EXCLUSIVE: REinvent International Sales has picked up Empire, an absurdist period drama about Denmark’s colonial history from Danish filmmaker Frederikke Aspöck.
Conceived and written by Anna Neye, who also stars in the film’s lead role, Empire is set in the Danish West Indies in 1848 and is a story about power and human interdependence that aims to challenge Denmark’s historical amnesia with a mix of earnest drama and absurd comedy.
The film’s full synopsis reads: St. Croix, the Danish West Indies, 1848. Anna Heegaard (Neye) and Petrine (Sara Fanta Traore) are close friends. Both are women of color, but their living conditions are very different – Anna is free and owns the enslaved Petrine. Anna shares her life with Danish Governor General Peter von Scholten at her country house, where she manages the home, her fortune, and her beloved and trusted housekeeper Petrine. Things are seemingly fine until rumors of a rebellion begin to swirl. Which side are Anna and Petrine really on – and is it the same?
The pic had its world premiere earlier this month in the Nordic Competition at Göteborg and will be featured in REinvent’s Promo Reel screening at the upcoming European Film Market on February 16. REinvent will handle international sales.
The film is produced by Pernille Skydsgaard, Nina Leidersdorff, and Meta Louise Foldager Sørensen for Meta Film in co-production with Brain Academy with support from the Danish Film Institute, Nordic Film & TV Fund, DR & SF Studios in collaboration with SVT & Seven Islands Films.
The film will premiere locally on April 20.
“Empire challenges Denmark’s highly romanticized look upon its own colonial past and does so with a confrontational aesthetic,” Aspöck said.
“World history is written by and about white men, which is why Empire deliberately places female Afro-Caribbean characters – enslaved as well as free – at the center of its story. Through thorough research, the writer Anna Neye and I have done our utmost to try to understand the nuances of the former Danish colonies and how dehumanization affects those living within a terror-based society. In their attempts to survive, the oppressed risk oppressing further, and herein lie the human complexities and power dynamics we have wished to examine.”
Neye added: “People of color have been written out of the Danish history books in the same way women have. Visibility is important and we have deliberately wanted to create fully fleshed-out characters of color – characters full of agency and resilience. As an Afro-Danish writer I truly long for times when people of color are more than just a footnote in Danish history books. At least we deserve our own chapter.”
Aspöck is best known for her debut feature, Out of Bounds which premiered at Cannes in 2011. She has since taken films to Moscow, Karlovy Vary, Rotterdam, and Göteborg.