Opening 13 Oct 2016
Rune Denstad Langlo
Writing credits: Rune Denstad Langlo
Principal actors: Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Oliver Mukuta, Henriette Steenstrup, Slimane Dazi
Primus (Christiansen) has a run-down hotel in isolated, mountainous, northern Norway. No tourist would stay there, especially considering that it’s a wreck: no doors, water faucets, electricity. But, hey, refugees are grateful for any hospitality and the government pays good money. Primus ignores his prejudices and tells his wife Hanni (Steenstrup)and their daughter Oda (Nini Bakke Kristiansen) that “the niggers are coming.” A bus unloads 50 people from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Russia, Ethiopia, and Burundi; they all have their own private antipathies: Sunnite against Shiite, Hindu against Muslim, Buddhist versus Catholic. Only Abedi (Mukuta) from Eritrea can arbitrate between the groups and Primus; he speaks English, Norwegian, and Arabic and is invaluable. Oda invites Mona from Lebanon to share her room, because the hotel offers little privacy. Line, a social worker, comes from town to set up a library for the guests, although they would much rather have television sets. Hanni discovers that Primus and Line are better acquainted than conventions allow and throws him out of her bed; he moves into his hotel to share a room with Abedi.
Welcome to Norway is billed as a black comedy, which is obvious in the contradictory title, but sometimes it can’t decide whether to be humorous or serious. The moral of the story is that interaction with strangers helps to solve one’s own problems.
Director Langlo experienced his own talent for adaptability while making the film with 100 extras, all refugees who were speaking 14 languages from 20 countries at the film site: an abandoned cabin on the border between Norway and Sweden. He said, “At the time we had no idea how relevant this topic would become by the time we were finished,” when Norway took 31,500 refugees into a population of five million Norwegians. All of the actors are talented. I especially enjoyed Henriette Steenstrup, who is a well-known comedienne in Norway. Oliver Mukuta originates from the Congo. When he was six years old, his family fled to a refugee camp in Malawi; 12 years later he arrived in Norway. His film career includes two other Norwegian films from 2014. I suggest that you watch this film together with a German take on the same topic: Ostfriessich für Anfänger, which opens two weeks later in Germany. (Becky Tan)