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Cannes '08: Kenneth Turan looks to Norway

May 19, 2008 |  9:39 am

Cannes caught its breath today after the chaos that was the "Indiana Jones" premiere, and I took advantage of what we in the journalism world call a slow news day to pay a visit to an enormous white tepee-type structure that had incongruously appeared on the lawn in front of the glamorous Grand Hotel.

Norway_tentThe tent, it turned out, was a structure called a lavvo, popular among a nomadic, reindeer-herding people from northern Norway called the Sami. A group of Sami, each dressed in their wildly colorful native formal attire, were in Cannes to help promote Norway as a filming location and popularize the slogan "Look To Norway."

I learned all this from Tom Haetta, a Sami who lives in Kautokeino, Norway, whose day job is working as "a bureaucrat, sitting in an office and doing paperwork" and who not surprisingly jumped at the chance to come to Cannes and help get the word out about Norway.

Haetta directed me to a nearby eating area where top Norwegian chefs prepared local delicacies like "cured reindeer heart from Tana," which I can personally vouch for. He also let me know that Norway's No. 1 box office hit, "The Kautokino Rebellion," was a historical drama about "a black chapter in Sami history," the subjugation of the people to a ruthless liquor dealer.

Haetta and a friend drove the enormous lavvo more than 4,300 kilometers from northern Norway to southern France, set it up in two days, but met their match in the French bureaucracy.

"The hardest part was getting the French bureaucrats to approve this," Haetta said. "I thought Norwegian bureaucrats were tough, but they're nothing compared to the French."

-- Kenneth Turan