Star film director: I’m ashamed to be Danish

Director Thomas Vinterberg made it clear in Berlin on Wednesday that he is no fan of Denmark's reaction to the refugee crisis.

Star film director: I’m ashamed to be Danish
Danish director Thomas Vinterberg speaks at the press conference to present his film 'Kollektivet' screened in the competition of the 66th Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin on Wednesday. Photo: TOBIAS
Vinterberg is busy promoting his newest film ‘The Commune’ (Kollektivet) which is based on his own experiences growing up in a Copenhagen collective in the 1970s.
The film was shown at the Berlin Film Festival on Wednesday and the director used a press conference to weigh in to his country’s response to the European refugee crisis, saying Denmark has moved far away from the society it was when he grew up. 
“I wrote this [film] out of longing. There was a time when people were sharing. Those days are over and I miss that,” he told reporters. 
He then said that while he didn’t go out of his way to make a “politically correct” film, he has strong feelings about the current atmosphere in Denmark.
“I’m very shameful to be a Dane. I’m very shameful about the political life in our country and if there’s anything that can be brought from this film to inspire people to share and not humiliate other people I would be very happy,” he said to applause.
See the remarks here (skip to 3:50 if you just want to hear the political comments). Story continues below.

Reaction to his comments were swift in Denmark. Readers of the right-leaning Jyllands-Posten posted nearly 500 comments on Facebook, with many pointing out that the same Denmark that Vinterberg is so ashamed of has helped to finance his films. 
“Such a clown; he wouldn’t be anything if he hadn’t been financed by the Danes he despises. Another member of ‘Upper Class Denmark’ who is happy to shit in his own nest while also gladly taking taxpayer money for their projects,” Jan Svendsen wrote in a comment that garnered nearly 400 likes.  
Vinterberg is best known for his film 'The Celebration' (Festen), part of the Dogme 95 movement. He also directed 'The Hunt' (Jagten), a 2014 Oscar nominee, and the 2015 film adaptation of the novel ‘Far From the Maddening Crowd’. 
Vinterberg is not the first Danish celebrity to slam the country’s refugee response. ‘The Killing’ star Sofie Gråbøl recently wrote a piece for The Guardian in which she said she has “a hard time recognising my country right now” and “want[s] to be proud about Denmark, but it’s not easy”.
Pop star Medina, meanwhile, called Integration Minister Inger Støjberg “an idiot” who has ruined Denmark’s reputation while singer Mads Langer said many Danes are “sickened and embarrassed” by the country’s current direction. 
A trailer for Vinterberg's 'The Commune' can be seen here:


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.”