“Ballroom Dancer” is the directorial debut for Christian Holten Bonke and Andreas Koefoed. It had its world premiere as the opening film of CPH:DOX and heads to Tribeca this week. The story of a champion dancer who’s now struggling with an aging body and an intense anger management problem that keeps scaring off dance partners, it’s accessible, charming and you’re going to be seeing a lot of it on the festival circuit.
The film follows the former world champion in Latin American dancing, Slavik Kryklyvyy. A decade after being one of the most celebrated dancers in the world, Bonke and Koefoed’s subject finds a new partner (who is also his girlfriend) and “Dancer” depicts Kryklyvyy as he attempts to make a comeback.
The directors say: “Our ambition with ‘Ballroom Dancer’ was to create a seductive and dramatic film that tells a documentary story using the tools from fiction film. We were fascinated by the glamorous environment of ballroom dancing, by the contrast between the glittery surface and the brutal backside where the difficult balance between love and professionalism is a part of daily life.”
CHB: “I had a hard time deciding what to do while growing up. As a kid, I was sure I would become an actor like my uncle. I participated in plays as a youngster, but I suddenly turned shy as a teenager and began playing music instead. At 20 years old, I was educated as a graphic designer. A few years later, I established a record company with two friends where I made the artwork and began shooting music videos and got attracted to film. I was admitted on The National Danish Filmschool in 2001 and finished in 2005.“
AK: “I started making films when I was 20. Since I was a kid I have been into music, singing in a boys choir and playing piano. After high school I started studying political science but dropped out soon after when I realized I weren’t going to be a good diplomat. I went to Paris to play music and when I got back I was offered an unpaid job on a youth TV program while I studied sociology. I started making portraits of my friends and got really hooked on all the disciplines involved in film making. I loved to shoot, to edit, to find the right music and to create particular atmospheres.”
On the challenges: “Our biggest challenge was to come close to our main character Slavik. He is a very ambitious and dedicated man and was very focused on his dance. In the first year, we were mostly a part of his professional life, but he let us into his private life as well, which was crucial for the film. By doing that, he made it possible for us and the viewers to identify with him and his situation. We are very thankful to him for his generosity in making this film.“
What would you like Tribeca audiences to come away with? “‘Ballroom Dancer’ is a universal story of a man for whom his art is everything. New York is a city where the most talented and ambitious people from all over the world flock to carry out their dreams, so we imagine that the audience here can relate to our story about Slavik. New Yorkers are therefore our dream audience.“
On the film’s inspirations: “We were very inspired by ‘The Wrestler,’ which also deals with a former star of his profession who suffers greatly in the end of his career. Sofia Coppola’s existential film, ‘Somewhere,’ has this atmosphere of feeling lost that we think our protagonist carries around. Also, we were inspired by the Greek tragedy of Narcissos, which especially shows in our use of music, I think.”
What do you hope to get out of the Tribeca experience? “Attending the Tribeca Film Festival is a great honor for us. Even in Europe, it is considered one of the most important and prestigious festivals in the world. Of course, it is always inspiring to meet other film makers. To watch their work in the greatest city in the world is just fantastic.“
CHB: “I am currently working on a portrait of the minister of Culture in Denmark. He is a new breed of politician and has a remarkable take on politics. Very communicative about his doings, openly homosexual and maybe too innovative in a quite conventional polished political machine. Also, I am working on a film about a Cuban boxer´s encounter with the international business of boxing.”
AK: “I am in the very early stage of developing an idea for a feature film. I have not yet been tempted by making fiction, because I feel that reality could offer so many amazing stories and characters that my fantasy wouldn’t be able to match. I have always thought that the only reason for making fiction would be that it couldn’t be made as a documentary. I have now found such a story. It is based on real events, but I can’t say much more at this point.”
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.
Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch for the latest profiles.