Hope is this year’s Oscar hope

Maria Sødahl’s Håp selected as Norway’s candidate for best international film

Hope Håp

Photo: Vidar Ruud / NTB scanpix
Writer and director Maria Sødahl with actors Andrea Bræin Hovig og Stellan Skarsgård.


Maria Sødahl’s film Håp (Hope) has been selected as Norway’s Oscar candidate for best international film this year. The film tells the story of Anja, played by Andrea Bræin Hovig, who is in the midst of an active career when, on Dec. 23, Little Christmas Eve, she receives news of a life-threatening cancer diagnosis. Throughout the following days, the effects of the illness reveal strains in her relationship, placing a love story at the center of the drama.

Hope was written and directed by Sødahl and is based in part on her personal experiences.

“I am extremely pleased and proud of my fantastic actors Andrea Bræin Hovig and Stellan Skarsgård. We will do our best to put Norway on the map, both in Europe and the United States,” said Sødahl in a press release.

The film was also nominated for the European Film Awards and and has so far been sold to more than 40 countries.

“The first time I read the screenplay, I thought, ‘This could win an Oscar.’ Now we are one step closer, and it feels fantastic,” said producer Thomas Robsahm.

With Hope on the Norwegian short list were the films Disco, directed by Jorunn Myklebust Syversen, and Selvportrett (Self-portrait), by Margreth Olin, Katja Høgset, and Espen Wallin.

Barn (Beware of Children), which swept the Amanda Awards and recently won the Nordic Council Film Prize, was notably missing from the short list.

The Oscars in a pandemic
The jury argued that the timelessness of Hope’s themes and the film’s courage and strength of presence could carry the film far in the competition.

“The film Hope is an uncommonly intimate and original story about a family that experiences a transformative crisis. In the shadow of a sudden and serious illness, the film celebrates life and love in confrontation with the unthinkable,” the jury remarked in its comments.

The Norwegian Oscar committee, which is comprised of eight members from various sectors of the film industry, has thoroughly evaluated 33 films, all beneath the Academy’s new regulatory framework during the COVID-19 crisis.

“With an ongoing pandemic, it is especially important to think creatively and in new ways to reach the Oscar committee members who will watch and vote for the films,” said the Norwegian Film Institute in a press release. The institute stressed that all the films have shown great understanding of what it means to be a Norwegian Oscar candidate and have put forth strong campaigns.

Hope must now compete with films from around the world, first for a spot on the short list of 10 and then for a place among the final five international nominees. So far, 92 films have been submitted.

Next year’s Oscars has been delayed due to the pandemic and is scheduled for April 25, 2021, in Los Angeles. In all, five Norwegian films have been nominated, including Kon-Tiki (2013), Elling (2001), and The Pathfinder (1987). In 2016, The King’s Choice (Kongens nei) was on the Academy’s short list.

(Translated by Andy Meyer)

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 27, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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NTB (Norsk Telegrambyrå), the Norwegian News Agency, is a press agency and wire service that serves most of the largest Norwegian media outlets. The agency is located in Oslo and has bureaus in Brussels, Belgium, and Tromsø in northern Norway