At five o’clock, directors, organizers, press and guests of the 15th International Odense Film Festival in Denmark descend on the room just outside the Videobar for a glass of wine and a chance to showcase their talent for mingling. ‘Blue Hour’ sets the mood for the festival, which is all about appreciating films and providing a relaxed environment to invite chatter among members of the film community.
More than 100 films were showcased at the event, 42 of which were new Danish shorts or docs presented by the Danish Film Institute. Comparable to Canada’s National Film Board, the DFI works to ensure variety, volume and artistic quality in Danish film through script, development and production subsidies. Armed with a budget for 2000 of dkk303 million (us$35.4 million), the DFI also handles distribution, marketing, archiving and administration.
The festival’s doc lineup was a testament to DFI’s efforts. Subject matter ranged from director Cathrine Asmussen’s Ghetto Princess (produced by Denmark’s Koncern TV and the festival’s Grand Prize winner), which looks at how two ten-year-old girls cope with their cultural differences, to director Tomas Gislason’s look at the systematic imprisonment and deportation of people in Stalin’s Soviet Union. The latter was dealt with in Gislason’s film Maximum Penalty, produced by Copenhagen’s Bech Film and awarded best documentary. Both received financing from the DFI.
Perhaps the most talked about doc at the festival was the 70-minute The Video Diary of Ricardo Lopez directed by Sami Martin Saif and coproduced by dr2. Constructed of excerpts from Lopez’ famous 18-hour, self-shot video documenting the months prior to his planned suicide, the film challenges viewers to contemplate Lopez’ downward spiral.
Most directors attending the festival praised the DFI for providing funds that allow filmmakers to undertake projects not dictated by the commercial needs of broadcasters. However, producer Peter Bech of Bech Film urged filmmakers to consider the international market: ‘Both the government and the DFI want to promote Danish culture. As a result, most Danish docs aren’t made for larger markets. There’s no market outside Denmark.’ KB