The film 'MGP Missionen' was the subject of a heated debate last year when the state-run film institute, Det Danske Filministitut (DFI), twice refused the film agency ASA Film financial support for its children’s film. DFI described the film as “well-meaning and sympathetic”, but ultimately rejected the application because it deemed the film would not have “sufficient potential to hit the broad family market”.
Part of DFI's reasoning was that the film features cast members who are non-ethnic Danes.
The film's recent premiere over the Easter holiday, however, seems to indicate that DFI was wrong. Nearly 60,000 Danes went to see 'MGP Missionen' – including residents of provincial towns like Esbjerg, Randers and Næstved.
Apparently small town residents were indeed interested in the story of the third-generation immigrant Sawsan from Nørrebro and her journey with Karl from Hvidesande in western Jutland to compete in the Danish children's version of the Eurovision Song Contest, the Melodi Grand Prix (MGP).
"DFI's fear that the film would not play in the provinces has been proven wrong," Kim Pedersen, the head of Danske Biografer, the national cinema association, told DR News.
Although the film institute has previously expressed regret for what development head Claus Ladegaard called the "very, very unfortunate" wording of DFI's rejection letter to ASA, Ladegaard had no comment on the film's success in the provinces.
After being rejected by DFI last summer, ASA had asked for just under two million kroner last month to wrap up film's production. That request was also denied.
Pedersen said that although the film has done well in the provinces and in larger towns like Aalborg and Herning, the lion's share of its audience is still coming from the Copenhagen area. Pedersen said that is probably a function of simple demographics – more people live in Copenhagen.
"You can not assess the film's reach based on ticket sales alone," he said.
Both the producer of 'MGP-mission's, Marcella L Dichmann, and the film distribution company, SF Film, are pleased with ticket sales thus far.
"The film has a long life, and 60,000 tickets sold already is a good start," Dichmann told DR News.
'MGP-Missionen' was Easter's second most watched children's film – second only to Disney's animated film 'The Croods', which sold 95,000 tickets.
Dichmann has Disney-like ambitions for her film. "I would like to see it end up at 175,000-200,000 tickets sold, but that will be difficult," she admitted, before adding that the ongoing teacher lockout would provide an opportunity for more children to see the film.
The film has received good reviews since its release, but the fact that it still drew less than 100,000 people to see it lends credence to DFI's decision, according to Pedersen.
"Support is generally reserved for films with a chance of reaching sales of 175,000, and that will probably not happen here," he said.