"Last year we had a fantastic year with 28 visitors, which was by far the highest for the festival ever," says Lasse Skagen, artistic director of Film from the South Festival and the Festival Office.
Last year's edition of the festival, which shows films from Asia, Africa and Latin America, opened with South Korean Parasite by Bong Joon-ho (read the review here). A few months later, the film made history by becoming the first non-English-language Oscar winner in the category of best film. This year, Film fra Sør turns 30 years old with, among other things, a retrospective devoted to the South Korean filmmaker.
However, much will be different when the festival is held in the period 26 November to 6 December. Originally, it was to be a combination of physical and online festival, with the main emphasis on screenings in cinemas. Due to the recent infection control measures introduced in Oslo, this year's anniversary edition will instead be fully digital. With that, the selection will also be a little smaller than the over 90 films that were on the program.
"Already in June, a plan was made to build our own 'power service'. This was intended to be a supplement to the cinema screenings, and a backup if the cinemas had to close. We are happy about that now. Even though a digital festival cannot be the same, we will at least be shown a wide selection of the films that were programmed, a total of close to 70. It will be a big experiment ", says Åse Meyer. She is the acting general manager of the foundation Festivalkontoret, which is a community of film festivals in Oslo consisting of Film fra Sør, Arabiske Filmdager and Oslo Pix.
"The Mexican films are very good individually, and together they form a picture of today's Mexico and the challenges there." Lasse Skagen
Mexico in the center
"It's a special year in every way. You also see in the general cinema repertoire that a lot of films are postponed. We usually get a lot of film from the Cannes festival, which this year was just a pale online version of itself. It has been especially challenging to find films by established directors for the main competition. But we have a very strong program in the New Voices section and a similarly solid documentary program. Overall, we have a good mix of new and older films, including a number of anniversary films ", says Skagen.
This year's opening film will be Michel Francos New Order, a hard-hitting film about a violent uprising in Mexico released a few years in advance. This year, the festival pays special attention to Mexico, with both previous films by director Franco and other new films from the country.
"The Mexican films are very good individually, and together they form a picture of today's Mexico and the challenges there," says Skagen.
Started at Blindern
When Film fra Sør was arranged for the first time in 1991, the festival took place at the University of Oslo, in the same hall as Blindern Filmklubb had its screenings.
"In the beginning, the festival was a bit connected to Blindern Filmklubb, which was established a couple of years earlier. Some of the active members of the film club were people from the Department of Media and Communication at the university, including Dag Asbjørnsen ", says Skagen.
"In this subject, they learned a lot about film production from other continents than the USA and Europe, but it was difficult to see films from these countries. Then Dag Asbjørnsen came up with the idea of making a film festival ", adds Meyer, who, like Skagen and Asbjørnsen, was involved in the festival in the early years.
"In the first year, there were probably around a hundred spectators at the films in total. The following year, the festival received funding from the university in connection with the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America. Then it became a somewhat larger edition, marked by this anniversary. But the real start to the start of the festival can be said to come in 1993, when Oslo's then cinema director Ingeborg Moræus Hanssen agreed to enter into a collaboration. Thus, the festival came to the center, in the basement of Klingenberg cinema. This was also the first year Film fra Sør received support from Norad, where there were a couple of enthusiasts for the festival. It was significant ", says Skagen.
Argentine audience winners
From the beginning, Film fra Sør showed a lot of film from Latin America, which has many countries with a long film tradition – as well as films China and Iran, which are also strong film nations. For example, several film enthusiasts here at home discovered the Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami through the festival.
"The Latin Americans had strong networks, and we received good support from several of the countries' embassies. Not least, many Argentines came and saw films at the festival, and for a number of years it was almost always an Argentine film that won the audience award. From Asia, Iranians in particular were interested in watching films. In previous years, we did not see many spectators with a background from the African continent, then it was to a greater extent Norwegians who were interested in African countries ", says Skagen.
"We have never programmed commercially with the population in mind who might want to see the films. The audience has been a mixture of people with backgrounds from the countries, people who for other reasons have an interest in the countries, and people who are interested in quality films ", Meyer adds.
"We are a niche festival and should not be anything else." Lasse Skagen
Gradually, other financiers have arrived, and the festival has long been Oslo's largest film festival. A significant addition along the way was the establishment of Sørfond in 2012, which allocates production funds for films from "southern countries" with a Norwegian co-producer.
«Through Sørfond, Norwegian producers have become involved in films that have been shown at the largest international festivals. It has probably contributed to the Norwegian film industry opening its eyes to films from other parts of the world ", says Åse Meyer.
However, it is not a goal for Film fra Sør at any cost to grow even bigger.
"We will work qualitatively to please the loyal audience, but also try to find groups that do not know us well enough. But we are a niche festival and should not be anything else », concludes Lasse Skagen.
The 30th edition of Movies from the South arranged digitally from 26 November to 6 December. A selection of films will also be available until 15 December.
Read our reviews of films shown during the festival on this page!