The Norwegian International Film Festival is held annually in the Norwegian seaside town of Haugesund. This year's 44th edition of the festival, which was established in 1973, was the first to host a FIPRESCI jury. Haugesund is the major showcase for new Nordic films, and our jury judged 10 new movies from Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden. In addition to the dramatic features, the line up also included one documentary (Magnus, a Norwegian film about Norway’s young chess champion Magnus Carlssen). The festival opened with The Lion Woman (Løvekvinnen), a Norwegian period piece directed by Vibeke Idsøe and based on the international bestseller by author Erik Fosnes Hansen. Set between 1912 and 1937, it’s about the daughter of a stationmaster in a small Norwegian community who is born with hair covering her entire body. The closing film was a light, action-packed adventure flick. Cave, also from Norway. It’s about three adrenalin-addicted friends, a strange threesome involving a a guy, a girl and her ex-boyfriend, who hasn’t still hasn’t forgotten her and is hoping for a hot-blooded reunion. In the selection there were some international premieres (such Cave and The Lion Woman) as well as some already-discovered festival darlings (notably the bittersweet Finnish boxing melodrama The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, named best film in this year's Cannes section Un Certain Regard).
This eclectic array of recent Scandinavian filmmaking offered a broad spectrum of trends in Nordic cinema. Alongside the official selection, the Festival also hosted a Pitch Forum, the Nordic Co-Production and Finance Market, and climaxed with the annual Amanda Awards ceremony for Norwegian cinema. Leading this year's recipients were Louder than Bombs by Joachim Trier and The Wave (Bølgen) by Roar Uthaug. Despite some minor difficulties and hectic weather, Haugesund has a well-organized international film festival and our FIPRESCI jury enjoyed its warm hospitality in the end of the cool Norwegian summer. Access was easy to festival’s three theatre venues, which are concentrated in the heart of a picturesque town centre where everything is within walking distance. And after a long day of film-watching, the quiet waterfront offered some romantic moments around sunset. (György Kárpáti, edited by Brian Johnson)