If you by any chance were in Norway today, you might have noticed a united outburst of joy! Most of us almost feel iced down by snow and cold weather, but today the long wait of the Oscar nominations went to an end.
The fact that the Norwegian feature film about the expedition of famed explorer Thor Heyerdahl, Kon-Tiki, won a nomination for an Academy Award, is great and unexpected news in our country.” The film is now one of five candidates for the Academy’s Best Foreign Language Film.
Heyerdahl’s own documentary about his epic voyage won an Academy Award in 1951, one of only two Norwegian films to ever do so. The new version about Heyerdahl, who died in 2002, is up against tough competition including the highly acclaimed film Amourfrom Austria, A Royal Affairfrom Denmark, No from Chile and War Witch from Canada.
Kon-Tiki producer Aage Aaberge told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he initially was at a loss for words as champagne bottles popped around him at after the nominations were announced. He quickly recovered, though, and claimed that “just being nominated is a victory in itself.”
Joachim Rønning, who directed the film along with Espen Sandberg, agreed and admitted he hadn’t had the nerve to see any of the films Kon-Tiki is up against. “But I’ll begin to see them (because) we have won already now,” he told NRK on the phone from Los Angeles. “This (the nomination alone) is a victory for us.”
He called the nomination “fantastic recognition” for himself and Sandberg, and “fantastic for the film, which will now go out into the world.” It will premiere in the US in mid-February, just before the Academy Awards ceremony on February 24.
Hadia Tajik, Norway’s government minister for cultural affairs, was thrilled by the nomination and immediately offered her “warm congratulations” to everyone involved with the film. She called the nomination “a great honor for Kon-Tiki and a great joy for all of us other Norwegians who have enjoyed this film.” She also noted that the Oscar publicity will mean that many other people around the world will be able to see the film, and told NRK that “maybe they’ll become curious about other films produced in Norway. It will, at any rate, be very exciting to follow this and see how it goes in February.”
Kon-Tiki is the most expensive film ever made in Norway, won rave reviews from Norwegian critics and has drawn the biggest box office crowds as well, ending up as the “most-seen” film in Norwegian cinemas last year. It also won a Golden Globe nomination and is among the candidates for Best Foreign Language Film at that film awards event in Hollywood this weekend.
It has also sparked controversy, though, with the family of one of Heyerdahl’s crew members on board the actual Kon-Tiki complaining that the directors took too much artistic license and gave a false and damaging portrayal of him.
When I saw the film I immediately blogged about the film, and I have never been this excited about a Norwegian film. As I mention in my blog post back in September, this retelling of a bare-bones enterprise by six men has handsome period detail and visual effects that are convincing. There has been a debate in the Norwegian press about the portrait of the men on the raft, especially thecharacter of Herman Watzinger, were the film definitively differs from reality. This is not a documentary film. The documentary film of Kon – Tiki was made of the crew themselves, and it earned an Oscar around 1950. This is the screen film of the story of Kon – Tiki, based on the true story of the six men. It’s entertaining, it’s fun, and for me the Herman Watzinger character made a great difference. This is of course because of actor Anders Baasmo Christiansen, he is one of our greatest character actors, and I love his work. But also the ironic dialogs, the understatements and pure joy of living in close contact with the elements.
Only six other Norwegian films have ever been nominated for an Oscar, and two of them have won: The original Kon-Tiki documentary and the animated short film Den danske dikteren, The Danish Poet.
The other nominations went to Ni Liv – Nine Lives, in 1957, Veiviseren – The Pathfinder in 1988, Søndagsengler - The Sunday Angels in 1996 and Elling in 2001. So, for the Norwegian film production and for us Norwegians, today’s nomination is already a victory, and it is much appreciated.
The action of the film will definitively introduce new generations to the Heyerdahl legend. This nomination will also introduce a new audience to one of the most-vaunted escapades of the 20th century, Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 Peru-to-Polynesia expedition by raft.