The Spotlight is an interview series in which we follow under-the-radar contenders as they break ground in the festival and awards space. For FREE THE WORK, Norway Ambassador Anna Fredrikke Bjerke interviewed director Anna Gutto at NIFF.

Last August, the 50th-anniversary edition of the Norwegian International Film Festival kicked off with epic programming highlighting Norwegian cinema. Standing out from the pack was filmmaker Anna Gutto’s feature directorial debut, ‘Paradise Highway,’ which had premiered at Locarno Film Festival earlier the same month.

Its impressive cast is led by Oscar-winner Juliette Binoche as Sally, a seasoned truck driver who agrees to smuggle illicit cargo for a deadly prison gang in order to save her brother’s life (Frank Grillo). But to Sally’s surprise, the ‘package’ she is meant to pick up is a 13-year-old victim of human trafficking, Leila (newcomer Hala Finley). Morgan Freeman joins them as Agent Gerick.

Serving as an indictment of a broken system, ‘Paradise Highway’ examines the unfathomable ways the authorities fail to perpetuate the heinous crime of human trafficking, which disproportionately affects women. Anna Gutto spent nearly two decades in the States, first in New York and then in Los Angeles, before returning to Oslo during the pandemic, which is where I caught up with her to discuss her shift from acting to directing, being compelled to tell pertinent subject matters on screen. Read the full interview here.

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