The Atlantic Selects
Norway’s First-Ever Rural Pride Parade
Jun 24, 2019
Julie Lunde Lillesæter and Julia Dahr
“Coming out seemed like the worst thing ever,” says Anbjørn, a resident of Volda, in rural Norway. “You simply feel scared. I think every gay person in a small town has heard the horror stories.”
Despite the fear that consumed him in his youth, Anbjørn has embraced his identity in adult life. Now he hopes to share that pride with the largely conservative-Christian community he calls home. In the short documentary When Pride Came to Town, directed by Julie Lunde Lillesæter and Julia Dahr, Anbjørn organizes Norway’s first-ever rural Pride parade—much to the chagrin of dozens of locals. But the resistance the parade is met with is no match for the widespread support that it inspires.
Dahr says that while crafting the story, it was challenging to accurately depict the nuances of the situation. “It would have been easy to just tell the story of the clear-cut conflict between the rural Pride organizers and the religious anti-Pride protesters,” she told me, “but it was crucial for us to tell the more complex story and show, for instance, that many Christians in the town supported rural Pride and took part in the parade.”
Ultimately, the parade is a resounding success. “Two days before the parade, the organizers were expecting a few hundred people,” Lillesæter told me. “The turnout exceeded all expectations—4,000 people joined the celebration, in a town of only 9,000 citizens.”
The filmmakers said they felt particularly happy for one of the film’s subjects, Bjørn-Tore, who had left Volda as a young adult to seek acceptance within Oslo’s queer community. “He was finally able to celebrate love in his own hometown,” Lillesæter said, “and see that so many people there accepted and supported him.”
In the United States, a recent study found that up to 20 percent of the LGBTQ population lives in rural areas.
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Author: Emily Buder
About This Series
A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.