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CPH:DOX 2018

Erlend Eirik Mo • Director

"The problem of climate change is a global issue, and no one’s doing anything to solve it"

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- We chatted to Norwegian filmmaker Erlend Eirik Mo, whose Norwegian-Danish documentary project received the Eurimages Co-production Development Award on Thursday at CPH:FORUM

Erlend Eirik Mo  • Director

Norwegian filmmaker Erlend Eirik Mo has been making documentaries for more than 15 years. Now, he serves as the protagonist of his new film, in which he shows how he, his wife and children adapt to a new life cut off from civilisation. Going by the title Journey to Utopia and slap bang in the middle of the funding process, the project has just scooped the Eurimages Co-production Development Award at CPH:FORUM, the CPH:DOX Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival’s sidebar dedicated to project development.

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Worried about the kind of world that will be left for their four children, Mo and his wife decide to leave it all behind and move to an environmentally friendly village, where neither pollution nor mass-produced goods are welcome. In the film, a teenage girl obsessed with Hollywood and the latest technologies and a father (the director himself) overly accustomed to his materialistic life clash with an idealistic and devoted mother.

Copenhagen-based production outfit Magic Hour Films and Norway’s Mosaikk Film have joined forces to develop Journey to Utopia, which has already secured funding from the Danish Film Institute and the SørNorsk Film Fund. With a total budget of €510,000, the project has just snagged the prize worth €50,000 in Copenhagen, for which it was competing against 26 other documentary hopefuls, and it is now edging ever closer to its financial target.

Cineuropa: Why did you decide to turn your wife and family into the subject of a documentary?
Erlend Eirik Mo: Ever since I started studying at film school, I told myself that I would never turn the camera on myself in one of my documentaries. I’ve always wanted to shoot docs from an observer’s standpoint, telling the story of people I don’t know. The only reason I changed my mind was because my wife asked me to. She thinks that the change we’re making is a story that has to be told. The problem of climate change that we’re facing is a global issue, and no one’s doing anything to solve it.

How long will the shoot last?
I started filming in August 2016, and we went to live in that place in November 2017. My intention is to stop shooting once we have achieved a cohesive family unit again. So far, I’ve been shooting with a really cheap and cheerful camera and monitoring the budget we already had in place, thanks to the Danish Film Institute and the SørNorsk Film Fund. With the help of the Eurimages Award, I think I’m closer to the likelihood of wrapping the project.

Considering everyone’s differences of opinion, it seems as though a minor civil war is taking place and being filmed in your family.
It is. The documentary is set up as if it were a family drama. Many viewers will be able to identify with the inner conflict that we’re going through. I want the story to be broader; I want it to reflect society.

How has the experience been so far?
A lot more complicated than I expected. Besides shooting, the experience of our change in lifestyle is turning out to be difficult, and sometimes it’s complicated to stick it out and stay behind the camera. I’m one of the family members who is coping least well with this new lifestyle, and I’d go so far as to say I feel rather depressed. I’ve realised that the camera acts as a kind of shield that keeps me on track. I didn’t want to sugar-coat the film, so you’ll see the reality exactly as it is.

Are there many other opportunities for documentary directors as great as CPH:DOX, which boasts a vast programme focusing on this particular genre?
Besides promoting the documentary genre among viewers, the market and industry sections are very well planned out. They create a very relaxed atmosphere for creators, which is always appreciated.

(Translated from Spanish)

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