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Docs & Film Festivals is packing for the first film festival this year; TIFF – Tromsø International Film Festival, in Tromsø, Norway. TIFF is probably the world’s northernmost film festival and the coming days will be spent in darkness in Tromsø, either inside the screening rooms or in front of the outdoors screen, one of TIFF´s greastest charms. Outdoor screenings are idyllic this time of year in Tromsø due to (very) limited daylight these days. Sunrise today was at 11:32 AM and sunset 12:16 PM. With the daylight lasting little more 44 min, packing sunglasses wont be necessary this time around : )
TIFF started on Monday and will run until Sunday and the program has feature film, documentary and short films. As before Docs & Film Festival´s focus is first and foremost on the documentaries. TIFF boasts some familiar doc titles this time around such as Detropia, Bones Brigade – An Autobiography, Shadows of Liberty, & Oscar nominee The Gatekeepers, to name a few. As for other TIFF highlights, there is more than enough to choose from. 11 films, documentaries and features are in the competition program and one of them will be awarded the Aurora Award for best film. These are the documentaries in competition (film´s synopsis from TIFF website);
– How to Make Money Selling Drugs, dir. Matthew Cooke (2012). Yes, it is a DIY-guide. In ten easy steps, How to Make Money Selling Drugs shows how a street dealer can rise to cartel lord with relative ease. This is the drug industry explained by those who have lived it: from small time dealers to heavy hitters within production and distribution, including infamous drug kingpin «Freeway» Rick Ross; show business celebrities like 50 Cent, Woody Harrelson, Eminem and Susan Sarandon; lawyers, law enforcement officials, THE WIRE writer/producer David Simon. Finally, top‐ranking government officials, from the Director of National Drug Control Policy to the Drug Enforcement Agency, have given the filmmakers full access. This film is packed with first-hand knowledge.
– Leviathan, dir. Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel (2012). This documentary takes place in the waters of Moby-Dick, its title referring to the great sea monster of the Bible, as well as to Herman Melville’s novel. It follows a fishing vessel and its crew, but without spoken dialogue our regular characters. Instead, it presents a stream of sound and images, via numerous mini-cameras placed onto the boat and crew (and under the sea). Discarded fish waltzing across a floor, greedy diving seagulls, the roaring sea, the drone of the engine, gloved hands working frantically, exhausted crew asleep in front of the TV – we are virtually sucked into the film. The perspective is often twisted, due to creative editing and camera angles.
One of the most interesting sections at the festival is The Best of the North, a section with 42 shorts and documentaries focusing on Northern identity, family ties, dog sledge racing and what not. Here are some of the section´s highlights (film´s synopsis from TIFF website);
– Eagle Boy, dir. Gry Elisabeth Mortensen (2012). It is summer at the Flathead Reservation in Montana. Eight year old Sage spends the sunny days playing with friends, swimming and fishing in the river. But one day to his parents surprise him with some breaking news: They are moving to Northern Norway! Sage starts to go to school in Tromsø, but he is different from his schoolmates. Very different. He is the only boy with long hair and braids, and he doesn’t speak one word of Norwegian. But most important to the others – he’s a real Indian!
– Bestemors Bank / Grandmother´s Bank, dir. Karl Emil Rikardsen (2012). Marit Mihle wants the world to be a better place. That´s why she spends half of her income on small micro-financing businesses for women in Palestine. Her dream is to visit Gaza, where most of her projects are situated. But so far, the political situation has prevented her from doing so. But in 2012, when Marit is to celebrate her 80th birthday, the Arab Spring and the Egyptian Revolution of 2012 changes the situation.
– Virkelighetsflyktning / Reality Check, dir. Trond Kvig Andreassen (2012). Magnus Eliassen is having success with his music project “Sirkus Eliassen” as well as with his solo career. But his off-stage life is far from glamorous. He lives in a small scrambled-together cabin in the woods, and eats food he finds in dumpsters outside of grocery stores. Why does he live like this, and what are his thoughts about the future?
– Snorklaren fran Malgomaj / The Snorkeler from Malgomaj, dir. Linnea Sigurdson (2012). This film follows Nils Åslund, a 32 year-old man who lives and works in Saxnäs, in Southern Lapland in Sweden. We get to know him at his workplace, in his home and through his passion for snowboarding. Why did he choose to live in the depopulated northern part of Sweden when most people move to the big cities? What are the things that matter most in order for a person to be happy with his or her way of life?
– De Gode Hjelperan / The Secret Helper, dir. Harry Johansen and Torill Olsen (2012). In the north there are people with special abilities. They are called helpers. According to the Sámi tradition, they have existed for centuries. They have healed, relieved pain, stopped bleeding and helped people in many ways – with love, in secret, without being payed. The good helpers are still here, in our modern world, they are hidden – but not gone. What kind of knowledge do they possess – is it a gift, or could anyone learn how to heal? The audience gets invited into the most secret spaces of Sámi culture, and we try to learn – on film – how bleeding is stopped.
– Det Lengste Løbet / The Longest Run, dir. Trond Brede Andersen (2012). Two years ago, Roger Dahl (60) and Trine Lyrek (40) decided to make a plan for winning Europe’s longest and toughest dog-sledge race, Finnmarksløpet. To raise the stakes, they even planned to win two years in a row. Her reason: she hadn’t won it before. His reason: he wanted to win it one more time!
The Tromsø Palm is awarded to the best film in The Best of the North.
And Docs & Film Festival is going skateboarding from Norway to Germany then to Afghanistan and all the way to California…well sort of. With seven documentaries about skateboarding in various locations around the world, one is bound to learn a thing or two about the sport, the passion of it´s practicers and most likely to get smitten. Skateistan: Four Wheels and a board in Kabul, dir. Kai Sehr (2011) is a doc about two Australians who taught kids to skate in Afghanistan while working there as aid workers in 2007. Board Control, dir. Emil Trier (2006), is about the bizarre ban of skateboarding which was prohibited by law in Norway from 1978-1989. See also trailers for Bones Brigade – An Autobiography, dir. Stacy Peralta (2011) and This Ain´t California, dir. Marten Persiel (2012) along with other trailers later in this post.
Alongside film screenings, some of which are free and outdoors, there will be many interesting events, seminars & masterclasses such as;
– Indigenous Peoples in Film, Thursday 17th of January at 16:30, Perspektivet Museum.
– Masterclass about storytelling in Documentary Film, Wednesday January 16th between 10.00-12.00 at Radisson Blu Hotel.
– What now, Israel?, a seminar about inside perspectives on Israeli society. The seminar follows up on Signals: Israel, a special section of recent Israeli films at TIFF 2013 and will be held at the Tromsø Library, Saturday, January 19 13:00.
– Film 2.0: The TV Revolution, a seminar about online streaming and the digital distribution, held Wednesday January 16th, 12pm at Radisson Blu Hotel, Tromsøsalen 1 and 2. Please note that the seminar is in Norwegian.
TIFF is running for the 23rd time this year. From the film festival´s debut in 1991, the total of admissions has increased roughly ten fold; from 5.200 admissions to 53.488 last year. The complete TIFF program can be found here. See you @ TIFF!