War dramas are quite gripping —we all have watched and loved Saving Private Ryan and Dunkirk. Danish film Land of Mine may not be known in this part of the world, but it sure is a memorable, dramatic and tense war drama. The movie narrates the tale of some teenage German prisoners of war (PoWs) forced to clear a million landmines from Danish beaches after the end of World War II. After the Nazi surrender in 1945, thousands of German PoWs were forced to clear the Danish coastline of the mines that Hitler had had placed there.
Land of Mine beautifully showcases how a grizzled Danish army sergeant who oversees a work party of teenage German conscripts, utterly contemptuous of them at first, realises over time that these recruits have barely grown out of childhood and into their uniforms, and he starts feeling protective towards them. The movie is violent at times but the whole screenplay is quite gripping with great direction by Martin Pieter Zandvliet.
The movie was screened at the first ever Nordic-Baltic Youth Film Festival held recently in Delhi. The 6-day event was organised by Nordic and Baltic Embassies in New Delhi, in collaboration with the India Habitat Centre, from 13-18 November. A range of movies was screened here, from historical dramas to comedies, documentaries and even action films. The festival offered a diverse mix to the audience, including some of the most celebrated and Oscar-nominated movies from the Nordic-Baltic region based on themes of dreams, passion, fear, fun and joy.
The festival was inaugurated with the screening of the Land of Mine, another of those Oscar-nominated films from Denmark. Speaking on the occasion, Danish Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen said, “By hosting this festival, we hope to present the art of cinema as an important element, which binds highly multicultural regions together, by highlighting the shared experiences of life. Tonight we are opening the festival with an Oscar-nominated film from my home country, Denmark. In this film, we follow a group of young German soldiers, who are forced to face a hard punishment after the end of Second World War. It is not only a post-War story, but also a story of building friendships, making enemies and understanding early adulthood. Therefore, I am sure that many of us will connect this film with issues from our own lives.”
About the overall event, he said, “By hosting this festival, we aim to celebrate the enthusiasm, creativity and challenges of youth. When choosing the topic of youth for this festival, it became clear that the Nordic and Baltic regions are tied together by more than just geography and a shared historical past. We are also connected through common emotions and experiences of youth. Stories of youth, coming of age, hope and despair, are somewhat similar, not only in the Nordic and Baltic region, but also all over the world. Therefore, it is a great pleasure for our Nordic and Baltic Embassies to introduce these stories to an Indian audience. During the last couple of years, the Nordic and Baltic countries have hosted various film festivals all over the world. Through our shared sense of creativity and passion for filmmaking, we have strengthened our ties and cooperated in an informal and inspiring way.”
The festival drew a large crowd of movie enthusiasts who shared the thrill and excitement of watching the films from this little-known region of Europe. Embassies of Nordic and Baltic countries in Delhi jointly organised this event—representing Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden, countries tied together geographically and historically through trade, culture and many common yet diverse value systems.
The event was also attended by the Ambassadors of Nordic and Baltic Embassies here, including Riho Kruuv, from Embassy of Estonia; Nina Vaskunlahti, Embassy of Finland; Thorir Ibsen, Embassy of Iceland; Aivars Groza, Embassy of Latvia; Agne Sakalauskaite, Charge d’ Affairs Embassy of Lithuania; Nils Ragnar Kamsvag, Embassy of Norway; and Klas Molin, Ambassador Designate, Embassy of Sweden.
Another great movie screened at the festival was The Excursionist from Lithuania, which tells the story of a young girl who escapes from a deportee train and begins the long journey back to her homeland. Talking about the movie, director Audrius Juzenas said, “The power of belief and love makes wonders. This is the motto of a seemingly simple road-movie style film, which is yet striking with its twists of fate. This film, reminiscent of a long and perilous journey from the dead of Siberia back to the motherland, is but an endless journey into oneself. It is a gateway to our painful experience allowing a sharp, hate-free peer into things we cannot change in the past, but that we can change in ourselves at present, into things that each and every one of us lacks the most and that our inter-War and post-War generations, pruned with battle axes of our fathers, have always lacked. In this film, a young girl’s journey through the cold hearts of post-War people changes the world, the entire harsh human planet. This film is a message to all the people, all nations: ‘While the heart is still burning, love is a stronghold that evil cannot take’.”
Other movies that were screened at the festival included Face to Face, from Iceland, about a young girl who courageously faces up to her bullying classmate; Zero Point, an Estonian movie about a boy named Johannes, an outcast in school and with a sick mom, who must improve his life by reforming himself; The Lesson, from Latvia, about a teacher who goes too far when she tries to befriend her class and falls in love with a student; Tsatsiki, Dad and the OliveWar, from Sweden, about a curious boy named Tsatsiki who has a Swedish mom, a faraway Greek dad, and a lot of questions; The Wave, from Norway, about an experienced geologist Kristian Eikfjord who has accepted a job offer out of town and is about to embark on a life-altering journey.