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Tromsø International Film Festival TIFF, January 13th -- 18th 2009 report by Corinne Siegrist-Oboussier, Switzerland

The members of the FICC Jury: György Karpati, Hungary, Hilde Gaard, Norway, and Corinne Siegrist-Oboussier, Switzerland (fltr).
Tromsø International Film Festival TIFF takes place in January, about ten days before the sun comes back to this university town (66'000 inhabitants) at 350 km north of the polar circle. An ideal time to spend your days in the cinema, since the daylight which vaguely turns up between 11 a.m. and 1.30 p.m. is not even sufficient to read the festival programme out on the street!

With its 48’000 entries (2008), TIFF is the festival with the largest audience all over Norway. Cinemaniacs come from as far away as Bodø (over 200 km to the south), but the main audience, apart from Scandinavian media people, come from the Tromsø area.

The Festival, which calls itself «lokal, nasjonal og internasjonal» screens about 80 films and also features a retrospective, this year of Czech cinema. Apart from the competition, the «Horizonter» section presents previews of films opening soon in Norway and a selection of award-winning films from international festival, with a special accent on Russian and French films in 2009. The «Films from the North»-section presents shorts and documentaries from the Barents region and other polar areas, i.e. Finland, Sweden, Norway, Russia and Canada. The programme also offers a Critic’s week, various special screenings, workshops and seminars and – last but not least – open-air animation screenings at 9 a.m. for the kindergarten kids!

The competition features ten films, all of which must have their Norwegian premiere in Tromsø. The winner is awarded the Aurora prize, about €17‘000 (150‘000 NOK) for distribution and launching of the film in Norway. In addition to these, both the FIPRESCI and FICC-Jury also had to consider the Norwegian opening film, «Jernanger» by Pål Jackman. The selection covered ten feature films – from Russia, Norway, Japan, Canada, Germany, Austria, France, Italy and Iceland – and a Czech documentary. Both the Aurora and the FIPRESCI jury awarded the Austrian film «Revanche» by Götz Spielmann, whereas the FICC-Jury (György Karpati, Hungary, Hilde Gaard, Norway, and Corinne Siegrist-Oboussier, Switzerland) chose the French-Canadian film «C’est pas moi, je le jure!» («It‘s Not Me, I Swear!») by Philippe Falardeau to be awarded the Don Quijote Prize, an tenderly told and exquisitely designed story about a boys loneliness and lack of orientation, set in the Sixties.

The TIFF offers discoveries also for those going to Berlin and Locarno and – albeit a small festival – still makes you miss many films! Unfortunately, the Czech section and the «Films from the North» were hardly compatible with the jury schedule and I could therefore not get an impression of this section which might well be the most exclusive to Tromsø.
Apart from the impressive passion for cinema by the local audience – many screenings, even in the morning, were fully booked – I would like to point out the excellent organisation and the very warm care with which the festival team took care of its guests: Apart from regular get-togethers enjoying Norwegian delicatessen, the dog-sledge-outing under the Aurora Borealis was the touristic high-light of this most pleasurable jury work.

Corinne Siegrist-Oboussier, Filmpodium Zürich, member of the FICC Jury Tromsø 2009