One of Norway's most celebrated young filmmaker, Sara Johnsen was born (1970) in Oslo, Norway. She studied literature, photography and media at the University of Oslo where she earned a master's degree in Media and Communication. In 1997 she became one of the first students to be enrolled in the initial directing class of the Norwegian Film School. She gained acclaim early on, as her two student films won a number of Norwegian and international awards, and soon emerged as one of the most talented filmmakers in Norway. Johnsen graduated three years later with her graduation film Hormones and Other Demons (2000) being screened at several international film festivals, and along with one of her other school projects, In Spite of Ourselves (1999) winning several international awards.
After graduation, Sara worked in the Drama Department of Swedish Television (SVT), directing two episodes of the drama series The Family before contributing a segment to the feature film Most People Live In China. She also made a short films for Friland AS, "Houdinis hound". The film is about two children playing a game,the film won prizes at festivals and was bought by Canal plus tv and Italien television.
In 2004 Johnsen also debuted as an author with a collection of short stories entitled He Knows Something She Should Try, published by Norway's largest publishing house, Gyldendal, which also published her first novel, White Man (2008) that was nominated for the Youth Literature Prize and won the Norwegian Broadcasting P2 Listener's prize.
Johnsen made her feature film directing debut in 2005 with the critically acclaimed drama Kissed by Winter, which examines the intersection of several troubled lives in a small Norwegian town when a small boy is found dead on the side of the road, As the mystery of the child's death lingers, each character suffers through his or her own deeply personal, emotional crisis and grapples with the need to take responsibility for the boy's tragic end. The film was screened at more than 35 international film festivals - including Karlovy Vary, Vancouver International Film Festival, Cinequest, Festroia and the AFI Fest - and won several awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at the AFI Fest, the New Vision Award at the Roma Independent Film Festival and the annual The Norwegian Film Critics Award.
Sara's second feature, Upperdog (2009), tells the story of two half-sibling children who are separated on adoption in Norway, one to material wealth, the other to an average family. When chance reunites them years later, it sets in motion a chain of events that throws many people into emotional turmoil. Upperdog received rave reviews and won numerous awards - including a grand total of five Amanda-statuettes, the Norwegian National Film Award. Out of a total eight nominations, Upperdog won the awards for Best Actress, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Directing and Best Film.
In Johnsen's most recent feature film, All That Matters Is Past (2012), childhood sweethearts are reunited after years apart and forced to confront the dark secrets of their past as well as the menacing presence of a resentful jealous brother. Once again in a tale of innocence destroyed by a corrupt society, Johnsen masterfully examines a couple who have been devastated by tragedy and shows the insight and compassion that has marked her previous studies of loss and loneliness.
Besides directing and writing, Johnsen has also worked as a teacher in dramaturgy, visual storytelling and screen acting.