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Danes earn partial win and tech award at Oscars

Denmark took home a technical achievement Oscar and laid partial claim to the year's best foreign language film at Sunday night's award show in Hollywood.

Danes earn partial win and tech award at Oscars
The Oscars included one partial Danish victory while another Dane was a winner before the ceremony even got underway. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/Scanpix
Despite no Danish films being up for an Oscar this year, the annual Hollywood awards show still produced some victories for Denmark. 
 
The Polish film Ida, which was co-produced by Danes Christian Husum and Sofie Wanting Hassing, took home the statue for the best Foreign Language Film. The film also had a Danish composer, Kristian Eidnes Andersen, and was produced with support from the Danish Film Institute. 
 
“We won! Fantastic! Everything is awesome when you’ve just won an Oscar,” Husum texted TV2 from inside the Dolby Theatre. 
 
 
Another Dane, Ken Museth, was already an Oscar winner before Sunday’s ceremony even got underway. The Oscars are handed out in two phases, with the first paying tribute to some of the technical accomplishments in the film industry. There, Museth won a Technical Achievement Award for his breakthrough work that made it easier – and cheaper – to make special effects using less computer memory. 
 
“We have reduced the memory needs 16,000 times over. It’s much cheaper to make this type of effect and we can do it much quicker,” Museth, who works for Dreamworks and has produced effects for films like How to Train Your Dragon and The Croods, told TV2. 
 
Another Danish hopeful at the Oscars, Song of the Sea, went home empty-handed. The animated film was co-produced by the Danish studio Nørlum but was topped by Disney’s Big Hero 6 in the Animated Feature Film category. 

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FILM

How Danish Oscar-nominated dark booze comedy was inspired by director’s tragic loss

‘Another Round’ (Danish title: ‘Druk’), a film about a pact by four world-weary Danish schoolteachers to spend every day drunk for a loosely scientific "experiment," was always going to walk a fine line between comedy and darkness.

How Danish Oscar-nominated dark booze comedy was inspired by director’s tragic loss
Director Thomas Vinterberg talking to press in Denmark. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

Director Thomas Vinterberg wrote his script, originally a play, upon realising many of the world’s great historic feats were made by people regularly intoxicated on alcohol — the very same substance that can rip lives and families apart.

But four days into shooting, Vinterberg’s daughter was killed in a car crash. He somehow still finished the uniquely funny, tender and tragic film — which has earned him a rare Oscar nomination for best director. 

“The movie was always meant to be life-affirming and full of love, and bare to some extent… raw,” Vinterberg told AFP in an interview via Zoom. 

“But the tragedy that happened in my life left all defenceless and open.”

Starring as the teachers are four of Vinterberg’s close friends and collaborators, including former 007 villain Mads Mikkelsen, who all spent the shoot doing “everything they could to make me laugh in these circumstances.”

“There was so much love on the set — and I guess you can see that on the screen,” said Vinterberg, whose movie is a favourite to take home the Oscar for best international film on Sunday.

While the film is clearly about alcohol, it is also “about living inspired, about forgetting about yourself, about being curious, and being in the moment and all that comes with drinking.”

Those life-affirming elements were inspired by his daughter Ida, who was due to play Mikkelsen’s daughter, and whose real-life friends play classmates who participate in a joyous teen drinking competition around a lake.

“There’s an alarming bunch of people and countries who connected to this thing about drinking,” joked Vinterberg.

“Yes, they drink differently in California — they put the bottle in a [paper] bag — whereas in Denmark, teenagers run around in the streets with bottles out,” he said.

“But it seems that the film connects on a different level, and hopefully we succeeded in elevating this film… to a movie about something more.”

Humour is not always associated with Vinterberg, co-founder of the ascetic Dogme 95 filmmaking movement with Lars Von Trier, and director of movies tackling issues such as child abuse including “The Celebration” and “The Hunt.” 

But Vinterberg, 51, has often defied categorization. The famous Dogme 95 “manifesto” imposing strict naturalistic limits on directors was always half serious, half tongue-in-cheek.

And while he has dabbled in Hollywood — for instance 2015’s “Far From the Madding Crowd” starring Carey Mulligan, also an Oscar nominee this year — his most widely acclaimed films are often his most Danish and local.

“It seems like when I dig in my own garden, that’s when people really get interested, also abroad,” he said.

The universal themes of “Another Round” may partly explain how Vinterberg landed one of just five Oscar best director nods, for a non-English-language film (fellow nominee Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari” is in Korean and English).

“The pleasures of alcohol, but also the destructive side of drinking, have been around for thousands of years, in all cultures almost,” said Vinterberg. 

The director served his cast booze during rehearsals, and they watched Russian YouTube videos together to observe episodes of extreme inebriation.

“We needed to see these characters being in the zone,” he recalled. “It wasn’t like they were very drunk, actually, but there was alcohol.”

On set, however, everyone was sober, Vinterberg said — “they had to act, basically, which I think they did well.”

Much as the production of “Another Round” is a story of contrasts — tragedy and camaraderie, humor and philosophy — the fates of the teachers diverge when the temptation of booze takes hold to varying degrees with each of them.

But the movie itself deliberately “did not want to moralize” or “make an advertisement for alcohol,” said Vinterberg.

“Very importantly, I did not want to have a message.”

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