Films of Norway reports from the Norwegian International Film Festival

Photos courtesy of Films of Norway
Each year, Norwegian film buffs gather in the quaint coastal town of Haugesund to celebrate what’s happened in Norwegian cinema.

Films of Norway

A small city on the west coast in Norway, Haugesund is situated between Stavanger and Bergen. In this city there is a statue of Marilyn Monroe.  The first time I saw it, I thought to myself, “What, Marilyn was Norwegian!”

The story has it that Marilyn Monroe’s grandfather, Martin Mortensen (born Feb. 8, 1861) came from this area, and therefore the city decided to claim some kind of “relationship” to Marilyn and commissioned a statue that they placed in the harbor area, close to the sea, where every tourist would see her. 

Apparently, Marilyn’s paternal grandfather left Norway and emigrated to America in 1878, so I guess one can say that this was the year that the backstory of one of the world’s most famous movie stars ever, started in the United States.

Today, Haugesund is the city that hosts the annual Norwegian International Film Festival. It starts off with “The Amanda Show,” the Norwegian version of the Oscars.

A committee evaluates the previous year’s Norwegian film premieres and hands out the Amanda statuettes to the winners. Categories are, more or less, the same as at all film festivals.  A host, who has the name of a given winner in a closed envelope, which is slowly opened until the name is revealed. The winners are so happy that they have to jump up and down and even cry a little, followed by big smiles and laughter, when they understand that all the excitement now can be released. Their value in the film industry has not only increased on paper and in reputation, but even their salaries will grow in the upcoming years—good feelings!

The Amanda Awards 2021

The winners of the 2021 Amanda Prizes were announced at the awards ceremony on Aug. 21, 2021 The show was produced by Monster and was broadcast live by NRK.

A special premiere

One of this year’s big “talk of the town” films wash a-ha, the Movie.

Norwegian film production is on the move and is well received by the cinemagoers.

Norwegians seem to be cheering for their home-country productions as part of the patriotism and love for “our own,” but it really seems that there is a rising interest from abroad, too, if you consider the nominations of film festivals like Cannes and others. Here in Norway, one of the big “talk of the town” films in this year’s film festival was a-ha, the Movie. 

I attended the premiere, and it seemed that everybody had forgotten about COVID-19, face masks, keeping distance, and all that stuff that’s important these days. At the premiere, I could not see an empty chair in the room, and it was a big movie theater with 100s of people. The atmosphere was electric, as they were not only was waiting to see the movie but also to meet some of the people behind the production, including writer and director Thomas Robsan and producer Yngve Sæther.

This movie is a must-see for any a-ha fan. It takes you behind the scenes in a “fly on the wall” position, allowing you to experience the true story of what happened from the inside.  It is no secret that the boys struggled with conflicts, the classic issues like power, ownership, and diverse opinions about future strategies.  

The filmmakers must have had access to a good deal of old film/video material from several sources. I appreciate that instead of spending much time and money on brushing up older footage, they have kept it low-key and focused more on the story than glossy pictures.

If there is one thing that I would point my finger at in the movie, it would be that you forgot to “kill your darlings.” It is obvious that the filmmakers are a-ha fans (it is totally visible and understandable that they love a-ha as a band, the music, and the story.)  But I sometimes had the feeling that the story got trapped in itself, continually repeating the same topics, instead of moving the story forward. There was a tendency to repeat some of the same conflicts over and over, that I would have liked to be brought a bit forward into different stories I had not heard earlier.

And, naturally, there is a lot of original a-ha music in the film, used to create the right atmosphere and deliver what an audience demands from a movie like this—and a-ha!—it works!

Best Film: The Painter and the Thief, (Benjamin Ree, director, and Ingvil Giske, producer)

Best Director: Yngvild Sve Flikke for Ninjababy

Best Actress: Kristine Kujath Thorp for Ninjababy

Best Actor: Jakob Oftebro for Betrayed

Best Supporting Actress: Pia Halvorsen for Betrayed

Best Supporting Actor: Nader Khademi for Ninjababy

Best Documentary: The Painter and the Thief (Benjamin Ree, director, Ingvil Giske, producer)

Best Children’s Film: Sisters: The Summer We Found Our Superpowers (Silje Salomonsen and Arild Østin Ommundsen, directors, and Gary Cranner, producer)

Best Short Film: What is a Woman? (Marin Håskjold, director and producer)

Best Foreign Language Film: Another Round (Thomas Vinterberg, director; distributed by Arthaus)

Best Screenplay: Johan Fasting, Yngvild Sve Flikke and Inga H. Sætre for Ninjababy

Best Cinematography: Egil Håskjold Larsen and Victor Kossakovsky for Gunda

Best Editing: Robert Stengård for The Painter and the Thief

Best Sound Design: Alexander Dudarev for Gunda

Best Original Score: Thomas Dybdahl for Sisters: The Summer We Found Our Superpowers

Best Costume Design: Ingjerd Meland, Marianne Stranger, Itonje Søimer Guttormsen, Birgitte Larsen, and Nina Buer Brun for Gritt

Best Makeup: Maria Bjørnnes Hermansen and Fie Baro for Prosjekt Z

Best Production Design: Ulrika Axén and Tobias Eiving for Betrayed

Best Visual Effects: Dennis Kleyn and Peer Lemmers for Dragon Girl

The People’s Amanda: Generation Utøya (Aslaug Holm and Sigve Endresen, directors, and Tore Buvarp, producer)

The Amanda Committee’s Golden Clapper: Horst Molkenbur

The Amanda Committee Honorary Award: Oddvar Bull Tuhus

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 17, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.