No Oscar for Oskar, but film won fans

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A Norwegian short film that was nominated for an Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards even starred a character named Oskar, but didn’t win the much-hyped prize. The film’s young director and his entire team enjoyed a memorable trip to Hollywood anyway.

73-year-old Edvard Hægstad starred in the film "Tuba Atlantic," bought a tuxedo and traveled to LA to join in the Academy Awards celebrations. PHOTO: Filmweb.no

“I’m neither disappointed nor sorry, well, maybe both, but really not,” a slightly dazed Hallvar Witzø told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) after the film he’d made as a student in Lillehammer failed to win an Oscar Sunday night. NRK aired the film, Tuba Atlantic, on national TV in Norway Sunday night local time, before the Academy Awards show began.

“Just being nominated is something I’ll always be, and the journey the film has been on is so fantastic that not actually skimming the cream isn’t such a big letdown as one might think,” Witzø added in a press statement Monday morning.

Losing to the Irish short film The Shore didn’t stop Witzø, his family, colleagues and friends from partying at the Four Seasons Hotel n Los Angeles with around another 100 Norwegian guests. “I’m a proud Norwegian, and now we’re celebrating with all the other winners,” Witzø told NRK. “I’ll shake the hand of the winners, they’ve deserved their prizes, but we’ll win on the dance floor.”

The film starred a 73-year-old amateur actor from Sparbu in Trøndelag, Edvard Hægstad, and the Trøndelag dialect is so strong in the film that subtitles could have been helpful even for other Norwegians. But the heavily “trøndersk” theme in the film forms much of its charm, according to many reviewers.

It tells the story of an elderly farmer named Oskar who lives alone on a wind-swept island off the Norwegian coast. One day he falls ill near his tractor, goes to a doctor and is told he only has six days to live, and then desperately tries to renew contact with his estranged brother who emigrated to the US. The two hadn’t been in contact for 30 years, following a dispute over inheritance.

Oskar tries calling his brother in New Jersey but the number he had was no longer valid. With the help of a young social worker sent to help Oskar get through the dying process, he uncovers and uses a giant tuba he and his brother had made as children. The goal is to send a message through a tuba so large that it will be heard on the other side of the Atlantic.

See the film as shown on NRK here. (external link, in Norwegian)

Norwegian filmmakers have only won two Oscars in the history of the Academy Awards, one for the documentary Kon-Tiki and another for best animated short film, The Danish Poet. Just getting a nomination made headlines for Witzø all over the country.

He spent three weeks in southern California this month, marketing the film and, as he told his local newspaper in Trondheim Adresseavisen, “building buzz” for it. Now he intends to work on new film projects including an animated film “from Kjell Aukrust’s universe” and a feature film also based in Trøndelag.

“What actually gets made depends on the support I get,” Witzø told Adresseavisen. “Hopefully it will help that I had an Oscar nomination.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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