Sitting down over a cup of black coffee with 27-year-old Norwegian Director Hallvar Witzo, whose Tuba Atlantic is an Academy Award nominee for Best Live Action Short Film, he beams with homeland pride as he points out "Norway went to the North and South Poles first."
And his homeland is beaming right back as all eyes in the Kingdom of Norway will be on Sunday's telecast hoping the words Tuba Atlantic emerge from the envelope. If so, it will only be the third time in Oscar's 84 years that a Norwegian has won an Academy Award.
Tuba Atlantic trailer:
The emotional inspiration for Tuba Atlantic, the touching story of a dying elderly man's quest to be reunited with his brother, far overseas in America, is a personal one for Hallvar.
"My grandfather would hold my hand as we took long walks over the mountains, and never said anything. One day he just pointed out at the Atlantic, and said, 'I have a brother. There's my brother.' His brother lived in New Jersey, and they had been close, but lived 6,000 kilometers apart, and this fascinated me how this man of few words wanted to communicate across this distance."
The 25 minute Tuba Atlantic has now been seen in theatres from Europe to Beijing to the United States. Last week, Hallvar sat amongst Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese at the Annual Nominee's Luncheon.
"It's surreal saying to Steven Spielberg, "Hello, I'm Hallvar -- I'm from Norway." He and I talked for 30 minutes. I could tell he has a fondness for Norway. I told him he should come, and make films there."
Edvard Haegstad in Tuba Atlantic:
At the heart of Tuba Atlantic is Edvard Haegstad's beautiful performance. Astonishingly, he's not even a professional actor.
"This is Edvard's first film, and he's 73. He is a farmer who had done some local amateur acting, but mostly he puts roof stones on houses, builds things, tends to his field. He is the strongest man I know. He carried these huge big German tripods and equipment on set like it was nothing. I had to drag him away from building the set for the Chippendales who are visiting the small town in Norway where we live to come to the Oscars. I would love to work with Edvard again, but he is not a guy who would ever voluntarily go to an audition. When I got nominated my reaction was jumping up on the table being bananas, but his reaction when the local newspaper called him was 'It's great, but I'm kind of busy right now. I have to go out to my field and finish picking potatoes.' We are so different. We will sit next to each other at the Kodak Theatre. He will keep me rooted to the ground, and I will be the one getting him excited."
For Oscar week, the Tuba Atlantic Director has been getting a taste of life on the Pacific.
Looking ahead, the first time nominee hopes to make more films in Norway, but adds:
"I actually love it -- Los Angeles. At first I just thought it was messy traffic place, but then a friend showed me around the city pointing out buildings where they shot The Artist, and, Bladerunner. Unlike most European cities where the five cool places are neighbors, in L.A., you have to drive to a new world to go explore somewhere. Plus Californians are really open-minded and friendly. They ask me 'how are you doing' in every store. That doesn't happen in Norway.
I love film. And I am so honored to be nominated and to be at the Oscars, a place where film is celebrated by the whole world. My favorites this year are Shame, and Drive. And I loved Max Von Sydow in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. He's from Sweden. I hope I get to meet him and shake hands."
"It has to be something personal. Personal filmmaking is important to me. I'm excited to get behind the camera again and direct actors. I'm just starting to get in there."