18th Tromso International Film Festival
Norway, January 15 - January 20 2008
Frozen Land, Moving Pictures. The northernmost film festival in the world is a major local event in the small university town of Tromso, and takes place around the time the sun reappears from behind the tall mountains that surrounds the city center. The weather conditions this year also permitted some of the festival participants to see a shiny green aurora borealis — the northern light — across the sky while being pulled by a dog span over a snowy mountain plateau a few kilometers outside town.
Now in its 18th year, the Tromso International Film Festival has grown fast in the last few years, after the opening of the multiplex Fokus in 2004, and featured some 120 films during six days of screening. There are about 50,000 people in the region, and ticket sales almost match the number of inhabitants. The town is turned upside down by enthusiastic locals and guests, but the large number of people and screenings also causes some administrative and technical problems, and delays.
TIFF, the Tromso International Film Festival, emphasizes quality films from all over the world not yet distributed in Norway, and the festival’s sidebars included “100 Years of Russian Film”, “Films from the North”, and “Polar Myths, Polar Realities”. Hence the tagline of this year’s overall program was Frozen Land, Moving Pictures.
The jury judged the official competition program, which featured twelve films from Europe and Asia, including the festival’s somewhat uneven opening film, the big production The Kautokeino Rebellion (Kautokeino-opprøret) by Norwegian-Sami director Nils Gaup, best known for the Oscar-nominated Pathfinder (Veiviseren) in 1987. This film may have been part of the reason for the astonishing level of interest for the festival this year, as it tells the not very well-known story of a Sami rebellion against Norwegian authorities in the small community of Kautokeino, November 1852. As a result, two Sami men were given a mock trial and received death sentences. Although most Samis in Norway now live in Oslo, many of them still lead traditional lives in the northern areas of the country, and there is still friction between this ethnic group and the greater society.
By coincidence, the winner of the FIPRESCI Prize, The Secret of the Grain (La graine et le mulet) by Abdellatif Kechiche, also deals with minorities and their confrontations with the majority of the community they live in. Although in a much less violent way, it seemed to be a theme that ran through many of the films in the programs. (Øyvor Dalan Vik)