The short film Las Palmas, in which director Johannes Nyholm’s one year old daughter plays the part of a drunken and unpleasant tourist, is already a genuine YouTube hit. The trailer for the film has been shown more than eleven million times.
As part of the DVD Funny Films of the North, which Filmamagsinet Rushprint has produced together with three other Nordic film magazines, the film will for the first time be available in its full length.
The Swedish director has previously made a dozen of music videos for – among others – Swedish bands such as The Knife, Little Dragon and Tallest Man Alive. He has also directed the short claymation film The Tale of Little Puppetboy – a complicated story about a nervous lad, how gets a much needed female visit.
A DECLERATION OF LOVE
- Johannes Nyholm, how did you come up with the idea for Las Palmas, and under what circumstances did it come into being?
- It was when I was on maternity leave. I was so captivated by my daughter’s energy and joy. I could just sit and watch and marvel at her when she ate, drank, played, slept. My first thought was to film one day in our lives. One day with her in my maternity leave – rather modest. But every day when I turned on the camera, it was as if something was missing. So, I began to change her surroundings and dress her up.
- What were your intentions with making Las Palmas?
- Primarily, it is a declaration of love to my daughter.
- Are you inspired by any specific artists or works?
- Of course. For this film I saw Sällskapsresan (a Swedish comedy by Lasse Åberg and Peter Hald, ed.) and Easy Rider. But when it comes to narrative style, I have completely different sources of inspiration.
- What was the greatest challenge about making this film, artistically as well as practically?
- Early on, I learned the importance of directing without really directing. In the beginning, I had a lot of ideas about what should happen. But I realized that it was better to simply let my daughter be at large. Then I got the real reactions and the real energy. In this way the story was both adjusted and based on her fortuitous moods.
- It was a great challenge to restrain myself during filming and still try to keep track of some kind of linear storyline. I had about 50 hours of material, so the editing process was also very demanding. In fact, many of the best scenes were sacrificed in the pursuit of an understandable storyline.
A MELANCHOLIC REVISIT
- In what way are you using humour in Las Palmas?
- It is classic slapstick comedy with bottles smashed and tables overturned, and so on. The experimentation with scale – a small human being playing a grown up human being – can also be considered comical and absurd.
- What reactions do you wish to provoke in the audience with Las Palmas?
- I have no moral or political agenda. Instead, I hope to create a kind of confusion or arouse some kind of curiosity.
- How do you regard the result?
- I cannot judge it objectively, that is, I do not laugh when I see it. On the other hand, I get a bit gloomy when I look back at the time, it was made in. My daughter was so small – she could neither speak nor walk.
- What has Las Palmas meant for you personally?
- It has mostly just been pretty amusing that people can relate to it and laugh at it and grasp it. With the award I won for the film (Startsladden at Gothenburg International Film Festival, which includes a prize of 800.000 Swedish kroner, ed.), I got an economic foundation for the movie I am currently working on. The rest of the financing was also partly made possible because of the success of Las Palmas. On the other hand, I have less free time because of the huge media interest. The work was far from finished, when the film itself was finished.
SIMPLE, DUMB, PRIMAL
- Your other short film, The Tale of Little Puppetboy, is also on the DVD. How did you come up with the idea for the film, and under what circumstances did it come into being?
- The film was a reaction to a research project I worked on some years ago. I sat all day long in front of a computer screen and tried to come up with cool ideas with cool people. I was enormously tired of all the smartness, so therefore I had to do something really stupid. I then got myself fired, so I would have time to play with clay instead.
- During the same period I also ended a long term relationship and left my home. The clay was therefore the only thing I had. My idea was to create a clay animation film. So simple, so dumb, and as full of primal instincts as possible. Fast. And it couldn’t cost anything since I had no money. I would make the film in a week. I ended up finishing the film in four years.
- You have dressed up as Little Puppetboy at events and you’ve also made a mockumentary about the process of the film. Why did you make Puppetboy transmedial?
- From the beginning, it was an idea to let the story of the little clay boy grow beyond its limits and let it become more complex. Little Puppetboy should serve as a platform for all my films and ideas. It was meant to be a story you could work on in different directions. I searched for worlds both inside and outside the little doll world.
- What projects are you currently working on?
- A terrible story that takes place in a dark forest. It’s a relationship drama that evolves into a horrible nightmare.
- What do you think of the current state of Swedish film?
- There are a few directors, who make really good films. And then there are some shitty comedians, who are running around and talking with a coarse dialect. And crime films being dubbed by German actors.
- You have chosen to distribute Las Palmas and several of your other films on YouTube. How come?
- I make movies for people to see them. If you make contracts with distribution companies or television broadcasters, you often lose the right to show your own movies. They will be tucked away on a DVD with mixed short films or in a TV archive. Here, they are waiting to be displayed somewhere, at some point, or most likely never. Since there are not much money in short films anyway, you might as well give them away for free. And I am glad that people enjoy my movies and that I can read their comments.
- How do you view the future of digital distribution, especially financially?
- I think that the films that will have a big public breakthrough are going to generate money one way or another, even if they are distributed for free. A bigger problem than downloading and that people do not pay for the films is if people don’t see the films at all.
By Mads Suldrup and Thomas S. Sejersen / Filmmagasinet Ekko