, Norway, & Italy
Erik Gandini’s After Work examines the place that work has in all our lives. Work does, or should, give us meaning and purpose, and be an enjoyable part of our lives – not all of it.
The documentary visits different people and places in the world where work is not…working. A study by Gallup showed that most people are not engaged or happy at work. It might seem obvious; work isn’t supposed to be enjoyable, is it? Isn’t there a better way?
Some people are working too much, some not enough, and some not at all. What is the right balance? What if we didn’t have to work at all? With the rise of AI, many jobs are at risk, but should we be worried or see this as an opportunity for more creative, fulfilling work?
The film explores a lot of interesting questions like this and leaves us still searching for the answers, but was told in a really engaging way and will leave you with a lot of food for thought.
A Storm Foretold | DOX:AWARD
Christoffer Guldbrandsen | Denmark
Last, but certainly not least, A Storm Fortold! A film high on our watchlist after we had picked up on some buzz about the film last year and we are happy to say that this film did not disappoint and will certainly be one to watch out for in the future.
Danish director Christoffer Guldbrandsen shares his experience shadowing Donald Trump’s aide, Roger Stone, in the years leading up to the controversial 2020 elections. Stone is a man who is known as the master of dark arts when it comes to politics, and has a flamboyant personality that is both amusing and uncomfortable at times to watch.
Guldbrandsen’s timing couldn’t have been better as a sequence of events unfold in front of his eyes that lead up to the Capitol Hill riots in January 2021.
And that concludes our pick of 10 Nordic highlights from CPH:DOX so far! Look out for more updates about the featival, interviews with directors of the films, and more.
And, as ever, if these become available to view outside of the festival, we’ll be sure to let you know, so follow us for updates!