The Norwegian International Film Festival takes place in Haugesund, an idyllic fishing town which dates back to Viking times, located between Bergen and Stavanger on the south-west coast of the country. Not only does the event screen Nordic and international films for an enthusiastic local audience, it has become a major meeting-place for the Norwegian and Nordic film industry. It is known as Norway’s first film festival.
This year, the festival awarded one of its main prizes to internationally acclaimed Norweigan director Joachim Trier: the Oslo filmmaker received the Norwegian Film Critics' Prize for his new mystery drama, Thelma. Sam Gabarski’s Bye Bye Germany received the audience award, while the ecumenical award went to Kornel Mundruczo's Hungarian drama Jupiter's Moon. The winner of the FIPRESCI Prize was the Swedish production Beyond Dreams by Rojda Sekersöz; the US film The Big Sick won the Ray of Sunshine award. The Swedish film Jimmie, directed by Jesper Ganslandt, received the Eurimages Lab Project Award: a prize of 50,000 euro given to the most promising, innovative film project presented as a work-in- progress.
The festival began in Drøbak in 1973. It travelled the country for the next decade, taking place in ten Norwegian cities. Finally, it found a permanent home in Haugesund in 1987. That year, Gunnar Johan Løvvik joined the festival as its manager. Løvvik had been the Head of Culture in Haugesund since 1979, and he successfully combined both positions until 2014.
The festival’s current director is Tonje Hardersen, an experienced programmer and advisor for the Amandas, Norway’s national film awards. Under her direction, the festival boasts two new initiatives: a section for TV drama, and Books@Haugesund, where literary agents meet the Nordic film industry, pitching promising titles to producers.
The film market New Nordic Films has been led by program director Gyda Velvin Myklebust for 15 years. It has been a regular and increasingly important feature of the festival since 1995, and an international co-production and film financing forum was added to it in 2006.
This year, 450 industry professionals attended the four-day market. In screenings, pitches, forums and seminars, guests could familiarize themselves with new Nordic film productions and initiate co-production efforts across borders. Myklebust confirmed that 23 finished films were screened, as well as four tv series and 52 films in production, 20 of them pitched as works-in- progress.
The festival also hosted the Amanda Awards, originally conceived as an award for both film and TV, but exclusively dedicated to film since 2005. Its trophy is a statuette designed by sculptor Kristian Kvakland, produced by a company in Haugesund. (Kira Taszman, edited by Lesley Chow)