The Critical Room (TCR) is a forum for film and debate, established in 2003. There has since then been more than 100 discussions with exciting national and international guests, that put previously unconsidered problems, relevant topics and important questions on the agenda.
This year there are five events, where especially important films will be shown. This years' forum has a high standard as always, and several exciting guests, films and debates.
The project leader behind The Critical Room and Sørfond forum, Per Eirik Gilsvik, told us a bit about this years' programme and how he works to put together the forum.
You work as project leader for The Critical Room. Tell us about your background and education.
I've been interested in film for many years, especially documentary films. Films that approach social themes and political topics are interesting to me, and I believe that they help us understand, and have the potential to affect public debate. Speaking of «the public debate», I feel it is relevant to mention that I have always been someone who has been more interested in international news in newspapers, compared to the more navel-gazing national news. I didn't apply to the Norwegian Film School in Lillehammer, but wanted to go abroad to study instead. I studied Development Studies, got a Master's in Social Sciences, and went to Germany, South Africa, Argentina and India for school. I've been able to keep my interest for films alive throughout my studies, by starting and working in film clubs at the different universities where I've studied. When I came home, I managed to get a job at Films From The South – where I've previously volunteered and been in the audience – where I feel like I'm utilizing my interest and knowledge of films and international topics.
How do you work while putting together the TCR-programme? Where to you get inspiration/ideas from, and what decides what subjects you choose?
I often see important things happening that I wish I could focus on in The Critical Room programme, but there has to be a film about it as well. If I can't find a good film that talks about the subject at hand, I have to look elsewhere. With each event in the TCR programme there are several things that need to align; I want there to be a relevant and interesting subject, a good film and an exciting guest in relation to the film. I also want the events and films to present a broad aspect of subjects and topics. In terms of finding a subject, I like to be as open as possible, but I also keep in mind what I think the audience would find interesting as well. One example of this in this years' programme, is Mahamat-Saleh Harouns Hissein Habré A Chadian Tragedy, which is about the fight to try the former dictator in Chad in court. It is an unknown story to most people, but the film talks about universal human questions in regards to guilt, justice and reconciliation- a film we all can learn from!
It takes a long time to choose the films, and I see a lot of them before I find some that tick all my criteria. I see films that are sent to us as screeners, and well as travelling to different film festivals, like the Berlinale and Cannes, to find the best possible films for the programme. Several films are thrown out during this process, and then I am left with a few films that meet my criteria, which is when I start to define what discussions are relevant to the films, and possible Norwegian panel participants.
Why did you choose this years' films and topics?
I had an idea to focus on Pakistan quite early in this year's The Critical Room. Last years I saw the shocking film Among the Believers and I wanted to have it in the programme right away, but it wasn't an option because the director of the film, Mohammed Naqvi, couldn't come. I could not get that film out of my head, and when A Girl in the River with the strong female director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won the Oscar for best short documentary, I saw it as an unique possibility to invite both Naqvi and Obaid-Chinoy to shed light upon the tense situation in Pakistan, and the current bloody fight against conservative islam and extremists.
Other than these two, the reasons that the topics are on the programme are more disparate. The fact that there were very good films that corresponded with them, made me choose them for this year's events.
Tell us about some of this years' guests and panel participants.
I'm very excited to meet Kinan Azmeh, an incredible musician and sympathetic person who travels around to play concerts with, among others, The Syrian Expat Philharmonic to shed light on the situation in Syria. He'll be coming to present the film The Music of Strangers, a fantastic film about music as an universal language.
Other than that, I'm excited to meet Mohammed Naqvi and Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy, two young, uncompromising and exciting Pakistani film makers who make important films about difficult and relevant topics in relation to radicalisation, extremism and conservative traditions in their home country.
What are you looking forward to the most?
Well, now that it's quite hectic right before the festival and my head is full of planning, I'm getting excited to get started, so I would have to say Fire at Sea, the first film this year.
The film won the Golden Bear at this years' Berlinale, and is an important portrayal from Lampedusa, the small island that has become the gateway to Europe to many hopeful refugees that travel across the Mediterranean. The films opens up a debate on how Europe can handle the refugee crisis in the best possible way. It's not exactly a light and easy topic, but it has to be spoken about – the arrival of refugees to Europe has already begun to affect the political landscape across the continent. How can we protect the people who need it, and at the same time avoid firing up the polarization between «us» and «them», which has already started in several European countries?
With films about the still and highly relevant migrant crisis in Europa, about Pakistan's battle against extremisme, about what music can do to create dialouge between countries and about a dictator put on trial there is no doubt that the Critical Rool has a diverse program which we highly recommend festivalgoers.
A full overview for all screenings and debatres can be found HERE.