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People – Norway

Country Focus: Norway

Haugesund’s festival chief retires after 29 years


- Hailed by the Norwegian Culture Minister, festival director Gunnar Johan Løvvik, of the Norwegian International Film Festival, will continue until new management is appointed

Haugesund’s festival chief retires after 29 years
Gunnar Johan Løvvik

When, on 17 August, festival director Gunnar Johan Løvvik, of the Norwegian International Film Festival, opened the 42nd showcase in Haugesund’s Edda Cinema, Norwegian Culture Minister Thorhild Widvey paid tribute to him for his work for both Haugesund and the festival, and he received five minutes of standing ovations from an auditorium full of local, Nordic and international festival guests. 

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At 67, Løvvik, who has been the festival chief since 1985 and was instrumental in the efforts to make Haugesund the home base of the (until 1987) ambulating Norwegian festival, retired from his main job as the city’s head of culture on 1 January; he will remain in charge of the festival until a new director has been appointed and will eventually continue as an advisor to the new management. This year’s event – screening 74 features, with a main programme of 21 from 13 countries, and a record number of 355 participants for the international New Nordic Films market – was somewhat different to the first showcase.

“In 1987, it was a local festival targeting Norwegian exhibitors and press, which it still does, but it has radically developed in the direction of the Nordic countries and the international markets. Both the municipality and the Haugesund trade were active in setting up the infrastructure for the festival: the Rica Maritim Hotel built the Maritim Hall and the Maritim Kino, more hotels were opened, and the municipality inaugurated the Festiviteten Concert Hall in 1987. But they had also read Film & Kino’s financial festival study that concluded that in general, you can multiply the budget of an event by four to reach the money flow created by it – in Haugesund, €7.1 million annually,” Løvvik recalled.

Born in Haugesund, Løvvik studied business economics in Oslo. He returned to work for an IT company, and in 1974 he became temporary manager of the local cinema, then with two screening rooms. Appointed culture director in 1983, he added festival director to his business card in 1985; for ten years he was CoB of the Norwegian Film Institute. And he has a lot of happy memories from his festival years.

“I had many experiences with international guests, often thanks to our honorary president, Norwegian actress-director Liv Ullmann – her importance to the festival has been immense. The Swedish actress Lena Endre became a good friend – she has many local fans, who started an association demanding she come to Haugesund every year. Roger Moore’s visit was a big experience 30 years ago, when we also launched the national Amanda prizes,” he concluded.

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