Interview with Sakaris Stórá: Faroese film selected for Berlin International Film Festival

By Stephan Lücke

Maria hesitates when her best friend Birita offers her some pills, but – what the hell? Her mother’s away and they are both desperate to have some fun tonight. They set off and, once the drug takes effect, start euphorically planning how they might finally escape their dreary Faroese island. But they only manage to wind up at a party where they continue celebrating. Maria’s pupils are wide open in her delicate face. She may be high, but she doesn’t feel at all well any more. It now transpires that Birita has plans for her friend: She wants Maria finally to have sex with a boy and put a stop to the stupid gossip about her being a lesbian.

Sakaris Stórá filmmaker

Sakaris-Stórá-film

That basically is the story of the Faroese short film “Vetrarmorgun” (“winter morning”) which has just been selected for the Berlin International Film Festival – Berlinale. It is the world´s leading film festival and takes place in mid-February. “Vetrarmorgun” is nominated for the section “Generation 14plus”, which presents discoveries from state of the art world-cinema and on a par with young people, and for the Teddy Award, the official queer award of the Berlinale.

The director of “Vetrarmorgun” is 26-year-old Sakaris Stórá. Born in 1986 and raised in Skopun in the Faroe Islands, he took up studies at the Nordland College of Art and Film in Norway in 2007. Upon graduation, he returned to the Faroe Islands to pursue his goal as a screenwriter and director of giving the Faroese language and culture a voice in the film world. We spoke with Sakaris about the selection of his latest film for the Berlin International Film Festival.

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Sakaris, how do you feel after being selected for the Berlinale?

I feel very honored. It really means a lot to me. Also I am very touched to learn that “Vetrarmorgun” has been nominated for one of the most important awards in queer cinema. Five years ago I wouldn´t have imagined that a film from the Faroe Islands would be nominated for an international LGBT award. And I couldn´t have dreamt of my own film being that film. I´m very happy and starting to get very nervous and excited for Berlin.

Is it your first time at the Berlinale?

I already was at the Berlinale Talent Campus in 2010 and it was one of the best weeks in my life: great people, great films, a great city, an amazing festival. It´s been four years now since I was there and I´m still trying to devour the inspiration I got from being there. Festivals are very important for film makers. It´s a good way to get your work out to an audience. The international film festival in Berlin is the biggest film festival in the world. It has a long tradition. So it means a lot to me. It somehow makes the whole struggle of making films in a basement in the Faroe Islands worth it.

Why did you choose to do another film about lesbian teenagers in the Faroese small town environment?

I grew up in a village community myself. I still live in a small town and I even studied in a small town. I guess I´m just not an urban kind of person. I like the tranquility of small places. I like to tell my stories here. The film is basically a love story. And it´s about identity. I think one´s sexual orientation is a big part of one´s identity and perception of one self – especially when people start to doubt and question their own sexuality. I feel that the Faroese public needed a story that is partly about homosexuality. LGBT rights have been a very hot topic for the last years in the Faroe Islands.

How has the film been received by the Faroese public?

“Vetrarmorgun” was well received. It was never meant as a crowd pleasing film. And coming-of-age-stories seldom appeal to everyone. There was intentionally a complete lack of nature shots and feel-good-romanticism. In a way, I wanted to challenge the way people in the Faroe Islands see themselves. I believe all art should challenge the way people see themselves and ask questions. There are some very rough and honest scenes in the film. Five or ten years ago, the topic would have been very controversial. But now people didn´t get offended by it. Except for one person maybe: There was someone in the audience fainting during the sex scene at the first screening of the film. I honestly don´t know if it´s a bad or a good thing (laughs).

What are your next plans?

I don´t have many plans for this year. I would love to continue making films. But it´s been so hard to find any way to finance them. I feel that I have a lot of stories that I want to tell. One might say that I´m on a hiatus at the moment. I have made two short films in under two years. And even though I love the short film format, I more and more feel that I want to move on to something bigger. But it all comes down to a question about money. I hate the whole money thing. I am currently working together with some of my actors on a project that is very raw and experimental. I do it to get more experience as a director and writer. It´s sort of a cheap fix for the film making addiction that all of us suffer from.

 Sakaris Stórá filmmakerPhoto of Sakarik Stórá by Torkil Djurhuus

 

Other images: Vetrarmorgun/Virginie Surdej