2006 First Look Screening Background
KAREN BLIXEN: Out of This World
(An early preview from the December
NE Entertainment Digest )
By George T. Marshall
A NEW DOCUMENTARY OF NOTE...
Now that RIIFF is heading into its 10th year, things
are getting a tad easier in not just running the festival,
but in outreach to the filmmaker community. At this
writing, entries for 2006 are up by 45%. During 2005,
we received over 1,500 entries from throughout the world:
61 countries to be exact. What’s coming in early—they
began arriving in early September—are amazing
and in many cases, exceptional. As for early, RIIFF
takes place in August of 2006—so that’s
a while off.
One gem that hails from Denmark so struck our selection
review board that a decision was made to present a unique
“first look” of the film for the general
public in early December; that’s nine months prior
to the Festival. Our screening will be used to raise
funds for our community outreach programs, which are
multi-tiered and take place throughout the state of
Rhode Island. This year’s beneficiary is the annual
Christmas-in-Newport event in Newport, Rhode Island.
"KAREN BLIXEN: OUT OF THIS WORLD"
According to Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times “Marcus
Mandal and Anna von Lowzow's "Karen Blixen: Out
of This World" is an illuminating, poignant documentary.”
It is the true story of the incredible life of Danish
author Karen Blixen / Isak Dinesen - a story just as
dramatic as her own fantastic tales.
Blixen was an extraordinary woman, an unstoppable female,
a vain eccentric, and a very sensitive human being,
whose life was characterized by great ups as well as
great downs. She was a major contradiction. In her life,
Karen Blixen conquered artistically, but lost in love;
she never had any children, lived in financial turmoil,
and suffered from depressions.
During the documentary the viewers are taken on a journey
through the life of Blixen, told by people close to
the author. The author herself contributes through old
footage from numerous television shows.
Among those taking part are Karen Blixen’s 102-year
old sister-in-law and her 85-year old houseboy, Tumbo,
who for the first 10 years of his life lived with her
on the farm in Africa. Others taking part are Meryl
Streep and American author Judith Thurman.
With special permission from the family of Blixen, the
directors have been given unique access to photos and
letters from their private archives, many of which have
never been made public before. To complement the rich
imagery of this film, additional footage and historical-reenactments
have been shot on location in Denmark and Kenya –
all done with great attention to detail and with much
emphasis on authenticity. For instance Blixen’s
personal typewriter was renovated for the films reenactments,
and all the shooting has taken place in Blixen’s
original surroundings. During the production the Danish
film-crew was given permission, as the first ever, to
shoot inside the African farm.
von Lowzow and Marcus Mandal, directors of the award-winning
international documentary series “A Royal Family”
(2003), have directed “Karen Blixen - Out of This
) Director of photography Jan Weincke has worked with
directors like Arthur Penn and Bille August. Editor
Thomas Krag had edited films for directors like Lars
Music was an important element in the life of Karen
Blixen. And the music for this film – apart from
the theme – consists exclusively of the original
lacquer discs Karen Blixen collected throughout her
life. The theme has been written exclusively for the
film by English composer Mike Woolmans and recorded
by the Danish Radio Sinfonietta.
Impressive credentials for a documentary and one that
hails from a country not known for such work.
I was able to conduct a brief interview recently with
one of the film’s co-directors, Marcus Mandal,
about how the film was produced. A credentialed professional,
Mandal attended the University of Copenhagen (1975-1978)
with a degree in Contemporary studies. He also attended
Denmark’s College of Journalism (1981-1985). He
was Director of educational youth programs for Denmark’s
Radio TV (1985-1987); a News reporter for Kanal 2 TV
(1987-1996); and is the Director of the international
documentaries “A Royal Family” and “Karen
Blixen – Out of This World” for Nordisk
Film TV (1996-).
Here’s my interview:
GTM: What motivated you to produce this
documentary in the first place?
Marcus Mandal: We were very fascinated by the personal
story of Karen Blixen. She couldn’t have written
it better herself. So we wanted to make a film about
her own life; not about her books. But of course we
hope that people who see the film will be interested
in finding out what kind of stories this special women
We decided to make it now, because in a few years there
won’t be anybody (who knew her) a live to tell
the story. e.g. her sister in law, Jonna Dinesen, is
now 103 years old!
GTM: How long did it take you to plan, shoot
and edit the work? What were the types of challenges
Marcus Mandal: About two years; and that also included
raising the money which Anna and I also had to do ourselves.
The major challenge was not to make the film to boring
as there exists no footage with Karen Blixen before
she is about 50 years old. Luckily we found almost 1000
photo’s and worked with the brilliant Director
of Photography, Jan Weincke, who was able to shoot the
beautiful black and white recreations.
GTM: What did you learn about Karen Blixen
that you didn't know before producing this work?
Marcus Mandal: For instance that she very much “copied”
her father in the way she lived her life. He lived for
3 years alone among Indians in North America, he enjoyed
the nature and hunting, - and he wrote books! Her life
fell apart when he committed suicide when she was only
10 years old.
GTM: How were you able to gain the support
of the people you interviewed for the film?
Marcus Mandal: They had seen our documentary series
“A Royal Family” and I think they trusted
us. And how did we convince 29 Kings, queens, princes
and princesses that they should participate? That’s
GTM: What was it like working with Meryl Streep?
Marcus Mandal: That was wonderful. We had been told
that we should finish everything within half an hour.
But she ended up staying for several hours. It was actually
the first time in my life that I “directed”
GTM: Your work has gained a great deal of support from
festivals; are you surprised?
Marcus Mandal: I’m very happy but not really surprised,
because the documentary series “A Royal Family”
(which I also made with Anna von Lowzow) was a big international
success. It is not common in Denmark to make international
documentaries, but we decided that it had to be possible.
We raised a lot of money and made the six our series.
Twenty nine royal family members take part in this series
- it's a major family chronicle simultaneously providing
a fascinating insight into European history: www.aroyalfamily.com.
It is now being broadcasted on television in 135 countries;
e.g. at APT/PBS in US. And we won a lot of prizes, e.g.
the Platinum Award and a Gold Special Jury Award at
World Fest Houston.
GTM: Tell our readers a bit about yourself.
When did you first become interested in film? What is
your educational background?
Marcus Mandal: My education is as a journalist, but
already at The Danish School of Journalism where I studied
20-25 years ago, I specialized in TV-production. So
since 1985 I’ve been working with TV, both as
a news anchor, as a news reporter, - and for the last
10 years as a documentary director.
Before that I’ve done other strange things such
as: Studying political Science at the University of
Copenhagen, and performing in the streets all over the
world as a juggler (I was in Guinness Book of Records
for having the world record in “Marathon snowball
GTM: How did you land your first job in
Marcus Mandal: I was lucky that someone had heard about
what I did at the Journalist School, and simply asked
me (when I was still a student) if I would make a documentary
for the opening night of a new TV-Station. I said yes!
GTM: What advice would you give to a young
filmmaker attempting to break into the business on how
to approach the so-called majors in receiving either
support, distribution, or that proverbial career break?
Marcus Mandal: That’s hard for me to answer as
I’ve never really been a young filmmaker. I just
slowly more interested in making the documentaries more
artistic. Also the way those things work are probably
much different in Denmark.
GTM: What's next on your plate in terms of work?
Marcus Mandal: Right now I’m working on a TV-series
about the history of the place where I work.
It’s called Nordisk Film and next year it will
turn 100 years old. Actually this is where Hollywood
was before it became Hollywood. In the old days (with
silent movies) Nordic film had offices all over the
world and today we have the oldest still existing film
studio in the world. Directors like Carl Th. Dreyer
and Lars von Trier have made their first movies here.
Marcus Mandal will be flying from Copenhagen to
Rhode Island, December 1-3rd for screenings of his film.
For more information, please check out the RIIFF website
Two special screenings of KAREN BLIXEN: Out
of This World will take place --
• The first screening will be a VIP reception
on December 1st at 7:30 p.m. and will be held at the
Music Mansion, 88 Meeting Street, Providence, RI. A
champagne and dessert reception will immediately follow,
allowing the audience a chance to meet with the director
of the film who is flying in from Copenhagem to attend
this event. All proceeds from the screening will benefit
the Rhode Island International Film Festival and its
community outreach programs. Tickets are $100 and may
be purchased through ArtTix (www.arttixri.com)
or through the Festival office (401) 861-4445.
VIP Reception Tickets Here
• The second screening is on Saturday, December
3rd at 4 p.m., The Jane Pickens Theatre, Touro Street,
Newport. This special First Look Screening serves as
a benefit for Christmas in Newport and is sponsored
by the RI International Film Festival & the Flickers
Arts Collaborative. Admission: Adult $10, Senior $8,
student $6. 849-6454. Tickets may be purchased through