Fast-rising Danish production powerhouse Motor, led by scribe Christian Torpe (“Silent Heart”, “Rita”) and producer Jesper Morthorst, has unveiled a splashy five-pic slate, led by the Göteborg Film Festival’s closing film “Camino” by Birgitte Stærmose and Tea Lindeburg’s pic in development “The Seal Woman,” to be pitched at the Discovery strand of Göteborg’s Nordic Film Market (Feb. 2-5).
One of the hottest new Danish directors, Netflix “Equinox” series creator Lindeburg made waves on the festival circuit with her directorial debut “As in Heaven,” which scooped a double win in San Sebastian and best-Nordic statuette in Göteborg 2021, before wooing several buyers including Juno Films in the U.S.
Her anticipated sophomore feature “The Seal Woman,” based on her original screenplay, is inspired by a Faroese legend, which has it that those who drown themselves turn into seals. And once every year, they return to shore in their human shape.
The story turns on the male character Aske who seeks out this mythical place of transformation, in the hope of reuniting with his late wife. Desperate not to lose her again, he hides her seal skin, so that she can’t return to the sea. At first, the woman doesn’t remember their past together, but as her memory returns, a dark and menacing story unfolds.
“This tragic love story will be pure Lindeburg material, with a poetic touch, dreamy and eery sequences,” said Morthorst who plans to build his second feature with the director as a major European co-production, with filming “somewhere in the North Atlantic” set for 2024.
Also heading off to Göteborg is Motor’s comedy drama “Camino”, ordered by Viaplay as its first Danish Original film.
As unveiled by Variety, Lars Brygmann (“Riders of Justice”) and Danica Curcic (“The Chestnut Man”) are leading the strong cast as a father and daughter, walking the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrim route in Spain and letting go of mutual frustrations.
“Viaplay loved the script penned by Birgitte and Kim Fupz Aakeson and the ace cast and crew and greenlit the film very fast,” Morthorst noted.
“Camino” is due to premiered exclusively on the Nordic streamer after its Göteborg world premiere on Feb. 4, with Viaplay Content Distribution handling worldwide distribution.
For Morthorst, “Camino” and “The Seal Woman” epitomize Motor’s DNA, which is to deliver auteur-driven high-quality content for large audiences, whatever the format and genre, be it small arthouse or bigger commercial features, as well as drama series.
The five-year old shingle, which started off with Torpe’s hit thriller series “Deliver Us” (2019), has used the COVID-period to refocus on feature film, a wise strategic move, in the context of the – now settled – Danish streaming crisis which has destabilised much of the Danish audiovisual sector.
“We do have TV shows in development with various global streamers, but our core business is the European state-support model, where we can keep control of our rights and creative decisions,” Morthorst underlined.
“We have been in development for two-three years on our eclectic feature slate, and we’re finally getting into production with some of our biggest projects so far,” he said.
Two heavy-weight European co-pros are due to start filming this year.
The first one up is the $3.8 million “Rome,” scheduled for a February-March shoot. The feel-good drama is directed by Niclas Bendixen (“Ditte & Louise”, “Cry Wolf”), who co-wrote the original screenplay with Torpe and Kristian Halken. Motor’s Andreas Hjortdal is producing together with Morthorst.
“It’s a universal story about love, marriage and how this is changing over time,” Hjortdal said, underscoring that the filming in various parts of the Italian capital will capture the essence of the city.
Top behind-the-scenes include editor My Thordal (“The Rain”, “Journal 64”) and Lars von Trier’s long-time DoP Manuel Claro (“Melancholia”, “The Kingdom”). Major Scandi actors in the lead will be announced close to shooting date.
“Rome” is being co-produced with Italy’s Vivo Film and Sweden’s GimmeABreak, with support from the Danish Film Institute, the Swedish Film Institute, Eurimages, with co-financing from Scandi pubcasters TV 2 Denmark and SVT. Scandinavian distributor Scanbox, which has a first look deal with Motor, will handle the Danish release, lined up for November 2023. Sales are still open.
The next major feature project, “Stranger,” is a raw and suspenseful thriller-drama set in the Danish Stone Age. Mads Hedegaard makes his directorial debut, based on a script co-penned with Jesper Fink (“Margrete-Queen of the North”).
Tagged as “The Revenant” meets “Embrace of The Serpent,” “Stranger” turns on Aathi (16) and her younger brother’s quest for survival within the tribe that killed their family.
The pic was originally structured as a Danish-Polish co-production but will now involve minority co-pro partners Proton Cinema in Hungary and Mer Film in Norway. “We were originally going to shoot it on location in Poland’s primeval forest, but due to the nearby war in Ukraine, we’ve had to change plans,” Hjortdal explains. “Now we will shoot the entire film in a beautiful old forest outside of Budapest, and it’s exactly what we were looking for,” said the producer.
Filming scheduled for July 2023 is due to last for six weeks. So far, about 80% of the financing is confirmed, including Nordic distribution covered by Scanbox and world sales closed with a major company, to be announced at a later date.
Motor’s feature projects in development include “Bastard Love,” to be directed by “Star Wars: Andor Season 2“ and “Borg vs. McEnroe”’s Janus Metz.