The Norwegians are ready to conquer the EFM
by Jan Lumholdt
- Mexico was first, then came Canada – this year, Norway becomes the first European nation to be the Country in Focus at the Berlin International Film Festival
Launched by the European Film Market (EFM) in 2017, the Country in Focus initiative aims to highlight one specific country every year, with the goal being to promote the nation’s talents, productions and filming locations, and offer networking opportunities.
“When Mexico did it, we already noticed all of these interesting events connected to the concept and got in touch with the EFM. We sealed the deal in February 2018 and have spent a year in preparations,” says Stine Oppegaard, a seasoned festival veteran and international relations manager at the Norwegian Film Institute (NFI).
Norway in Focus is operated jointly by the NFI, Norway’s Ministries of Culture and of Foreign Affairs, the Norwegian Embassy in Berlin, various key players from the Norwegian film industry and Berlin’s EFM. The venture will offer a host of possibilities for networking with Norwegian producers, distributors, investors and creative talents from the audiovisual sector, as well as the chance to take a closer look at Norwegian productions.
In the latter category, Oppegaard promises a “muscular” programme. “We are bringing 14 films to Berlin, a selection of features, documentaries, youth/children’s films and shorts. Six are in the official selection, and we even have one in the main competition. Of course, the festival isn’t biased depending on which country is in focus, which is strictly a market concern. So we feel both good and also a bit relieved by the turnout. But regardless, we feel that we are already being watched and also that we will have a rewarding exchange. The relationship between the Nordic countries and Berlin has been very solid for a long time.”
Market screenings include Espen Sandberg’s Amundsen, Marius Holst’s Congo [+see also:
film profile], Eirik Svensson’s Harajuku [+see also:
film profile] and Lise Owall’s animated feature Cattlehill. Among the official-selection titles are Rasmus A Sivertsen’s Generation entry Louis & Luca – Mission to the Moon [+see also:
film profile] and Hans Petter Moland’s Out Stealing Horses [+see also:
interview: Hans Petter Moland
film profile], which is playing in the main competition. The Retrospective section has the good taste to screen Liv Ullmann’s breakthrough film, The Wayward Girl, from 1959, and on the merits of her performance in Sonja: The White Swan [+see also:
interview: Anne Sewitsky
film profile], Ine Marie Wilmann has been selected as one of the 2019 Shooting Stars. There will be seminars, presentations, debates, press conferences, pitches and general mingling – often taking place in the specially constructed Norway House, right beside the Gropius-Bau. This Friday, it will be declared open by Norwegian Minister of Culture Trine Skei Grande.
The hands-on project manager of the operation is Åge Hoffart, another well-travelled Norseman. Hoffart first walked Berlinale soil in 1984, as a buyer, and did so again later on as head of Theatrical Distribution at SF Studios Norway, undertaking countless missions to the festival. “It just gets better here every year. As for Norway House, it gets more beautiful every ten minutes,” he promises. “Just a week ago, the site was just a car park. And after the festival, it will be a car park again.”
Located just across the street from Berlin’s Gropius-Bau market centre, the state-of-the-art, 300 m² building will, quite literally, emerge as a glowing, cinematic Xanadu. At night, a sophisticated lighting rig will give the building the illusion of being some kind of aurora borealis. The interior design is classic Scandinavian modern, and the floor heating is satisfactory, assures Hoffart. “We are the first to build our own house. We thought it would be a good idea to showcase ourselves in this manner, making it both practical and aesthetic. I think it will work out splendidly.”
2019 should prove to be a landmark year for German-Norwegian culture exchange, as Norway will also be guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair and a partner country at the Jazzahead music fair in Bremen. Already in Berlin, Stine Oppegaard hints that there could be a certain art-form crossover from time to time. “Let’s just say that Berlinale-goers may see a famous Norwegian or two not directly associated with cinema – why not from the music field,” she smiles mysteriously.
Read more about Norway at Berlin here.
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