Cat and the Trolls: a Norwegian-American film

A filmmaker’s attempt to preserve heritage of trolls, lefse, rosemaling, and bunads

Photo courtesy of Michael Amundsen A movie poster for “Cat and the Trolls.”

Photo courtesy of Michael Amundsen
A movie poster for “Cat and the Trolls.”

Michael Amundsen
Cedar Crest, N.M.

Finding an American movie about Norwegian immigrants can be difficult. One has to look back to the early 1950s to find “I Remember Mama.” Before that was “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes,” which starred Edward G. Robinson. Rob Nillson’s “Northern Lights,” about the organizing of Scandinavian farmers in North Dakota, won the Palme D’or at Cannes back in the 1980s. And except for the recent “The Sweet Land,” that about covers it. Four movies filmed in 70 years.

As a Norwegian/American filmmaker, I am out to change that. Drawing from the experiences of my grandparents—immigrants who homesteaded in southeastern Montana—I wrote “Cat and the Trolls,” an intense feature film that tells the story of Siri Omsdal, the 13-year-old daughter of Norwegian homesteaders, who live in a 12×12 tarpaper shack on the Montana Plains.

As the movie begins, it is two days before Christmas and Siri’s mother dies of the flu. Her father leaves to borrow a wagon from neighbors. Her father entrusts Siri with the stewardship of the home, her younger brother’s safety, and her mother’s casket.

Soon a life-threatening blizzard engulfs the region. The father does not return. And if that isn’t bad enough, two strangers, mortal enemies, make their way to the shack and intrude on the Omsdal children. While the storm rages outside, young Siri must confront this unfolding drama inside her house before it grows violent and threatens her safety and that of her brother.

“Cat and the Trolls” is a moving, intense, inspirational coming of age Christmas story of faith and redemption. It is a story that I believe needs to be told before it is lost to history.

However, traditional investors in films are not interested. With no sex, violence, or zombies, it was hard to convince potential backers of the importance of a powerful Holiday drama with a child protagonist. I have directed my share of such films, from violent gang movies like “Lean Like a Gangster” to vampire stories in “La Hacienda,” and even animal films like “Chihuahua the Movie.” They’ve done well, and are available at Redbox, iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix.

“Cat and the Trolls” is a personal project that connects to my Norwegian heritage with trolls, lefse, rosemaling, and bunads. But it goes deeper than that. It is a story of redemption, faith, and self-determination. It strikes to my core belief of the importance of giving honor to the hard work and sacrifices of those who came before us, and their children.

Geir Mæland is founder of Stavanger-based Films of Norway (http://www.filmsofnorway.com, a company that streams Norwegian films to personal media devices. He agrees: “The many different and dramatic stories of the Norwegian immigrants to America in the late 1800s to the beginning of 1900 are fascinating stories of huge personal successes and tragedies. Some of the strongest and most personal stories were never told and died with the people whom experienced them. CAT AND THE TROLLS is one of these stories and will be an important part of the recorded Norwegian-American history.”

“Cat and the Trolls” is currently seeking fundraising through Kickstarter. Anyone desiring to be a part of this project can donate on Kickstarter at www.kickstarter.com/projects/946967595/cat-and-the-trolls-5-14. The campaign ends on July 14. Be sure to check out the many Scandinavian-themed rewards that come with your donations.

This article originally appeared in the July 4, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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