Ulla Boje Rasmussen: Western Outposts

Subtitle: ”Faroese Cinematic Narratives”, that I enjoyed the great pleasure to be with the whole (yester)day. True pleasure indeed and admiration for the work of Ulla Boje Rasmusen and Andreas Fischer-Hansen to have done the fundraising to have a new digitized version made of the two documentary classics ”1700 Metres from the Future” (1990) and ”The Light on Mykines Island” (1992) in several languages (subtitles), with an epilogue short film ”Not on a Friday” (2015) and a fine booklet ”on cultural and social aspects of Faroese life”. A dvd box of rich content, in other words. These two films have an outstanding position in newer Danish documentary history, not because of their high informational and cultural value introducing the ”Western Outposts”, the Faroe Islands, but because of their quality as Documentary Films. Also today, 25 years after they were made.

In September last year I was invited to write a text commemorating the 25 years of the festival Nordisk Panorama and to make a visual flashback of highlights. It was natural for me to start with a clip from ”1700 Metres from the Future” to take the audience to Gásadalur, the isolated village of 17 inhabitants waiting for a tunnel to be made (finished in 2006). Wow, they loved it, had never heard about the film before and where can I get hold of it… the answer is there now, link below.

And a quote from the text for the Nordisk Panorama: ”Ulla Boje Rasmussen is the documentarian, who has taken me and audiences around the world to her beloved Faroe Islands (Færøerne). ”1700 Metres from the Future” (”1700 meter fra fremtiden”) includes gorgeous nature sequences and fine portraits of the 17 (!) inhabitants, who are to get a tunnel connecting them to the rest of the world. The film is a classic in Danish documentary history with superb cinematography by Andreas Fischer-Hansen, also the producer. The two stood behind Nordfilm (right name!) that also made the follow-up ”The Light on Mykines Island” (”Tre blink mod vest”) (NP 1992), equally from the islands towards the North…”

There he goes (photo) Solberg Jacob Andreas Henriksen (1924-2011), the postman who took over the job from his father, we follow him on the two hour walk he does three times per week to deliver the mail tuesday, thursday and saturday. And we see him helping to shear the sheep and – very touching – in the epilogue piece enter a helicopter to be brought to the ceremony, where he is the one to make the last tunnel explosion happen. To ignite the last blast on December 23rd 2002.

Just one example of the many charismatic characters in both films, who are treated with respect, are given time to formulate themselves in interviews, that have been well prepared: framing, background that gives meaning etc. The confidence towards the filmakers is obvious.

Not to forget the birds in the Mykines film! OMG, what a challenge it has been for Andreas Fischer-Hansen and his colleagues to get the right shots of gannets, puffins, fulmars – breathtaking especially is the sequence ”to go down the rope”, down the cliff to get the gannets, which are caught, strangled and then thrown into the water to be picked up by a boat, to be distributed among the hunters according to quite complicated ownership rules. It’s amazing documentary observation, made on film, no compromises, these people deserved the best and they got it, these wonderful storytellers. Who are not among us any longer, most of them, but kept alive on film they are.

Just one, or two or three more things – the films also introduce the Mikines artist Sámal Elias Joensen-Mikines (1906-1979) and the photographer Johan Elias Martin Karl Mikkelsen (1893-1924), and there are articles about them in the booklet, that have a beautiful cover and vignettes made by Bárdur Jákupsson.

To the libraries: Buy it, this is a must. To the documentary addicts and cinephiles: Buy it, this is a classic and classy publication!

2015, DVD 1 86 mins., DVD 2 54 mins. + 12 mins., 32 page booklet + bonus material, Faroese with subtitles in Danish, English, French, German, Italian.

Produced by 2015 Andreas Fischer-Hansen and Ulla Boje Rasmussen.

Can be purchased through H.N. Jacobsens Boghandel, Tórshavn, Færøerne:

http://www.hnj.fo/include/main.asp

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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