Lin Alluna • Director of Twice Colonized
“We wanted to shake and hit and hug the audience with this film”
- The Danish director discusses how she made her complex documentary in close collaboration with the protagonist, Aaju Peter
The winner of the Cineuropa Marketing Prize for the best CIRCLE Women Doc Accelerator project at DOK Leipzig in 2020 (see the interview), Danish director Lin Alluna's Twice Colonized [+see also:
interview: Lin Alluna
interview: Lin Alluna
film profile] has just world-premiered in the World Cinema Documentary Competition at Sundance. She tells us how she made this complex film in close collaboration with the protagonist, Aaju Peter.
Cineuropa: The subheading of Aaju's book that we see on her computer screen is "Is it possible to change the world and mend your wounds at the same time?" How did you go about balancing these two aspects of the film?
Lin Alluna: I aim to make films that are personal, political and poetic about inspiring women who fight to change the world. Aaju is a personal hero of mine because she points us towards a better future, while shining a new light on our history. One of the reasons I fell for her was that on shoots, Aaju would insist that I didn’t just film her success on stage, but also her battle behind the scenes, which was completely in line with my vision as the director. Only Aaju will ever fully know what she’s been through, but by sharing her personal journey, she empowers us to believe in ourselves and our ability to make a difference, no matter who we are or what we’ve been through.
Finding the right balance was challenging! Editor Mark Bukdahl and I would joke that the film needed to be “Hollywood meets European cinema”. We wanted to shake and hit and hug the audience with this film – giving them a sense of the journey we see in Aaju while insisting on the purpose of every frame and every sound.
You opted for a combination of observation, interviews and fictionalisation, and Aaju is credited as the writer, which fits Indigenous traditions of collective work. How did you two work together?
I’ve always been interested in collaborating and pushing the limits of reality with the protagonist, so it was natural from early on in our relationship that Aaju should be credited as a writer. On shoots, I would do everything I could to have the flexibility to go with what felt right to Aaju in the moment and develop the scenes with her. That meant we were spontaneously changing plans, which made the conditions challenging for the production team, but at the same time, being in an ongoing dialogue with Aaju about what and when to shoot – and why – was essential to the process.
I’m so glad that the producers Emile Hertling Péronard, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Stacey Aglok and Bob Moore fought hard to make this collaborative method possible within the funding systems. As a director, it can be scary not having absolute control or agency over the film on shoots or in the edit, but Aaju and I empowered each other to make this work by combining our individual talents.
How long did you work on the film for, and what were the biggest challenges?
We’ve worked on the film for about seven years. As a white Dane, I’m embedded in the colonisation under which Aaju has suffered, and I want to use the opportunity that this film affords me to confront some of the present-day effects of colonisation. Aaju has taken on the enormous task of building a better future for her granddaughters by changing political structures globally, and our goal is for this film to help with Aaju’s work to ensure Indigenous people get a seat in European politics.
Tell us a bit about the music and sound design, which play a very strong role.
The poignant role of the sound design was shaped and integrated in the edit by Mark’s dynamic style. Seeing the film come together in the sonic universe that Benoît Dame and Catherine Van Der Donckt created was such a joy because it embraced the feature so elegantly.
When we decided to turn one scene into a dream sequence with this magical sound design, most of the music by Olivier Alary and Johannes Malfatti was finished, and throat singer Celina Kalluk had become like an echo of Aaju’s inner journey in the film, so we asked her to record the lines in Inuktitut, which made it even more profound. I’m extremely grateful that I got the opportunity to work with such artists. The challenge of rethinking that scene was a gift we didn’t know we needed, but it ultimately improved the film.
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