The Films From the South Festival closed on 16th October. I was there for the first five days out of eleven, so more of the festival actually took place after I left. Yet, I felt that I got a good overall view of how the festival worked.
One of the interesting aspects of Films From the South is the complete absence of Hollywood and any of the trappings of studio cinema. The only ‘stars’ on show are the directors of some of the key films in the programme. Oslo is a relatively small city and most of the festival venues are within walking distance of each other. The festival staff are mostly young, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Festival director Lasse Skagen introduced many of the films himself. Overall, it’s a friendly and intimate celebration of the best of cinema from the South and I would recommend a visit to anyone interested in the diversity of film culture outside Europe and North America.
In the 15 posts that I made from the festival, there is one obvious omission – any films from Africa. There were in fact seven films in the programme listed as ‘African’ but for various reasons I couldn’t get to any of these screenings. Four of the seven were made by Europeans or Americans working in Africa, two were South African, one a documentary and the other an English-language action-comedy. The exception was Riva! (writer/dir Djo Munga, DR Congo 2010) the crime drama that has already been released in the UK. My observation is not intended as a criticism of the festival (or of European filmmakers working in Africa), but just recognition of the overall difficulty of getting access to popular films from across Africa faced by all festivals. The diversity of other films on show in Oslo is to be celebrated
The Nadine Labaki film Where Do We Go Now? won the Audience Award, which was no surprise since it is a very audience-friendly film. The other awards went to films that I wasn’t able to see but I’ll definitely be looking out for. The prize for the Main Competition, the ‘Silver Mirror’ went to the Argentinan road movie Las Acacias (dir Pablo Giorgelli, Argentina/Spain 2011) – earlier this year it won the Camera d’or at Cannes. The FIPRESCI Critics prize for the best film in the New Horizons section went to On the Edge (dir Leila Kilani, Morocco/France/Germany 2011). Finally, the best documentary in the ‘Doc: South’ section went to Tahrir 2011: The Good, the Bad and the Politician (directors Tamer Ezzat, Ayten Amin and Amr Salama, Egypt 2011) – clearly a timely choice that made an impact on the jury. It’s good to see that two out of the four prizes went to women.
I very much enjoyed my time in Oslo and thanks must go to Ingrid Stolpestad, Pia Jensen and Kristian Takvam for their help in getting tickets and answering my questions. I learned quite a lot about cinema in Norway during my stay so look out for some further postings.