19th Tromsø International Film Festival

Norway, January 13 - January 18 2009

The jury

Radovan Holub (Czech Republic), Jacques Matthieu Chéreau (France), Ulrik Eriksen (Norway)

Awarded films

The Tromso festival is a vivid mixture of “festival of festivals” and Norwegian and world premieres. As the festival director Martha Otte puts it, the festival’s goal “is to attempt to extend current limits of performance. To innovate, or go beyond commonly accepted boundaries. To push the envelope. To go further.”

It is basically an audience-oriented festival, selling more than 50,000 tickets, with festivalgoers joining industry people, festival programmers and journalists in lines. About 150 journalists come to the city for the festival, mainly from the Nordic area, and some 300 industry folk, mainly from Norway, Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. The festival also host about 80 guests, mainly from Europe.

The festival is nicely organized with headquarters in the Rica Hotel (where all the guests stay); the 300 unpaid, English-speaking volunteers work with smiles on their faces all day.

This year’s festival screened 83 feature films and 55 short films and documentaries in nine program sections.

An interesting sidebar of the festival consists of seminars organized by Norwegian Film Institute, the European Documentary Network and the Verdensteatret Cinematek, a small organization based in the most interesting old-time cinema of the festival, the Verdensteatret. The seminars focused mainly on the digital switch, but also considered Scandinavian film policy, and some master classes were held. The script doctor Martin Daniel, from Southern California, was the featured guest.

One of the festival’s biggest venues is the “Kulturhuset” (House of Culture), which looks like that specific sort of “socialist” dream construction seen all over Scandinavia. There are 24 social events during the Tromso festival, mainly receptions with fish and other Nordic delicacies, some of them held at the seashore in “skansen”, old wooden houses which have remained intact for at least two centuries.

The great winner of this year’s festival was Revanche, directed by Götz Spielmann. A hit with both critics and audiences, Revanche shows a way forward for European films stuck for action and clarity. It’s proof that Europe still knows how to make stunning, content-rich films. (Radovan Holub)

Tromsø International Film Festival: www.tiff.no