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Haugesund Head Tonje Hardersen: “We’ve Had More Films to Choose From Than Ever Before”

War Sailor
War Sailor / Credit: Mark Cassar / Mer Film

For its 50th edition unspooling Aug. 20-26, Norway’s top film event, the Norwegian International Film Festival in Haugesund, will be treating its 400-plus international guests and local audiences with a beefed-up onsite program of 72 feature length films and 19 shorts.

“We’ve had more films to choose from than ever before, “says festival honcho Tonje Hardersen about her non-competitive program, put together in close collaboration with local distributors and exhibitors. “We can still see the post-COVID effects on distribution as many titles were delayed. We have therefore slightly older films – from 2020 up to 2022 – which is unusual. But this makes for an exceptional program, hopefully for all tastes,” she adds.

World premieres take in the blockbuster Norwegian opener ‘War Sailor’ by Gunnar Vikene starring Kristoffer Joner (‘The Revenant’), Pål Sverre Hagen (‘Kon-Tiki’), and Ine Marie Wilmann (‘Homesick’), about Norwegian war sailors’ heroic efforts during WWII. Prolific outfit Mer Film (‘The Innocents’) is producing, with Beta Film handling sales.

Also world launching in the picturesque seaside town of Haugesund on Aug. 25, is the Swedish closing pic, ‘Love Proof’ by Richard Hobert, who was bestowed an Audience Award at the Santa Barbara Film Fest 2019 for ‘The Birdcatcher’s Son’. Headlining the cast of this thriller about a divorce gone wrong are Rolf Lassgård (‘A Man Called Ove’) and Livia Millhagen (‘Backström’). REinvent hold international sales rights.

As always, a slew of high-profile titles are screening in the main program such as Erik Poppe’s updated version of Jan Troell’s classic “The Emigrants,” Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “Notre Dame on Fire,” the Berlin Golden Bear winner ‘Alcarràs’ by Carla Simón, and Cannes laureates “Broker” by Hirokazu Kore-eda, “Close” by Lukas Dhont and “Holy Spider! by Ali Abbasi.

Meanwhile Ruben Östlund’s wacky satire and Palme d’Or winner “Triangle of Sadness” is due to open the festival’s industry showcase, New Nordic Films (Aug. 23-26).

Nordic excellence in filmmaking will be highlighted in the sidebar dedicated to the Nordic Council Film Prize, with the 2022 nominees to be unveiled on Aug. 23, while 10 rising Nordic talents will be highlighted at the Next Nordic Generation. These include Óskar Kristinn Vignisson, picked for the 2021 Cannes Cinéfondation with his short film Free Men.

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The Emigrants Credit: SF Studios, John Christian Rosenlund

Although no headcount is available on gender representation, Hardersen says she can clearly see an improvement, with 50/50 male and female directed features in the French Focus and the Nordic countries’ active gender- equality film policies bearing fruit.

Liv Ullmann, Norway’s biggest female film star and the first Norwegian ever to begin an Honorary Academy Award – which she received last March – will be leading the festival’s 50th anniversary celebrations, with a symposium around her career on Aug. 22.

“As the Norwegian Film Festival’s Honorary President, Liv Ullmann has played a crucial role over the years in lifting our brand internationally. It is a great honour for us to have her at our side,” said Hardersen.

While looking back at Liv Ullmann’s extraordinary film legacy through her own directed “Faithless,” Viaplay’s doc “Liv Ullmann-The Road Less Travelled” and the feature “Liv” by Stein Roger Bull, the Norwegian Film Fest will also reflect on the future of the national film industry with sustainability as overarching theme of its Film Policy Day on Aug. 22, as part of the Amanda Conversation – Artistic Freedom vs Sustainability.

“Those two industry panels [held in Norwegian] will try to evaluate the way the film industry can contribute to the U.N.’s sustainability goals, but we will naturally do our share as a festival to be more eco-friendly, looking notably at food waste,” added Hardersen.

The future of film will also be discussed from the angle of kids and youth, with a panel on kids production and the inaugural Haugesund Children’s Film Convention (Aug. 23-24) focusing on how to reach the next generation.

Hardersen says kids weigh heavily at Haugesund, alongside industry people and local adult audiences-mostly women aged 50-plus, and she expects more than 5,000 school kids to attend the screenings. “We’ve been able to keep a physical – yet restricted – event during COVID, but we’re thrilled to be back to normal,” she concludes.

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Tonje Hardersen Credit: NFF