Nominated to Nordic Council Film Prize 2023.
St. Croix, the Danish West Indies, 1848. Anna Heegaard and Petrine are close friends. Although both are women of colour, their living conditions are very different – Anna is free and owns the enslaved Petrine. Anna shares her life with Danish Governor General Peter von Scholten at her country house, where she manages the home, her fortune, and her beloved and trusted housekeeper Petrine. Things are seemingly fine until rumours of a rebellion begin to swirl. Which side are Anna and Petrine really on, and is it the same one?
It is in itself ambitious to make a film about one of the most shamefully under-examined topics in Danish history, namely the Danish slave trade in the West Indies. But it is seriously brave to do it in a playful way that mixes satire with dramatic seriousness in the depiction of the friendship between two black women of different status at St. Croix, leading up to the slave revolt of 1848.
This is what makes Empire so unique in Danish film and in a Nordic context. Conceptualist and screenwriter Anna Neye, in partnership with director Frederikke Aspöck, portrays the racist power structures that permeate Danish colonial rule with a sharp and indignant gaze, all packaged in an original aesthetic, with a sensational soundtrack and impressively executed scenography that emphasise the absurdity of the atrocities.
While the vast majority of historical films play it safe, Empire boldly breaks free of the templates, which is why a unanimous Danish jury nominates this film for the 2023 Nordic Council Film Prize.