24th Tromsø International Film Festival
Norway, January 13 - January 19 2014
The Tromsø International Film Festival held a highly successful 24th edition amid the cosy mid-winter darkness of Norway’s Arctic Circle. Highlights of a varied, quality competition programme included FIPRESCI winner Ida by Pawel Pawlikowski, a bold and nuanced attempt to deal with the darker side of Poland’s wartime legacy and crises of severed identity, main Aurora competition winner The Tale of Iya (Iya monogatari — oku no hito), a lyrical Japanese take on modernisation by Tetsuichiro Tsuta, and audience favourite Of Horses and Men (Hross i oss) from Iceland’s Benedikt Erlingsson, a darkly comic set of vignettes that reminds humans we are part of — but not above — a vital yet merciless cycle of nature.
This year is the Bicentennial of Norway’s 1814 Constitution, and the festival chose to mark it with a focus on Kurdistan — a people battling for secure self-determination. Of these films, 1001 Apples (Hezar-o yek siv) — a documentary record of the Kurdish experience of Saddam’s genocidal Anfal Campaign — was included in the competition. Your Beauty Is Worth Nothing… (Deine Schönheit Ist Nichts Wert…) about a 12-year-old living in exile in Vienna also screened, and its Kurdish-German director Huseyin Tabak led a workshop which saw a group of young filmmakers from Norway and Kurdistan collaborate on a short that was very well-received at the closing ceremony.
The festival opened with engaging Norwegian film Nobody Owns Me (Mig äger ingen) by Kjell-Ake Andersson, about a girl being brought up by a single, steel-working father struggling with alcoholism, and closed with the sly and hilarious sure-fire entertainment of Roman Polanski’s Venus in Fur. Elsewhere outside the competition programme, access to a wealth of notable recent cinema was possible, from documentary legend Frederick Wiseman’s At Berkeley to Hany Abu-Assad’s West Bank-set thriller Omar.
And there was 12 Years A Slave, Brit director Steve McQueen’s take on America’s slavery legacy, which has entered the Oscar race in politically charged terrain and which Tromsø held a fascinating panel discussion on, with speakers including playwright Bonnie Greer, writer and broadcaster Ekow Eshun and critic Neil Young. Greer spoke of the media shutdown surrounding the movie, which has seen critics and commentators extremely reluctant to dissect the film, suggesting the panel was all the more valuable for being among the first instances of deeper analysis.
TIFF has been organising silent film concerts in Russia for some years, and guests were treated to a screening of Boris Barnet’s silent Soviet-era film The House on Trubnaya (Dom na Trubnoy) with accompaniment from Tromsø-based cellist Bernt Simen Lund. But perhaps the programme quirk that spoke most to the Arctic location was a night screening of Norwegian zombie freeze-flick Dead Snow (Død snø) on the deck of the Hurtigruten ship — a film that had no chance of competing for attention when the famed Northern Lights made a brief, luminous showing. (Carmen Gray)
Tromsø International Film Festival: www.tiff.no/en