7 questions with… Johanne Svendsen Rognlien, curator for Oslo Pix !

1 - 30. juni 2021

The festival Oslo Pix is a cinema festival in Oslo, founded in 2017. Aimed at the general public but with activism and debates as a central point, Oslo Pix has been working with the IFN since its beginning. For this 5th edition, we are interviewing Johanne Svendsen Rognlien, head of programming in 2021.


> What was the starting point in creating this festival?


Oslo Pix is organized by the Oslo Festival Agency, which also organizes the festivals Arab Film Days and Films from The South – two other film festivals here in Norway. The first edition of Oslo Pix was held in 2017, and the festival was created with an aim to establish a new audience focused film festival in the capital combining film and events in new ways. The festival serves you the best of contemporary world cinema: from grand Hollywood productions to indie film, experimental and groundbreaking arthouse films and the gems you will remember long after leaving the Cinema.


> How do you find the right balance between appealing to the general public and raising important and specific societal questions?


I think that the audience is first and foremost interested in good quality films – both fiction and documentaries, so that’s our number one priority when programming the festival. Luckily, a lot of the quality films that are appealing to the general public also raise important questions about the society we live in. So generally, I don’t think one of them has to rule out the other when programming for Oslo Pix. The question is more what we choose to do around the film and the framework we present them in for the audience. Some films have famous directors and actors we want to highlight, while others – like for example our films in Pix Politics – benefits from contextualizing them according to social questions.


> Do you think that making films is a good way to be an activist? Is it only through documentary or can it be achieved with fiction as well?


I think the film medium is an excellent way of making people aware of a subject you care about, documentary or fiction. The most important thing isn’t the format you tell the story in, but that you find the form that plays well with your intentions as an activist. I think a lot of great films manage to both tell a fantastic story and raise awareness of a chosen subject. I think that film as a medium is extremely powerful and using it is a good way of reaching a bunch of people at the same time. But the bottom line is that you only get your message across if you take your audience seriously.


> The French selection this year presents “Monopoly of violence” , a documentary about the protest in the streets in France. Do you think that French documentaries are in general very militant?


Not to my knowledge. Monopoly of Violence visualizes the unbearable amount of violence the last couple of years in France and focuses very specifically on the “yellow vest” movement, but the confrontations between protestors and law enforcement officials is something a lot of people in many countries can relate to. We think the documentary’s content speaks to a broad audience regardless of nationality and having programmed for Oslo Pix, Arab Film Days and Films from the South the last couple of years it is safe to say that you find similar documentaries from a lot of different countries.  


> The film “Slalom” takes up the news of harassment in sports in France. Do you think this is a sensitive subject in Norway?


I think that Slalom – an excellent film by Charlène Favier – which evolves around sexual assault and the abuse of power has a theme that’s very sensitive. There’s no doubt that what the main character goes through in the film is wrong, and something I think most audiences acknowledge and agree on. But I think the last couple of year’s focuses on sexual harassment and sexual violence due to #metoo has made us more aware of the power dynamics that lies behind the assaults. Analyzing how these damaging relations begin and how they can continue over time, which is very much present in this film, makes the film and its subject sensitive in Norway and abroad, and also very important in understanding perpetrators and their victims. 


> You are also programming youth films, like Calamity. What are you looking for in a film to program it in the youth section?


Making a program for a younger audience is always hard, and is something The Festival Agency with all its festivals takes very seriously. When making a film festival you aim for quality films regardless of age, and we know that the younger audience is as demanding as adults. One of the main problems when programming for children is language, and we often look for films with Norwegian voices and/or subtitles when programming the festival. Luckily, there are many Norwegian distributors that buy children’s films from abroad and spend resources adjusting voices and subtitles – like Calamity which is distributed by Arthaus.


> How do you think the cinema industry will evolve with the current pandemic?


I think the cinema industry has gone through a lot of changes in the last year during the pandemic, but that it’s too early to tell what changes will be permanent. What we do know is that some of the structural changes that we’ve seen in 2020/2021 were already in the making, but the pandemic made the changes evolve faster than expected. I think and sincerely hope people will continue to watch film in the cinema in the years to come, but I think the audience more and more expect something extra around the screening – a panel debate, a guest, a concert – which makes me believe in the important role film festivals will play in making the audience travelling to the cinemas watching film on the big screen when they could just as easily see them at home.


Discover their whole program on their website and in cinemas !