As the largest Nordic festival outside of Europe, Nordic International Film Festival (NIFF) is “working towards building a bridge between the international independent film and the Nordic film communities.”
This year the young festival celebrates its fifth anniversary, running from October 16th through the 20th. In addition to film screenings, NIFF features your standard mix of panels, filmmaker matchmaking, and an afterparty—allowing fest goers the unique opportunity to interact with film representatives face to face. Festival founders, Johan Matton and Linnea Larsdotter, came into the festival curation business as moviemakers themselves. After attending a variety of indie fests only to feel let down by the way they were run and how the filmmakers were treated, Matton and Lasdotter decided to create a festival that not only stresses global consciousness in terms of equality and the environment, but they also want to ensure filmmakers attending their fest have the best experience possible.
Matton and Larsdotter spoke with MovieMaker about the inspiration and motivation behind the creation of the festival, and discussed how the festival has developed since its inception five years ago.
Izzy Stroobandt, MovieMaker Magazine (MM): If you were to introduce your festival to someone who had never heard of it, how would you describe it?
Linnea Larsdotter (LL):We are an international film festival held in New York with a strong Nordic focus. So, we are working towards building a bridge between the international indie community and the Nordic film community.
Johan Matton (JM): This will be our fifth year, and we are upgrading our venue this year to Roxy Theater down in Tribeca.
MM: Why did you choose that location?
LL: We’ve been at Scandinavian house on Park Avenue before, but our audience has more of a downtown vibe. So, we wanted to cater towards what our audience already is.
JM: We we can host some moviemakers at the beautiful Roxy Hotel and directors flying in and have direct access to the auditorium, which is beautiful and has so much history. Also the space itself has a large capacity for holding meetings, seminars, and panels and actually allows the moviemaker to be able to gather and meet. That was always our initial thought to this—it wasn’t just about film screenings, we really wanted to build a community where moviemakers can meet and talk and collaborate. We can also do a matchmaking where a producer can meet a director (or the other way around), or a distribution company, or book press to get enough attention to their films. Ultimately has always been about the filmmakers.
MM: How has the festival developed from its inception five years ago? Are there any different themes or anything that you’re looking forward to this year?
LL: We have silent themes every year that influences the programming and they’re always based on the current political climate. This year’s silent theme will be climate change. That’s not going to inform all of the films clearly—that would be incredibly boring. But they get to sort of infuse into the subject that we’re talking about. For example, we’re working on a panel regarding how to run a film production as sustainable as possible.
MM: Online you mention some goals—achieving a 50/50 male female ratio, creating zero non-recyclable waste, and serving only vegan foods and snacks—where do these goals stem from? And how are you working towards achieving them for this year?
LL: Starting with the climate, we are partnering with an organization that will carbon compensate for all flights for filmmakers coming into the festival. So, in that sense, they’re compensating monetarily to rebuild the environment for those flights taken. And plant based food is better for the environment so that was sort of a given. It’s the same with zero non-recyclable waste. It’s a passion of both Johan and I personally and privately, so I see no reason to not let that carry into the organizations that we run.
JM: Scandinavian and Nordic countries have always been the forefront of having zero-waste and even 100 percent recycling in some of the nations in Scandinavia. Film festivals are such a form for expanding our mindset about so many things for society through film, and it’s also an opportunity to do so in all other aspects because we have the opportunity to be seen and create a good example.
MM: How do you see the festival growing and developing in future years? And is there anything people should look forward to expecting on this year’s anniversary?
JM: At NIFF we’re very picky with the premiere status of the films. If you sit down at NIFF you will see the film for the first time, unless you’ve been to other festivals, because we won’t accept anything that has been released. So, it’s always at least a New York premiere at our festival. Most of the time—over 50 percent one year—it was international premieres or world premieres of films. We’re very picky that you’re going to be seeing new content at NIFF and over 70-80 percent of our films have representation (meaning that the moviemakers, directors, or actors have a Q&A after the film) which is more than most festivals at the time. It’s really cool that you actually have the opportunity to ask the questions to the filmmakers. So, that’s something that you can expect from NIFF—to have more access to the filmmakers and be able to meet them in person and ask questions and see world premiere films. We’re also expanding in the coming years to become a Nordic market. We’ve become the biggest Nordic film festival outside of Europe, and so we also want to be the biggest Nordic market there is. That’s a goal that we’re working towards—to be a marketplace for film and build that bridge between Scandinavia and the U.S.
MM: Is there any programming that you’re excited about this year?
JM: We’ve been getting more films than ever before which is really exciting. Also by attending Cannes Film Festival and Berlin Film Festival, we’ve been creating relationships with distribution companies—more so than ever we have access to titles that haven’t been released yet. Agencies, film companies, and distribution companies are actually us the catalog before films are released for us to take a look at with our programmers and decide if it’s a good match and a good fit for NIFF.
MM: While you were programming this year, did you discover any themes in the lineup?
LL: That social consciousness is on the rise within the film community, so we do see a lot of diversity and more gender equality and that’s been the trend for the last two or three years. MM
Nordic International Film Festival runs October 16th-20th, 2019 at the Roxy Theater in Tribeca, New York. For more information, visit their website here.