Benjamin Ree follows a dream come true in Magnus
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
- The Norwegian director filmed a young chess player from Tønsberg for almost a decade for his first full-length documentary
“I hope to become the World Chess Champion,” said Magnus Carlsen when he was 13 years old. An introvert and mostly interested in chess, the 13-year-old Carlsen was bullied by his classmates. But he ignored them, broke free from conformity and, at 22, he did become the World Chess Champion and was named one of the most influential people alive by Time magazine.
Norwegian documentary filmmaker Benjamin Ree – originally a journalist from the University College in Oslo, who went on to work for Reuters and as a freelance reporter for the BBC – began to make documentary shorts in 2012. He was then signed up by Norwegian commercial broadcaster VGTV, which has also co-produced Magnus [+see also:
film profile], his first full-length documentary. The movie will have its world premiere in the Spotlight section of Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York between 13 and 24 April, before its domestic launch in the autumn.
For almost ten years, Ree followed the young player from Tønsberg as he battled his way up the ranks, making personal sacrifices and taking modelling jobs – Ree basically kept tabs on all the ups and downs as Carlsen made his dream come true. “Not only is it an amazing portrait of a chess prodigy, but it is also a unique coming-of-age story, shot over a decade, about the development of a champion who has dedicated his life to the game,” said Tribeca’s artistic director, Frederic Boyer.
Carlsen’s family and friends, and other international chess players – including Russia’s Garry Kasparov and India’s Viswanathan Anand – appear in Magnus, which was scripted by Ree and Linn-Jeanethe Kyed, and was produced by Sigurd Mikal Karoliussen for Moskus Film, with VGTV, Nordisk Film Production and Main Island Production.
After closed screenings at the European Film Market during the Berlin International Film Festival, Danish international sales agency TrustNordisk licensed the movie to such territories as Germany/Austria (NFP), Hong Kong (EDKO), the former Yugoslavia (Discovery), Benelux (September) and Israel (TV rights to Yes DBS Satellite). Meanwhile, Carlsen – now 25 and also known as “The Mozart of Chess” – will defend his title and compete for the $1 million top prize at November’s World Chess Championship 2016 in New York City.