Dual film fests opening this week in Prague showcase tragedy and humor

Held in multiple cities, Scandinavian and Iranian festivals bring feature films from well-known and award-winning directors to Czech screens.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 16.01.2024 16:26:00 (updated on 18.01.2024) Reading time: 4 minutes

Two separate international film festivals begin in Czechia tomorrow, Jan. 17, showcasing the best contemporary films from Scandinavian countries and Iran. Combined, the festivals – named SCANDI 2024 and ÍRÁN:CI – will feature around 30 contemporary films across the country. Many non-English-speaking films will have English subtitles.

Scandi cinema comes to the capital

The Scandi Film Festival, a showcase of contemporary films from Nordic countries, will be held in Prague from Wednesday, Jan. 17 to Wednesday, Jan. 24.

The festival, now in its 10th year, will feature 10 premieres and three special screenings in over 30 Czech cinemas, showcasing the best of filmography from Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Iceland.

Director Ivan Hronec of Film Europe, the company responsible for coordinating the festival, promises an exciting lineup of films and special guests, including renowned Danish director Bille August – one of only nine winners of two Golden Palm awards (the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival).

The best of Danish and Swedish cinema

The festival will open with the highly anticipated historical drama, The Promised Land, starring Mads Mikkelsen. This epic, set in the 18th century, won three European Film Academy awards for Best Acting, Cinematography, and Costumes last year. 

One of the festival's highlights will be an online discussion with Swedish novelist and film director Lukas Moodysson, who will present his film Together 99 and take questions from the audience. Moodysson's film offers a humorous look into a Stockholm commune.

Danish cinema will showcase its Darkland: The Return film, which is a sequel to the successful Danish action thriller. Protagonist Zaid is released from prison after seven years in exchange for an undercover job for the police and the opportunity to see his seven-year-old estranged son.

Films from Norway, Iceland, and Finland

The festival will also feature a documentary by Norwegian director Margreth Olin and a road movie from Iceland titled Driving Mum. In addition, the festival includes three Swedish films, including a film adaptation of Fredrik Backman's bestselling novel, A Man Called Ove.

Finnish cinema will also be represented by the Four Little Adults film, which offers a sensitive portrait of four people living in a polyamorous relationship – which, interesting, stems from a partnership between a priest and politician.

A total of eight Prague cinemas – including Kino Lucerna, Edison Filmhub, Kino Atlas, and Cinema City Slovanský dům – will show the Scandinavian films. Select cinemas in Brno, Olomouc, Pilsen, and Ostrava also take part in the festival. The full line-up, including details on which films are shown with English subtitles, can be found on the festival’s official website. 

Exploring Iranian censorship in Prague

People in Czechia’s two largest cities will be able to enjoy the best of what Iranian cinema has to offer. The 11th year of the IRÁN:CI Film Festival runs from Jan. 17 to Jan. 21 in Prague's Světozor and Bio Oko cinemas, followed by screenings in Brno's Art Cinema from Jan. 23 to Jan. 25.

This year's festival will present 12 feature films and 7 short and documentary films, marking the last year of the festival's exclusive focus on Iranian cinema. This is the last year in which the event will showcase solely Iranian films: in 2025, the festival will expand to include films from other countries in the region (such as Tibet, Afghanistan, and Armenia), as confirmed by co-founder and artistic director Kaveh Daneshmand.

The festival's slogan, "Don't Look Away," reflects its aim to shed light on the lives of those affected by political and social injustice in the Middle Eastern region. "It's a challenge not to look away, but instead to fix our gaze, to try to understand and empathize with these destinies," explains IRÁN:CI.

Filmmaking amid an oppressive regime

One of the festival's highlights will be the appearance of well-known Iranian director and activist Sepíde Farsí, who will participate in a lecture at Charles University on Thursday, Jan. 18. Farsí, who currently lives in exile in Paris, will speak on the struggles of creating film during censorship.

The festival will open with the powerful debut film Shajda by Iranian-born Australian director Núra Nijasari. It follows the story of an immigrant fighting for custody of her daughter while seeking refuge in a women's home in Melbourne.

Other highly-anticipated films include Siréna by Sepíde Fársí, which premiered at the Berlinale Film Festival, and Cause of Death Unknown, the feature debut of Iranian director Ali Zarnegár that portrays seven passengers driving through a long stretch of desert together and one dying. 

Infinite Border, which was the winner of the Big Screen competition at the 2023 Rotterdam Film Festival, navigates Iranian politics, family dynamics, and a repressive regime that leaves lives in irreversible problems. 

The full program, including details on showtimes and subtitles, can be found on the festival’s official website

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