The Norwegian International Film Festival (NIFF) is to showcase the “diversity” of the region’s current output, according to programme director Håkon Skogrand.

The 41st NIFF will run from Aug 15-22 in Haugesund, opening with the world premiere of Erik Skjoldbjærg’s oil rush thriller, Pionér (Pioneer) starring Aksel Henie.

The festival will close with Gunhild Westhagen Magnor’s Optimistene (The Optimists), a documentary about a volleyball club of ladies aged 66-98.

“There is currently an impressive diversity in Norwegian cinema,” declared programme director Håkon Skogrand

However, there has been an increasing emphasis on films from Norway and the Nordic countries in recent years and festival director Gunnar Johan Løvvik has decided to give each section equal status to address this.

The sections include the main selection, Cinemagi (for children), French Touch, New British Films, Nordic Focus and New Nordic Films.

In the international line-up Skogrand will present 23 films from 13 countries and wide-ranging environments – “from New York hipsters to Romanian upper classes and French gay cruisers on a nudist beach.”

US entries include Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra, and JC Chandor’s All Is Lost, starring Robert Redford.

Palme d’Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Colour, from Tunesian director Abdellatif Kechiche, will also form part of the international offering.

Other titles include Hannah Arendt, from German director Margaretha von Trotta; Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s The Past; Romanian director Calin Peter Netzer’s Berlinale winner Child’s Pose; and French director Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake.

Cinemagi, aimed at younger viewers, is launched by Oscar-winning Torill Kove’s animated Hocus Pocus Albert Åberg (Hocus, Pocus, Alfie Atkins!).

The Nordic Focus of eight films will be launched on August 16 by Danish director Per Fly’s portrait of Swedish singer-actress Monica Zetterlund in Monica Z, with Icelandic-Swedish actress Edda Magnason in the lead.

Magnason will visit Haugesund and perform in the TV2-televised Amanda Awards ceremony on the same night, where Norway’s national film prizes are announced.

Norwegian directors Espen Sandberg and Joachim Rønning’s Golden Globe and Oscar-nominated Kon-Tiki leads the race by eight nominations.

UK critic and FIPRESCI honorary president Derek Malcolm has composed the New British Films sidebar, spearheaded by Kenneth Loach documentary The Spirit of ’45 and Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love.

Malcolm has invited UK composer, pianist and musicologist Michael Nyman (The Piano) who will present his film Nyman with a Movie Camera, give a concert and host a masterclass.

More than 300 film professionals will attend New Nordic Films between August 19-21, including the Co-Production and Film Financing Forum.

The market will introduce 25 Nordic productions shortly to be released, adding 10 works-in-progress.

A total of 22 projects from the Nordic region, Canada, the UK, Germany, France and Estonia will be pitched in the Forum.