Report from BIFF

The Bergen International Film Festival, October 2021


Photo courtesy of Films of Norway
There are always lively panel discussions at the annual Bergen International Film Festival.

Films of Norway

Bergen, the city surrounded by seven mountains. It’s known for its rain, fish market, cozy wooden houses, and a soccer team that is in trouble.

But Bergen is much more than that. For instance, the city has a noticeable media industry, including:

The second biggest TV station in Norway (TV2) 

Vestnorsk filmsenter (film production financing)

Several movie and TV production companies

Bergen International Film Festival (yearly film festival)

Norwegian Film Commission

The main focus of the Bergen international Film Festival (BIFF) is documentaries and short films. Most attendees are people from the Norwegian film industry. In addition to film screenings, there are seminars, parties, mingling, and networking.

My interest is Norwegian-made content and the industry that produces it, so if you would like some updates of what goes on behind the scenes here, just read on.

Upon my arrival, there was one title that I was very interested in checking out. 

John, the last Norwegian cowboy is a documentary that I have known about for a few years and was really looking forward to checking out.

In short, it is a story about a man who lives alone on his farm in Montana in the United States. Ninety-one-year-old John Hoiland is a second-generation Norwegian American. (I have written a review that will be published later in The Norwegian American.) If you have some Norwegian blood in your veins, it might interest you to gain more info about John, so stay tuned.

Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if you decide to spend a couple of bucks to visit a cinema near you and see this lovely piece of movie art on the big screen (instead of waiting for it to come to your home on the flatscreen).

Here are some short reviews of a couple of the winners at the festival:

Sommerbarna (documentary winner)


The official poster for Sommerbarna, which premiered at the Bergen International Film Festival.

I had no idea that we in Norway invited young German children to come and stay here for a couple of months for a summer vacation. Apparently, the official idea was to help German families to have some kind of family relief from stress by offering time in Norway for children from bombed German cities.

Fresh Norwegian air and plenty of food was supposed to make them happy and less “skinny,” but many of the children came for a summer but ended up staying and growing up in Norway.

However, there were other sides of the story that were not discussed that Sommerbarna brings to attention.

The movie is made by the daughter of one of the “sommerbarn,” the summer children. It is an interesting and until now untold story made in a way that sometimes makes us as viewers happy, and at other times, brings tears to our eyes.

The well-deserved winner of the documentary section of the festival, Sommerbarna is well done in all ways. You can watch the trailer at

View (short film winner)

Indeed, this is a very short movie, with a duration of only four minutes, but what an impact and eye-opener of a “movie!”

It focuses on a burning hot topic from the city of Stavanger, where huge cruise ships enter the harbor, and the meaning of “view” is presented from a very interesting and new angle: no voiceover, no music, just film images, and sound effects. 

Filmmaker Odveig Klyve is silent but so strong in giving her impressions of the topics she communicates. She loves nature and is concerned about what we are doing to the earth.

I had no idea that it was possible to make such a strong statement in such a short movie, and in such a lovely diplomatic way—wow!

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 19, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Geir Mæland

Geir Mæland is the founder and manager of Films of Norway, a Norwegian film-streaming service based in Stavanger, Norway.