Nordic Reality: Margreth Olin

Nordic Reality: Margreth Olin

– I want people to like their bodies. And get their children to like theirs. I want people to happier about themselves. These are the teachings Olin hopes will stick with the audience after experiencing «My Body».

How did your film project begin, and under which circumstances?

I had followed a drug addicted friend with a camera for two years. She was addicted to heroin. It ended up as the documentary Pias verden. But it became impossible to an observer of life and I began to get involved in the reality that I was filming. She was hospitalized and is now clean. We chose to abandon the film because she needed peace and calm in her new life. I was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to handle the consequences if the film was released. It was a tough but correct decision. Years later I reworked the material and made the film Engelen, which is a feature film with Maria Bonnevie in the leading role.

But I went directly from abandoning Pias verden to writing the script for the short film Kroppen min. It was right after the book Fittstim had been published in Sweden and my generation of feminists had begun to tell their personal stories about themselves and their bodies. Kroppen min became my contribution to the debate that Fittstim raised. In the beginning I thought it should be a humorous ten minute short, but during the making of the film i became pregnant with my second child. I then chose to expand the boundaries and also tell about becoming a mother. My body’s story about becoming a mother.

Therefore I don’t see the film Kroppen min as a film about Margreth Olins body, even though I use certain body parts and tell stories related to them, but it is a film about how our time views the female body.

What was the biggest challenge making the film – artistically as well as technically?

I chose to use stills, Super8, video, black/white and color. I chose to be completely free in regards to the form of the film. Kroppen min is an essayistic documentary, it the voice over which drives the narrative. It was exciting to try a whole new way of telling a story. I have always liked the direct cinema tradition, the observing narrator, as I did in many parts of the Dei Mjuke Hendene (1998) and later also in Ungdommens Råskap (2004). Kroppen min is the most playful, unpretentious film I have made. And maybe also the one, that has received the best reviews.

It is a challenge to put yourself in front of the camera. But I chose to be the object in my own film, I could have chosen any other woman. But as a documentarist I enter very closely into other people’s lives, enter into other families, it was a fully conscious choice of wanting to know consequences of exposing yourself as honest and naked – in a double meaning – as I do in this film. I thought about as a self-appointed exam. Knowing the consequences makes it easier for me to approach the people that appear in my films. All my films are intrusive. I try to find out what it means to be human. To know it in all its facets. It is fantastic to have to have a tool such as film that can document our actions, our view of ourselves and others. I experience that the things I film become true in a whole other way for me. The films become my memory.

The selection of photographer for the film was very important. That it was Kim Hiorthøy. He is unaffected, direct. It resulted in something real in the pictures, something I can’t imagine without Kim. The modesty that I had in regards to my body had to be handled in way that wasn’t put-upon, so that it just existed because I undressed for another man than my own.

Why did you choose this specific visual and narrative approach for your film?

The narrative itself is very playful, it has a lot of self-irony. I wanted to break down the barrier between personal and private. Everybody talked about as being a truth: ‘you can be personal, but not private.’ What does that mean? Of course a film can be private, it can be as intimate as it wants, but it has to consider an audience, that it has to entertain, seduce, seized/affect the one watching. Storytelling is an act of seduction. I try to write the voice over as a seducing narration, that draws the audience in, takes them serious, whispers them secrets that I would never had said out loud, imagine the audience was a close friend. Almost as the story you tell after you have had a couple of drinks in a bar, a night you will always remember, where you met someone you liked, someone you trusted, so that you entrusted them with your own story, with your own self-image. I just imagined  that everyone watching the film was sitting with me in a bar, in a half lit room, and now I was just telling this story. 40.000 saw the film at the cinema in Norway, that’s a little weird to think about.

What do want the audience to take away from your film?

I want them to like their bodies. And get their children to like theirs. I want people to happier about themselves.

How do you look back at the result yourself?

I like the tone of the film. If I had made it today it would be have been different, because I think differently. I like the directness, that it is simple. I think about it as a small film that contains something greater.

Which contemporary Nordic documentary film has made the biggest impression on you?

There are so many strong fantastic documentaries. Stefan Jarl has been a important role model for me. Of the films from the past few years I would like to point out Three Rooms of Melankolia. It is an enormously beautiful film. I love it. I remember the day I watched on DVD home alone. Everything that day stands very clearly in my memory. Because the film, as only art can do it, took away all the layers of existence and everything I knew about who I was, what I wanted, what mattered. So I watched it again and studied how it was edited, how it was constructed. Del ! Is masterfully told. I also have to point out Armadillo. The unique approach, the courage they show, gives the audience an insight into something that normally would be restricted for us. I would like of this kind of films.

Which aspect of life in the North have the documentaries neglected in the recent years?

Asylum policy, the violation of human rights. What happens in our country when we break the basic ethical principals and treat someone as if they have no worth. We focus more on immigration regulation then on the wellbeing of a child. Every human being is a goal in itself and can never be used as a means to reach a political goal. We break this principle. We neglect to care about human lives and development to scare others away from using the basic human right of seeking asylum. In Denmark as well in Norway we stand in before important educational work, because most people aren’t aware of how strict the policies are in this area.

We have to challenge the negative stories about immigration, and we have to face how vulnerably our society is when people live on the outside of our society, without rights. Its about the rights of both the individual as well as the society. The swedish book Yarden was an important input. I wish to see this on film also. I would like to see the consequences of a child being born and raised in adversity. I would also like to films such as Play as a documentary, which delves into the immigration debate. That dares to tackle one of the biggest challenges that we stand before, which is migration.

What’s your next documentary about and why have you chosen this subject?

In october this year I premiered a feature length documentary called De andre. It is showing at the norwegian cinemas right now and had its international premiere at IDFA. Besides Kon Tiki it is the most talked about norwegian film this autumn.

In 2009 the norwegian government introduced several measures to reduce immigration. One of the measures was to give temporary residence to children who seek asylum alone. They then have to be returned to their country of origin when they turn 18. In Norway the social services/child welfare have the responsibility for children without parents or other family members.

This is not the case for the 15 to 18 year olds who seek asylum alone.

Do you remember your 18th birthday? 18 candles in the cake, the whole family gathered around, and mother or father saying: ‘Wish something!’ For some youths in the norwegian society their 18th birthday is a portal back to everything they tried to escape from. It’s the day they loose all their rights.

In De andre we meet Goli from Kurdistan. He was deported from Norway the day after he turned 18 and we follow him as he begins a new flight. Hassan and Husein are brothers from Afghanistan. Husein was physically paralysed when they were rejected from Norway. We also follow Khalid who receives the final answer from UNE on his 18th birthday.

De andre is a present, provocative and moving film about youth fighting to keep the hope. The film asks questions about what happens to us, when we break the most basic ethical rules.

[Return to Nordic Reality DVD: Director interviews]

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Nordic Reality: Margreth Olin

Nordic Reality: Margreth Olin

– I want people to like their bodies. And get their children to like theirs. I want people to happier about themselves. These are the teachings Olin hopes will stick with the audience after experiencing «My Body».

How did your film project begin, and under which circumstances?

I had followed a drug addicted friend with a camera for two years. She was addicted to heroin. It ended up as the documentary Pias verden. But it became impossible to an observer of life and I began to get involved in the reality that I was filming. She was hospitalized and is now clean. We chose to abandon the film because she needed peace and calm in her new life. I was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to handle the consequences if the film was released. It was a tough but correct decision. Years later I reworked the material and made the film Engelen, which is a feature film with Maria Bonnevie in the leading role.

But I went directly from abandoning Pias verden to writing the script for the short film Kroppen min. It was right after the book Fittstim had been published in Sweden and my generation of feminists had begun to tell their personal stories about themselves and their bodies. Kroppen min became my contribution to the debate that Fittstim raised. In the beginning I thought it should be a humorous ten minute short, but during the making of the film i became pregnant with my second child. I then chose to expand the boundaries and also tell about becoming a mother. My body’s story about becoming a mother.

Therefore I don’t see the film Kroppen min as a film about Margreth Olins body, even though I use certain body parts and tell stories related to them, but it is a film about how our time views the female body.

What was the biggest challenge making the film – artistically as well as technically?

I chose to use stills, Super8, video, black/white and color. I chose to be completely free in regards to the form of the film. Kroppen min is an essayistic documentary, it the voice over which drives the narrative. It was exciting to try a whole new way of telling a story. I have always liked the direct cinema tradition, the observing narrator, as I did in many parts of the Dei Mjuke Hendene (1998) and later also in Ungdommens Råskap (2004). Kroppen min is the most playful, unpretentious film I have made. And maybe also the one, that has received the best reviews.

It is a challenge to put yourself in front of the camera. But I chose to be the object in my own film, I could have chosen any other woman. But as a documentarist I enter very closely into other people’s lives, enter into other families, it was a fully conscious choice of wanting to know consequences of exposing yourself as honest and naked – in a double meaning – as I do in this film. I thought about as a self-appointed exam. Knowing the consequences makes it easier for me to approach the people that appear in my films. All my films are intrusive. I try to find out what it means to be human. To know it in all its facets. It is fantastic to have to have a tool such as film that can document our actions, our view of ourselves and others. I experience that the things I film become true in a whole other way for me. The films become my memory.

The selection of photographer for the film was very important. That it was Kim Hiorthøy. He is unaffected, direct. It resulted in something real in the pictures, something I can’t imagine without Kim. The modesty that I had in regards to my body had to be handled in way that wasn’t put-upon, so that it just existed because I undressed for another man than my own.

Why did you choose this specific visual and narrative approach for your film?

The narrative itself is very playful, it has a lot of self-irony. I wanted to break down the barrier between personal and private. Everybody talked about as being a truth: ‘you can be personal, but not private.’ What does that mean? Of course a film can be private, it can be as intimate as it wants, but it has to consider an audience, that it has to entertain, seduce, seized/affect the one watching. Storytelling is an act of seduction. I try to write the voice over as a seducing narration, that draws the audience in, takes them serious, whispers them secrets that I would never had said out loud, imagine the audience was a close friend. Almost as the story you tell after you have had a couple of drinks in a bar, a night you will always remember, where you met someone you liked, someone you trusted, so that you entrusted them with your own story, with your own self-image. I just imagined  that everyone watching the film was sitting with me in a bar, in a half lit room, and now I was just telling this story. 40.000 saw the film at the cinema in Norway, that’s a little weird to think about.

What do want the audience to take away from your film?

I want them to like their bodies. And get their children to like theirs. I want people to happier about themselves.

How do you look back at the result yourself?

I like the tone of the film. If I had made it today it would be have been different, because I think differently. I like the directness, that it is simple. I think about it as a small film that contains something greater.

Which contemporary Nordic documentary film has made the biggest impression on you?

There are so many strong fantastic documentaries. Stefan Jarl has been a important role model for me. Of the films from the past few years I would like to point out Three Rooms of Melankolia. It is an enormously beautiful film. I love it. I remember the day I watched on DVD home alone. Everything that day stands very clearly in my memory. Because the film, as only art can do it, took away all the layers of existence and everything I knew about who I was, what I wanted, what mattered. So I watched it again and studied how it was edited, how it was constructed. Del ! Is masterfully told. I also have to point out Armadillo. The unique approach, the courage they show, gives the audience an insight into something that normally would be restricted for us. I would like of this kind of films.

Which aspect of life in the North have the documentaries neglected in the recent years?

Asylum policy, the violation of human rights. What happens in our country when we break the basic ethical principals and treat someone as if they have no worth. We focus more on immigration regulation then on the wellbeing of a child. Every human being is a goal in itself and can never be used as a means to reach a political goal. We break this principle. We neglect to care about human lives and development to scare others away from using the basic human right of seeking asylum. In Denmark as well in Norway we stand in before important educational work, because most people aren’t aware of how strict the policies are in this area.

We have to challenge the negative stories about immigration, and we have to face how vulnerably our society is when people live on the outside of our society, without rights. Its about the rights of both the individual as well as the society. The swedish book Yarden was an important input. I wish to see this on film also. I would like to see the consequences of a child being born and raised in adversity. I would also like to films such as Play as a documentary, which delves into the immigration debate. That dares to tackle one of the biggest challenges that we stand before, which is migration.

What’s your next documentary about and why have you chosen this subject?

In october this year I premiered a feature length documentary called De andre. It is showing at the norwegian cinemas right now and had its international premiere at IDFA. Besides Kon Tiki it is the most talked about norwegian film this autumn.

In 2009 the norwegian government introduced several measures to reduce immigration. One of the measures was to give temporary residence to children who seek asylum alone. They then have to be returned to their country of origin when they turn 18. In Norway the social services/child welfare have the responsibility for children without parents or other family members.

This is not the case for the 15 to 18 year olds who seek asylum alone.

Do you remember your 18th birthday? 18 candles in the cake, the whole family gathered around, and mother or father saying: ‘Wish something!’ For some youths in the norwegian society their 18th birthday is a portal back to everything they tried to escape from. It’s the day they loose all their rights.

In De andre we meet Goli from Kurdistan. He was deported from Norway the day after he turned 18 and we follow him as he begins a new flight. Hassan and Husein are brothers from Afghanistan. Husein was physically paralysed when they were rejected from Norway. We also follow Khalid who receives the final answer from UNE on his 18th birthday.

De andre is a present, provocative and moving film about youth fighting to keep the hope. The film asks questions about what happens to us, when we break the most basic ethical rules.

[Return to Nordic Reality DVD: Director interviews]

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