Northern Renewal and Restoration

in 14th Tromsø International Film Festival

by Charlotte Glaser Munch

Tromsø International Film Festival has, through its 14 years of existence, developed into an extremely popular festival, characterised by long queues and high spirits. TIFF is the world’s northernmost film festival – you can’t get any “higher” on the map than this. To visit Tromsø in January is a special treat: the sun itself never appears, and only a red glow shows above the white mountains. Tromsø town, with its 60,000 inhabitants and 7,000 students, has the greatest density of bars and restaurants in the Arctic. To see films in this kind of environment feels both magical and natural.

The festival – with its motto “We turn small films into big film experiences” – is preparing for some major changes. TIFF 2005 will have both new facilities and new people in the management. As we enjoy our six days of film this year, a new multiplex is in the process of being built, and two festival directors (Hans Henrik Berg and Ola Lund Renolen) are about to leave the scene.

The giant film-theatre Fokus Kino is to be replaced by a multiplex. Fokus has been in use since 1973, and is quite a spectacular building. Maybe not the best cinema in terms of viewing conditions, but certainly a cinema with atmosphere. Fokus will now turn into a spacious library, something of which Tromsø is in desperate need. The multiplex is taking shape next door to Fokus. Its framework is already in place; all you need is a vivid imagination to picture the rest. The building will offer six different theatres, and thereby give the festival a greater flexibility when it comes to screenings.

Fortunately, the noble and dignified Verdensteatret (The World Theatre), is not leaving the festival. Built in 1916, it is the oldest “northern European” cinema in continual use, and plays an important part in the history of TIFF. Verdensteatret has been run by the legendary Hans Henrik Berg for 40 years. He was the one to come up with the idea of hosting a film festival in Tromsø during the winter period – an idea which proved to be an outstanding and lasting one. Hans Henrik Berg is now retiring. Not leaving the scene completely, but letting others take care of the organisation and the responsibility. This also includes restoring the building and turning it into a regional “film house”.

Kulturhuset (The Culture House), which has been an important additional screening house since the mid-nineties, will more than likely continue to support the festival. Even though the new multiplex offers more seats and more screenings than Fokus, Tromsø International Film Festival is still growing in popularity. Without doubt, it will need all the seats it can get. In other words, Tromsø is preparing for the future without losing track of the old tradition that gave birth to the festival. It’s the only way to do it.

A strange place of the outskirts of civilisation.
An island wrapped in snow and darkness.
A town waiting for the sun to return.
Bursting into a celebration of light.

Motto: We make the small films into great experiences…
Challenge: To bring the positive and the old elements into the new ones.