Danish-Syrian White Helmets film gets Oscar nomination

The Danish-Syrian-made film Last Men in Aleppo, which depicts the work of rescue workers in the war-torn Syrian city, has been nominated for an Oscar for the Best Documentary Feature category.

Danish-Syrian White Helmets film gets Oscar nomination
Photo: Ritzau Scanpix

The documentary, directed by Feras Fayyad and co-directed by Steen Johannessen, is a joint production between the two countries.

Claus Ladegaard, CEO of the Danish Film Institute, which help finance the film, called it a “powerful documentary”.

“This nomination underlines Denmark's international strength in the documentary category. We succeed in making important and significant films that are shown and given recognition worldwide, including in Hollywood,” Ladegaard said in a press statement.

The production team behind Last Men in Aleppo has previously received plaudits for the film, which follows three men as they risk their lives to take part in rescue work with NGO the White Helmets.

At last year's Sundance Film Festival, the film was chosen from a field of 12 for the award in the documentary category.

The difficult circumstances in which the film was made gave extra meaning to that award, producer Søren Steen Jespersen said.

“It is a huge release and recognition to be given this pat on the back. It means this is an important film,” Jespersen said.

Documentary Strong Island, directed by American Yance Ford as he investigates the circumstances of his brother's death, is a fellow nominee for the documentary Oscar.

That film was edited by Dane Janus Billeskov Jansen and co-produced by Signe Byrge Sørensen, and also received funding from the Danish Film Institute.

Four Danish-made documentaries have been nominated for the Oscar for the Best Documentary Feature since 2010, though none have so far taken the prize.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s ‘Land of Mine’ and Viggo Mortensen up for 2017 Oscars


‘Another Round’: a spirited Oscar-winning ode to life

Danish film ‘Another Round’ (‘Druk’ in the original Danish), which won an Oscar on Sunday for best international feature film, is a dark existential comedy about the joys and dangers of being drunk, and letting go to embrace life.

'Another Round': a spirited Oscar-winning ode to life
Thomas Vinterberg accepts the Oscar for International Feature Film on behalf of Denmark.Photo: A.m.p.a.s/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

It is the fourth Danish film to win an Oscar for best non-English language film, after ‘In A Better World’ in 2011, ‘Pelle the Conqueror’ in 1989 and ‘Babette’s Feast’ in 1988.

Filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg, who is also nominated for best director, gave a moving, tearful speech, paying tribute to his daughter Ida, who was killed in a car accident four days after shooting began in May 2019.

“We ended up making this movie for her, as her monument,” Vinterberg said at the gala in Los Angeles.

“So, Ida, this is a miracle that just happened, and you’re a part of this miracle. Maybe you’ve been pulling some strings somewhere, I don’t know. But this one is for you.”

The movie is set around four old friends, all teachers at a high school near Copenhagen. Martin, played by Mads Mikkelsen, is a history teacher going through a midlife crisis, depressed about his monotone life.

To spice things up, the quartet decides to test an obscure theory that humans are born with a small deficit of alcohol in their blood, resolving to keep their blood alcohol level at a constant 0.05 percent from morning till night.

At first, they experience the liberating joys of inebriation, before things quickly go from bad to worse. 

But the film refrains from passing moral judgement or glorifying alcohol.

“‘Another Round’ is imagined as a tribute to life. As a reclaiming of the irrational wisdom that casts off all anxious common sense and looks down into the very delight of lust for life … although often with deadly consequences,” Vinterberg said when the movie came out last year.

Vinterberg was devastated by the loss of his daughter, and production on the movie was briefly halted, but he soon resumed shooting.

He said he was spurred on by a letter she had written about her enthusiasm for the project, in which she was to have had a role.

But the film took on a new dimension.

“The film wasn’t going to be just about drinking anymore. It had to be about being brought back to life,” Vinterberg said in the only in-depth interview he has given about her death, in June 2020 to Danish daily Politiken.

Selected for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival which ended up being cancelled due to the pandemic, ‘Another Round has already won several awards, including a BAFTA for best film not in the English language, and a Cesar in France for best foreign film.

The film is carried by Mikkelsen, who previously teamed up with Vinterberg in the 2012 psychological thriller ‘The Hunt’ (‘Jagten’).

In one of the most talked-about scenes in ‘Another Round’, Mikkelsen even shows off his dance talent — the former Bond villain was a professional contemporary dancer before becoming an actor.

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