Event sells record-breaking 46,472 tickets

TROMSO, Norway — Proving once again that cinematic life north of the Arctic Circle can be a heated affair even in the dead of winter, the Tromso Film Festival, which closed Sunday, sold a record-breaking 46,472 tickets.

For a town with a population of 62,000, that’s no mean feat.

Fest’s successful balance between art films with a message and rip-roaring crowd-pleasers is one of the reasons why Tromso remains Norway’s most media- and audience-friendly festival, notwithstanding the splashier titles at Haugesund.

While retaining its historical fondness for local and Eastern European fare, this year’s fest presented a growing number of Latin American pics, including “Chronicle of an Escape” (aka “Buenos Aires, 1977″), directed by Israel Adrian Caetano, which won fest’s Aurora prize.

Pic’s win ensures it will be picked up by a Norwegian distributor, which receives the $15,500 award sponsored by the Norwegian Film Institute.

U.S. helmer Linda Hattendorf was on hand to receive the Peace award for docu “The Cats of Mirikitani,” praised by the jurors as “an exemplary demonstration of the healing power of art.”

Audience award went to homegrown pic “The USA v. Al-Arian,” directed by Line Halvorsen, dealing with the Patriot Act and its impact on the Tampa, Fla., trial of a Palestinian university professor.

The Fipresci international critics prize went to Jia Zhangke’s Venice winner “Still Life”; Valeska Griesbach’s “Longing” drew the nod from FICC, the international federation of film societies and nonprofit cinemas.

Fest opened with “Winterland,” a 53-minute featurette by Hisham Zaman about an arranged marriage between Kurds in northern Norway.

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