Interview with Festival Director Johan Matton (Nordic International Film Festival)

Nordic International Film Festival (NIFF) is based in New York City at the renowned Scandinavia House on Park Avenue also known as the Nordic Center. NIFF celebrates Nordic and International films and they strive to showcase new and upcoming independent films as well as honour exceptional work from already established filmmakers. They screen the nominated films in the official selection at a grand theatre inside the Nordic Center for press, distribution, filmmakers and general admitted audience.

Interview with Festival Director Johan Matton:

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Johan Matton: Filmmakers that come to NIFF have the opportunity to view and gain inspiration from new Nordic and international independent films. From our 22 screenings last year, 7 of them were world premiers, 13 had their North American premier and 16 of them had a representation present for post screening Q and A’s. NIFF is more than just a screening opportunity at a great venue in New York City. We encourage filmmakers in our program to make the trip to festival for their screening as we want do everything we can to help their film go farther than the screen. Besides providing them with the opportunity to engage with audience after their screening we also arrange a live streamed interview with each of them at the festival so they can get the word out there about their film. After our first year, we connected filmmakers in our Official Selection with American distribution companies and future screening opportunities and we will continue to do the same as NIFF grows. A film festival programmer recommending a film to a distributor or sales agent, carries more weight because the acquisition team there knows that we have viewed hundreds of films that year and sent them only these few selected films for them to review.

For NIFF 2016, we will also have panels from the Swedish Film Commission this year, enlightening people on how to facilitate and shoot independent films in Scandinavia. For our winners this year, we are acquiring extraordinary prizes with a possible opportunity to be able to travel to Scandinavia.

Matthew: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2016)?

Johan: Expect to see premiere short and feature films and outstanding Nordic and International feature films that have not yet been released. Expect a warm welcome from our NIFF team and a fantastic opportunity to connect with other filmmakers and key industry people. We are thrilled to announce the addition of our panels where industry professionals will speak about films, distribution and how to film in Scandinavia.

Matthew: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Johan: This year we are inspired by female filmmakers and films with Nordic themes. If a film has not yet been screened or released outside the festival circuit and it holds the standard and quality and audience appeal that we are looking for then we will put it in our official selection.

Matthew: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why? 

Johan: Yes, NIFF focuses a lot on giving the filmmakers and their films as much recognition and press as possible. We work with the filmmakers, we do not just screen the film. This was one of the primary reasons we created NIFF, not just to create a Nordic hub in New York but also because we are filmmakers ourselves and have experienced poorly run festivals that charge a high submission fee only to screen our short film in a basement of a bar and while charging $20 entrance fee to see our film. We have also seen films get lost at large festivals. We are committed to every submission and every film is seen from beginning to end, with the majority of films seen by at least two programmers. Many film festivals don’t even review every submission, let alone watch them without fast forwarding. NIFF gives every film a chance for an honest review.

Matthew: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Johan: We wanted to do something new by connecting US filmmakers with Nordic Filmmakers with the hopes for them to inspire each other. We wanted to create a festival that give more to the filmmakers with our distribution connections and access to such a great venue as Scandinavia House. We then brainstormed with friends from Tribeca Film Festival and 30 under 30 and friends who worked with IFP and NYFF to create a positive and effective team. In return it is truly inspirational for us to see so much great film.

Matthew: How has the festival changed since its inception?

Johan: 2016 our 2nd year we are expanding to 3 evenings instead of 2 days. We are adding professional industry panels and seminars at the festival. We are expanding our team and crew to give a more sufficient service towards the attendees and the filmmakers.

Matthew: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

Johan: I see us being a main portal and hub for Nordic Films in the US. I see NIFF being the to go to festival for World Premiers of Nordic Feature and Short films as well as some International world premiers. I see us have the option to expand the venue to more screenings and invitations to even more established filmmakers and directors giving panel speeches. I see our Jury being the top in the industry. I see us be able to fly in filmmakers from all Nordic countries to attend.

Matthew: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

Johan: I’m an independent art house film lover and in my adult life as a screenwriter and also indie film producer have probably re-watched Blue Valentine by Derek Cianfrance more than 5 times.

Matthew: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Johan: A film that leaves you with a feeling or adds to conversation after you walk out from the cinema. (This usually happens when a good director has focused on the mood or tone of a film, you don’t know why you feel so much but you do).

Matthew: How is the film scene in your city? 

Johan: ​We couldn’t be luckier to be based in New York City with such a thriving independent and art house film community!




Multi award winning actor, screenwriter and producer and a graduated from 3 major theatre schools; the renowned Circle in the Square Theatre School on Broadway, New York Film Academy and Calle Flygare’s Theatre School of Sweden. Johan’s productions and films has been screened at more than 40 top festivals in the world. From award winning short films to critically acclaimed indie films in Sweden, Asia and the US. John has produced two feature films and a feature documentary. Johan is the founder and president of the indie production company Changing Film and have both produced and distributed feature films and handled two very successful festival runs where his films have won Best Pictures at several festivals. Johan’s hope to utilize his great network and connections in the industry to help the filmmakers in the official selection at NIFF to be introduced to distribution companies and press all over the world.

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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