Docs to pics: the Danish directors on an unusual path to the big screen

2015 could be a breakthrough year on the big screen for documentarians Janus Metz Pedersen and Jeppe Rønde

Most film directors tend to take the television route. For example, Ridley Scott’s big break came on 'Z-Cars', while Robert Altman cut his teeth on shows like ‘Bonanza’.

While many others learn their trade making shorts or pop videos. David Fincher, for example, made the videos for Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ and George Michael’s ‘Freedom’. And Michael Bay made the video for Meatloaf’s 'I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)'. Err, okay.

And now, many directors are stepping over from documentary to film, often carving out whole careers flitting between the two, like Kevin Macdonald, the director of ‘Touching the Void’ and ‘The Last King of Scotland’.

It is a career path currently being trod by two Danish documentary directors, Janus Metz Pedersen and Jeppe Rønde, and judging by their 2015 prospects, both of them could be heading for mega-stardom.

From fake bravado to True Detective
As the director of Denmark’s most acclaimed war documentary, 'Armadillo', Pedersen is already a name familiar to many Danes and internationals.

But now it would seem to many Hollywood insiders, following the confirmation he will take the helm for the third episode of the second series of 'True Detective', the breakout television show of last year, which will return over the summer with a cast that includes Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn.

The 40-year-old is among good company. Justin Lin, who will direct the first two episodes, will next year direct the next instalments in the 'Star Trek' and 'Jason Bourne' franchises.

A friend in Nic Pizzolatto
‘True Detective’ is entirely the vision of one writer, Nic Pizzolatto (who is also the showrunner and executive producer), who apparently visited Pedersen in Denmark to offer him the job.

But that didn’t come out of the blue. Previously Pizzolatto had charged Pedersen with directing an adaptation of his first novel, ‘Galveston’, which he wrote in 2010.

The tale of a 40-year-old mobster diagnosed with cancer who discovers his boss wants to kill him, it is scheduled to hit cinemas later this year. By that time, Pedersen could be on the verge of joining the A list.

Janus Metz Pedersen (photo: DFI)

Six years of research later
Best known for his documentary films ‘Jerusalem My Love’ and ‘The Swenkas’, Jeppe Rønde took the unusual step – or at least for a young Danish filmmaker – of researching, writing and directing a film set in a foreign country in a foreign language.

Rønde, 41, spent fully six years in south Wales researching an unexplained outbreak of suicides in the area that claimed the lives of 79 young people between 2007 and 2012.

The result is the film, ‘Bridgend’, based on the life stories of the teenagers who Rønde met. Shot in south Wales, it was mostly cast with local teens.

Overcoming obstacles
It follows the experiences of a policeman’s daughter, a new arrival to the suicide-haunted area, who falls dangerously in love. But while its plot sounds a little like 'Twilight', this is no fantasy, as Sarah and her father are drawn deeper into a dark world of misunderstood, vulnerable teenagers caught in a life-destroying ritual.

Nominated for the Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award at the Göteborg International Film Festival, the film is scheduled to make its worldwide debut on January 25 at the Rotterdam Film Festival. There is no word yet on when it will be released in Denmark or the UK. 

A challenging and intriguing project, which a source close to the director confirms was a “difficult project despite all sorts of obstacles”, Rønde will emerge as a force to be reckoned with if the critics and box office are kind to him. And he will have done it in English – a language potentially 200 more times lucrative than Danish.




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