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Reporting live from The Norwegian Short Film Festival in Grimstad!
I first visited The Norwegian Short Film Festival in in 2011, when the film Farukh’s Coin was participating in the festival’s main competition programme. The good vibe, all the strange, serious, funny (and OK, some bad) films, all the new friends I made – literally everything about this place and this festival made me promise myself to try and make this into an annual tradition. So here I am, three years later. And indeed my fourth year in a row as a visitor of the festival. No matter how much work I may have going at the time (and I do have a lot of work to do) – this one week is unchangeable. I’m going to Grimstad, no matter what.
I had really been looking forward to Joern Utkilen’s new film Jord Over Vind (Earth Over Wind) since I first was made aware of its existence some… weeks ago. His previous short Asylum (which screened at the festival in 2011) featured what is probably some of the weirdest and most brilliantly funny scenes I have ever seen from a Norwegian filmmaker, and his new 39 minute film did not disappoint. I really hope this one will find its way to a much larger audience. Seriously, you need to see this film. At least I needed to see it.
Another high point was Emil Trier’s first fictional film, fittingly called High Point. During its 25 minutes, it tells a moving story about 29 year old Christian coming to terms with his younger brother’s choices in life, and at the same time gaining a higher consciousness of his own past. David Reiss-Andersen’s November was another big favourite of mine, also dealing with “family trouble” but in a totally different way, with some truly brilliant “underplayed” comedy with a rather excellent ensemble of actors. Bamse (Bear) by Bård Ivar Engelsås really caught my attention. Portraying a lone hunter trying to survive in a brutal and cold landscape, this 17 minute film has a lot more under the surface than it first seems.
Uten Deg (Without You) by young director Marius Myrmel was a really gripping portrayal of two young brothers forced to take care of themselves, with some very impressive child acting. Equally impressive in that respect was Marianne Ulrichsen’s Amasone (Amazon), dealing with two 11 year old girls with very different personalites, developing a special relationship during the film’s 14 minutes.
On the funnier side, Gundhild Enger’s Subtotal was a witty portrayal of some strange relations and even stranger situations around the Norwegian-Swedish border. And the totally crazy pilot project Norske Grønnsaker (Norwegian Vegetables) made me laugh out loud, at least a dozen times during its five minutes. “Subtlier” funny and even shorter was Nils J. Nesses’ Mannen fra Arktis (The Man from the Arctic). Lasting for 1 minute and with four lines of dialouge, and making the whole nerdy audience roar with laughter as soon as the end credits appeared. Hallvar Witzø’s Ja, vi elsker (Yes, We Love) showed four Norwegians’ small and large crises during the Norwegian Constitution Day. The Grimstad audience got to watch and “approve” of its success at the Cannes Film Festival, since the film is indeed pretty good. Andreas Thaulow’s Fallet (The Fall) featured some quite breathtaking photography – of which there was a lot this year, in many of the films.
The festival is also an arena for documentaries, both short and feature-length. Kenneth Elvebakk’s feature doc Ballettguttene (Ballet Boys) was a really beautiful “coming of age” story with a stunning score by my good colleague Henrik Skram. Sunniva Sundby’s Som hun elsker (She Who Loves) captured some ingeniously funny character moments. Aaslaug Vaa and Anders Øvergaard’s short doc Sing Lingeling totally melted my heart, with five young kids from Seljord learning and demonstrating the Norwegian art of “kveding”. Last but definitely not least, Håvard Bustnes’ feature-length Opprørske Oldemødre (Two Raging Grannies) is probably one of the best Norwegian films this year, documentary or not. The film is shot and told in such a way that you kind of don’t think of it as a documentary. You just think of it as a damn good film. And with beautiful music by Ola Kvernberg.
Besides, I finally got to see Eskil Vogt’s Blind, which is obviously a feature film but was screened in a special programme. This one is seriously one of the most clever films I’ve seen in a long while. And it’s not what you would expect – at all. I urge you to go and see it if you haven’t already.
What I like about this festival is the range of different projects being shown. You have both the good, the bad, the funny, the serious, the weird, the provoking. In all extremes. In fact, I think the short film format in itself lets you as a filmmaker be a bit more extreme. You can do a classic, story driven “feature-like” short film compressed into 5, 15 or 25 minutes, or you can let the short nature of the format lend itself to the kind of film you’re making, focusing more on a clear idea, maybe with a single camera angle thoughout and/or no dialogue at all. There are so many variables, and very few constrictions. It is difficult to explain or sum up the enourmous range of filmic expressions on display here (that’s why this blog post instead relies on shameless name dropping). This is an arena for new ideas in film, where I also feel that some of the exciting new voices in Norwegian film are being born. And being witness to that, while hanging out with all these great people, is the reason I come back every year.
The main screening cinema at Grimstad – “Catilina”
“Good cop” Kalle Løchen (right) and “bad cop” Oda Bhar (left) speaking to the filmmakers after the screenings
Me and my friends – and too much sun..!