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VENICE 2020 International Film Critics' Week

Anders Ølholm and Frederik Louis Hviid • Directors of Shorta

“We’re a little like two bodies with one voice on set”


- VENICE 2020: We talked to Anders Ølholm and Frederik Louis Hviid about their film Shorta, centred on a police incident in contemporary Denmark and playing in this year's Critics' Week

Anders Ølholm and Frederik Louis Hviid • Directors of Shorta
Anders Ølholm (left) and Frederik Louis Hviid (right)

Two cops on patrol in an immigrant housing area in contemporary Denmark turns into a particularly rough day for all involved. First-time co-directors Anders Ølholm and Frederik Louis Hviid talk about their work on Shorta [+see also:
film review
interview: Anders Ølholm and Frederik …
film profile
, playing in this year’s International Film Critics' Week at the Venice International Film Festival.

Cineuropa: The Danish crime film tradition is rightly praised, mainly through a number of splendid TV series; Unit One, The Killing, The Bridge and others. Shorta is a “one-off”, and made for the big screen. Was this the plan all along?
Anders Ølholm: Without a doubt. While television offers many interesting possibilities for a longer story, my great love is the big screen. Here, you create one piece of standalone work with a clear transmitter.

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Frederik Louis Hviid: Shorta is a film, organically and through its storyline. It plays out within a limited space and time. It would never work as a series.

Was the project hard to get off the ground?
AØ: Six years in the making. Our producers, Toolbox, have been very good, in the light of us two being first-time directors, the film belonging to that genre, and the form we wanted to use to tell that story. The Danish Film Institute has also been grand in giving its full support, not least of the moral kind.

FLH: We’re kind of happy that it’s been a bit hard. Because it’s supposed to be hard to make a film, not least one like ours, and we passed the test. We got a decent budget, not enormous but handsome, even though this genre demands a bit of money. And we managed to make a virtue of our lack of means. We became very efficient and focused in the process.

The housing area, Svalegården (“Swallow Farm”) is not just a character in itself, but also created especially for this film, as it doesn’t exist in reality. How did you work this out?
FLH: We went around and shot in different areas in order to put this fictional place together. The main reason for this was that we didn’t want people, Danes at least, to pinpoint a specific area and say “Aha, these things happen here”. The different places also offered many solutions that became ideal for the shoot. You can go in through one door and out of another one in all sorts of ways.

Who does what, of the two of you?
FLH: We’ve prepared a lot beforehand so that we’re a little like two bodies with one voice on set. Before a shoot we would discuss the upcoming scene from every conceivable angle and compare opinions and then see how far we could take it. On the day of the shoot, we knew exactly how the dialogue should sound and how the set should look. And it often meant that we got twice the time to work things out with the team, because we were two directors, not just one.

AØ: Frederik has dealt more with direction and I have mainly been writing in the past, so there are certainly things that one of us is better at than the other, but this just makes us complete as a unit. It’s been a challenge, but for all the right reasons.

Will you work as a pair again one day?
FLH: We certainly plan to, a lot. We’ve known each other for a long time and learnt so much from it.

You’re probably aware of the parallel between the young immigrant in Shorta who dies from a supposed act of police brutality, and the death of George Floyd in the US which sparked riots. Given the production timeline of your film, it’s a coincidence, right?
FLH: Pure coincidence. We’ve taken inspiration from a Danish incident, involving a young left-wing activist who was abused by three policemen on New Year’s Eve 1992 and got permanent brain damage. What strikes us with this Floyd parallel is how tragically current these cases are, almost 30 years later.

AØ: You can definitely get disheartened, but I hope that our film shows a little empathy in the end and that we’re all human, whether you’re a Danish cop or Ali from Svalegården. We do have some hope, at least.

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