In documentary film “The Fall,” Danish director Andreas Koefoed tells the story of Estrid, who fell out of a fifth floor window when sleepwalking at the age of 11. Koefoed, whose “The Lost Leonardo” was released last year by Sony Pictures Classics, speaks to Variety about his latest film, which has its world premiere Thursday at the Copenhagen Intl. Documentary Film Festival (CPH:DOX) in Dox:Award, the main international competition category.
Estrid survived the accident but suffered 17 fractures. Through hard work and will-power, she regained her mobility, but the trauma of the fall stays with her and her family. Koefoed first met Estrid a few months after the fall when shooting a short film for a rehabilitation center for war veterans where she was getting treatment.
“I was touched by her personality, her story, the aura around her. I felt it was both a miracle and a tragedy at the same time: this young girl facing this immense accident and all the challenges in the years to follow. There was the potential for a story around her and her family trying to deal with the traumatic event, her trying to regain her body and her life,” Koefoed tells Variety.
After initially turning down his request to follow their story on camera, Estrid’s family got back in touch with Koefoed a few months later: they believed the film could help in their healing process. He went to visit them with his camera every few months over the next five years, as Estrid worked on healing her body and became a teenager.
“It was a lengthy process,” Koefoed says. “I was looking for different storylines. I hoped she would find her strength and move forward in life, but it seemed very difficult for her, so I waited.”
While following Estrid’s story over several years, the director shot three other films including “The Lost Leonardo.”
By the time she reached the age of 16, Estrid moved away from her family and attended a boarding school where she worked on expression through performance and dance. “It was a step forward where she took ownership of her body and expressed herself in a constructive way – I really needed that to be in the film because I wanted it to be her story and for her to use the film as a platform to move on in life.”
The result is an intimate, poetic coming-of-age film, that contrasts with Koefoed’s “The Lost Leonardo,” a thrilling, fast-paced doc which investigates the controversy surrounding the most expensive painting in the world.
“To me, ‘The Fall’ is much closer to what I am as a filmmaker – I have done several films on the transition from child to grown-up [’12 Notes Down,’ ‘At Home in the World’] – it’s the heart of what I do. ‘The Lost Leonardo’ is the film that stands out: I was fascinated by the whole adventure, the whole mystery,” Koefoed says, adding, “I am drawn to a story when I find something fascinating and beautiful about a person or a situation. My stories are universal; they’re about these transitions that we all go through at some point in our life.”
While the stories couldn’t be more different, “The Fall” and “The Lost Leonardo” are similar in that they take their time and allow the viewer to get to know the main characters through long, close-up takes. Koefoed explains that he saw in Estrid’s character the potential for a film that would look much like a fiction film.
“My ambition is to make films that are 100% authentic and feel very real, but, at the same time, if I can capture the real moments in a beautiful way that resembles a fiction film, then everything comes together,” he explains. “I want to give them a poetic feel, to tell the story in a subtle but very visual way and let my films be inspired by fiction films.”
Asked whether he had any ambitions to move into fiction filmmaking, Koefoed confirmed that was the case, but said he was waiting to find “the right story, one that couldn’t be told in the documentary format.”
He is currently wrapping up post-production on two other films due out by the end of the year: a jazz doc in collaboration with Danish filmmaker Jørgen Leth about Danish composer and guitarist Jakob Bro, and a portrait of Danish soccer player Nicklas Bendtner, due for theatrical release in the fall.
“The Fall” has its world premiere at CPH:DOX in the main Dox:Award category and in the Politiken:Dox sidebar on March 24. It is produced by Sara Stockmann’s Copenhagen-based Sonntag Pictures.