Ja, De Elsker: A Film On Norwegian American Culture

Friends Newsletter Fall 2005 vol. 3 no. 2

| Director's Column | Documentary Discs | Wisconsin Folksong Digital Collection | NHPRC Regional Survey |
| Oneida Narratives | Ja, de elsker |

In spring 2004 journalist, Marion Solheim, and videographer, Anders Jorgensen, flew from western Norway to Seattle full of high hopes to film a Nordic festival in the Big Latté. Affiliated with the Sogn og Fjordane branch of NRK, Norway’s public television network, but working as free-lancers on this project, they were dismayed to learn that their chosen event had been canceled just as they arrived. Undaunted, the pair purchased a second hand car, sent out a barrage of exploratory emails, and headed for that new world, Viking Mecca--the Upper Midwest.

Even before reaching Iowa, they had a plan: to focus on individuals sustaining and studying distinctive, sometimes quirky, manifestations of “Norsky” culture in the new world. In Decorah, Iowa, Solheim and Jorgensen traipsed after Luther College student, Sam Drong, as he learned his ancestor’s language and pondered with classmates just what it means to be Norwegian American. In Stoughton, Wisconsin, on the eve of Syttende Mai (May 17th, Norway’s Constitution Day) the documentarians trained microphone and camera on bunad-clad, Jessica Lippart, as she danced with and commented on her high school’s “world famous” Stoughton Dancers. And just down the road, Jorgensen and Solheim followed CSUMC’s own Jim Leary as he held forth on the origins of Mount Horeb’s “Trollway" and the enduring power of “Scandihoovian” dialect jokes.

Jorgensen and Solheim intersperse their vignettes with a briskly edited montage of Norwegian American symbols: painted ceramic nisse lurking in front yards, replica Viking ships on garage gables, Norwegian and American flags waving side-by-side, “Legalize Lutefisk” bumperstickers, and much more. As familiar Upper Midwestern images stream by, the pair provide seriocomic interpretations making sense, for the folks back home, of such intriguing yet baffling expressions of ethnic identity as Ole and Lena fortune cookies!

For more information about this twenty-nine minute video (available in DVD format), contact Anders Jorgensen (anders.jorgensen@nrk.no) or Marion Solheim (marion.solheim@nrk.no).

Jim Leary, a folklore and Scandinavian studies professor at UW–Madison, is co-director of the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures.



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