Norsk filminstitutt

Barbosa Films’ “The Manila Lover”, directed by Johanna Pyykkö, has been selected for Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious Critics’ Week (Semaine de la Critique). The film will have its world premiere at the festival in May.


Created in 1962 by the French Union of Film Critics as a parallel section of the Cannes Film Festival, La Semaine de la Critique focuses on discovering new talents. Each year, only ten out of many thousand available short films are selected. It has been 16 years since a Norwegian short participated in the programme, which will be presented May 15-23.

“We humbly aimed at being screened in Cannes’ Critics’ Week - and we made it! It’s so cool!” enthuses JohannaPyykkö. “With my team, I worked long and hard for the film to reach a level that we hoped would be worthy of Cannes. That it was selected is incredibly unreal to me!”

By being part of Critics Week’s competitive programme, Pyykkö will also participate in a highly regarded feature film workshop in Cannes.

“The Cannes film festival is the best launch a short film can have, and the Critics’ Week will be a good place for me to develop long-term projects. I find it especially nice that Critics’ Week aim at strengthen the artists’ visions in addition to showing their films,” says Pyykkö.

Stine Helgeland at The Norwegian film institute (NFI) says: “This is a great recognition for JohannaPyykkö and Barbosa Film, and a unique possibility for them to reach an international marked and be discovered by international audiences. Cannes is one of the world’s most important film festivals, so this is also a triumph for Norwegian shorts. Johanna Pyykkö is an exciting filmmaker who we guaranteed will see more of in the future.”

A dream fulfilled

“We always had high ambitions for “The Manila Lover”,” tells producer Nina M. Barbosa Blad, “but a nomination like this is something you hardly dare hope for. It’s really a dream come true.”

“The Manila Lover” is co-produced by Barbosa Film’s Nina M. Barbosa Blad and Lotte Sandbu and Epicmedia, a Philippian production company, and producer Bianca Balbuena-Liew. It was filmed on location in Manila in the Philippines in November 2018.

The film explores the power struggle in a sexual relationship between a norwegian man and a filipina woman. During a trip to the Philippines, middle-aged Lars meets a woman, with whom he wishes to share his life. To his surprise, she rejects him. The 46-year-old is being confronted by his own prejudices, which he now needs to overcome. The film stars Norway’s Øyvind Brandtzæg and Philippines’ Angeli Bayani, known from the feature film “Ilo Ilo”, winner of Cannes’ Caméra d’Or in 2013.


Strong and unconventional

The film received a one-million kroner grant from NFI (approximately 103 000 euros), and NFI’s film consultant at the time, Kari Moen Kristiansen, said about “The Manila Lover”: “This is a strong and unconventional story from an exciting director who dares and succeeds in challenging conventions and at the same time shows both warmth and complexity with her characters.”


About the director

Writer-director Johanna Pyykkö, born in 1984, is of Finnish descent, but was raised in Sweden. Today she works out of Oslo and Gothenburg. After graduating from the Norwegian Film School (Den norske filmskolen) in 2016, with bachelor of fine arts in directing, she has helmed many award-winning shorts: “Vi ska plocka Pascal I natt” (2010), Lillasyster fixar kondomer” (2011), “Bevisa Det!” (2012) and “Oslo Traffic” (2016). Pyykkö has also written five episodes in the popular NRK-series “Heimbane” (2019) and has worked as an assistant director on Joachim Trier’s feature film “Thelma” (2017). She is currently developing a drama series and four feature films, both the series and two of the features received developing grants from NFI’s Nye veier.

Pyykkö and Nina M. Barbosa Blad, the producer of “The Manila Lover”, also participate in UP, a developing programme for female filmmakers launched by NFI and Talent Norge, together.

Barbosa Film was founded by the Barbosa sisters: producer Nina M. and director Liv Joelle, and it was launched as a feminist production company with focus on equality and representation. Since last autumn, Lotte Sandbu, a graduate from Den norske filmskolen, has been added as a new producer to the company. Barbosa Film is presently making the drama series “NUDES” with NRKp3, as well as developing various shorts and feature films.


 About The Critic Week

Last year, Norway’s Joachim Trier was President of the Jury of La Semaine de la Critique. This year, Columbian filmmaker Ciro Guerra will head the jury, which consists of five members. Critics’ Week selects ten shorts and ten feature films to be presented during the annual Cannes Film Festival. This year the jury will present three prizes: the Nespresso Grand Prize for feature films, the Leica Cine Discovery Prize for short films, and the Louis Federer Foundation Rising Star Award to an actor from the nominated films.

Among previous Norwegian participants in Critics’ Week are Vibeke Løkkeberg, Pål Sletaune and Erik Skjoldbærg.

Says Johanna Pyykkö of “The Manila Lover”: “I was born and raised in a place where men like Lars lived, and they inspired me to write the leading character in this film. I wanted to deal with this man’s character in a tough and honest way. The inspiration for Abigail came from meeting a Filipina woman who told me about Scandinavian men’s prejudices about her. I united these two characters for my film and built my story around them.”