Norsk filminstitutt

For the first time ever, a Norwegian documentary has won the Dragon Award Best Nordic Documentary in Gothenburg. The winner is the already highly acclaimed “Ibelin”, about the gamer Mats "Ibelin" Steen. 

Tre menn og en kvinne foran fotovegg med festivalpris. Alle smiler
Robert and Trude Steen (the parents of Mats "Ibelin" Steen), director Benjamin Ree and animator Rasmus Tukia. Photo: Ines Kjelbye.

There were eight nominated Nordic documentary films for the Dragon Award Best Nordic Documentary in Gothenburg, including the Norwegian IDFA winner "Life is Beautiful" by Mohamed Jabaly. In addition to the honor and attention of the award, the winners behind "Ibelin" receive a value check from the post-production company Edisen worth 250,000 Swedish kronor. 

"With 'Ibelin,' director Benjamin Ree has made a unique documentary film that proves to touch and movie audiences – and film juries – around the world. Now also at the important Gothenburg Film Festival, which is the largest in the Nordic region. It shows that the story of Mats Steen and his rich life as the avatar 'Ibelin' in World of Warcraft - uniquely and creatively told by Benjamin Ree - resonates with everyone who sees it and ensures that the film will have a long life both in Norway and the rest of the world," says Kjersti Mo, CEO of the Norwegian Film Institute.   

Overwhelming and surprising

It's totally overwhelming and surprising that we win this award. To be honest, I'm also a bit at a loss for words. What an honor," says "Ibelin" director Benjamin Ree. 

"It's a strong team that has made this film possible, both in front of and behind the camera, and I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to work closely with them. Since we are in Sweden, I would especially like to highlight editor Robert Stengård, animator Rasmus Tukia, and composer Uno Helmersson. They are all Swedish, and are one of the main reasons this film works the way it does. We've had an incredibly nice experience here at the festival in Gothenburg, with full screenings and an engaged audience, including many young people. Meeting and talking with the audience afterward has been a great experience for us," says director Benjamin Ree.

Jury motivation

Members of the jury were Anna Hints, director (Estonia), Theresa Traore Dahlberg, artist and documentary filmmaker (Sweden) and Tobias Janson, producer (Sweden). 

Motivation of the jury: 
"The jury were deeply moved and impressed by this film, that gives life to a world otherwise unseen and invites us into a community otherwise unheard. It changed our view about what is artificial and what is authentic, and made us question our conception of real human connection, friendship, love, loss. The film shows in a captivating way how we can matter, be impactful and make a difference in other peoples lives, not bound by physical limitations."  

About "Ibelin"

"Ibelin" is about the gamer Mats Steen who died of a muscular disease at only 25 years old. His parents grieved over what they thought had been a lonely and isolated life, when they suddenly began to receive messages from Mats' online friends from around the world. The film recreates the rich life of Mats' avatar "Ibelin" in the gaming world. Everything is based on real events and dialogues, taken from role-playing in World of Warcraft. 

Previous Awards  

The documentary film is directed by Benjamin Ree, who with his previous film "The Artist and the Thief" in 2020 was the first Norwegian-registered documentary film in the main competition at Sundance. There, Ree won the Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling. For the 2024 festival, Ree's new film "Ibelin" was invited to be shown at the traditional cinema The Egyptian on the opening day, and there the film won two awards – for best direction and the audience award. At the Tromsø Film Festival, "Ibelin" received the audience award. 

"Ibelin" is produced by Ingvil Giske for Media Operators and will have its Norwegian premiere in March 2024, distributed by Vibeke Skistad for Euforia. Sales agent is Autlook Filmsales GmbH 
The film is aquired by Netflix. 

"Ibelin" has received 4.2 million Norwegian kroner in development and production grants from the Norwegian Film Institute.