Guest of Honour: Nicolas Winding Refn

This year the Grand IFFMh Award goes to the Danish director

With the GRAND IFFMH AWARD, the film festival honours the most impressive, influential and innovative filmmakers of our time. After Guillaume Nicloux (2021) and Alice Winocour (2022), Nicolas Winding Refn will receive the award, which is endowed with 10,000 euros, this year.

Festival director Sascha Keilholz says: “More than twenty years ago, Nicolas Winding Refn brought his second film, ›Bleeder‹, to the IFFMH. At that time, no one could have predicted that he would go on to have such a brilliant international career. In the meantime, he has not only established himself in Hollywood, but has also made three of the defining films of the early 21st century: ›Drive‹, ›Only God Forgives‹ and ›The Neon Demon‹. Refn’s fondness for experimenting with cinematography, his independent vision of cinema, is remarkable. His imagery overwhelms us and amazes us in equal measure, again and again.”

Born in 1970 to a cinematographer and a film director and editor, Refn emigrated from Denmark to the United States at the age of eight. He attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. His later Hollywood breakthrough was preceded by a career in Europe. In the first part of his ›Pusher‹ trilogy (1996, 2004, 2005), he directed Kim Bodnia and the young Mads Mikkelsen. This was followed by the arthouse hits ›Bronson‹ (2009) with Tom Hardy in the title role and ›Valhalla Rising‹ (2009), a cross between a Viking tale and an art film, starring Mikkelsen.

Refn's films are characterised by strong contrasts, initially in the form of dark, grainy images and later in a flashy, piercing neon-noir aesthetic. His characters are often nameless archetypes who have a problematic relationship with the rest of the world. Their protracted silence is an eloquent expression of this. In addition to Mads Mikkelsen, Refn has worked with some of the pre-eminent actors of our time. He directed Ryan Gosling as a young stuntman and getaway car driver who falls in love with his neighbour (Carey Mulligan) in the gangster film ›Drive‹ (2011). At Cannes he received the award for best director. In ›Only God Forgives‹ (2013), Refn continued his collaboration with Gosling in a radical way. Refn’s horror thriller ›The Neon Demon‹ (2016) starred Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Christina Hendricks and Keanu Reeves.
Most recently, Nicolas Winding Refn turned to the series format in ›Too Old to Die Young‹ and finally returned to Denmark in ›Copenhagen Cowboy‹ – but with a new aesthetic. This time, the hero is a woman.

At the 72nd IFFMH, ›Pusher‹, ›Drive‹ and ›Only God Forgives‹ can be seen once more.