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Finns scoop up Nordic prizes for film, music, books and environment

Finnish entries scored four out of five awards at the annual Nordic Council Prizes award ceremony, held this time in Helsinki. 

Linnea Skog ja Paula Vesala elokuvassa Tyttö nimeltä Varpu.
Linnea Skog and Paula Vesala star in the coming-of-age drama Little Wing. Image: Tuomo Hutri

Director Selma Vilhunen’s movie Little Wing (originally Tyttö nimeltä Varpu) has won the Nordic Council film prize, which was handed out at Finlandia Hall on Wednesday evening. Like all the prizes, it is worth about 47,000 euros. The sum is divided among the director, screenwriter and producer. In this case, Vilhunen was the writer with Kaarle Aho and Kai Nordberg as producers.

The feature film centres around a troubled adolescent (Linnea Skog) and her relationship with her mother, played by Finnish pop star Paula Vesala.

The award jury said deserved the prize because “Vilhunen manages to capture big and fundamental emotions using very small gestures, and proves that she has a sensibility as a director and screenwriter beyond the ordinary,” adding that “she cleverly plays with how girls and young women are often treated on film” while steering clear of clichés.

Vilhunen told Yle that she was “particularly touched that the story of a 12-year-old girl would get this kind of recognition. This is also a nod to future female filmmakers,” she said.

The prize was first handed out in 2002, when it went to Aki Kaurismäki’s Man With a Past – which went on to earn an Oscar nomination and the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.

Little Wing is Vilhunen’s first feature film. She has also directed several documentaries including Hobbyhorse Revolution, which last week won the Cinekid Lion for Best Children’s Film Audience Award in Amsterdam, as well as the Oscar-nominated comedy short Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?

Mälkki scores Music Prize

The 2017 music prize went to conductor Susanna Mälkki.

Last month, her appointment as Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra was extended until at least 2021, just as she began her first season as Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

“Mälkki is a versatile and dedicated maestro of both the classical and contemporary repertoire. Having forged her own path through the world of classical music, she now ranks among the top international conductors,” the Adjudication Committee said.

Mälkki was not able to attend the ceremony, so her brother, Mikko Mälkki, accepted the prize and statuette on her behalf from former winner Pekka Kuusisto during a ceremony at Helsinki’s Finlandia Hall.

RePack wraps up environmental prize

Finnish startup RePack scored the Nordic Council environmental prize for its returnable and reusable packaging service for e-commerce. Its carrier bag is made of recycled plastic bags and can be reused up to 20 times.

“The product turns the environment into a business opportunity, using accessible and innovative techniques to draw attention to opportunities for recycling and highlight the unnecessary use of resources and generation of waste,” the jury noted, adding that “the company also works with consumers to reduce the volume of waste”.

Literary prizes to Denmark, Sweden and Finland

Finnish illustrator Linda Bondestam shared the young readers’ literature prize with the late Swedish writer Ulf Stark for their book Djur som ingen sett utom vi (Animals Nobody Has Seen Except Us, translated into Finnish but not English so far). Stark died in June.

Danish writer Kirsten Thorup received the Nordic Council literature prize for her novel Erindring om kærligheden (Memories of Love), which has yet to be translated into English or Finnish.

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