Just back from an amazing trip to the edge (and the most northern film festival) of the world, Nordkapp. I was asked to represent Fishernet at the Nordkapp Film Festival and took out a programme to illustrate the use of archive in projects – Caller Herrin by Alan Harper 1947, Shapes in the Water 1974 by Bill Forsyth, and a short piece of my own, ‘Pund’.
After stopping a night in Aberdeen, my next ten hours consisted of interiors of planes and airports.
It was late when I arrived in Honningsvag, so it wasn’t until the next morning that I got a chance to look around this beautiful harbour town.
Honningsvag has many similarities to my hometown of Stromness, the size and feel of the place making me feel at home right away. It’s said the name means ‘the bay lying beneath the mountain’. The Vikings named Stromness Hamnavoe meaning ‘sheltered bay’.
It’s incredible to think that, ‘as in most towns in North Troms and Finmark, the contemporary urban landscape is only 50 years old. When the German invaders withdrew at the end of 1944, only the church was left standing. The rest of the buildings had been burnt down and the population forcibly evacuated’. (A walk in a reconstructed landscape – Ingrid Saethero)
On thursday night I went to a very moving screening directed by Knut Erik Jensen, featuring a filmed piano recital played by Knut’s wife. The film depicted the history of the invasion, burning and rebuilding of the town intercut with the recital and was projected in the church itself.
As you can see the rebuilding was a very colourful one. They even have their own Brinkie’s Brae.
The fishermen’s service centres were built between 1955 and 1961 and have been in continuous use since.
On Wednesday Annette Horn from Nordkapp Museum gave me a wonderful guided tour of the surrounding area, the island of Magerøya. Here she is at her favourite spot on the island, Gjesvær. Her grin is very like mine when I’m at Yesnaby.
Magerøya is about the same size as our mainland, without Burray and South Ronaldsay, treeless but with looming hills, the highest 1,368 ft above sea level.
Of course the most famous peak is Nordkapp itself, referred to as the northernmost point of Europe. It is not, but that doesn’t stop 200,000 visitors flocking to see it during the summer months.
The fishing village of Gjesvær has 220 inhabitants.
Already in the Viking Age, Gjesvær was known as a trading post and fish station and from the early Middle Ages and up to the last century, the village was one of the largest and richest fishing villages in Finnmark. From here, you have a magnificent view to “The mother with her daughters” – Gjesværstappan – an island group with one of Northern Norway’s largest bird rocks.
And here someone has shown a bit of TLC to try to preserve one of the last ‘surviving’ trees using iron clamps and concrete. Remind you of Kirkwall’s ‘Big Tree’?
At the roadside reindeer were as common as sheep.
Though they didn’t hang around for long.
The Sami people are indigineous to this area and in the past have pursued a variety of livelihoods, including coastal fishing, fur trapping and sheep herding. Their best known means of livelihood is reindeer herding, and now it is legally reserved only for them.
In this small village we came across an example of the traditional boat.
Wednesday night I went for a snooze, to be awoken by fireworks and sthe sudden realization that I’d missed the opening film. Never mind, I managed to rush out and join the parade with the locals accompanied by a brass band playing “I Ain’t Got Nobody“. Then on to a champagne reception complete with King Crab buffet.
The red king crab can reach two metres between the claws and weigh up to 15 kilos. A snap of its claw is enough to remove a man’s finger. Soviet scientists introduced them in the 1960s, wanting to increase the yield from local fisheries. Since then, millions of crustaceans have spread west into Norwegian waters. They devastate other life in the sea, but the locals have dealt with the problem admirably, turning the crab into a much sought after delicacy. The meat is a very tasty, simple and filling meal.
Thursday and Friday was Fishernet screenings and seminar.
Fishernet is a three year project involving collaborators from six European countries. It aims to investigate best practices for collection and dissemination of fishing cultural heritage and to establish a network for ongoing development of fishing heritage opportunities and maintenance of fishing communities.
and Marcos Gallego with ‘Lira’, seen here with Fishernet project co-ordinator Manuel Maria Paris Leston (left).
My favourite film of the event had to be a beautifully crafted Norwegian documentary, There Will Be Oil, directed by Frode Myhra Skog. Interested in trying to track this one down to see again, and to see what else the director has made.
My presentation, which included a potted version of Orkney and more sepecifically Stromness history, seemed to go down well. I also combined use of archive images and how to future-proof resources we are gathering now. My presentation was visually backed up by images from the archives, including some very well received ones from Rebecca Marr ( I know, she’s my wife, but there was very positive feedback!).
After I’d given my presentation, the next presenters didn’t use power points, so the rest of the day was set to the backdrop of my last image in my powerpoint, my hometown Stromness.
The exhibition celebrates the diversity of cod and its culture, through science and through society’s handling of it, within the context of the regions own cultural landscape.
The rest of the museum was fascinating too, exhibiting the history of local fisheries, the wartime occupation and evacuation, as well as aspects of everyday life.
Of course, there was also a full programme of films as the main part of Nordkapp Film Festival, run by Festival Director Tore Fosse.
I went to a Work In Progress ‘Longing For Today’ by Knut Erik Jensen:
I saw Pina by Wim Wenders, my first experience of 3D (apart from when we were kids and there was a special xmas day tv screening. We made our own glasses with red and green toffee wrappers – kinda worked).
The first ten mimutes were great, then the 3D just became distracting, my eyes hurt, and I started to see everything in 2D. Not much different to the toffee wrappers actually.
I’ve read a lot of the pro’s and cons of 3D. My personal take is: for certain extravaganzas – go for it. Otherwise, just let us believe in the image. We don’t look at 2D and see 2D. We see it as real as life, so long as the production and story is convincing.
On my last night, Friday, I caught ‘Tree of Life’ by Terence Malik. It won Best Film Of the Year, FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics, and the Palm d’Or at Cannes this year too. At Cannes, there were reports of some audience members booing the film while others clapped.
Well I applaud it whole heartedly, a masterpiece in cinema craft, shaking me to my core. Catch it in the cinema if you can, it deserves the big screen.
I also managed to catch Tore’s son, Simen Lähdesmäki Fosse, as he rocked out with his band Moillrock. It was a fantastic performance and showed true community spirit during the sad event, involving the MS Nordlys with the death of a local boy the same age and in the same class as some of the band.
I applaud Annette Horn from Nordkapp Museum and Fishernet for being a wonderful and fun host, to Tore and the team for putting on a fantastic festival, and for the whole Honningsvag community for pulling together in what were difficult times.
I hope to be back, and that I will see some of the people I met there in Orkney sometime so I can show them an equally warm welcome.