'Frozen River' takes top prize at film festival

News flash: Anyone who thinks being on a festival jury is a mixture of exciting films, glamorous parties and exposure to new cultures, think again.

I was honored to be a juror at the just-wrapped 19th Stockholm Film Festival. But the only times we jurors mingled with other fest guests were at the few official dinners.

And while I’m sure Stockholm is lovely, I didn’t really get to sample the scenery. I did get to sample the frostbite, however.

After a minus-4 centigrade (25 degrees Fahrenheit) morning walk to a screening, it took 15 minutes for my ears to thaw. I’m not sure whether it enhanced or marred my viewing experience.

And I promise the frozen weather didn’t influence the fact that the top prize went to “Frozen River.”

My fastidious fellow jurors were painter Karin Mamma Andersson, stage actress Elin Klinga, and Norwegian helmer Erik Richter Strand. Veteran filmmaker Jorn Donner (who produced Bergman’s “Fanny and Alexander”) was our jury prexy.

We got to know each other well because we spent a lot of time together holed up in screening rooms or deliberation chambers.

All five of us were opinionated. And straightforward. When a tech glitch hit one of our unspoolings — with no projectionist in sight — one of my colleagues made for the exit, bellowing something about heading off to grab a coffee because the film was “terrible” anyway.

In our first deliberation, we each wrote down on a piece of paper which film we thought could take the top prize, to see if we were thinking along the same lines. Three films emerged as the strongest contenders.

In our final meeting, we spent three hours hashing out the merits of all 20 features to award one Bronze Horse for best film. A half-dozen others were deemed worthy in other areas.

After our deliberations were completed, I hoped to get in an hour of jetlag relief. No such luck: A bomb threat in the building next to my hotel, the Nordic Light, derailed that plan. The hotel was evacuated for a couple of hours. After I wandered through the umpteenth H&M shop, the police barricades finally came down and we were allowed to return.

Up next: I’ll be on Sundance’s short film jury in January. I am pretty sure that it will entail fewer hours in dark screening rooms. But I’m also pretty sure I will wear ear-warmers.

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