These days, the sun never sets in the city of Tromso, which lies far to the north, near the Arctic Circle in Norway. Just the other week I had the good fortune to visit this beautifully serene city of 45,000 – home to the 6th Nordic Youth Film Festival (NUFF).
Founded in 2003, NUFF offers young filmmakers from around the world a forum to meet, work together, and view one another’s films. In addition to making a short film, the filmmakers also learn about other cultures, a lesson which is equally important to the NUFF experience. Festival director Hermann Greuel invited me to join four other film professionals to serve as workshop leaders and work with filmmakers between the ages of 17 and 25 hailing from around the globe. This year, the film students and filmmakers came from countries as distant and diverse as Senegal, Haiti, Uganda, Kenya, Estonia, Latvia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia, and Greenland. Some filmmakers from Gaza had also been invited, but unfortunately could not leave Gaza in time to attend.
The workshop leaders were as international as the students themselves: writer/director Asif Kapadia (his Venice entry FAR NORTH was filmed near Tromso), arrived from London, director Angeliki Antoniou (Thessaloniki winner EDUART, a German-Greek co-production) flew in from Berlin, film-theater director and musician Christer Engberg (WILD ANGEL) came from Sweden, and local filmmaker Ole Glaever (European Film Award nominee for the short film TOMMY) traveled from Oslo to Tromso.
The objective for each film workshop group was simple: come up with a film idea related to the theme of CONSUMERISM, produce a short film in 5 days, and at the end of the workshop present it in Tromso’s beautiful art house cinema VERDENSTEATRET. Quite an adventure! But truly a rewarding one; all groups produced at least one film in the given time. Asif Kapadia’s group even managed to finish 3!
The short films were refreshingly varied in genre, tone, and approach, and showed well on the big screen. Among them were SOME LIKE IT HOTTER, a mock documentary on global warming, A SPECIAL DAY, a drama about the effects of computer gaming addiction on a young relationship, SOMETHING FISHY, an experimental film about the life cycle of a fish, WOODY THE TOOTHPICK a short about a toothpick that wants to return to the forest, and NEXT GENERATION, a meditation on how a little boy experiences his parents’ stressful morning rituals.
Documentary Filmmaker Linda Hattendorf (THE CATS OF MIRIKITANI) a workshop leader in 2007 compared the NUFF workshop to a mini UN and believed working with such a plethora of nationalities was one of the best experiences these young filmmakers could ask for. As a workshop leader myself, I found it extremely refreshing to see how much can be done with limited resources (time and money), as long as one has a good idea and lots of energy.
The festival officially opened with the presentation of the finished workshop films on Friday and over the course of the following weekend, more than 40 short films by young filmmakers from around the world were screened.
A jury of three, comprised of local documentary filmmaker Rachel Andersen Gomez, Norwegian filmmaker, animator, and musician Lasse Gjertsen, and Swedish filmmaker Christer Engberg selected winners in the following categories: Best Nordic Youth Film and one Best Film award in each age group (15-17, 18-20 and 21-25 years).
DART by Måns Wide from Sweden won Best Nordic Youth Film 2008,
A LUCKY DAY by Magnus Bertelsen from Denmark received the Best Film award in the 15-17 year age group, KLASSENKAMRATER by Victor Lindgren form Sweden was awarded the Best Film in 18-20 year age group and LIFE WORTH LIVING by Eirik Svensson from Finland took home Best Film award in the 21-25 year age group.
This year, in addition to the film workshops, the festival added a film-music and sound- design workshop for young musicians, lead by Duesseldorf based composer and music producer Bojan Vuletic. Vuletic’s group was in charge of composing music and sound effects for the films. To top it off, a documentary workshop group, led by Russian filmmaker and radio host Alexander Sunyae, followed and filmed the different workshop groups and produced a documentary about this years NUFF festival.
Two local organizations have been involved with NUFF from the start and are instrumental to the success of its workshops and festival: Tromso’s local Youth Center TVIBIT and TIFF, the Tromso International Film Festival. TVIBIT is the founding organization of NUFF and houses the workshops, serves as the festival hub, and also provides equipment and technical support during the workshops. TIFF’s festival director Martha Otte and her team consult NUFF regarding festival organization and offer ample networking opportunities. Further support and financing for this unique and important project come from a variety of sources, among them the city and region of Tromso, the Norwegian Cultural Fund, and the Film Institute and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, each year, Greuel has to begin the search of financial backing anew; a time consuming endeavor.
In addition to bringing together young filmmakers from around the globe, Greuel told me, the festival always picks a political theme to focus on. In 2004, it was FOREIGN VOICES, followed by HIV/AIDS in 2005. PALESTINE was the focus of the 2006 festival (Tromso is a partner city to Gaza) and last year’s festival centered around CLIMATE CHANGE. That year, NUFF commissioned, co-produced, and completed an additional 15 short films on the climate change that were then screened during the festival. This year, the rich and multi-faceted theme of CONSUMERISM was chosen.
Besides premiering at NUFF, these productions continue to screen at festivals around the world and have won a number of prestigious awards. Furthermore, two young filmmakers, Lionel Adonis from South Africa and Nehal Afana from Gaza joined this year’s festival team to learn about organizing workshops and festivals. They will soon return home and work with local film workshops and festivals in Cape Town and Gaza respectively. Peruvian filmmaker and producer Dante Luza traveled from Lima to attend NUFF hoping to take home inspiration and start collaboration between NUFF and young Peruvian filmmakers.
For 2009, NUFF plans to follow-up the theme of CLIMATE CHANGE. In addition Greuel is working on expanding NUFF to other regions in Norway. And so as TIFF festival director Martha Otte stated in the festival catalog “The NUFF film revolution is underway.”
For more information on NUFF, the workshops and the festival, please visit: www.nuff.no