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Peter Aalbæk Jensen • CEO Zentropa

Proud to work with European talent

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- Peter Aalbæk Jensen • Zentropa presents three films in Berlin

Peter Aalbæk Jensen • CEO Zentropa

Danish film maverick Peter Aalbæk Jensen has three films in competition at the Berlinale, from Denmark (Little Soldier [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
), Sweden (Mammoth [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
) and Germany (Storm [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Alexander Fehling
interview: Hans-Christian Schmid
film profile
]
), reflecting his Europe-wide strategy for Zentropa. He spoke to Cineuropa about his plans to expand in Eastern Europe and to create a “North Atlantic alliance” with Scotland and Ireland.

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Cineuropa: You have a record three feature films in competition at Berlin. How does it feel?
Peter Aalbæk Jensen: Great, even more so because we are at the Berlinale with a Swedish film, a Danish film and a German film, which proves that our aim of making a North European mini-studio has matched our expectations. Our new motto is: “Fuck nationalism!” This means that we don’t care if we make a Danish film, a Norwegian film or a German film. We’re just proud to work with European talent.

Could you describe Zentropa today – its structure and strategy?
The great era of the Dogma movement and of the early Lars von Trier films were in a way our graduation years. We learned about international relations and the fun of co-producing with other countries. We’re still happy to work with the best talent in Denmark but also believe that we’ve been given so much from bigger European countries like France, Germany and the UK that it’s now payback time for us. We want to help talent in those territories. This means that we have small, autonomous Zentropa offices in some European territories (no more than two people per office) that give local producers and directors access to local facilities and/or financing.

For instance, Hans-Christian Schmid’s Storm was co-produced by Zentropa Berlin, which facilitated its financing through our branches in Berlin, Cologne, Trollhättan in Sweden and Amsterdam. The same goes for Lukas Moodysson’s Mammoth. We’re partners in the film through our Copenhagen, Trollhättan and Berlin offices. Moreover, we handle international sales for those films (through TrustNordisk) and offer them shooting and post-production facilities.

You just opened a branch in Norway. What’s next?
We just opened an office in Poland. We have great expectations from this new branch as we want to use it as a centre for all Eastern European co-productions. Polish filmmaker/producer Malgośka Szumowska is running the office. She had great success last year with 33 Scenes from Life [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
and is now developing a new film, to be co-produced with our French representative Marianne Slot (Slot Machine).

This is an example of how our different outfits now work independently, without going through our Copenhagen headquarters. If each office finds the financing for a film, then it automatically gets the green light. What’s important is that all managers of the Zentropa branches have shares in the mother company, which means they all work with the same goal.

Over the last few years, you’ve launched a series of innovative ideas within Denmark (Film Fabriken), Europe (Advance Party) and on the web (Dogma Mobile). How successful are they?
We’ve had many ideas over the last 20 years and some of them have died quickly while others such as Dogma have made an impact. We always try to be as innovative as possible and often say that if you aim for the sun you might reach the moon! More specifically, in terms of Advance Party, we’re currently developing six films with Sigmain Scotland and the Irish Film Board. My idea is to try to make a North Atlantic alliance with Scotland and Ireland.

Tell us more about some of your major films for 2009, beginning with Lars von Trier’s Antichrist.
Regarding Antichrist, we’re moving fast with the post-production and want to present it at Cannes. If they don’t like it, we’ll be doing a lot of weeping! What’s sure is that Lars von Trier is back on track, and from what I’ve seen, the film is one of his very best. Then we’ll do new movies with Danish directors Per Fly and Susanne Bier.

How do you see Zentropa in five years, in light of the current international financial crisis?
We’ll be bankrupt or conquering the world! As we work in the film business we’re used to being in a financial crisis, so what’s happening now is not such a big deal.

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