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UKRAINE

Danish culture minister urges Musikhuset Aarhus to drop Russian ballet performance

Given the situation in Ukraine, concert venue Musikhuset Aarhus should cancel the Russian National Ballet's performance on Monday, Danish Minister of Culture Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen said on Saturday.

Ballet dancers perform Swan Lake
The Russian National Ballet is scheduled to perform "Swan Lake" at Musikhuset Aarhus on Monday. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

“I do not believe that the National Ballet from Russia should perform on Danish soil in a situation where Russia has attacked a free democratic country. I cannot order Musikhuset to cancel the performance, but it is clearly my position that such events should not take place in the current situation,” Halsboe-Jørgensen said, Danish news agency Ritzau reported.

‘Swan Lake’ is due to be performed at the 3,806-person-capacity concert hall – Scandinavia’s largest – on Monday evening.

The minister also urged other cultural sites to take a critical look at what and who they had on their programmes.

However, when it came to state-owned institutions, Halsboe-Jørgensen’s position was clear:

“I draw a line in my area and say that all cooperation with the Russian state at our state institutions must cease. My ministry has asked state museums like the National Museum of Denmark and the Danish National Gallery to review collaborations and agreements to see if there are any agreements with Russia to be stopped.”

The Russian invasion has caused several other culture clashes across Europe and the United States, AP reported.

Acclaimed Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, chief of Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre and known for his warm Kremlin ties, was suddenly dropped from concerts where he was due to lead the Vienna Philharmonic at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

This came as Munich’s mayor told Gergiev to speak out against Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine or risk losing his job as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) also made a statement on Friday, saying that no Russian entertainers would be permitted to take part in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“In light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s contest would bring the competition into disrepute,” the EBU said in a statement.

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Member comments

  1. What Putin does is horrible; what some other people do, claiming that they understand social sciences, arts and culture is plain stupid…. What does Ballet or Arts or Museum exhibition has to do with Putin?

    Some of the decisions politicians make truly make me feel that one of the key criteria to get a govt. job is to get brain size reduction surgery.

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CULTURE

New wave of Swedish and Danish film rolls into Cannes

A new generation of Scandinavian filmmakers is making waves, following in the footsteps of Ingmar Bergman, Lars von Trier and the Dogme movement, with three directors in competition at Cannes this year.

New wave of Swedish and Danish film rolls into Cannes

Swedish cult director Ruben Ostlund, who won the 2017 Palme d’Or for “The Square”, is back with “Triangle of Sadness”.

He is joined by two other films from rising stars with immigrant backgrounds: “Boy from Heaven”, by Sweden’s Tarik Saleh and Danish-Iranian Ali Abbasi’s “Holy Spider”.

Scandinavian films have been a fixture at the Cannes Film Festival over the years.

Denmark’s Bille August is one of a handful to win the Palme d’Or twice and Von Trier won the top prize in 2000 for “Dancer in the Dark”, while Bergman was the first-ever recipient of an honorary Palme in 1997 for his body of work.

Nordic filmmakers often “push the limits of cinematographic language,” said Claus Christensen, editor of Danish film magazine Ekko.

“It’s entertainment, but (the goal is) also to challenge the audience. The director has the freedom to explore whatever his artistic vision is,” he told AFP.

Abbasi, 40, is making his second appearance at Cannes, after winning the newcomer’s Un Certain Regard section in 2018 with “Border”, an eccentric troll-fantasy film about a border guard.

His new film “Holy Spider” is the gritty story of a serial killer “cleansing” the Iranian holy city of Mashhad of street prostitutes.

“You can’t pigeonhole him. When you think you have him, he’s a shapeshifter and does something else,” his producer Jacob Jarek told AFP.

Abbasi recently finished filming episodes for the upcoming post-apocalyptic HBO series “The Last of Us”, based on the video game of the same name. That versatility defines others from his generation, said Jarek.

Swedish actress Eva Melander and Danish-Iranian director Ali Abbasi pose as they arrive for the closing ceremony of the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival in 2018. Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

Immigrant perspectives

The previous wave of Danish filmmakers, such as von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, won international acclaim with the Dogme movement, which set strict filmmaking rules aimed at ensuring realism in their films.

But the new generation is “more willing to work with genre, to mix genres: to do comedy and lighter stuff mixed with dark stuff,” said Jarek.

Both Abbasi’s and Saleh’s films draw heavily on their immigrant backgrounds.

Abbasi left Tehran for Sweden in 2002, while Saleh was born in Stockholm to a Swedish mother and Egyptian father.

Saleh’s background was essential to making “Boy from Heaven”, he told AFP.

“I think there’s a reason a lot of directors, historically, have immigrant backgrounds, like (Francis Ford) Coppola and Milos Forman,” the 50-year-old said.

“You’re positioned on the inside and outside of something. In a way, that’s the director’s role… to see both the similarities and the differences.”

Tarik Saleh accepts the World Cinema: Dramatic Grand Jury Prize for his movie “The Nile Hilton Incident” during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival/AFP

Hidden world

“Boy from Heaven” is a dark thriller set in Cairo that follows a poor boy granted a scholarship to the prestigious Al-Azhar University, who finds himself drawn into a brutal power struggle between Egypt’s religious and political elite.

Being an outsider was crucial, Saleh said.  “No one has ever gone into (Al-Azhar University) with a camera before. (An Egyptian filmmaker) would go to prison if they did,” he told AFP.

A former graffiti artist, Saleh grew up with a filmmaker father and worked in his film studio before attending art school in Alexandria.

In addition to directing episodes of “Westworld” and “Ray Donovan”, his 2017 film “The Nile Hilton Incident”, also set in Cairo, won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize.

Meanwhile, Ostlund, the doyen of the trio with six features under his belt, is bringing his first English-language film to Cannes.

“Triangle of Sadness” is a satire about passengers on a luxury cruise who end up stranded on a deserted island, lampooning the fashion world and ultra-rich, with a scathing criticism of society’s focus on beauty.

By AFP’s Pia Ohlin and Camille Bas-Wohlert

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