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Kaia Høidalen • Coordinator, Eurodok

Eurodok? A small festival with moderate means that’s enjoying great success


- Cineuropa met up with Kaia Høidalen, coordinator of the Eurodok Festival, which was held in Oslo a few days ago

Kaia Høidalen  • Coordinator, Eurodok
© Ida Meyn, Norsk Filminstitutt

The Eurodok Festival took place in Oslo a few days ago (see news) in Filmens hus, the Film House, which, in addition to the offices of the Norwegian Film Institute, houses two screening rooms for Cinematheque meetings, a museum, an exhibition space… and a café that has been very busy as of late, as crowds of viewers flocked to this documentary festival, to the great joy of its coordinator, Kaia Høidalen.

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Cineuropa: Has Eurodok been up and running for long?
Kaia Høidalen:
Since 2002. Jan Langlo, the current director of the Oslo Cinematheque, is one of its creators, and the Cinematheque is still in charge of it. This year the festival focused on Austria, with the participation of films such as In the Basement [+see also:
film review
film profile
by Ulrich Seidl, its director, who also put on a master class just before the official opening. I’ve only been working for Eurodok since 2011, but it was in 2007 that a programme of Norwegian documentaries was proposed for the first time, of which we have 14 this year.

Who were the prize winners in 2015?
Hannah Polak’s film Something Better to Come [+see also:
film profile
, a Polish-Danish documentary, was awarded the Eurodok Award by a jury comprising three members. Wim Wenders’ film, The Salt of the Earth [+see also:
film profile
, which pays tribute to photographer Sebastião Salgado, was, for its part, awarded the Audience Award and a Special Mention by the jury. I should specify that only the ten films selected for the European category were considered for the Eurodok Award, whereas all the films were eligible for the Audience Award. The latter has only been around for two years, and allows viewers to familiarise themselves with how a festival works. What’s surprising is that when viewers are asked to fill in a questionnaire to decide who to award the prize to, they’re hesitant to give their opinion. You get the impression that they have so much respect for the films and their writers that they’re afraid they’re not up to the job. I find it very moving that in a capital city like Oslo where there’s no shortage of cultural activities on offer, people are still willing to come, sometimes late in the evening, to see documentaries. Judging by the quality of the debates that followed the screenings (I’m also a presenter), people clearly have expectations, a desire to see these films. Special screenings organised for schools, which are accompanied by discussions with writers and various pedagogical materials, supported this year by two films from the festival, I am Kuba by Åse Svenheim Drivenes and Supernerd by Hildegunn Wærness, are also proof of this. For students, Eurodok is a window on the world, a way of discovering current affairs. This is a generation that is more used to American television series, to fiction and the virtual world.

Could you tell us a bit more about what your role as coordinator involves?
I see myself as a hostess who takes care of the public and filmmakers. I try to help them to better present their films, to not be overly nervous when standing on stage before the audience. They have to feel at home here. I also think it’s important that newly discovered talent continues to be encouraged after the festival. We've tried to help the filmmakers to nurture and build on their talent by setting up informal meetings with productions advisors as well as commission editors. 

How can people participate in Eurodok?
Over the years, Eurodok has become well known and respected, which explains why a lot of documentary makers, from Norway and further afield, ask to be involved. Unfortunately, however, we do not have the technical or financial means to take everybody. It’s a shame. We decide on and select films for the festival on the basis of other festivals we visit, as well as interviews and contacts abroad. We also recruit volunteers for some jobs related to the festival.

Has Eurodok changed over the years?
I’ve noticed that the amount of preparation we have to do has lessened. Up until recently, our small team spent a lot of time in meetings and taking care of various formalities. We still work with the public and filmmakers in mind, but there’s less bureaucracy now. We trust ourselves to choose quality films, we divide tasks between ourselves more willingly, and that works better. I primarily organize the selection of the Norwegian Films and the programming committee consists of a total of six people. Here at the Film Institute, Eurodok is a common project that we work on in addition to our everyday duties. It’s a lot of work for all of us, but it’s worth it. Eurodok allows us to work more creatively, more inventively and more flexibly with colleagues belonging to different services in the house. It’s very rewarding.

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