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SUNDANCE 2020 World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Amanda Kernell • Director of Charter

"I see my film as a declaration of love to all divorced parents trying every day to do their best for their children"

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- We spoke to Amanda Kernell on the occasion of the world premiere of her second feature, Charter, at the Sundance Film Festival

Amanda Kernell  • Director of Charter
(© Sundance Institute)

After previously screening her first feature, Sámi Blood [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Amanda Kernell
interview: Lars Lindstrom
film profile
]
, at Sundance, Swedish director Amanda Kernell returns to the same festival, this time to the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, with Charter [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Amanda Kernell
film profile
]
, a social and family drama about a young mother who is fighting for the love of her children. Kernell created a fascinating main character called Alice, played very convincingly by Norwegian actress Ane Dahl Torp. The film was shot to a great extent on Tenerife, where Alice escapes to with her children in order to reconnect with them, while her ex-husband is hot on their trail.

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Cineuropa: Why did you choose to shoot on Tenerife? What does that place symbolise for you?
Amanda Kernell: When I think of holidaying with the family, I immediately think of the Canary Islands. A lot of Swedes go there regularly, as we have direct flights to the different islands. For me, it represents a personal artificial paradise, where it is possible to escape from one’s everyday routine. It's a place that is different from home and yet very familiar at the same time. The landscape of solidified lava resembles the mountains of the North, there is a blue kind of light that we also have in Sweden, and you are, despite the sunny and warm climate, confronted with some very harsh surroundings. Because of the familiarity of the place, it feels safe, and I wanted to show that the mother in Charter is trying to create a favourable atmosphere for her children. If she really wanted to escape with them, and to not come back again, she would have gone to some place outside Europe, far away, where the authorities would not be able to interfere.

What was the most important element for you when coming up with the character of Alice, the mother?
I wanted her to be a mother who could also be a rock star, someone with power and charisma. I thought of my own mother for the role. I was lucky enough to have a great mother, and somehow, the character of Alice is a tribute to her.

How did you find your protagonist?
Ane Dahl Torp, who plays the role of the mother, is a Norwegian actress whom I knew from the various TV series she has made. In particular, it was her performance as the first female football coach for the Norwegian male national league in Heimebane that really impressed me. Only a few people know that she speaks Swedish fluently, and in Charter, it's actually her first time acting in this language. I wanted an actress with charisma and someone who would be able to show great strength as well as vulnerability at the same time.

Why was it important for you to tell this story?
My film is a declaration of love to all divorced parents trying every day to do their best for their children. In my films, I always deal with topics such as forgiveness, responsibility and betrayal. I want to show that if a person is being judged on their every action, you will inevitably find something that’s not right. No one can pass such a test. And parents fighting for custody of their children go through an examination like this. I want to make the public aware of it and, in some way, to ask for forgiveness for my character. I’m sure that we’re all quite quick to judge others. Moreover, I am interested in talking about topics such as this, which affect people much more than we think, but which often remain taboo. With Charter, I wanted to direct the discussion towards the question of what it means to be a good mother, to speak about guilt and stigma, especially when it comes to women and their decision to lead a self-determined life.

What sources do you draw artistic inspiration from?
I feel attached to Danish cinema. I’ve been living in Denmark for over ten years now, and I have become more and more familiar with a certain way of thinking. As for cinema, I would say that I like to tell stories that leave the audience shaken, and which spark discussions on social topics. Moreover, I prefer a minimalistic form when shooting films, with camerawork that gets up close to the characters, and I avoid overloading the movie with the décor or setting.

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