First-time director Magnus Martens has had his romantic football comedy United chosen as the opening film for the 31st edition of the Norwegian International Film Festival in Haugesund.

The film will kick off the event on Aug 17, three days before its domestic release through Columbia Tristar.

Even if it has become tradition for a Norwegian film to open the festival, it is the first time a film made in Western part of the country has been selected. 'Western Norway has become a power centre for filmmaking and has a number of directing talents,' says head of programming Haakon Skogrand. 'It is great for us to be able to make this apparent for everyone with the opening film of our festival.'

30 year-old Martens graduated from the London International Film School and has since worked with commercials and music videos. He wrote and directed his feature debut about a football fanatic, who dreams of playing for Manchester United.

The $1.3m (NOK 9.2m) United was produced by Haakon Oeveraas and Aagot Skjeldal for 4 ' AS with support from the Norwegian Film Fund. It is sold by Nordisk Film International Sales.

The Norwegian International Film Festival, which runs from Aug 17-24, is non-competitive but hands out the coveted Amanda Award to last year's best Norwegian feature films and The Nordic Film Award to last year's best Nordic film.

The festival's film market New Nordic Films takes place over the last weekend.