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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018 Competition

Tuva Novotny • Director

"The core of the film is an account of our shortcomings in being able to address mental illness"

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- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018: One of Scandinavia's most enduring actresses, Tuva Novotny, branches out into directing with Blind Spot, which we discussed with her

Tuva Novotny  • Director
(© Alex Abril/San Sebastián International Film Festival)

Since her emergence in the 1990s, actress Tuva Novotny has almost effortlessly conquered new territory. She started in Swedish daytime soaps, moved to the big screen, found steady work in Danish cinema around 2000 and, ten years later, did the same in Norway. This truly Scandinavian actor (who speaks all three languages almost perfectly) has now begun her directorial career. In this capacity, she is presenting two productions this year: the Swedish title Britt-Marie Was Here by A Man Called Ove author Fredrik Backman, due out in December, and the Norwegian, self-scripted Blind Spot [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Tuva Novotny
film profile
]
, which played earlier this month at Toronto and is now in competition at the San Sebastián Film Festival. It initially opened at Haugesund in August, where Cineuropa got one of the first interviews from an exciting new director with lots on her mind.

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Cineuropa: Blind Spot is a powerful experience. How would one describe it to someone who has yet to see the film?
Tuva Novotny:
 In the foreground, we have an acute family crisis, but the core of Blind Spot is an account of our shortcomings in being able to address mental illness and, by extension, being able to prevent it. Like right now, when you are about to interview me, it gives me butterflies in my stomach, but when I tell you about it, I immediately feel better.

You are now branching out from acting into writing and directing. Two features, one Norwegian and soon also a Swedish one, will see the light of day. What made you take this step?
I have it organically within me, I think, and it’s all been a long process, rather than an epiphany. As a child, I directed my siblings in little living-room performances. As a grown-up, I have continuously been seeking out technical knowledge in order to get ready to film myself. I have done TV for a few years, with episodes of Lilyhammer and Dag in Norway. Øystein Karlsen, one of the creators of Dag, has been instrumental in supporting me, pushing me out there and getting me started. 

How would you describe this new “job” of yours?
In part, it’s about the insight that you’re not alone on a film – this is collaboration. At the same time, however, you have a title and a job description that also entails the responsibility of a leader, the responsibility to be taken seriously. The director often sets out the agenda of how the cast and crew communicate, how they work, when they work and so forth. This climate is important to me – also, in the oft-temperamental world of artistry, the safer I feel, the better, and then I will give my full potential. The 17-hour working days or different little crises going on here and there create unrest and deprive me of capacity. But during these two productions, I have had a great team surrounding me. We have worked together, and the result has been bigger than the people involved.

It doesn’t take long to dawn on the viewer that Blind Spot is shot in a very particular way. Should we even reveal it here?
I absolutely think we should. I prefer to call it a story in real time, rather than a one-take. This way, the actors have to remain in the situation; they can’t do a second take and can’t switch angles, which are all things that they regularly get to do in their film and TV work. In short, it’s an authentic experience. The idea was there on page one. A small concern did sneak in, though: will this technical exercise overshadow the theme of the story? But I needn’t have worried: the theme of the film captures you more than the style. 

Why did you choose to do it like this, then? 
I did it to maintain the pauses that we often cut out of a film, the longueurs, the quiet moments. When I see a movie, I often miss being with the character full-on, not just the edited version. I love editing, and you will see editing in other films of mine, rest assured. But this time, we get to experience all of the 98 minutes of this story. Anything else would have been impossible.

How many shoots did you plan for, and how many did you have to do?
I have to say that everything in this process turned out as expected. We counted on shooting three times, and it took three times. We talked about doing seven, but I didn’t want to lose momentum.

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