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TIME cover for June 24, 2013 issue

Forty-six percent of Americans, according to an Ipsos/Reuters poll, do not know whether the NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who disclosed information on top secret surveillance programs, is a patriot or a traitor. They probably do not know if he is a whistleblower either, but, perhaps, they are interested in more information so they could decide.

Enter TIME magazine.

The magazine, which made “The Whistleblowers” the publication’s “Person of the Year” in 2002, has cast Snowden as part of a young generation of individuals who represent “something new.” These are “young people [who have] come of age in the defiant culture of the Internet.”

This “new” breed of individual, according to TIME, are also people like Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has confessed to disclosing United States government information to WikiLeaks and is on trial at Fort Meade, and Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who committed suicide while the US Justice Department was zealously pursuing a prosecution of him for liberating documents from an academic database called JSTOR. And, they are labeled “The Informers.”

Jesselyn Radack, who heads the national security and human rights division of the Government Accountability Project and defends whistleblowers, reacted, “All three of these people were trying to either make information publicly available for more people to see or expose government crimes.” She added what TIME is doing is “equating whistleblowing to spying, which is pure propaganda.”

The story is titled, “The Geeks Who Leak,” a reference to the fact that these individuals come from a culture that has embraced hacktivism:

…[A]mong Snowden and Manning’s age group, from 18 to 34, the numbers are much higher, with 43% saying Snowden should not be prosecuted. That hacktivist ethos is growing around the world, driven in large part by young hackers who are increasingly disrupting all manner of institutional power with online protest and Internet theft. “That’s the most optimistic thing that is happening–the radicalization of the Internet-educated youth, people who are receiving their values from the Internet,” said Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in an April interview with Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt. “This is the political education of apolitical technical people. It is extraordinary.”

But, this conflates all young people who are skeptical of authority and institutions with those who are willing to engage in online protest or “Internet theft” and “hack” into systems or confront government agencies and powerful companies online.

It hypes the threat of hacking to present an argument that there are a strain of youth willing to break the law, as if the country does not have a historical tradition of civil disobedience.

Michael Scherer writes:

More than 1.4 million Americans now hold top-secret security clearances in the military and the shadow world of intelligence. Most do not contact reporters and activists over encrypted e-mail in hopes of publishing secrets as civil disobedience. Few are willing to give up their house, their $122,000-a-year job, their girlfriend or their freedom to expose systems that have been approved by Congress and two Presidents, under the close monitoring of the federal courts. Snowden is different, and that difference is changing everything. [emphasis added]

In truth, Snowden is no different than Russ Tice, a former intelligence analyst at the NSA who was a source for a 2005 New York Times story on warrantless wiretapping by the NSA. Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician who revealed in May 2006 that AT&T was working with the NSA to spy on Americans’ communications, or Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower who revealed top secret information about the Vietnam War and what really led America to start it. [*Here’s a list of others, who have blown the whistle and defied authority or what was the norm inside of a company or institution.]

Outside of whistleblowers, there are people who have protested like women, African-Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT), immigrants, environmentalists, etc, because they believed what had been acceptable culturally and systemically was worth challenging so that future generations could live a better life—one free of the injustices, discrimination or government policies they endured.

Scherer presents Snowden, Manning and Swartz as extremist or absolutist privacy advocates. It characterizes them as extremist or absolutist transparency advocates. It fails to properly examine the post-9/11 context in which they have developed this idealism, where they desire a society that is more respectful of privacy rights or the circumstances of excessive government secrecy, which would lead to young people wanting information to be free.

Then, there is this particular paragraph:

Manning’s statement is a radical one, since it directly undermines the rule of law, something both men seemed to recognize. “When you are subverting the power of government, that’s a fundamentally dangerous thing to democracy,” Snowden said of his actions. And in official Washington, the broad consensus is that the impulse is dead wrong and likely to cause real harm. “What this young man has done, I can say with a fair amount of certainty, is going to cost someone their lives,” said Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss, who is vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Neither the Obama White House nor the leaders of either party are much concerned about the legality or the effectiveness of the sweeping data-collection programs; both sides, however, seemed quite keen to track down Snowden and bring him to justice. The public, according to a new TIME poll, echoed that impulse, with 53% of Americans saying Snowden should be prosecuted, compared with just 28% who say he should be sent on his way.

Anyone reading it would get the idea that Americans do not approve of these people, who think it is okay to defy the law. Manning believes it was acceptable to “undermine” the rule of law and even Snowden admits that what he did is dangerous to democracy. However, Scherer cherry-picked a quote and altered the meaning.

Here is what Snowden said, when interviewed by The Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald, who wrote stories on his disclosures:

The public is owed an explanation by the people who make these disclosures that are outside the democratic model. When you are subverting the power of government, that is a fundamentally dangerous thing to a democracy and, if you do that in secret consistently, as the government does when it wants to benefit from a secret action it took, it’ll kind of give its officials a mandate to go, hey, tell the press about this thing and that thing so the public is on our side. But, they rarely, if ever, do that when an abuse occurs. That falls to individual citizens, but they’re typically maligned. It becomes a thing of these citizens are against the country, but I’m not…

Snowden was talking about officials who go to the press undermine democracy by not explaining their motivations for disclosing information on secret programs or policies that they know will be beneficial or make government look good. He recognized that this is an abuse of authority and did not want to do the same, which is why he came forward and explained his motives in an interview with Greenwald.

Furthermore, by labeling these individuals “informers” they become people whom the government would be justified in prosecuting under the Espionage Act.

Scherer suggests:

The government, meanwhile, is likely to treat Snowden as if he was a Cold War spy seeking to undermine the country he still claims to serve. The Justice Department has launched an investigation into the disclosure of classified information, a prelude to a standard espionage prosecution. Even though charges may not be filed for weeks, it is likely that prosecutors will try to extradite Snowden to the U.S. for trial and seek a punishment of life in prison.

What Scherer omits is how prosecuting leakers or whistleblowers as spies is a new development. The administration of President Barack Obama has prosecuted a record number under the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law that was not intended for deterring the release of classified information to the press but to go after spies who aided enemies or provided information that could advantage a foreign nation.

One would think if the magazine was going to present these people as “informers,” which has connotations similar to spies, they would have given this a closer look. But, the magazine accepts a given that Snowden will be treated as a “Cold War spy,” as if that would not be troubling but routine.

As I wrote previously, journalists like Scherer ignore or disregard the fact that the government has carved out national security exceptions to protect power from disclosures that Snowden made by ensuring that he can be prosecuted, jailed and effectively silenced no matter how he makes disclosures.” They also are perfectly willing to give voice to those in power who support zealous prosecution of these individuals for periods that exceed the length of time they would ever advocate for torturers, war criminals or those who commit felonies in violation of laws intended to protect individual rights and liberty in the United States.

They have no problem with the arrogation of power in the Executive Branch so they will produce journalism intended to rationalize the functions and expansion of the national security state. When confronted by individuals who challenge national security policies and programs, they display unbounded contempt for individuals who they think have arrogated the power to act as truth-tellers and inform the public of information they believe the public has a right to know.

In this case, TIME goes beyond putting these individuals’ personal flaws under a microscope and typecasts them as “the 21st century mole,” who “demands no payments for his secrets.”

Media organizations like TIME are also far too willing to divide and conquer, to choose who is a real whistleblower and who is not based on the public or political reaction. Manning is not a whistleblower, but Ellsberg is a whistleblower. Even though Ellsberg considers Manning a whistleblower, that means nothing because to explore how Manning is a classic whistleblower would be an affront to the establishment and powerful, which they need to maintain access and influence.

If this is how Americans understand these people, not only does it further chill confidential sources who wish to disclose information that is in the public interest to the press, but it effectively curtails the ability of media organizations to perform their role as the Fourth Estate, which is supposed to fulfill a watchdog function and check the power of all branches of government. It enhances the ability of government to manufacture consent for policies and programs that force Americans to give up liberty whenever someone shouts “Terrorist” or claims it is on behalf of national security without any proof whatsoever that it will be required to make the country safer

Finally, the biggest problem is that this is agitprop material masquerading as serious informative journalism. If one is not familiar with the stories of recent whistleblowers or do not understand issues around secrecy, transparency and leaks, the average person is not going to realize that it is disinformation.

 

By: Kevin Gosztola Thursday June 13, 2013 4:55 pm


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TIME cover for June 24, 2013 issue

Forty-six percent of Americans, according to an Ipsos/Reuters poll, do not know whether the NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who disclosed information on top secret surveillance programs, is a patriot or a traitor. They probably do not know if he is a whistleblower either, but, perhaps, they are interested in more information so they could decide.

Enter TIME magazine.

The magazine, which made “The Whistleblowers” the publication’s “Person of the Year” in 2002, has cast Snowden as part of a young generation of individuals who represent “something new.” These are “young people [who have] come of age in the defiant culture of the Internet.”

This “new” breed of individual, according to TIME, are also people like Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has confessed to disclosing United States government information to WikiLeaks and is on trial at Fort Meade, and Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who committed suicide while the US Justice Department was zealously pursuing a prosecution of him for liberating documents from an academic database called JSTOR. And, they are labeled “The Informers.”

Jesselyn Radack, who heads the national security and human rights division of the Government Accountability Project and defends whistleblowers, reacted, “All three of these people were trying to either make information publicly available for more people to see or expose government crimes.” She added what TIME is doing is “equating whistleblowing to spying, which is pure propaganda.”

The story is titled, “The Geeks Who Leak,” a reference to the fact that these individuals come from a culture that has embraced hacktivism:

…[A]mong Snowden and Manning’s age group, from 18 to 34, the numbers are much higher, with 43% saying Snowden should not be prosecuted. That hacktivist ethos is growing around the world, driven in large part by young hackers who are increasingly disrupting all manner of institutional power with online protest and Internet theft. “That’s the most optimistic thing that is happening–the radicalization of the Internet-educated youth, people who are receiving their values from the Internet,” said Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in an April interview with Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt. “This is the political education of apolitical technical people. It is extraordinary.”

But, this conflates all young people who are skeptical of authority and institutions with those who are willing to engage in online protest or “Internet theft” and “hack” into systems or confront government agencies and powerful companies online.

It hypes the threat of hacking to present an argument that there are a strain of youth willing to break the law, as if the country does not have a historical tradition of civil disobedience.

Michael Scherer writes:

More than 1.4 million Americans now hold top-secret security clearances in the military and the shadow world of intelligence. Most do not contact reporters and activists over encrypted e-mail in hopes of publishing secrets as civil disobedience. Few are willing to give up their house, their $122,000-a-year job, their girlfriend or their freedom to expose systems that have been approved by Congress and two Presidents, under the close monitoring of the federal courts. Snowden is different, and that difference is changing everything. [emphasis added]

In truth, Snowden is no different than Russ Tice, a former intelligence analyst at the NSA who was a source for a 2005 New York Times story on warrantless wiretapping by the NSA. Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician who revealed in May 2006 that AT&T was working with the NSA to spy on Americans’ communications, or Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower who revealed top secret information about the Vietnam War and what really led America to start it. [*Here’s a list of others, who have blown the whistle and defied authority or what was the norm inside of a company or institution.]

Outside of whistleblowers, there are people who have protested like women, African-Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT), immigrants, environmentalists, etc, because they believed what had been acceptable culturally and systemically was worth challenging so that future generations could live a better life—one free of the injustices, discrimination or government policies they endured.

Scherer presents Snowden, Manning and Swartz as extremist or absolutist privacy advocates. It characterizes them as extremist or absolutist transparency advocates. It fails to properly examine the post-9/11 context in which they have developed this idealism, where they desire a society that is more respectful of privacy rights or the circumstances of excessive government secrecy, which would lead to young people wanting information to be free.

Then, there is this particular paragraph:

Manning’s statement is a radical one, since it directly undermines the rule of law, something both men seemed to recognize. “When you are subverting the power of government, that’s a fundamentally dangerous thing to democracy,” Snowden said of his actions. And in official Washington, the broad consensus is that the impulse is dead wrong and likely to cause real harm. “What this young man has done, I can say with a fair amount of certainty, is going to cost someone their lives,” said Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss, who is vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Neither the Obama White House nor the leaders of either party are much concerned about the legality or the effectiveness of the sweeping data-collection programs; both sides, however, seemed quite keen to track down Snowden and bring him to justice. The public, according to a new TIME poll, echoed that impulse, with 53% of Americans saying Snowden should be prosecuted, compared with just 28% who say he should be sent on his way.

Anyone reading it would get the idea that Americans do not approve of these people, who think it is okay to defy the law. Manning believes it was acceptable to “undermine” the rule of law and even Snowden admits that what he did is dangerous to democracy. However, Scherer cherry-picked a quote and altered the meaning.

Here is what Snowden said, when interviewed by The Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald, who wrote stories on his disclosures:

The public is owed an explanation by the people who make these disclosures that are outside the democratic model. When you are subverting the power of government, that is a fundamentally dangerous thing to a democracy and, if you do that in secret consistently, as the government does when it wants to benefit from a secret action it took, it’ll kind of give its officials a mandate to go, hey, tell the press about this thing and that thing so the public is on our side. But, they rarely, if ever, do that when an abuse occurs. That falls to individual citizens, but they’re typically maligned. It becomes a thing of these citizens are against the country, but I’m not…

Snowden was talking about officials who go to the press undermine democracy by not explaining their motivations for disclosing information on secret programs or policies that they know will be beneficial or make government look good. He recognized that this is an abuse of authority and did not want to do the same, which is why he came forward and explained his motives in an interview with Greenwald.

Furthermore, by labeling these individuals “informers” they become people whom the government would be justified in prosecuting under the Espionage Act.

Scherer suggests:

The government, meanwhile, is likely to treat Snowden as if he was a Cold War spy seeking to undermine the country he still claims to serve. The Justice Department has launched an investigation into the disclosure of classified information, a prelude to a standard espionage prosecution. Even though charges may not be filed for weeks, it is likely that prosecutors will try to extradite Snowden to the U.S. for trial and seek a punishment of life in prison.

What Scherer omits is how prosecuting leakers or whistleblowers as spies is a new development. The administration of President Barack Obama has prosecuted a record number under the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law that was not intended for deterring the release of classified information to the press but to go after spies who aided enemies or provided information that could advantage a foreign nation.

One would think if the magazine was going to present these people as “informers,” which has connotations similar to spies, they would have given this a closer look. But, the magazine accepts a given that Snowden will be treated as a “Cold War spy,” as if that would not be troubling but routine.

As I wrote previously, journalists like Scherer ignore or disregard the fact that the government has carved out national security exceptions to protect power from disclosures that Snowden made by ensuring that he can be prosecuted, jailed and effectively silenced no matter how he makes disclosures.” They also are perfectly willing to give voice to those in power who support zealous prosecution of these individuals for periods that exceed the length of time they would ever advocate for torturers, war criminals or those who commit felonies in violation of laws intended to protect individual rights and liberty in the United States.

They have no problem with the arrogation of power in the Executive Branch so they will produce journalism intended to rationalize the functions and expansion of the national security state. When confronted by individuals who challenge national security policies and programs, they display unbounded contempt for individuals who they think have arrogated the power to act as truth-tellers and inform the public of information they believe the public has a right to know.

In this case, TIME goes beyond putting these individuals’ personal flaws under a microscope and typecasts them as “the 21st century mole,” who “demands no payments for his secrets.”

Media organizations like TIME are also far too willing to divide and conquer, to choose who is a real whistleblower and who is not based on the public or political reaction. Manning is not a whistleblower, but Ellsberg is a whistleblower. Even though Ellsberg considers Manning a whistleblower, that means nothing because to explore how Manning is a classic whistleblower would be an affront to the establishment and powerful, which they need to maintain access and influence.

If this is how Americans understand these people, not only does it further chill confidential sources who wish to disclose information that is in the public interest to the press, but it effectively curtails the ability of media organizations to perform their role as the Fourth Estate, which is supposed to fulfill a watchdog function and check the power of all branches of government. It enhances the ability of government to manufacture consent for policies and programs that force Americans to give up liberty whenever someone shouts “Terrorist” or claims it is on behalf of national security without any proof whatsoever that it will be required to make the country safer

Finally, the biggest problem is that this is agitprop material masquerading as serious informative journalism. If one is not familiar with the stories of recent whistleblowers or do not understand issues around secrecy, transparency and leaks, the average person is not going to realize that it is disinformation.

 

The Danish Dream

Ten years ago is was almost impossible to imagine that a Danish film would be remade in Hollywood. In 2009, several Danish directors are on the verge of reshooting their film—but this time with ten times the budget and stars attached. The dream for most of the filmmakers is to make a film with the biggest stars, the best craftsmen and producers that the business has to offer.

“I can tell that Hollywood producers are used to negotiate with desperate Europeans, who will do anything to get their film made. I think they get really surprised when a Dane tells them that he doesn’t want to remake his film if it doesn’t get bigger than the original film,” says Nikolaj Arcel.

Billedresultat for Nikolaj Arcel

Arcel is one of the new blockbuster directors in Denmark. His two first films did well at the box office and both gained critical acclaim. The political thriller King’s Game (2004) took home $6 million—very impressive by Danish standards—and his second feature film; the action adventure Island of Lost Souls (2007) grossed nearly $3 million. Arcel is connected to the US production outfit Strike Entertainment and they are currently negotiating with Universal about remaking Island of Lost Souls. The film is currently set to go into production in 2010.

One of last year’s most successful Danish films Terribly Happy (2008), by experienced helmer Henrik Ruben Genz, is likewise close to being greenlit. “The new thing for me is” tells Genz in Copenhagen, “that they are the ones who call me in order to arrange meetings. Normally my producer and I have to beg to get one—it seems like they really want to make this film.” Terribly Happy can best be described as the Coen brothers meet U-Turn. After a nervous breakdown a Copenhagen police officer is being transferred against his will to the outskirts of nowhere, and before he knows it, he’s got himself into a terrible scrape and he is all of a sudden living in Hotel California.

Bier and VON Trier

In spring 2009 the American version of Susanne Bier’s massive 2004 hit Brothers will premiere. The remake is directed by Oscar®-winner Jim Sheridan (In America, My Left Foot) and stars teen-idols Toby Maguire (Spiderman), Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain) and Natalie Portman (Star Wars).

The original film made quite an impact when it opened in Denmark as we had just entered the war in Afghanistan. The film deals with the problematic reality when soldiers return home from war—a subject still as present today as then.

Bier has turned out to be good business for Danish outfit Zentropa. Since she made her Hollywood debut Things We Lost in The Fire (2007), her earlier films have been in much demand. Her three latest Danish films Open Hearts (2003), Brothers and the Oscar® nominated After the Wedding (2006) grossed $15 million domestically—a rare average by Danish standards. “The Americans want her films,” explains production lawyer Anders Kjærhauge from Zentropa, “they are very interested in her early Danish films, and there is no doubt that her next one will get a lot of attention from the US. She is a modern filmmaker who makes films about modern society and modern people. Put that in a good film, and everybody are interested.”

Bier is a good case in point, but there are not a golden fortune hidden in selling the remake rights. “In average we get around $100.000 for the rights,” Kjærhauge tells. “We also get a percentage of the box office earnings, which gives us more than previously when we were supposed to get a percentage of the producers profits. Strangely enough they never had any profit when all the bills were paid,” he laughs and tells that Danish auteur Lars von Trier landed one of the best deals for his own company, Zentropa. His TV mini-series The Kingdom (1994) was sold to Touchstone Pictures, and was rewritten by horror guru Stephen King, later titled Kingdom Hospital (2004). “They paid us on the good side of $500.000 for the remake rights, and considering we had already sold the original series to most of the world, it turned out to be a pretty good deal.”

The Danish remakes

Danish films have been a remarkable good export since the happy Dogme days when Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration (1998) triumphed at the Cannes Film Festival. It was at that time the remake offers began to reach the Danish producers.

The most remarkable one was Ole Bornedal’s creepy Nightwatch (1994). A domestic success with a +$5 million gross, it established that the Danes could make films with the same efficiency and pace as the major film countries. Bornedal remade the film under the gentle protection of Bob and Harvey Weinstein at Miramax. The 1997 remake starred Ewan McGregor, Josh Brolin, Nick Nolte and Patricia Arquette. Also worth noticing is that Steven Soderbergh worked with Bornedal on the script. Despite the talent involved the film flopped big time, grossing a poor $1.2 million.

In the more curious department, back in 2000 helmer Lasse Spang Olsen worked on a remake of his shoot-to-kill comedy In China They Eat Dogs with Harvey Keitel and Christian Slater attached. It fell through and instead the film ended up being remade in Holland with the title Vet hard (2005). No wonder no one ever heard about that film!

Carsten Myllerup’s Midsummer (2003) was remade by the man behind cult hit The Blair Witch Project, Daniel Myrick. The horror film was named Soltice (2008) and went straight to DVD. Perhaps one film was enough…

Hans Fabian Wullenweber’s Catch that Girl (2002) was a solid action adventure film for kids. Bart Freundlich’s 2004 remake Catch that Kid grossed nearly $17 million and made it the best performing Danish remake at the US box office to date.

Made originally by Bent Christensen in 1961, Harry and the Butler has for a long time been circulating the gossip sites. Supposedly it is still in development with Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins attached. The story of an old poor man who all of a sudden gets rich, and decides to get a butler, could turn out to be a sweet old-timer charmer.

Waiting time

“It can easily take two years before development, casting and the financing is in place,” says director Nikolaj Arcel just returning from Los Angeles after another meeting regarding his remake of Island of Lost Souls. “It’s a mighty long time, since I’ve already spend over two years on the film when I made it the first time—maybe that’s the reason why I only want to make it again if it’s going to be different.”

Island of Lost Souls will get a +$40 million budget, pretty good compared to the domestic budget of only $7 million. “We have a talented scriptwriter attached… Jennifer O’Kieffe previously worked with Ridley Scott and John Madden, so I think the film is in good hands. She has presented us with a solid first draft, so hopefully we can soon progress to the next stage,” says Arcel.

“I’ve decided that I will spend six months on this to begin with,” says Henrik Ruben Genz who has weekly phone meetings concerning the potential remake of Terribly Happy. “Two things can happen: either they want to change everything, or I get to make the film I want to make. If I can’t keep the original plot, I probably wont make the film again myself. I really want to make it better than the first time, so it’s evident that I get the chance to develop and correct the few things from the original that could have been better.”

Genz is working with the production company Stillking Films, who worked on blockbusters Wanted and Casino Royale. “They want a major star for the lead. They know that it will attract the major players. It’s obvious that you have to think big—you simply can’t use your Danish humbleness in this game!”

It seems like the Danes do not need humbleness on the remake marked at the moment. Impressing 6 films are in development. Martin Barnewitz is well on his way with teen-horror Room 205 and Ole Bornedal returns to the States with two features; The Substitute and Just Another Love Story – all three competing to be the first Danish remake to break through to the American audience and thereby completing the Danish dream of conquering America.

Variety

2007 – good

Danish film has had its problems with getting out of the new minimalist cinema tradition, which was introduced after Dogma. The directors have worked with limited budgets and even more limited creativity – but there Billedresultat for The Island of lost Souls”were films in 2007 that showed the audience, that the Danes haven’t forgot how to make visually interesting films. Nikolaj Arcel’s “The Island of lost Souls” is by far the most ambitious adventure film ever made in Denmark. Both production value and story could compete with foreign films. The same qualities could be seen in Ole Bornedal’s “Just another love story”. Bornedal proved himself as the maverick in Denmark – with two films on the marked within two months, both commercial and critical successes. “Love Story” came just after “The Substitute” – a teen-horror flick with originality and wit. Anders Morgenthaler’s “Ekko”, Jannik Johansen’s “White Night” and Peter Schønau Fog’s multi award winner “The Art of Crying” developed with finness the minimalistic storytelling also introduced by Lars von Trier’s Dogma-curse on Danish cinema. The three films give hope for the new generation of storytellers, with modern stories about family and relations – items that traditionally interests the Danish audience.

2007 – bad

Artistically we saw some new things happen in 2007 – but the scary thing was at the same time, that the audience have left the Danish films bleeding. Two years ago it was easy to sell 200.000 tickets in Denmark – now it’s almost impossible. Two years ago 500.000 admissions was a huge success, now 250.000 is a blockbuster. It looks like the audience have turned their backs on the Danish films – and right now it’s hard to see who can break that deadlock. At the same time I think that 50% of Danish premieres in 2007 didn’t have either the artistically nor the commercial values to trigger the audience to see them. The conclusion for now is that the Danish producers, distributors and directors will have to reinvent Danish cinema if they want to get back to the golden days that lasted from 1994 to 2005.

Danish film

There is a lot of complaining in the business. The producers are not satisfied with the Danish film Institutes subsidy system, and there are not any development plans for the new talents, who to some degree have been left by the government-controlled system.

Therefore the trend is that the production companies try to develop new production methods that doesn’t include the DFI – which means that the producers full finance the films or work closely together with one of the two national TV-stations, who have a good deal of cash to spend on film production. The entire crisis is based on the record-low ticket sale, which is infecting the business at the moment.

2008

There is hope, despite the darkness of 2007. In 2008 we will see a string of new helmers getting their chance – such as Kasper Barfoed’s thriller ”The Candidate” and ”Moving Up” by Christian Bjarke Dyekjær. But the year will be dominated by good, solid and well owned people, who the business expects to break into the heart and wallets of the audience. Ole Chr Madsens World War II epic ”Flame and Citron” is the most expensive Danish film made, with a $10 million budget. Old-timer auteur Nils Malmros releases his first film in 6 years in fall 08, “Kærestesorger”, and last years smash hit director Niels Arden Oplev (We shall overcome) is back with a dark, religious drama “Between two worlds”.

I do not think that we will see any revolutions in 08 – the films out have been planned and produced already, so the general hope for the coming year must be, that the producers will return to a state, where they take chances and perhaps most importantly; realize that the film business in Denmark needs something new, something fresh, something provocative – right now – otherwise we will be thrown back into the dark 80’ties and start 90’ties where Danish film was a bad, annoying and pointless joke.