Ibelin wins at Sundance

A story of friendship


Photo: Norwegian Film Institute
Ibelin was directed by Benjamin Ree (far left) and produced by Ingvil Giske (far right), seen here with Trude Steen and Robert Steen, parents of Mats Steen, whose story is told in the documentary. The film won the international audience award and the international director’s award at the Sundance Film Festival.

Snorre Schjønberg

The Norwegian documentary film Ibelin won both the international audience award and the international director’s award at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

The Sundance Festival is one of the most prestigious film festivals. Ibelin ran away with two awards, while Unknown Landscape (Ukjent landskap) and Handling the Undead (Håndtering av udøde) also received awards. This makes this year’s award ceremony the best ever at Sundance for Norwegian film.

“We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Norwegian documentary film is in a golden age. The quality is world-class,” says Kjersti Mo, director of the Norwegian Film Institute.

Ibelin tells the story of the gamer Mats Steen, who died at age 25. In the film, we gain insight into his rich life in the digital sphere, a life that was unknown to his parents.

Steen was the son of former Oslo city council member Robert Steen and grandson of Labor Party leader Reiulf Steen.

Named for an avatar 

Steen used the game World of Warcraft. The story was first told on NRK in 2019 and received massive attention. Steen died from a degenerative muscle disease in 2014.

“Absolutely fantastic”

The film was directed by Benjamin Ree, who won for best international director.

“This is absolutely fantastic! We would like to dedicate this prize to Mats ‘Ibelin’ Steen. It will stand together with a picture of him at home with his parents, Robert and Trude,” said Ree.“We hope the film will reach as many people as possible and create discussions and inspiration all over the world. Such an award helps the film’s future life and increases the likelihood that it will be seen by more people,” he said.

Getting attention

The documentary has received a lot of attention after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Robert Steen was present there and expressed that he is very proud to see his son’s life on film.

“As expected, it was an emotional roller coaster,” Steen wrote on Facebook about watching the premiere:

“Yesterday was one of the most powerful days of my life,” he added.

Ibelin has since its premiere been acquired by the streaming giant Netflix.

The Norwegian documentary Unknown Landscape, directed by Silje Evensmo Jacobsen, won the jury award at Sundance.

At the same time, the feature film Handling the Undead won the award for best original film score.

This article originally appeared in the March 2024 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