Irasj Asanti • Director
by Maud Forsgren
- Cineuropa meets Norwegian director Irasj Asanti whose first feature film Høvdinger is released tomorrow across cinemas in Norway
Høvdinger [+see also:
film profile] (literally Chiefs), the first feature film by Norwegian director Irasj Asanti, has already won international acclaim in the media, mainly because it casts famous footballer John Carew, an unexpected choice to say the least. The plot of this action film produced by Asanti and distributed by Europafilms is set in Oslo. A string of events filmed with a hand-held camera provide an insight into the downtrodden parts of the Norwegian capital city.
Cineuropa: Why Carew?
Irasj Asanti: I needed someone with a large frame for my film and John is a close friend, so I immediately thought of him for the role. But I didn't script him immediately. He made several attempts, as there are other types of acting involved in Høvdinger apart from action scenes, including complex relationships and romance, but I was impressed by Carew's talent as an actor.
As all the other team members, he accepted to take part in this project pro bono, based on credits and volunteer work, as part of a very honest, friendly and generous group of people.
They all trusted me. I had already worked with most of them during my short film on forced marriages, Into My Darkened Home, which participated in a number of festivals. I would like to thank my trusted collaborators, photographers Tor Egil Scheide and Kristian Myklevold, as well as sound engineer Henrik Pedersen who also did the editing.
You also wrote the script for the film.
Yes, it took three months and I worked with Lasse M. Johannessen. The script was intentionally incomplete to give us room for manoeuvre while filming. But I knew what I wanted and the actors weren't allowed to change the dialogues.
You have to learn to be demanding when you have a dream, a project that you believe in. The languages spoken in the film are Norwegian, English and Albanian, since the Albanian Mafia is at the heart of the story. The key role is played by Anderz Eide, and I gave myself a minor role as an unreliable friend.
Is it a fiction film?
With some elements of truth, yes, because if it is true that I wish to entertain the audience, I also constantly focus on being authentic and truthful. Multichannel sound helps in this sense, as does the score by Thomas Leypoldt, both very powerful tools. I also chose to colour the black and white somewhat so that the grim colours would enhance the sinister atmosphere. We used no special effects other than that, no make-up. Of course I looked into it, but with no money there was no chance we could build a reconstruction.
So I spent night after night next to police stations and A&E entrances, filming the coming and going of vans and ambulances, in order to capture what was really happening on the spur of the moment and make it more realistic. You have to be ingenious when you don't have money.
Did filming last long?
Six months, almost always outdoors. It wasn't always easy to organise schedules, as Carew for one had other commitments. It was essential to stay focused and on track. Luckily everything was crystal clear in my mind. Night after night Henrik and I edited the scenes we had filmed during the day, which involved a lot of patience and stamina, but was extremely enriching.
You like a challenge.
That's true, I never get discouraged. I'm a sportsman and do free martial arts, which allowed me to train actors and direct them in the fight scenes. Since a young age I had to fight to survive. I was only a week old when my family left my country of birth, Iran, during the revolution.
We fled to Iraq, where we lived as refugees until I was ten. We lived in a camp where the only distraction was a black and white television set that we would all sit around to watch mostly American films. That's where my passion for cinema started. I admire Martin Scorsese and Michael Mann, and my favourite actors are, among others, Robert de Niro, Al Pacino and Matt Damon.
(Translated from French)