Haugesund honors the year’s top films

“Blind” and “Tusen ganger god natt” compete head-to-head in the Amanda Awards, with American films bringing home victories in the end

Photo courtesy of the Norwegian Film Institute “Blind” tells the story of a woman, Ingrid, who has recently lost her sight. Ingrid retreats to her apartment, but cannot escape her fear.

Photo courtesy of the Norwegian Film Institute
“Blind” tells the story of a woman, Ingrid, who has recently lost her sight. Ingrid retreats to her apartment, but cannot escape her fear.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

Film stole the spotlight yet again this August in the town of Haugesund, Norway, during the 42nd Norwegian International Film Festival. This prestigious festival has been held in Haugesund since 1973, honoring films distributed throughout Scandinavia. Crown Prince Haakon serves as the Patron of the Festival, and Norwegian film legend Liv Ullmann acts as the Honorary President.

The annual event began with the Amanda Awards ceremony on August 16, focusing in on the highlights of the Norwegian film industry within the past year. The Amanda Awards—what you might call the Norwegian version of the Oscars—began in 1985 “to increase the quality of and further the interest for Norwegian films made for theatrical release as well as short films meant for public exhibition.”

The Norwegian International Film Festival forms a committee to determine the winners of these golden “Amanda” figurines, designed by the sculptor Kristian Kvakland. This year, the Amanda Committee chose victors in 20 categories, ranging from best film to best visual effects.

The two big winners of the 2014 Amanda Awards were Eskil Vogt’s “Blind” and Erik Poppe’s “Tusen ganger god natt” (1,000 Times Good Night).

“Blind” hit the jackpot with four wins. The film tells the story of a woman, Ingrid, who has recently lost her sight. Ingrid retreats to her apartment, but cannot escape her fear. “Blind” reflects this fear with an unclear mix of reality and fantasy.

With his directorial debut, Eskil Vogt received the Amanda for best director. Ellen Dorrit Petersen won best female actor for her portrayal of Ingrid. “Blind” also brought home the Amandas for best editing and best sound design.

“Blind” was undoubtedly a hit at the festival, but the title of best Norwegian film went to “Tusen ganger god natt.” The film is about Rebecca, one of the world’s top war photographers. After being injured in an explosion, her husband tells her to choose between her family—and their constant worry over her safety—and her job. Poppe’s film also won for best music and cinematography.

Aksel Hennie brought home his fourth Amanda for his role in Erik Skjoldbjærg’s “Pionér” (Pioneer). In this conspiracy thriller set during Norway’s Oil Boom, Hennie’s character, Petter, is determined to be the first to reach the depths of the Norwegian Sea. But after a tragic accident occurs, Petter realizes that his life is at risk.

Each year, the Amanda Committee also presents an honorary award to someone who has left a lasting impression on the Norwegian film industry. The recipient for 2014 was Elsa Lystad, a prominent actress in Norway for 50 years. Lystad experienced her breakthrough into the entertainment industry in the 1960’s and has been active in Norwegian TV, film, and radio ever since.

Throughout the week, a variety of films were chosen to be screened, based on their artistic merit. These films—which must either be signed for theatrical release in Norway or exhibit a significance for a Norwegian audience—are selected with the help of Scandinavian film distributors. The main program consists of films from around the world, while the New Nordic Films market program features films from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland.

On August 22, the festival wrapped up with the presentation of the four main awards: the Norwegian Film Award Haugesund, the Norwegian Critics Prize, the Ray of Sunshine, and the Audience Award.

The Norwegian Film Award Haugesund—and a 40,000 kroner prize—is awarded to the director of the best Nordic film. This year, the Swedish Leif Lindblom won the award for his film “Vadelmavenepakolainen” (Raspberry Boat Refugee). The film, based on the 2007 Finnish novel by Miika Nousiaisen, tells the story of a man named Mikko who was born as a Finn but feels Swedish. In describing the choice of “Vadelmavenepakolainen,” the jury comments: “We have decided on a seemingly light-hearted and wild comedy, but it has a double meaning, drawing attention to naïve and simplified perceptions of the difference between two neighboring countries.”

The American film “Boyhood,” directed by Richard Linklater, took home the 2014 Norwegian Critics Prize. “Boyhood” was filmed over 12 years, following the life of a young man, Mason. The jury describes it as “a somewhat ordinary and rather undramatic story that still—or perhaps precisely because of this—becomes a very special film treasure.”

The Norwegian Film Critics Association also awarded an honorable mention to the British film “’71,” directed by Yann Demange.

Jon Favreau’s “Chef” earned the title of “The Ray of Sunshine” by Den norske Bank and the Norwegian Cinema Managers Association. “We were never in doubt that this film is a clear winner. It convinces us that high spirits, a positive attitude, and a big helping of self-irony make life much better,” says the jury of the American film.

The American film industry succeeded yet again at the Norwegian festival, earning the audience award for Lasse Hallström’s “The Hundred-Foot Journey.” And with that, the festival wrapped up, to return to Haugesund next August.

Whether you’re interested in Scandinavian film, or just on the lookout for American entertainment, be sure to take a look at the Norwegian International Film Festival when choosing your next flick.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 5, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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