Greenland, with just 50,000 people across its 836,000 square miles, had never produced an international feature film until Torben Bech and Otto Rosing's "Nuummioq." The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and is currently making the rounds on the festival circuit. And now it has also become the country's very first submission into the Academy Awards' foreign language film category.
"During the research and initial fundraising we realized that no one, in Greenland, had made a feature film before," the film's producer Mikisoq H. Lynge told indieWIRE at the Reykjavik International Film Festival last week. There´d been foreign productions over the years, producing film in Greenland, but as soon as they finished, they were gone, with equipment and know-how. The film industry in Greenland consisted of only a few production companies and filmmakers. There had been a couple of short films and documentaries produced, but no actual feature film productions. This appealed to me - to become the first - to finally put Greenland on the world map and to make a film which could show our culture and how we live in Greenland."
The film was shot during the summer of 2008 in and around Greenland's largest community, Nuuk (its title means "a resident of Nuuk"). It follows Malik, a 35-year old carpenter recently diagnosed with a terminal illness who joins his best friend on his last boat trip into the fjords near Nuuk. During this trip, the two friends rediscover their friendship and Malik is given an opportunity to come to terms with his imminent death.
"We wanted to portray the modern contemporary Greenland so we wrote a story, which was universal," Lynge said. "It could be placed anywhere, but it happened to be in Nuuk, Greenland."
Budgeted just under the equivalent of $1 million, no one had ever tried to finance such a big cultural project in the country and it took a while to get things going. A lot of local businesses sponsored food, transportation and locations for filming.
"Since the industry is just getting started, we could not get props, film gear, etc.," Lynge said. "We really had to be creative, to make it work. All of our family and friends lent out all of their apartments, cars, furniture, so we could make it happen... If the whole city had not chipped in and backed us up, it would probably not have happened."
Everyone that helped out with the film can now take pride that their work helped Greenland get its very first submission to the Academy Awards, which was in itself a bit of a task.
"It's a challenge to be a pioneer, to be the first at something and it took some work to get eligible for submission," Lynge said. "This is a very big deal for us, we recently gained independence from Denmark, so to have our first feature film along with other countries in the world is very exiting. We've submitted, but there´s a long way ahead."
Even if the film does not end up making the Academy's shortlist, this kind of recognition can only aid in the future of the country's film production. Lynge - himself currently shooting an art film about an abandoned fishing settlement in Greenland - seemed quite confident about the country's next step.
"Ever since we've put Greenland on the map with 'Nuummioq,'" he said, "I get all sort of requests from all over the world to do collaboration and co-productions. Cool stuff is in the making and I look optimistic at the future."