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Comment: Did Børning deserve to win ‘Best Film’ at the Amanda Awards?

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Over the weekend the Norwegian Amanda Awards were held and the Best Film prize went to Børning, a racing film similar to The Fast and the Furious (but with more comedy). Børning proved to be the big winner of the night, winning an additional three awards and beating 1001 Grams and Out of Nature for the top award of being regarded as the best Norwegian film for 2015.

When I heard that Børning had beat out these two films, I was rather surprised. As an international publication, we’ve been following the success of 1001 Grams and Out of Nature at various international festivals. The only time I’d heard of Børning was when I saw the poster in the cinema in Bergen. The film did not receive a great deal of attention overseas, so for it to win the top prize against two international films is rather surprising.

I did some research to find out why Børning was voted the best film in Norway in 2015. I gathered together the film review scores and audience scores from FilmWeb.no and used available cinema admissions data from the Norwegian Film Institute. For the critics scores, I added together all total scores and then worked out an overall figure out of 100 to place them all equally. I want to better understand what leads a little-known film to win the top prize against films that are, simply put, better.

First off, what is Børning about? Børning is an action comedy about a man named Roy (Anders Baasmo Christiansen), who is mad about cars. The film centres around an illegal race from Oslo to Northern Norway and has many similarities to the Fast and the Furious franchise. Here’s the trailer:

 

And the movie poster:

børning-forsidebilde

Børning was an instant hit with the Norwegian public. It topped the cinema admissions for 2014 with 382,104 admissions – beating the likes of Captain Sabertooth (365,900), Doctor Proctor (377,840) and clearly beating its competitors for Best Film – Out of Nature (20,781) and 1001 Grams (23,825)The reviews for the film were fairly average, with critics score being 62/100, but the audience scored it considerably higher at 8.5/10. Here are some highlights from the reviews:

Borning is so happy and well played that smell of Norwegian film disappears in the exhaust.

– Natt og Dag

It is never dull, and never goes beyond its point. The balance between heartwarming father-and-daughter drama and comedy is by no means perfect, and the script offers few surprises and even fewer wisecracks. But it’s hard not to be happy that the film exists.

VG.no

Overall, the film did okay. It was fun, entertaining, and people enjoyed it. But does that make it the best Norwegian film of the year? For comparison, here are the scores we gathered from the 2005-2014 winners:

[table id=3 /]

From these scores, we can see that previous winners have done better than Børning, though the audience scores are considerably lower. Also, international audiences know these films and these films have represented Norway on the international stage. Many readers don’t know Børning. 

But is the international audience important? That’s the important question here. The Amanda Awards are specifically for Norwegian film and not for the international audiences. At the same time, The aim of the Amanda Awards is to ‘increase the quality and further the interest of Norwegian films’ (NFI), so surely that should include international success.

Here are the three nominees for Best Film:

[table id=1 /]

In terms of international success, Out of Nature had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival before it debuted in Norway. The film then went on to screen at festivals in Hong Kong, Turkey, Hungary, Denmark, the USA, Taiwan, South Korea and recently as far as Australia. The film also won Best European Film at the Berlin Film Festival this year. 1001 Grams also premiered at Toronto before a domestic release, and screened at festivals in Brazil, the USA, Japan, Greece, France, Sweden, the UK, Hong Kong, Australia, and Denmark. 1001 Grams also won Best Cinematography at the Chicago International Film Festival. To compare, Børning was screened in Sweden at the Gothenburg Film Festival, as well as Japan and Canada. Before the Amanda Awards, Børning had not won any prizes.

It is fair to say, judging from these figures, that both 1001 Grams and Out of Nature have been more successful in terms of quality and prestige, but Børning is more popular among Norwegians. Is that enough to make it Best Film? This is also the place to to point out that Børning won the Audience Award, which really seems like a more fitting prize considering its scores.

While Børning won the hearts of Norwegians, the critics tell a different story. Here are the major Norwegian releases for 2015:

[table id=2 /]

Looking at these figures, there are many higher-ranked films that could’ve been in the top three. Many films that have represented Norway were snubbed this year, highlighting the concern films face.

With all these elements combined, it’s clear Børning isn’t the best film of 2015. Børning is an Americanised film that is more for entertaining than for selling Norway. But is it more important to sell yourself internationally or appeal to local audiences?

I believe this to be a slowly emerging problem in Scandinavian cinema. As an international publication, we are often applauding Scandinavian films for their ‘typically Scandinavian’ appearance: moody, dark, amazing landscapes, red cottages, straight-to-the-point characters. There are many elements we love about Scandinavian cinema and television (see: Nordic Noir). However, the same cannot be said about the Scandinavian countries.

If you live outside of the USA, think about how often you see films from your country. Many of us would answer that we don’t see local films because we want to escape and explore new worlds. As an Australian, I groan whenever I’m told to see an Australian film – I want to see what people on the other side of the globe are doing!

Out of Nature, a 'typically Norwegian' film
Out of Nature, a ‘typically Norwegian’ film

Norwegians don’t like ‘typically Norwegian’ films in the same sense that international audiences do. This can be shown in the news that came out last week that local admissions for Norwegian films were at an all-time low. Scandinavian films are simply not as popular in Scandinavia. That’s what makes Børning so perfect – the film involves a car chase that shows off the spectacular landscapes us international audiences love so much, but at the same time it feels very American, which the Norwegian audiences loved. Børning achieved something Norwegian films seldom do (excluding kids films): crossing the border from ‘typically Norwegian’ to ‘mainstream entertainment’.

But does that mean Børning deserves Best Film? Maybe not. But it does deserve recognition for what it was able to do. It raises a growing concern in the film industry: do you make fun but mediocre films to keep your audience happy, or artistic films to sell your industry worldwide? It’s easy to point the finger at audiences for not appreciating local films enough, but at the same time it is also important to recognise that you have to appeal to yourself before you can be sold worldwide. That said, Børning sets a dangerous precedent: if you want to be the best film, do you simply have to sell the most tickets? Or do you need something more than that – something Out of Nature and 1001 Grams have – artistic quality and international acclaim?

With the Norwegian film The Wave about to be released, it will be very interesting to see just how well the film does over the next 12 months. The Wave is a disaster movie that can also be classified as not ‘typically’ Norwegian. There is a lot of hype surrounding the film, and articles are just surfacing after its premiere at the Norwegian International Film Festival. If The Wave does as well as everyone is hoping, this could be both a good and bad thing for Norwegian cinema. Watch this space.

Articles about the Amanda Awards (will be updated as they are posted online)

Let us know what you think in the comments section.

 

Sources:

Out of Nature release info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3596492/releaseinfo

Out of Nature Awards: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3596492/awards

1001 Grams release info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3346824/releaseinfo

1001 Grams Awards: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3346824/awards

 

All data was gathered from filmweb.no and nfi.no

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