Random weirdness for the week of Jan. 23, 2018


This week’s madness is a madcap movie marathon, beginning with what is currently the world’s northernmost film festival. The nine occupants of the Bjørnøya Meteorological Station gathered last weekend for the 5th annual BØFF (Bjørnøya Filmfestival), watching five movies during a two-day period. The first two films were the documentary “Bjørnøya” and the action/thriller “Bear Island” because, of course, they were. Other screenings included the animated comedy/adventure film “Up” (not in the original 3D), the documentary “Tongue Cutters” (“a 9-year-old girl travels from Oslo to a northern Norwegian fishing village to learn the art of codfish tongue cutting”) and the blockbuster Norwegian war drama “Den 12. Mann,” based on the real-life story of one man who managed to escape a Nazi attack during World War II that killed his 11 comrades. The latter as the finale gave BØFF extra cred (and nationwide press coverage) since they got special permission from Nordisk Film Distribusjon to show the first-run film. “‘Den 12. Mann’ has now reached an audience of 500,000 on the mainland,” the station’s blog notes. “Now it will be 500,009 when it is shown here with us on Friday evening.” The 100 percent attendance rate might explain why the station’s film festival has survived while efforts in Longyearbyen and Barentsburg in recent years have been short-lived…


Dark prospects: “Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a commercial: Let’s go to a place with few roads where it’s so dark it’ll be hard to see the vehicle.” Photo courtesy of A Car Company That Shall Not Be Named.

During a week when Norway’s getting lots of attention for not being a s**thole (implication: because it’s almost entirely white), a new online video by a car company is touting “black is beautiful” in big way when it comes to Svalbard. The four-minute video titled “100 Days of Dark” features three Longyearbyen residents talking about what it’s like to live here during the dark season, with lots footage of a pickup truck helping them go about their various lives (the company shall remain nameless since 1) we’re not into free promos and 2) the residents are nameless in the video). What’s striking is that, while the camera work is impressive (and the comments we’ve seen from viewers here and elsewhere is generally complimentary), it’s among the least scenic video profiles we’ve seen because the amount of time people and things aren’t shrouded in darkness can be measured in seconds (not to mention the truck is, of course, black). Anyhow, just for fun, try to figure out who the residents filmed are from these descriptions by the company: 1) A carpenter who builds houses and sheds. From the home of his fixed building department, it may take from 10 minutes to one-and-a-half-hours to drive, depending on the host and wind. 2) An airport employee who lives alone with his dog in a desolate area outside the city center – and who loves to go hiking in the wilderness. 3) An Arctic farmer who aims to grow sustainable food in total darkness, instead of getting the food shipped with ships from the mainland…


Blue’s clueless: We were recently challenged to translate into English the lyrics to “Prisencolinensinainciusol.” On that note, we’ll give a million U.S. dollars to anyone who can locate this swimming dock within the city limits of Longyearbyen. Photo by Fred Olsen.

Dark as that footage is, it’s nowhere near as gloomy as the abomination known as “Fortitude,” an “X-Files”-like series supposedly based in Svalbard (which, according to the show, has things like trees, a sheriff and and a governor obsessed possible to build a super-luxury hotel inside of a glacier). So it’s somewhat welcome welcome news they’re planning to film their final season (a mere four episodes) and, shockingly, they’ll actually visit Svalbard as part of that. Previous seasons were filmed in Iceland, which is why viewers see all kinds of buildings, products, natural elements, etc. that don’t exist here. Of course, most of the show will be filmed in a studio in the U.K., so hopefully they visit Svalbard first so they don’t bestow things on us like a lagoon swimming dock that looks like something out of “Myst”

Finally, much as we despise our hack of an editor, we’ll give him a grudging shoutout for being among the 30 selected from more than 700 submissions from people living in polar regions about what life is like during the polar night. Two other Longyearbyen residents are also part of the print/video that was the main feature at The New York Times’ website for a day and of course our bosses’ comments were the lamest – although admittedly well-timed. The Times extracted two sentences from his essay which essentially amounted to a PR pitch for next week’s Polarjazz festival. If nothing else, hopefully it’ll pay off some of the karma debt he’s incurred after his first festival ten years ago when he infamously insulted the quality of open-mike performances by local kids.