At a time when tens of thousands of immigrants and refugees have arrived in Scandinavia, Swedish and Norwegian filmmakers are preparing a new film version about the hundreds of thousands of Swedes and Norwegians who left their homelands in the 1800s and 1900s. Now The Emigrants will cast off with a script written by a Norwegian for a film directed by a Swede.
The Norwegian Film Instititute reported on Thursday that the new film will once again be based on Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg’s classic series of books from the 1950s about the epic emigration from Scandinavia. The books trace the story of a young married couple named Karl Oscar and Kristina from Skåne in Sweden, who decide to escape the poverty, religious persecution and social oppression that was rampant in both Norway and Sweden in the 1850s. They sail into the unknown looking for a better life, not unlike how many people from poor and war-torn areas currently seek a better life in now-prosperous Scandinavia.
The film’s topic is thus highly relevant, not least at a time when the Norwegian government is trying to crack down on immigration and separate what it calls “legitimate” asylum seekers from “economic refugees” seeking a better life in Norway. Immigration Minister Sylvi Listhaug of the conservative Progress Party has dismissed the latter group as lykkejegere (literally, fortune hunters), while the new film may serve as a reminder that an estimated 800,000 Norwegians once felt forced to take on the same role themselves.
Norwegian script writer Petter Skavlan, who delivered the screenplay for the Oscar-nominated Norwegian film Kon-Tiki in 2012, is now responsible for the script of The Emigrants, which will be directed by Sweden’s Daniel Espinosa. It will be Espinosa’s first Swedish film since Snabba cash (Easy Money) in 2010, which received three of Sweden’s national film prizes.
The Norwegian Film Institute is backing the project with NOK 2 million in funding. It reported that Swedish producer Nicklas Wikström Nicastro of Sweden will stage the film based on Moberg’s first book in the series for SF Studios Production of Sweden, along with Norwegian producers Are Heidenstrøm and Martin Sundland of Fantefilm Fiksjon. A release date is expected in 2018.