Variety speaks to Danish writer and director Daniel Dencik, whose historical drama “Gold Coast” had its international premiere at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. The film includes music by composer Angelo Badalamenti. The film went on to play Norway’s Haugesund in August.
Dencik was inspired to create “Gold Coast” by a group of old letters from 1836 that he found in the Royal Library of Copenhagen. Told through the eyes of Danish rebel Wulff, the film explores the horrors of the West African slave trade.
What sort of research did you do in order to tell this story?
I read everything about the Danish presence on the Gold Coast, which is actually not a lot. I have treated the historical realities as a backdrop much like a Western film will treat the prairie – the ethics and aesthetics of that era to tell an archaic, universal story. This might very well have happened, but it’s not important for the film to follow a certain narrative from a history book.
What were some of the most shocking or surprising things you learned from your research?
I learned how deeply involved Denmark is in the slave trade, and how little we talk about it. It’s not even a specific Danish dilemma – there are hardly any European films about this. Slavery and the slave trade have become an American issue, although it was Europe that solely created this situation. I think colonization, the fact that we moved so many people and goods from one place to another, is the single most important reason why the world looks as it does today.
What was it like to work with Badalamenti?
He invited me over to his studio house and sat me down at his kitchen table to tell him about my film. While I was talking he started humming. So we moved into the sound studio, and he just played this heartbreakingly beautiful theme for me. I felt very blessed, and still do. The music is contemporary, electronic and youthful. I gave the sheets from Angelo Badalamenti to some very young and very talented guys in Copenhagen, who elaborated on different variations of the original theme. The music gives the film a rebellious feel. Sometimes it’s almost disturbingly modern, but it is very intentional. It’s a like a rave: 1836 on Ecstasy.