The Eighth Annual Nordlys Film Festival – A Great Success


From February 17-19, the eighth Nordlys Film and Arts Festival kicked off not only reading week, but Family Day Weekend as well.

An annual event that has become a tradition in Camrose, the film festival was once known as the Pretty Hill Film Festival as it originates in Pretty Hill, Alberta. Now the festival goes by Nordlys, which is ‘nothern lights’ in Norwegian though Mardell Olson, one of the founders of the event, is unable to recall why.

According to Olson, whose basement held the festival for nearly a decade, a weekend of movies was just a way for her immediate family to spend time together over Family Day weekend.

From its start in 2000 to 2009, the festival was kept in the Olson household until increase of interest required a larger area and was opened to the public. After two years at the Augustana Theater building, the festival now calls the historical Bailey Theater home. Olson states that they “as a group get great satisfaction from the community.” However, the film festival is not only a popular event in Camrose, but across the country. This year, attendees included residents of Calgary, Vancouver, and as far as Toronto.

Many of the guests are regulars and have attended the festival over the years. One octogenarian woman has only missed one film in the past seven years –an awesome feat considering there are nine films shown over the weekend every year. Along with this fan, many other guests watch the majority of the films and consequently became Nordlys Critics. This title is to identify those who have seen seven of the films shown and can vote on which film deserves the Pretty Hill Award–the best film of the festival. This year, the Pretty Hill Award went to the Swedish film ‘A Man Named Ove’ (2015).

Other films included ‘Pawn Sacrifice (2016),’ ‘A Coffee in Berlin’ (2014) ‘Things Arab Men Say’ (2016), and ‘Ida’ (2013).

‘Rear Window’ (1954) was chosen for the Classic Sunday film, one of the many traditions of the festival. Further traditions include the black and white attire for the Friday evening showings, and the mingling and discussion periods between each movie known as the Café Voltaire. As well as showing films, another Nordlys customs is to hold a concert on Saturday nights. This year, the film and art festival featured Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, a musician from Calgary.

This year marks an important milestone to the festival. Carole Preston, Chairperson of the Nordlys Society, commented that  “this year we had a record number of attendees at the festival.”

With only eleven people in the festival’s society, the organisation has many volunteers to make the event as smooth and successful as it proves to be. As Olson stated, “it’s a labour of love and passion” which rings true by the time and effort given by those involved with Nordlys.

In her final comments on the festival, Preston stated that they “had a wonderful time and look forward to being back at the Bailey next year.”


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