Whilst Swedish Director Ruben Östlund picked up three Academy Award nominations for Triangle of Sadness, there were also Nordic nominations for two live action short films, Night Ride and Ivalu.
We spoke to the some of the team behind these two films to understand what they are all about, why they’ve earned an award nomination, and about accessibility to this content in the future.
Director Anders Walter had been recommended a graphic novel by the name of Ivalu by a friend of his who worked over in Greenland. Anders wasn’t so sure about the subject matter but then his curiosity got the better of him and he finally bought the comic on grounds of just how beautiful the artwork looked.
The now two-times Academy Award nominated Danish director explained:
“I read the comic book and I was just blow away – I thought it had such a poetic and powerful way of dealing with the dark subject matter. With it being a graphic novel it acted as a great visual medium for me to consider making it into some kind of film – when I finished it I knew then I wanted to to try and turn it into a short film“
Next up came the involvement of the film’s producers who included the husband and wife team of Rebecca Pruzan and Kim Magnusson. Rebecca says:
“I read the novel first, it was very brief, and I just remember crying. The contrast between the storyline and the artwork just blew my mind – we agreed that we wanted to do whatever we could to bring this story to life.”
Those who might be familiar with the graphic novel would be aware how it all ends, which was pretty brutal, so there was an agreement that despite sometimes life being pretty brutal too, that the film needed to have some hope amongst the despair.
With the novel based in Greenland and in various locations the crew had to find a way of bringing the colours and scenery to life – they do so with such success in the film thanks to their cinematographer Rasmus Heise.
Anders explains more:
“Thing is with the novel our main character is running to all of these special locations that have a specific meaning in both Greenlandic and Danish culture; she runs like a a distance of 3,000km or something and we did not have the budget to travel to all of these locations.”
The bulk of the movie was filmed out of Nuuk, which is the capital of Greenland, and there were some perfect spots outside of the city that still managed to make it feel that they had travelled a great distance away from the city location.
“In the last two days of shooting, we had a stopover where we had to change aeroplanes because from that airport we could drive into this very low part of the the icecap and get something more really exciting shots with all the ice and snow.”
Rebecca points out how Anders isn’t actually saying the names of the locations – Greenland isn’t the easiest of places to pronounce for example I once visited Qaqortoq (which is pronounced Kak-or-tock). The pair reveal that they took a brief language course before they headed out there so they could at the very least pronounce the names of the places and cities correctly.
It was the first time the director and producers had ever visited Greenland:
“As you know, Greenland is part of Denmark, so it is part of our upbringing but it is so far away both culturally and geographically – so feels both a part of us and not a part of us. So to finally travel there was a fantastic journey learning about the myths, the culture, and its geography“.
The team also had to learn how to film in minus eighteen degrees, which was another adventure altogether.
The temperature wasn’t the only challenge the team had – finding and working with cast came with its own challenges especially given the context of the story they were bringing to life.
“As soon as we decided that all three of us wanted to do the film, we also kind of agreed that we would not do the film if we couldn’t find people to work with in Greenland. The movie had to be told in the Greenlandic language.”
The team encountered a lot of dialogue issues when reaching out to the different production companies, then finally found a company – it was here that they met with Pipaluk K. Jørgensen.
“Pipaluk K. Jørgensen, a Greenlandic director herself, has a very strong voice and has been doing movies about these subject matters herself. She became a co-director on the film.
Then the real process started, and that was right from the screenplay and trying to understand the Greenlandic myths that we’re using in the film. These were not part of the graphic novel but rather something we added to the film version and then there was the many sensitive subject matters that we had to discuss and understand.“
From here a collaboration started – all casting and the people in front and behind the camera were Greenlandic, aside from the team of Anders, Rebecca, Kim, and Rasmus.
The combination of their work and will to understand and respect the Greenlandic culture had lead to this incredible success, and with Anders winning an Academy Award in 2014 with Hellim, their hard work might really pay off!
The Future of Short Film
With short films becoming more and more highly recognised I wonder whether there is a future for the projects to be finally shared to audiences worldwide – with so many streamer options out there surely there is room for short films to be included?
I mean, personally, I hope that Netflix and all the other streamers soon have a category where you have documentary features, animation, and a category for short films. Y
ou would have hundreds of short films because I think there’s a tendency to be a bit more courageous with the subject matter in short movies, because you’re not so hung up on box office and the fact that investors have to get their money back.
We have experienced this ourselves at Nordic Watchlist- short films and documentaries are often very original and moving in an unexpected way.
So people tend to tell quirky, original and very unique stories and use that format for those kind of stories. Also, I think it talks very much to the way people use media these days – I mean, my children’s ability to focus and concentrate is getting diminished, just because there’s so much happening around them.
The short film format is brilliant, who can’t sit down for 15 or 20 minutes and see a story, be enlightened or informed or entertained, by a movie that can tell a story in a very short space of time.
Rebecca adds to Anders’ answer:
“There are so many amazing films out there – films that are amazing, both for grown-ups and for children and in all categories. For any streamer, imagine having all that content for very little money. It’s a big opportunity to present to them. There is this big bucket of delicious content waiting to be seen. So definitely – this needs to happen“.
And Ivalu isn’t the only Live Action short film to receive an Academy Award nomination – we heard from another Nordic nominee, Director Eirik Tveiten, about their short Night Ride, where an evening turns interesting and dangerous for one commuter on the night tram.
The director explains:
“The subplot about the tram ride came from an actual event that a friend of mine experienced. I found this to be a suited arena for our story and general theme about gender issues and harassment towards minorities“
The action take place on a tram which was quite a challenge to shoot:
“It was quite challenging. We put a great deal of effort into planing the shooting schedule, as a lot of scenes where shot during regular traffic on the tracks – and needed careful concideration. Naturally we also needed to put effort into taking care of safety towards our staff and actors“.
It seems that the risk paid off as now Eirik’s film is joining Ivalu on the Academy Award nominations for best live action short film!