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Poland’s Opus Film (“Cold War,” “Ida”) and Scandinavian distributor Scanbox are teaming with fast-rising Danish production house Motor on Mads Hedegaard’s directorial debut “Stranger,” co-penned with Jesper Fink (“Margrete-Queen of the North,” “Before the Frost”). Tagged by Motor as “‘Apocalypto’ meets ‘The Revenant,’” “Stranger” will be pitched virtually on Feb. 5 by Hedegaard and producer Andreas Hjortdal, at the Discovery section of the Göteborg Film Festival’s Nordic Film Market industry showcase.

The film goes back to pre-historic times, 6,000 years ago, when migrant farmers virtually replaced the hunter-gatherer populations of northern Europe. When 16-year old Aathi and her family -the first farmers ever – arrive from the south in the country now known as Denmark, all except Aathi and her younger brother are killed by local hunters. To survive, the two youngsters are forced to live with the hunters’ tribe in the eerie forest and integrate. But when Aathi becomes pregnant and the child is forcefully adopted by the tribe, a culture war seems inevitable.

Hjortdal said the character-driven movie will be part thriller part action drama, filmed by Hedegaard with “his poetic and larger-than life storytelling trademark” shown in his earlier works. Although set in ancient times, the topic of integration and clashes of cultures will be highly relevant for today’s audiences, the producer claims. “It’s an integration story, as well as a raw revenge story,” he explained. “Aathi wants to avenge her family, but at the same time, as a smart girl who comes from a more advanced community, tries to help the starving hunters farm their land. But the latter turn down her offer.” “For us” Hjortdal continued, “It’s about what happens if a society closes itself to outward influence and builds walls.”

For the former Nordisk Film Spring producer, one of the biggest challenges will be to shoot the entire movie in a pre-Indo European language. A linguist will work with the Danish and international cast to help them recreate the fictional language.

Filming in Poland’s primeval forest is due to start summer 2022.

The €2.5m ($3 million) project has received development funding from the Danish Film Institute, and co-financing from Danish public broadcaster DR and from Scanbox. Hjortdal will be will looking for a sales agent and other financial partners at the Swedish film market in Göteborg, unspooling Feb. 4-7.

For its first showcase at a film market, the three-year old Motor – co-founded by multi-awarded screenwriter Christian Torpe (“Silent Heart”, “Rita”, “Deliver Us”) and producer Jesper Morthorst (“Heartstone”, “Silent Heart”, “Rita”) – will make a splash with another three projects to be pitched at the works in progress. Those include Bille August’s psychological drama “The Pact, about the true-life inspired story of Karen Blixen’s relationship with a young poet, Thorkild Bjønvig. SF Studios is co-producing, with REInvent handling sales.

Two projects from rising female helmers are available for sales.

“Night of Dying,” by Tea Lindeburg, director of Netflix’s “Equinox,” is a low-budget period drama, in which a young girl becomes an adult as her mother dies while giving birth. ”It will be visually stunning, thanks to the collaboration between Lindeburg and acclaimed DP Marcel

Zyskind (“Falling”, “A Mighty Heart”),” said Morthorst. The Danish release is scheduled for October.
“The Venus Effect,” by Anna Emma Haudal, is a same-sex female romantic comedy starring Sofie Gråbøl, Lars Mikkelsen, Josephine Park and Johanne Milland. The local premiere is set for December 2020.

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Night of Dying cast Credit: Andreas Bastiansen