"Paradise" introduces us to a selection of people united by a single fact: they all live in Denmark, in “paradise.” But how much of a paradise is Denmark really? The film follows a mother and father whose son has been stationed in Iraq, a young couple expecting their first child, a family of refugees who have been waiting six years for residence permits with no contact to the world outside the refugee centre. Beyond a strong bond of love, the three families share a feeling of uncertainty and fear for the future.
“The idea for "Paradise" arose at a film festival when we realised how concerned we all were about the turn Denmark was taking,” Sami Saif, one of three directors, says – the others Jens Loftager and Erland E. Mo. “We saw fear spreading through Danish society and we thought it would be interesting to describe that fear in a documentary. We all saw Denmark as heading away from the vision of the ‘paradisiacal’ society.”
THREE DIRECTORS – ONE VOICE
The three directors represent three different temperaments in Danish documentary filmmaking. Each has demonstrated his directing talent separately. What was their premise for making a film together?
“From the beginning, we strove to erase the impression of multiple directors and find a common voice,” Saif says. “We agreed that the film should have a unified look, as if it had been made by a single director with one vision and one outlook. That was our premise. It was liberating to realise a film collaboratively – too often, documentary filmmaking can be a lonely process – and we operated with consensus decision-making.”
ALL SHADES OF FEAR
As the three filmmakers see it, people in the modern world are suffused with fear: fear of not being good enough for society, fear of being excluded from society.
“'Paradise' is about living in a modern society whose leaders go to such lengths to tell everyone how great it is, while the people living in it are struggling to see this paradise. We wanted to convey a sense of the elementary fear slithering like a snake through this paradise, with each story providing a picture of a society that allows itself to be controlled by fear – destructive fear, dividing us instead of uniting us,” Saif says.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
The film reflects a society in change, perhaps even undergoing a kind of identity crisis, but it also describes the comfort found in the things we love most. Gone is the fear of the future when a young one is born. Gone is the war hell of Iraq when you’re in the security of your family. It’s up to you to create paradise.
“Everything depends on the beholder,” Saif says. “A flag is a flag, but people experience a flag in extremely different ways. To some, a flag is a piece of synthetic material chemically treated to be weather resistant, while to others a flag is a warm feeling in the bottom of their heart, a tear in the corner of their eye. We have strived to make a film for everyone – for better or worse, depending on the beholder.”