Culture minister says film’s rejection over ethnicity is “deeply problematic”

Several actors say discrimination is commonplace in the Danish film industry

May 21st, 2012 10:45 am| by admin

The decision by Det Danske Filministitut (DFI) to reject a film's application for funding based in part on the ethnicity of the cast members has drawn the attention of the culture minister, Uffe Elbæk (Radikale).

Elbæk met with DFI’s CEO Henrik Bo Nielsen in Cannes over the weekend to discuss the institute’s rejection letter to the producers of the film 'MGP Missionen'. The letter, which was obtained by Information newspaper, included the passage: “Films featuring cast members with another ethnic background haven’t shown to be especially sellable in the provinces.”

Elbæk has requested that DFI provide a written assessment of the rejection letter, and told Information that he found the lines referencing ethnicity to be inappropriate.

“It’s a deeply problematic formulation that is prejudiced on so many levels,” he said. “One is that there is a judgement that the actors’ skin colour has an influence on the film’s impact. Another is that you are saying at the same time that the people who live in the provinces are less tolerant than people who live in Copenhagen.”

When the story came to light, that language was called “very unfortunate” by DFI’s director for production and development, Claus Ladegaard, who added that the institute was not “weeding the brown actors out of white films”.

However, Information spoke with several actors who are non-ethnic Danes and they contend that discrimination is commonplace in the Danish film industry.

“I don’t think there is a single non-white Dane in the cultural scene who hasn’t experienced that the industry is very selective – both in regards to the stories that can be told and the people that can tell them,” actor Hassan Preisler told Information.

Actress Sandra Yi Sencindiver said that the surprising thing about the DFI rejection letter wasn’t its content, but the fact that it was made public.

“They’ve written it, so they can’t now run away from it,” she said. “But it’s not because anybody is really surprised by the fact that people think that way. The unusual thing is that we now have it in black and white.”

Similarly, actress Wagma Khattak told Information that the 'MGP Missionen' rejection only confirms what many have suspected.

“There are a lot of rumours in the film industry that DFI doesn’t support the non-white actors, and now unfortunately we see that the rumours are true,” she said.

(all photos: Daniela de Lorenzo)
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