Keeping Us Warm Films from the South Makes October Worthwhile in Oslo By Charlotte Glaser Munch
Films from the South was opened by former Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and closed with Abbas Kiarostami receiving the festival’s first Honorary Award. The Programme Director Julie Ova said in her speech to Kiarostami: “After 16 years of doing this festival in Oslo, we believe we have accomplished the experience and knowledge to give out an honorary award.” And I believe Julie Ova was right.
Life in the northern hemisphere is never easy when October arrives with its cold winds and fading daylight. Now is the time to prepare for a long and dark winter. Norwegians buy a bunch of candles and settle indoors. Going out? If we’re up to it, and often we’re not. But fortunately there are ways to stir things up for us and make us forget what lies ahead. One way is the Films from the South season. Stretching from the 5th to the 15th of October (and this year even extended with an extra screening day, i.e. the 16th of October), the film festival that wants us to “see the world from a different angle” always receives a warm welcome from the inhabitants of Oslo.
Iran gets special attention in this year’s festival. In addition to Shirin Ebadi (who came to talk about women, human rights and Islam) and the opening film Offside (by Jafar Panahi), Abbas Kiarostami stayed the whole week as a guest of honour. The audience had a unique opportunity to get introduced to Kiarostami’s work as such. We had his light show, a photo exhibition, a full retrospective of his thirty films, and a workshop for Norwegian filmmakers. And as a bonus, Tiden Publishing House also released his first book of poetry, with the Norwegian title I følge med vinden.
The main programme was divided into two sections. This has been the way of the festival for three years. The competition programme consisted of eleven films and was considered for the Sølvspeilet (the Silver Mirror) prize by the main jury. The FIPRESCI jury viewed the New Directions program, which consisted of nine films that “deliberately exploit the characteristics of the film medium in order to stand out visually, aesthetically or as regards to how their stories are told.” Films from the South also had the Public’s prize, which went to Elsa & Fred (Elsa y Fred, Marcos Carnevale). The Sølvspeilet went to Water (by Deepa Mehta), and our own prize went – once again – to Climates (Iklimler, Nuri Bilge Ceylan).
Since its beginning in 1991, Films from the South has developed from a small and specialised film festival into a large event that cannot go unnoticed. This is a festival that wants to do more than just show a number of selected films from the southern continents of the world. In his introduction, Festival Director Lasse Skagen writes that “if art and culture can increase knowledge and drive away negative attitudes to the unfamiliar, then this is the path we must travel.” With more than 140 films in the programme, accompanied by debates, exhibitions and happenings, Films from the South is definitely doing the job. And only to prove Lasse Skagen’s point, the festival has broken all the records possible this year; this is obviously something we both need and want. It has been a pleasure to enter the cinema (FftS has expanded the collaboration with Oslo Cinemas and has been able to offer daytime screenings for the first time) and observe a great mix of people cueing for tickets, buying coffee and sweets, getting help from the numerous volunteers, or just waiting eagerly to get into the theatre. There has been an open, friendly atmosphere in the streets – as if we’re not the people staring at our shoes when we meet strangers, or tightening our scarves and coats to fight the cold and the cold city around us. Films from the South is our warm sun during these cold nights, and our eye-opener during a life in an ever-changing world. One can only hope that the festival continues to expand.