Building a True Creative Space

Signe Byrge Sørensen has produced both of Joshua Oppenheimer's films bringing to light the human consequences of the Indonesian genocide. Her collaboration with the American-born director has proven long-lasting and fertile.

Signe Byrge_Robin Skjoldborg

It all began in 2007, when Signe Byrge Sørensen was attending a seminar in Copenhagen and watched a sequence from a documentary project that made her sit up straight. In the sequence, two perpetrators from the Indonesian genocide are re-enacting a scene by a river in a rural area outside Medan.

"The scene provoked me violently, and I got extremely curious to hear the whole story," Byrge Sørensen says. She went straight home and called up the film's director, Joshua Oppenheimer, who was filming in Indonesia, and asked if he needed a producer.

He did. Although he had a clear vision for his film, which was later to become "The Act of Killing", he could use professional assistance to structure and fund it.

Initially, Byrge Sørensen's role was to find a form for the film that would allow it to reach a wide audience. Her role has grown, however, into something so much more. As Oppenheimer says, his collaboration, and friendship, with his producer helped make him the director he is today.

"Directors who wish to make artistically challenging films may long for a producer who just leaves them alone. This is a mistake. You need a producer curious enough to fully understand your vision, so that she can challenge you and work with you to create the best creative process to realise that vision. You need somebody who cares enough to explain that process to others, and to defend it. And you need somebody humble enough to admit mistakes and change the process, when necessary. In short, you need a fully engaged creative partner. Somebody like Signe. That's how a true creative space is built."

"The Act of Killing" (2012) was nominated for an Oscar in 2014.
"The Look of Silence" (2014) world premiered at Venice Film Festival, where it won five awards, including the Grand Prize of the Jury.

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