Cold Lunch, Eva Sorhaug's debut feature, will open Critics' Week at the Venice film festival later this month, the first Norwegian film to do so. It will then screen in the Discovery section at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Starring Aksel Hennie, Pia Tjelta and Ane Dahl Torp, Cold Lunch juggles multiple narratives to paint a portrait of an Oslo neighbourhood. It is produced by Oslo-based 4 1/2 Productions and sold by TrustNordisk.
The film's Venice coup is the icing on the cake for an industry enjoying a promising year. Six months after Norwegian culture minister Trond Giske's white paper on the country's film industry came into force, a paper that called for a restructure of the industry to support the production of around 25 commercial films a year to control around 25% of the box office, at least that number of films have opened or are set to open. The local market share for the first six months of the year is 26%.
'During the first three months of 2008, Norwegian films performed better than they have ever done, and overall admissions were 18% up on (the same period of) 2007,' explains Nina Refseth, managing director of the new Norwegian Film Institute (NFI), the entity created from the merger of the former institute with the Norwegian Film Fund and Norwegian Film Development.
'Two local titles, Nils Gaup's The Kautokeino Rebellion and Harald Zwart's Long Flat Balls II, were the first and second highest-grossing films in the first half of the year, outperforming the Hollywood fare which usually dominates the box office. We may not be able to sustain it at this pace but it will definitely be a good year for Norwegian film,' Refseth says.
In the first half of 2008, Norwegian admissions reached 5.2 million, equalling the same period in 2007. Significantly, nine local films garnered a record 1.3 million admissions in total. 'It is an overall trend in European cinema-going that local films have strengthened their position,' says Birgitte Langballe, director of communications at Norwegian cinema association Film & Kino.
However, rapid success has its drawbacks, as the NFI has discovered. Part of its annual $68.1m (nkr348.6m) budget for film support is 'audience-related'. This means that a production company automatically receives a sum of money from the NFI in line with a film's local box-office performance. The more that is spent on these 'ticket awards', the less is left for new productions.
The NFI officially opened its doors in April but Refseth did not have the top management team in place until this summer. She expects the NFI to be 'fully operational' when the new season starts, as signalled by the opening of the Norwegian International Film Festival.