Thanks largely to Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman, the mention of Scandinavian film tends to conjure images of bleak, frozen landscapes and glacially paced conversation. But in composing Inside Out’s Focus program this year, director of programming Andrew Murphy is happy to put those conceptions to rest. With five features and two packs of shorts from Denmark, Sweden and Norway, the lineup includes plenty of mystery, romance and sex, even if there’s not much in the way of comedy.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a depressing program, but it’s not exactly light,” Murphy laughs. “In that part of the world the extended darkness during the winter months has a definite impact on the way they produce art. But it’s a beautiful series of works, even if it isn’t exactly a non-stop laugh fest.”
Swedish director Ella Lemhagen (creator of the 2009 festival gala Patrik, Age 1.5, about a gay couple whose adopted son turns homophobic as a teenager) has two films up this year: Immediate Boarding, the Freaky Friday-esque tale of two preteens intent on swapping parents and genders for a summer; and The Crown Jewels, a bisexual hockey thriller. Also on the locker-room front is Danish director Mette Carla Albrechtsen’s XY Anatomy of a Boy (part of the Boy Scandinavia program), which features six Danish teens hanging out in towels and talking about sex.
For those who like the old-school Bergman-esque touch, there’s Ole Giaever’s The Mountain, which follows a married lesbian couple on an epic hike to the spot where their son died years earlier.
Murphy was intent on digging into the archives of queer film and pulled out Lasse Neilsen and Ernst Johansen’s seminal 1978 work You Are Not Alone. Seen as a turning point in queer film, it charts the love relationship of two boys in a Danish boarding school.
“Watching it now it’s quite shocking to see a film that was so honestly and openly made from over 30 years ago,” Murphy says. “It’s a fascinating time capsule of queer cinema that looks at both coming of age and bullying in a time when neither subject was being dealt with in film.”
Delving into the past has always been a cornerstone of Inside Out’s programming. In addition to struggling for theatrical releases, queer films have tended to be lost or forgotten about, especially if they were produced in the pre-video rental era. For Murphy, preserving that diversity of queer history is as important as showcasing the works of contemporary filmmakers.
“Looking at these older works can give us a really different take on what queer has meant at different times,” he says. “And, of course, there’s always the plus of that retro fashion.”