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The Danish Queen of Hearts captures the 2019 Nordic Council Film Prize

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- May el-Toukhy’s acclaimed sophomore directing effort graduates her further into the Danish top class

The Danish Queen of Hearts captures the 2019 Nordic Council Film Prize
René Ezra, Maren Louise Käehne, Caroline Blanco and May el-Toukhy at the Nordic Council Film Prize ceremony (© Magnus Fröderberg)

“It is not a pleasure to get to know Anne – but it is an intoxicating pleasure to experience a finely masked film that provides us with the right tools for us to find our own relationship to a complex human being. And this film believes we are capable of it.”

Tuesday evening, at the time-honoured Stockholm Concert Hall, a discerning jury of cinema experts of Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Danish origins explained their motivations for picking this year’s winner, and for a record sixth time, handed the Nordic Council Film Prize to Denmark. Joining previous and luminous countryman recipients such as Thomas Vinterberg, Per Fly and Lars von Trier, 2019 winner May el-Toukhy is indeed in splendid company – now made even better with its first female member. Born to a Danish mother and an Egyptian father and graduating from The Danish Film School in 2009, el-Toukhy directed her feature debut Long Story Short [+see also:
trailer
film profile
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in 2015, a clever and well-received romantic comedy-drama depicting a group of friends and acquaintances through eight different party gatherings.

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Her sophomore effort, the harrowing family drama Queen of Hearts [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: May el-Toukhy
film profile
]
, tells the story of a relentless woman who, against any sound judgement, embarks on a sexual relationship with her teenage stepson, with truly gruesome consequences. The film has, since its Sundance opening in January, gained many acclaims, including acting awards for leads Trine Dyrholm and Gustav Lindh as well as directing and best film prizes, at Sundance, Göteborg, Hong Kong, Philadelphia, Transilvania and Zürich. The film’s September submission as the Danish candidate for Best International Film at the 2020 Oscar awards was highly expected news.

For the 2019 Nordic Council Film Prize, Queen of Hearts was nominated alongside respectable contenders Miia Tervo’s Aurora [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Miia Tervo
film profile
]
(Finland), Tuva Novotny’s Blind Spot [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Tuva Novotny
film profile
]
(Norway), Carl Javér’s Reconstructi [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
ng [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
Utøya [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
(Sweden) and Hlynur Pálmason’s A White, White Day [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Hlynur Pálmason
film profile
]
(Iceland) – the only other Nordic Council-nominee entered at the 2020 Oscar submissions.

As the prize expressively goes to the collective effort of directing, writing and producing, director el-Toukhy shares the award (and the included DKK 350,000 prize money) with her co-writer Maren Louise Käehne and producers Caroline Blanco and René Ezra. In her acceptance speech, el-Toukhy praised her “outstanding team and fearless actors” and added that “we could not have told this story without you.” At the moment, el-Toukhy is preparing The Lioness, an ambitiously designed biopic on the African ventures of author Karen Blixen.

Introduced as a one-off special prize in 2002, the Nordic Council Film Prize was launched as a regular award in 2005 in order to promote film production and the film market in the Nordic Region and is awarded at the same ceremony where the prizes for music, literature and environmental causes are handed out. Last night, the latter category made some rumble at the stately premise when landslide laureate Greta Thunberg not only did not show up, but also rejected the award as a protest against inadequate climate action.

Find the complete list of 2019 Nordic Council award winners here.

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