"Enemies of Happiness", "The Monastery", "Mechanical Love" – three strong titles from today's documentary scene in Denmark, and the first three titles from the new, aptly named DVD label: Danish Documentary. Why these titles? The reason is simple: they were all directed by the company's founders, Eva Mulvad, Pernille Rose Grønkjær and Phie Ambo. As their track records show, these are three talented women filmmakers that are catching the world's attention. Mulvad's "Enemies of Happiness" – about the dramatic campaign of Malalai Joia, a woman who ran in the first free parliamentary elections in Afghanistan –won the Silver Wolf Award at IDFA last year and the prestigious Best Documentary prize at this year's Sundance festival. Grønkjær won the Joris Ivens Award at IDFA 2006 for "The Monastery", the story of an old man who, over the course of five years, slowly realises his dream of turning his ramshackle manor house into a nunnery. Ambo, who won that award in 2001 for "Family" (with Sami Saif), is competing this year with her new film, "Mechanical Love".
Danish documentaries have reaped many distinguished awards and attracted substantial international interest in recent years, but until now such award-winning films were not available on the international market. Now, the trio of filmmakers behind Danish Documentary is looking to change all that. Noting international demand, they of course want to put their films out there. "People want to know what's going on in Denmark: Why we are producing some of the best documentaries in the world?" Mulvad says. "People want to purchase copies of the films and we want to make that possible."
Naturally, filmmakers want their films to be available, especially when deliberately making films they hope will find a big audience. "We try to make engaging, entertaining films," Ambo says. "We aren't social workers out to save the world. We're filmmakers and we want people to see our films. That's why we formed Danish Documentary. Just as writers want their books published, we want our films to be available."
MASTER CLASSES ON METHODS
Concerning a previous film, "Gambler" (about Nicolas Winding Refn's struggle to make "Pusher 2" and "Pusher 3"), Ambo was frustrated that people who wanted to see the film couldn't get a copy.
""Gambler" was sold via the Danish Film Institute's website and kortogdok.dk, a site under the Danish Producers Association, which very few people outside Denmark know about. If someone wanted the film, they had to buy the whole box set of "Pusher" films, which included "Gambler" as bonus material, and that's obviously not a very direct way to get my film," Ambo says. "So the three of us decided to take charge. We produce the DVDs ourselves, with English subtitles, and sell them on our website. What's more, we personally take the DVDs around the world with us. We sell copies at master classes and when we meet our audiences. My new film "Mechanical Love" is more an international than a Danish film, and it wouldn't make any sense not to have the film available internationally."
To start out, Danish Documentaries will only be selling the three directors' own films, although they plan to expand into films with international potential by other Danish directors. As an added feature, lectures and workshops can be booked on the website. All three partners are experiencing major domestic and international interest in having them out to discuss their films and working methods.
"We do things in a unique way in Denmark," Grønkjær says. "We know how to tell real-life stories that move an audience. Now, we're organising our sales and lectures, so anyone who is interested will be able to see our films and learn about our production methods. This won't make us rich, but it's gratifying to us that our films are available. Eventually, we would like to create a whole catalogue of Danish quality documentaries for sale at www.danishdocumentary.com."