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Saturday, 9 July 2016

Scandinavian Film Festival (2) - Barrie Pattison reports on WELCOME TO NORWAY

WELCOME TO NORWAY  (Rune Denstad Langlo, Norway, 2015)

Not only have they introduced a welcome $10 concession but The Scandi Fest has run up a perfect score so far, adding Rune Denstad Langlo’s Welcome to Norway.

We find things are not going well for Anders Baasmo Christiansen. His tourist hotel in the bleak Norwegian snow country foundered and his attempt to turn his fortune round by converting it to a migrant hostel has landed him with a bus load of refugees who bring their government subsidy with them. He needs to get his place certified despite the opposition of his wife, who wants her washing machine back, his daughter who calls him a racist for using whatever the Norwegian equivalent of “Darkies” is, Shiites who won’t share rooms with Sunnis and the fact that only one of the arrivals has language skills. The municipal librarian’s collaboration depends on him porking her and, when he rolls up the shutter in her book lorry, his daughter is there and heads back to the house calling “Mum!”

Even when he steals a generator, his charges hang  “Gulag” and “Guantanamo” banners out the windows, demanding the Play Station games they dreamt about in their dark cells without food. 

The film’s great trick is that it makes its unappealing characters human and it is covering new ground. In with all the broader stuff, it makes the point that it’s not a goer to lump everyone together as refugees. The load is made up with different cultures, languages and religions who have conflicting histories, ambitions and motives.

Film making is plenty good enough, with the odd telling image - the snow ski that shows up at the half buried church, seeing the African off at the Swedish border sign, the car which still has half a tank of fuel dragging the thugs in a circle.

Thoughtful and funny is a winning combination. We should see more of it.

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