This year we have every reason to spell NORWAY with capital letters,' says Hakon Skogrand, programme director of the Norwegian International Film Festival in Haugesund (August 16-23). 'Local films will open and close the festival, and in total there will be 15 premieres of Norwegian films, including all features, documentaries, shorts and graduation titles.'
Public audiences from the small coastal town will crowd the Edda Cinemas for screenings throughout the week, and the festival's honorary president, actor-director Liv Ullmann, and the country's culture minister, Trond Giske, will attend the opening night world premiere of local director Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen's The Last Joint Venture.
Crown Prince Haakon Magnus - the festival's patron - will arrive on August 18 to see the launch of Norwegian director Eva Isaksen's House Of Fools.
Haugesund is one of the Nordic region's largest festivals and is a chance for the Norwegian film industry to see the best of this year's international titles. More than 70% of the country's cinemas are state-run as a public service, and Haugesund has traditionally been the place where cinema managers are introduced to the new season of local and international films.
The festival has increasingly become a window on Norwegian and Scandinavian film-making for the international business. More than 50 international buyers and festival managers will be in town for the New Nordic Films sidebar and the Nordic Co-Production Forum.
They include German distributors Arsenal Film and Universum Film, Netherlands' Cineart, France's Rezo Films, the UK's Yume Pictures, and The Weinstein Company from the US. Programmers from the Berlinale, Karlovy Vary and the Tallinn Black Nights festivals, among others, will also attend,
The festival's main selection will showcase titles from Berlin and Cannes, including Laurent Cantet's Palme d'Or winner The Class, and Golden Bear-winner Elite Squad, directed by Jose Padilha (both already have Norwegian distribution). The programme will close with the world premiere of Erik Poppe's The Unseen, the final part of Poppe's 'Oslo' trilogy. This will signal the launch of the New Nordic Films (August 21-23) and Nordic Co-Production Forum (August 22-23) events.
The New Nordic Films section showcases around 20 titles annually from the Nordic region (none of them are world premieres). This year they include Danish director Soren Kragh-Jacobsen's What No One Knows, Finnish director Aku Louhimies' Tears Of April, Einar Thor Gunnlaugsson's Small Mountain from Iceland, Norwegian director Havard Bustnes' Big John and Swedish director Ruben Ostlund's Involuntary, which screened in Un Certain Regard at Cannes.
'New Nordic Films is an invaluable meeting point for the industry,' says Pia Lundberg, head of the international department at the Swedish Film Institute. 'In Haugesund you manage to meet people in a way which is impossible at the major markets, and get information about the latest productions, partnerships and financing models.'
Around 300 film professionals, mostly from the region, are set to attend. 'The Nordic countries are very much a group, and we collaborate closely, so it is useful to see each others' films and talk about future projects before we show them to the rest of the world,' says Jaana Puskala, head of feature film promotion at the Finnish Film Foundation.
Furthermore, the third edition of the Nordic Co-Production Forum will present 19 projects and works-in-progress. This year it is focusing on potential collaborations between Nordic film-makers and co-producers from Canada and Germany. A panel discussion about strategies and visions of international sales companies will include TrustNordisk's Thomas Mai, The Match Factory's Tobias Pausinger, Spice Factory's Michael Cowan, Memento Films' Emilie Georges and Bavaria International's Klaus Rasmussen.