Trio of films take Sundance by storm

What do a Danish bodybuilder, a pro-Putin activist and a US billionaire’s family have in common? Brilliant filmmaking, according to the world’s leading independent film festival

Denmark has won three awards at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which revealed its 2012 roll of honour over the weekend in Utah. The haul included the gong for best director of an international feature film, which was claimed by Mads Matthiesen for his debut ‘10 timer til paradis’ (Teddy Bear).

The award could not have been better timed for Matthiesen, one of five Danish nominees at the festival, as his film came out at Danish cinemas last Thursday. Starring real-life bodybuilder Kim Kold, the film follows the story of Dennis, a 38-year-old bodybuilder who lives alone with his mother, whom he shares an interesting relationship with. Hoping to find love, Dennis decides to try his luck in Thailand.

The other Danish winners, Lise Birk PedersenÂ’s ‘PutinÂ’s KissÂ’ and Lauren GreenfieldÂ’s ‘The Queen of VersaillesÂ’, won the awards for best photography in the international documentary category (Lars Skree) and best director in the US documentary category respectively. 

“I am very surprised and proud to win this award”, Matthiesen told Det Danske Filminstitut, which provided support to all three of the award winners. Matthiesen last visited Sundance in 2008 with his short film ‘Dennis’, on which ‘Teddy Bear’ is based, and he noted that “Sundance has in many ways been where it all started.”

‘Putin’s Kiss’ enjoyed its world premiere in the main competition at Amsterdam’s IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival), while the Danish premiere took place on January 19. The film follows Masha Drokova, a Russian woman who works for a pro-Putin youth organisation.

‘The Queen of VersaillesÂ’ is a Danish/US documentary co-produced by DenmarkÂ’s Mette Heide. It was the opening film of the festival. Depicting the rise and fall of an American billionaireÂ’s family, the film is an exploration of the realities involved in achieving the American Dream. 

Meanwhile, Mads BrüggerÂ’s ‘The AmbassadorÂ’ about the shady dealings of diplomacy and Omar ShargawiÂ’s ‘1/2 RevolutionÂ’, an eye-witness account of the Arab Spring in Cairo, were well received, but failed to win awards. ShargawiÂ’s film was originally going to be about Egyptian street kids, but then he got caught up in the events that changed the world forever. 

And also in hot demand at Sundance was Danish actor Thure Lindhardt (‘BrotherhoodÂ’, ‘Angels & DemonsÂ’), whose performance in Ira SachsÂ’ drama ‘Keep the Lights OnÂ’, a drama that follows a ten-year gay romance between a German and an American in New York, is earning plaudits from viewers and critics alike. 

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