DVD Review: Follow The Money – The Complete Season One

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Nordic drama exposes corporate corruption.

Is greed good? Gordon Gekko’s infamous speech in the 1987 movie Wall Street made a case for the pursuit of corporate self-interest. After the devastating effects of the global economic crash corporate raiders pursuing fast profits were seen as sharp-suited vultures who had wrecked lives and saddled future generations with insurmountable debt. Taking the financial services industry to task, Follow the Money looks at the drive to green-light renewable energy projects and dares to investigate the legitimacy of its funding.

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Inspired by The Wire, Follow the Money is a flawed exploration of fraud and its consequences. Ambitious in scope, the series endeavours to offers a sprawling, intelligent, and shocking expose of crooked deals and cold-hearted morality but is occasionally crushed by a lack of focus. Attempting to prove that something is rotten in the state of Denmark Follow the Money‘s novelistic approach occasionally misfires. A brave experiment? Sign that Nordic drama is in transition? Signal that the well is starting to run dry? Far removed from the creative heights of The Bridge or The Killing, the series is a predictable schedule-filler.

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With a continent still reeling from the aftershocks of the 2008 crash a drama exposing the practices which brought the world to its knees should have been a recipe for riveting television. Starting with the death of a windshore turbine engineer Follow the Money‘s opening episode is a spectacular misfire. Teetering on the tightrope to failure it tosses in familiar, all-too-familiar, elements of more accomplished Nordic Noir series before loading the opening episode with too many characters and far too much plot. While later episodes settle into a more relaxed pattern it may be too late for viewers that have already pressed eject on their remote and decided to watch something else.

Follow The Money – The Complete Season One is available to order from Amazon

Quais du Polar by Lilja Sigurdardottir

Icelandic author Lilja Sigurðardóttir’s writes for Stirling University’s Nordic Noir group about her experiences attending a French crime fiction festival.

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Quais du Polar is France´s biggest festival of crime fiction, attracting tens of thousands of readers every year. The festival is different from many others in the sense that it is a book-selling event on a large scale, and the panels and on-stage interviews with the authors are just the icing on the cake.   The main place is the market on the ground floor at the Palace de Commerce, where all major bookstores in Lyon have their own space, dividing between them the 100 authors that are invited to the festival. Luckily I don´t read French because if I did I’d have had to fit a whole palace’s worth of crime fiction books into my luggage back to Iceland!

It was a great honour for me to be invited to the Quais du Polar Festival. My book Snare was just out in French translation (Piégée) the week…

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Beyond Words – Live French Literature Festival

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Institut français has announced it will host a Beyond Words, brand new festival celebrating French literature. A six-day programme of events packed with guest appearances of French-language writers recently translated into English, and English-language writers who have a special love affair with France, including Delphine de Vigan, Alexis Jenni, Lydie Salvayre, Laurent Binet, Hisham Matar and Michael Rosen.

The festival opens on Thursday 11 May with a staged reading of Edouard Louis’ The End of Eddy with Henry Pettigrew in the title role. Star speakers Michael Rosen and David Bellos will talk about Emile Zola and Victor Hugo and their relevance to our times. Meanwhile, Goncourt Prize-winning Alexis Jenni, just published in English (The French Art of War), and PEN award and Pulitzer prize winner Hisham Matar, just published in French (The Return), will meet to discuss the Re-writing of History, accompanied by their translators Frank Wynne and Agnès Desarthe.

Hugely popular in France, prize-winning writers Lydie Salvayre, Delphine de Vigan, and Laurent Binet will be making exceptional London appearances to talk about their recently translated novels (Cry, Mother Spain, Based on a True Story, The Seventh Function of Language), both at the Institut français and at the British Library where a special evening on contemporary French fiction takes place on 15 May. To celebrate the 2017 Man Booker International Prize, a performance of staged and musical readings of Mathias Enard and Alain Mabanckou’s longlisted books (Compass, Black Moses) will take place at the Institut français on 13 May. Dulwich Books will also be hosting an afternoon session with festival guests on 14 May.

French poetry will not be forgotten, with an original collective live reading experience led by Erica Jarnes in partnership with the Southbank Poetry Library. Nor will philosophy, with a special session on truth and fiction. Other highlights include talks with Dionysos lead singer Mathias Malzieu who will be launching his Diary of a Vampire in Pyjamas, Emmanuelle Pagano and Ananda Devi, both recently translated into English this year (Trysting, Eve Out of Her Ruins).

There will be on-site booksellers and book signing sessions throughout the festival, as well as a special selection of film adaptations including Corniche Kennedy (Maylis de Kerangal), A Woman’s Life (Maupassant) and Hiroshima mon Amour (Duras).

Venue: Institut français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT – Info & bookings: www.beyondwordslitfest.co.uk

Petrona Award 2017 – Shortlist

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Six outstanding crime novels from Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have made the shortlist for the 2017 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year, which is announced today. They are:

THE EXILED by Kati Hiekkapelto tr. David Hackston (Orenda Books; Finland)

THE DYING DETECTIVE by Leif G.W. Persson tr. Neil Smith (Doubleday; Sweden)

THE BIRD TRIBUNAL by Agnes Ravatn tr. Rosie Hedger (Orenda Books, Norway)

WHY DID YOU LIE? by Yrsa Sigurđardóttir tr. Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton, Iceland)

WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE by Gunnar Staalesen tr. Don Bartlett (Orenda Books, Norway)

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB by Kjell Westö tr. Neil Smith (MacLehose Press, Finland)

The winning title will be announced at the Gala Dinner on 20 May during the annual international crime fiction event CrimeFest, held in Bristol 18-21 May 2017.

The award is open to crime fiction in translation, either written by a Scandinavian author or set in Scandinavia and published in the UK in the previous calendar year.

The judges’ comments on the shortlist and the shortlisted titles:

“It was difficult to choose just six crime novels for the Petrona Award shortlist this year, given the number of truly excellent submissions from around the Scandinavian world. Our 2017 Petrona Award shortlist testifies to the extremely high quality of translated Scandi crime, with authors from Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden making expert use of police investigations, psychological thrillers, private eye novels and historical crime fiction both to entertain and to explore pertinent social, political and historical issues. We are extremely grateful to the translators for their skill and expertise in bringing us these outstanding examples of Scandinavian crime fiction.”

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THE EXILED by Kati Hiekkapelto tr. David Hackston (Orenda Books; Finland)

“Finnish police detective Anna Fekete returns to the Serbian village of her birth for a holiday, but is pulled into an investigation that throws up questions about her own father’s death decades earlier. As well as exploring the complexities of Fekete’s identity as a Hungarian Serb who has made her life in Finland, this accomplished novel looks with insight and compassion at the discrimination faced by Roma people, and the lot of refugees migrating through Europe.”

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THE DYING DETECTIVE by Leif G.W. Persson tr. Neil Smith (Doubleday; Sweden)

“Lars Martin Johansson, a retired Swedish Police Chief, suffers a stroke after a lifetime of unhealthy excess. Frustrated by his physical limitations and slow recovery, he is drawn into investigating a cold case, the murder of nine-year-old Yasmine Ermegan in 1985. Expertly plotted and highly gripping, The Dying Detective features characters from a number of other crime novels by the author, but succeeds brilliantly as a standalone in its own right.”

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THE BIRD TRIBUNAL by Agnes Ravatn tr. Rosie Hedger (Orenda Books, Norway)

“Former TV presenter Allis takes up the post of housekeeper and gardener at a house on a remote fjord. But her employer is not the old man she was expecting, and the whereabouts of his wife are tantalisingly unclear. Isolated from other villagers, Allis and Sigurd’s relationship becomes progressively more claustrophobic and tense. A haunting psychological thriller and study in obsession that is perfectly complemented by the author’s beautiful, spare prose.”

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WHY DID YOU LIE? by Yrsa Sigurđardóttir tr. Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton, Iceland)

“Yrsa Sigurđardóttir is as adroit a manufacturer of suspense as any writer in the Nordic Noir genre, as this standalone thriller comprehensively proves. Why Did You Lie? skilfully interweaves the stories of a policewoman whose husband has committed suicide, a work group stranded by hostile weather on a remote lighthouse, and a family whose American guests go missing. A compelling exploration of guilt and retribution, which builds to a nerve-jangling finale.”

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WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE by Gunnar Staalesen tr. Don Bartlett (Orenda Books, Norway)

“Grieving private detective Varg Veum is pushed to his limits when he takes on a cold case involving the disappearance of a small girl in 1977. As the legal expiry date for the crime draws near, Veum’s investigation uncovers intriguing suburban secrets. In what may well be the most accomplished novel in a remarkable series, the author continues to work in a traditional US-style genre, but with abrasive Scandi-crime social commentary very much in evidence.”

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THE WEDNESDAY CLUB by Kjell Westö tr. Neil Smith (MacLehose Press, Finland)

“This multilayered novel tells the story of how a crime is triggered following the chance meeting of two people in a lawyer’s office. While the narrative can be seen as a tragic individual story, it also takes on larger historical dimensions as it unfolds. Set in Helsinki in 1938, on the eve of the Second World War, The Wednesday Club offers an insightful exploration into the legacy of the Finnish Civil War, and the rise of German and Finnish fascism in the present.”

The judges are:

Barry Forshaw – Writer and journalist specialising in crime fiction and film; author of multiple books covering Scandinavian crime fiction, including NORDIC NOIR, DEATH IN A COLD CLIMATE, EURO NOIR, DETECTIVE: CRIME UNCOVERED and the first biography of Stieg Larsson.

Dr. Kat Hall – Editor of CRIME FICTION IN GERMAN: DER KRIMI for University of Wales Press; Honorary Research Associate at Swansea University; international crime fiction reviewer/blogger at MRS. PEABODY INVESTIGATES.

Sarah Ward – Crime novelist, author of IN BITTER CHILL and A DEADLY THAW (Faber and Faber), and crime fiction reviewer at CRIMEPIECES.

More information can be found on the Petrona Award website (http://www.petronaaward.co.uk).

 

DVD Review: The Idealist

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Riveting conspiracy thriller exposes a real-life Danish political scandal.

The story of a journalist’s investigation into the cover-up of a nuclear accident is a gripping drama that may represent the closest Danish cinema has come to producing its own equivalent of All The President’s Men.  A tense drama cast in the mould of classic 1970s conspiracy thrillers The Conversation and The Parallax View, director Christina Rosendahl’s second feature film is based on journalist Poul Brink’s book The Thule Affair – A Universe of Lies.

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Working at a local radio station Poul Brink (Peter Plauborg) uncovered one of the darkest chapters in modern Danish history. His commitment to revealing the truth about the nation’s nuclear policy during the cold war rewrote history. Batting against the Danish and US governments, he was prepared to risk imprisonment in his quest to uncover the facts about a botched cleanup operation.

The events recreated in The Idealist continue to resonate for Danish and Greenlandic audiences.  Poul Brink’s findings revealed that Denmark’s foreign and nuclear policies were based on a succession of lies.

In 1968 a B-52 bomber crashed in Greenland close to a US military base. The plane was carrying four nuclear weapons. Three were salvaged and one was lost. All references to the missing bomb were removed from official documents. 18 years later, Poul Brink discovered Danish workers involved in the clean-up operation were suffering from a variety of skin diseases, including cancer. Initially sceptical, Brink’s journey into the murky world of international politics will shatter a deceased Prime Minister’s reputation and lead to renewed calls for Greenland’s official independence.

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Underscoring her commitment to presenting an honest version of events, director Christina Rosendahl incorporates archival footage of the cleanup operation and news reports. Restrained in its treatment of the allegations contained within Brink’s book, The Idealist is an effective attempt to highlight abuse of power and dramatise one man’s determination to expose the truth.

Despite the story’s emotional potency and its continued relevance for Greenlanders seeking independence, the director has chosen to present a cool and largely understated account. Possibly the most significant film about Danish journalism, The Idealist‘s commitment to authenticity enhances its spellbinding power. An intelligent and challenging account of a reporter stumbling across a story that will transform how the nation views its own history.

The presence of high-calibre actors, including The Killing‘s Søren Malling, brings gravitas to the production. The Idealist is an impressive thriller that deserves to make headlines.

The Idealist is available to order from Amazon.

BBC News report of the B-52’s crash and search for the fourth bomb.

Film Review: The Balcony

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 Winner of the Silver Crane Award for best Lithuanian short film, The Balcony is a bitter-sweet tale of young friendship and dysfunctional families. A rose-tinted recreation of 1980s Lithuania. The era is seen through the eyes of two children and the director appears to be yearning for a simpler era. Those in the west seeing The Balcony for the first time may be surprised that the director has deliberately chosen to present a version of the Soviet era which runs counter to the more familiar narratives filled with oppression and poverty.

Director Giedrė Beinoriūtė’s recreation of the 1980s is filled with values that she feels have been lost in the years since independence. Directing films and documentaries since 1997,  Soviet rule and the consequences of its dismantling is a recurrent theme in her work.  Beinoriūtė’s 2008 film The Balcony is an unashamedly sentimental celebration of innocence.

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The film is set in a nondescript housing estate in an unspecified part of Lithuania. Rolanas’ parents have recently divorced and he has had to leave his hometown and move to a new district. Settling in he soon becomes friends with the young girl living in the neighbouring flat. Two shy and insecure children find that they have much in common.

The Balcony offers a glimpse of childhood under Soviet rule that may shatter many preconceptions. It is an effective dramatisation of children coming to terms with the breakup of their families.

The film is available to watch exclusively at Baltic View.

If you want to see The Balcony send an email to hello@balticview.online to register your interest.

Follow @baltic_view on Twitter.

A Facebook page has the latest information on screenings.

DVD Review: I Hunt Men (Mannaveiðar)

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Happiness is a Warm Gun: Compelling mystery is a prescient and exhilarating Icelandic Noir.

Two mismatched detectives investigate a serial killer and uncover a dodgy banker’s conspiracy to land-grab.
When a serial killer targets goose hunters a newly formed police department pairs by-the-book detective Hinrik with dishevelled and disorganised Gunnar. Overcoming their distrust of each other’s methods, the pair race against the clock to solve the killer’s riddles and crack the case before more hunters are slain.

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Adapted from Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson’s novel Daybreak, I Hunt Men aired in the spring of 2008. Anticipating the economic meltdown which occurred later that year the series highlights shadowy practices bankers were routinely practicing before the system crashed. The smart and searing screenplay rams home the fact that Iceland’s bankers acted without considering the consequences of their policies and thought they were above the law. Believing they live in a separate self-contained world, the bankers in this series buy up valuable land at bargain-basement prices and evict the tenant farmers without thinking about the lives they have just destroyed.

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Famously setting a record for viewing figures, it was seen by 60% of the available audience. The TV adaptation presents a streamlined version of Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson’s novel that features all the key beats but is leaner and more focused.
Not afraid to proudly wear its influences on its sleeve, the script is peppered with references to crime books and TV series. Aside from shots of Iceland’s breathtaking scenery, the glue that holds the series together is the engaging performances by Gísli Örn Garðarsson and Trapped‘s Ólafur Darri Ólafsson. At times the interplay between the two characters is more engrossing than the investigation. Produced when Nordic Noir was in its infancy the producers may not have thought about capturing lightning in a bottle and commissioning a follow-up. Now that both actors have gone on to enjoy international success it’s unlikely they will return to play these characters so I Hunt Men offers an intriguing glimpse into what could have been a highly successful long running series.

A rock-solid thriller which meshes tried and tested techniques with all too timely criticism of Iceland’s economy. Proof that Iceland was producing exciting thrillers long before Trapped and Case, I Hunt Men is worth tracking down.

A subtitled DVD is available to order from nammi.is