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“We exist!”: Greenlandic filmmakers at Berlinale

A delegation of filmmakers from Greenland is at the Berlinale film festival in Germany to raise the country’s production profile with two documentaries – a short and a feature.

Aka Hansen’s short Half & Half looks at how others perceive the filmmaker’s mixed heritage. Feature SUMÉ - Mumisitsinerup Nipaa (SUMÉ - The Sound of a Revolution) tells the story of Greenland’s progressive rock band SUMÉ (‘Where?’ in English), which became a major source of inspiration for many Greenlanders over five years during the mid-1970s.

Both films are showing at the Berlinale as part of the festival’s NATIVe programme, a series of screenings showcasing indigenous movies from the Arctic.

Greenland boom operator

“Last year, when we were at the European Film Market for the first time, we could literally feel the word spreading around the Martin-Gropius-Bau,” says producer Emile Peronard, in comments to KFTV. “There were Greenlanders in town and there was a place to go to ask specific questions – and to get concrete answers – about filming in Greenland. 

“We got a lot of meetings on that word-of-mouth-effect alone, and two very interesting co-productions were established from scratch during last year's Berlinale. In a country of 50 film professionals, two co-productions is no small feat.

“When we do international promotion in a place like the Berlinale, we always have a pretty simple story to tell: ‘We exist!’. If we can simply achieve that more people will know about Greenlandic filmmaking, then I'm satisfied.”

“I hope everyone gets new inspiration and ideas of how to raise their next film to a new level by meeting and seeing how other people around the world do their films,” says Inuk Silis Høegh, director of SUMÉ. 

Sume in GreenlandGreenland’s film industry comprises just a few dozen people and the result is a lot of multitasking and production flexibility. The sector benefits from annual government subsidies worth around €400,000. 

“The cinematographer on one film may be the editor on the next, and so on,” Peronard says. “This means that we don't really have the privilege to specialise, which of course affects the professional level of the film community. 

“In our filmmakers’ organisation, FILM.GL, we therefore make a great effort with talent development initiatives for filmmakers at early stages.

“We operate on low budgets and big enthusiasm, and luckily we have a lot of local momentum these years from the government and from society in general, and people are keen to support filmmaking initiatives with sponsorships, or a helping hand.”

Greenland wants to emulate the production success of its neighbour Iceland, which has drawn major Hollywood shoots to its black-sand beaches and volcanic landscapes. 

“We see location work and professional talent development as intertwined,” Peronard says. “We plan to establish an international benefit agreement, where some of the taxes from international productions go back to talent development initiatives within the local film community.

“We also encourage our producers to do co-productions, rather than to only function as service providers.”

Greenland has recently appeared in environment-themed documentaries from Leonardo DiCaprio and former US vice president Al Gore, and the delegation will be hoping for further international interest from this year’s Berlinale.   

Images: Emile Hertling Péronard and Ánorâk Film 

 



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