Norwegian filmmakers Odd Hynnekleiv and Grete Salomonsen Hynnekleiv shared their experiences of being Christians in the film industry with student filmmakers at Union’s 8th annual Student Film Festival March 29.
The Hynnekleivs, who are married, were in California to show their latest work, “Yohan,” a story filmed in both Norwegian and English about a child growing up in economically depressed Norway 100 years ago.
“(The Hynnekleivs) are Christians who are working in a very high profile way in the arts in Norway and Europe,” said Gregory Thornbury, dean of the School of Theology and Missions at Union University.
Thornbury met the filmmakers recently while teaching in Norway. They said they readily accepted his invitation to fly to Jackson while they were in the United States to be the first guest speakers at the Student Film Festival.
“It’s great to be in here and to watch you guys make movies here,” Odd said at the festival. “Norway is a little bit like Jackson — it’s far from L.A. — but you can do it.”
Union students submitted 14 films of their own creation to the festival. Each film fell into one of three categories: documentaries, short-form films or long-form films. Contestants, other students, professors, the special guests and people from the community participated in the two-night event.
The first night of the festival, the audience viewed the films. Cam Tracy, Union’s web development agent and festival director, and the Hynnekleivs interviewed each director. Afterward, attendees voted on their favorite film. The next evening, Thornbury interviewed the guests, and the films were shown again before the awards ceremony.
In their interview with Thornbury, the Hynnekleivs said they believe telling good stories well is glorifying to God.
“I think … God loves movies,” Odd said. “Why? Because it’s so close to his heart — he loves stories.”
Though they have done several projects for Christian organizations, they do not always target a Christian audience. The couple encouraged student filmmakers in the audience to follow their example of choosing to tell stories for a mainstream audience that help to normalize biblical values.
In their 20 years of making films, Grete said they have chosen to be Christians who make art in the form of films instead of filmmakers who produce films specifically for Christians or Christian agendas. That approach has gotten them opposition from both Christians and non-Christians.
“This (approach to filmmaking) is hard for some to swallow,” she said, referring to Christians who were not willing to monetarily support their projects that did not promote a Christian organization, church or pastor. Conversely, “(non-Christians) said they could smell that Christians made the same film.”
Grete said in order to “make it” as a filmmaker, “you have to really want to be doing it.” But she and Odd gave two encouragements: it is well worth the challenges, and it is not an individualistic effort.
“Help will come,” she said.