Olaf de Fleur Johannesson • Director
Creator of ‘Visiomentaries’
by Annika Pham
- Olaf de Fleur Johannesson Berlinale 2008 – Panorama
The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela [+see also:
film profile], the story of a Filipino transsexual who travels to Europe with the help of an Internet pimp to find her prince charming, will be presented by its creator, Icelandic filmmaker Olaf de Fleur Johannesson, at the Panorama section in Berlin next month. The writer/director/producer who gained fame at home and abroad with his 2005 documentary Africa United is once again in the limelight with what he calls his new “Visiomentary”, a cross between a feature film and a documentary. He spoke to Cineuropa about his unique concept of filmmaking.
Cineuropa: How does it feel to be selected in Panorama at Berlin?
Olaf de Fleur Johannesson: It's a wonderful thing. It will ensure that the film will have a life. It's like its purpose is being fulfilled. Usually, I try not to care too much, but in this case I'm very happy, especially on behalf of the girls in the film and its general message.
Tell us about your company Poppoli Pictures. What types of projects do you develop?
It's pretty simple. I just go and make some idea up or find something by a strange impulse. And then I have great people around who listen to me and, more importantly, take me seriously. Then we just see if we can fund the thing somehow. We don't have many people at Poppoli. It's me and some people who work on their own stuff around the world and come in full time if the usually limited funding pops by.
You say you make “visiomentaries”. Could you explain this innovative concept?
Well, we just use these names to try and label things, which is a human habit. Actually, I think nothing really has a name. [A name] can even pollute the idea, but then again so will you. A good film is often not a good film until someone has said it's a good film. My main thing is to experiment, like a child would do, and then have the adult in me execute it in a semi-intellectual manner. Overall, “Visiomentary” is just an attempt to make me feel free when I'm filming. However, I want to stress the importance of working with people who remind me of dos and don'ts.
Tell us about The Amazing Truth. How did the idea come about and how much research did you do on transsexuality?
I just read things that were out there, but mainly I got to understand it through the main character Raquela. I become her, and like someone pointed out, the film is like Raquela hired a film team to do a film about her. That's a big compliment, when you can remove yourself from the foreground of a project. In the end it just became like breathing and being a Tgirl.
How did you find Queen Raquela?
I found her on the Internet. I talked to many Tgirls beforehand on the web and she blew me away. After I met her in Cebu, Philippines, my guess was that she would be great. The shooting was complicated in hindsight. I believe in luck, not controlling too much, and just going where your impulse takes you. I didn't want to do yet another film on this subject with hidden faces and talking heads, so to make it cinematic we decided to re-shoot and write it.
How did you put the financing together and convince Baltasar Kormákur to come onboard?
That was not easy, since it's a strange film for an Icelander to do and also the topic is narrow. Eventually, after having shot research material in the Philippines, I showed it to Baltasar. He supported me and was extremely helpful. Then I took it to the Icelandic Film Fund and the Nordisk Film & TV Fond and they jumped onboard, again very encouraging. I also got some help in Denmark from Nimbus Filmsand DR, and last but not least Marianne Boge (TV 2 Norway).
What are the distribution plans for the film?
The film is now in the hands of a world distributor, Deckert-Distribution, and North America is handled by The Collective in L.A. I kept the Philippines to myself, since I want to go there and show it in cinemas in May. We’ll show the film in Iceland in April.
What other film projects are you working on?
I've just finished editing The Higher Force, which is the very opposite of Raquela. It’s an Icelandic black comedy and will be released in Iceland at the end of March. Right now, I'm off to New York to film something that I have no idea what it will turn out to be!
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