Danish auteur Kasper Juhl wins Best Director for his Moonfire at Nordic International Film Festival
The Nordic International Film Festival wrapped up its fifth annual celebration last month with Danish director Kasper Juhl walking away with a Best Director prize for his stirring family drama Moonfire. The film — a “social-realistic horror drama” which also captured the Best Female Actor award for Mie Gren — marked its international premiere at what has been dubbed the largest Nordic film festival outside of Europe and has already received numerous plaudits from critics and film buffs.
Labelled one of the most active directors currently working out of Denmark, Denmark In New York caught up with Mr. Juhl to discuss his success with Moonfire and his take on the film industry today.
Denmark In New York: Your film Moonfire was featured at the 2019 Nordic International Film Festival (NIFF) and is described as “a sinister journey” in the lives of a brother and sister duo. Tell us a little bit about the film and your directorial approach to the material.
Kasper Juhl: Moonfire is a film about grief, loss and the fear of loneliness. The film portrays an extreme version of how someone might react to the loss of a loved one. In this case, a brother and sister are trying to cope with the loss of their mother while having a dad diagnosed with cancer. It’s a story that’s very close to me as I lost my dad to cancer in February 2016.
I wanted to execute my idea for the film quickly so we funded the whole thing out of our own pocket. The script for the film was only 30-pages long so we improvised a lot. I like this way of working a lot as it adds much more realism to the final material. Furthermore, the film took only 5 months to complete — from idea to first official screening. So, it was a very quick process.
You’re seen as one of the most active directors currently working out of Denmark. What are the biggest challenges you face as a director when diving into a new project?
Kasper Juhl: As my kind of films are not the easiest to get funded here in Denmark, I have to do it anyway without going the conventional way if I want my project to get made. There’s not much support for these “social-realistic horror films” — as I like to call my style. So, I have to do it on my own and find a crew as passionate about the material as I am. This is also one of the reasons why I really want to work and make films outside of Denmark. But I guess that’s also the reason why I’m so active: because I can make these films quickly and I don’t have to sit and wait on people to judge my vision.
You won NIFF’s 2019 Best Director Award for Moonfire. What does that prize mean to you and how do you think it will affect your directorial ambitions moving forward?
Kasper Juhl: The award means a lot to me and I’m very happy about it. It’s my first award for “Best Director” and it’s a great form of recognition. It has definitely given me more courage and shown me that I shouldn’t differ from my style. To know that people actually like my work is what it’s all about. It’s also clear to me that my work is way more appreciated outside of Denmark.
As the audience’s gaze moves to social media and alternative platforms, attention spans inevitably shorten as well. How do you see the state of cinema and filmmaking in today’s very digital world? And how do you think technology and innovation will affect the films of the future?
Kasper Juhl: I don’t think that social media will kill cinema. Real cinephiles, such as myself, want to see films on the big screen. And luckily there’s a lot of us. But I don’t think that social media and alternative platforms are only a bad thing because they open up for a lot of new ways to tell a story. But, to me, it’s still very sad if people decide to watch a movie on their laptop instead of going to the cinema.
NIFF has established a core value of gender equality: 79% of films featured at the festival have at least one woman in a power position while director representation between men and women was at 50–50. In addition, the festival’s silent theme this year was climate change. What responsibilities do filmmakers have in advancing critical conversations of impact and should more filmmakers adopt set “core values” in their storytelling?
Kasper Juhl: NIFF is such a wonderful festival and I think it’s very important that festivals, films, etc. are taking these things seriously. Not that every movie has to be political or advancing critical questions, but as long as films don’t glorify things that would harm our planet it’s good for me. But we can still do so much by just changing how we make films. On the set of Moonfire we did everything we could to minimize the use of plastic and we almost only served vegan food.