The award goes to director Frederikke Aspöck, screenwriter Anna Neye and producers Pernille Munk Skydsgaard, Nina Leidersdorff and Meta Louise Foldager Sørensen.
The film was selected among six Nordic candidates by a jury consisting of one member from each of the Nordic countries, and Greenland.
The award was announced Tuesday evening, October 31 during the Nordic Council Prize award ceremony at the Opera House in Oslo, Norway. The prize was awarded on stage by actor Maria Bonnevie, who read the Nordic jury’s motivation for choosing the winner:
“It is a rare thing to come across a film that is so confidently and thoroughly thought through in every single detail, and where such an extraordinarily clear vision from the filmmakers behind it shines from every frame. They serve a beautiful, sweet, and colorful treat laced with bitter poison and low intensity rage. The film is complex and thought-provoking, and the filmmakers do not stumble once while telling their tale about an ugly part of history!”
In addition to winning the Nordlys statuette, the Nordic Council Film Prize comes with DKK 300,000, which is shared among the director, writer, and producers.
We asked the winners to comment on their own working processes and the prize.
Screenwriter and the film’s lead actor Anna Neye on balancing humour with a serious theme:
"One of the things I set out to do eight years ago, when I started working on Empire, was to out the horrors of racism. In this case Danish racism in a historical context and to put the invisible (in this case black women) in the core of a period drama about a part of Danish history, which most Danes know nothing about.
Since a young age I’ve wondered how persecutors of the big crimes against humanity justifies their crimes. There is always a logic behind it no matter how insane it might seem. I’m a classically trained actress but most of my acting career has been in comedy. And I’ve experienced comedy as a powerful tool for critics of power. That's why I wanted to use comedy in Empire to out the self-justifying logic of power behind Danish racial colonialism. It turned out to be a very difficult ambition. The last thing Frederikke and I wanted was to be disrespectful to the victims or to belittle the crime against humanity which Denmark is guilty of as a former colonial power. The balance of placing the absurdist comedic beats in the story was a struggle throughout the work on Empire up until the last day of edit.
I’m deeply grateful for the recognition from the Nordic Council Prize for Empire. I hope it will inspire other filmmakers to dive even deeper into our colonial past and present. There are so many necessary stories waiting to be told".
Director Frederikke Aspöck on her vision, using bright colours and the in-your-face narrative form:
“Empire confronts the audience from the very first frame: here comes a different perspective on the story we have told ourselves as a nation. The aesthetically pleasing surface - “the perfect tropical paradise” - represents the romanticized version of what it means to have been colonizers. But no matter how hard the characters in the film try to tell themselves that everything is in perfect order, the violence seeps through and hits the audience like the crack of a whip. Instead of explicit live action violence we chose historical illustrations that in a split-second expose the brutality that this system is based upon, and that we Danes cannot continue to glaze over.
I am so grateful and delighted that the jury noticed all the intentions and efforts that went into Empire and chose to honor us with the award. Thank you!”
Producer Pernille Munk Skydsgaard on the daring project and the prize:
“Empire is one of the most daring, visionary, and challenging projects that I have ever worked on, and I am truly happy about all the attention and embracement that this film receives. Winning the Nordic Council Prize is a great honour and acknowledgement for Empire and of all of team’s hard work, and it strengthens our efforts in starting a discussion in an inspiring and thought-provoking way.”
Producers Nina Leidersdorff and Meta Louise Foldager Sørensen on breaking boundaries and the impact of the prize:
“The recognition of all the hard work on Empire is really wonderful, and to be able to share that with the full team is an amazing honour. I am also very proud to mention that the main team and lead cast of Empire consists of mainly women. There is clearly an openness to stories that dare to break boundaries, in form and content, and that is fantastic and exciting for future stories in the Nordics.”
“It´s fantastic that our long arduous journey with this film would end up with this great recognition! The award will hopefully further boost the Nordic distribution and the interest of Nordic audiences, as it will strengthen the perspective of both the creative leads and the producers when next time setting a high bar for a brave and complicated film.”
See the official trailer: Empire (Viften)