TIFF 2008

"Far North"

Press Interviews with Michelle Yeoh and Asif Kapadia

Interviews with actress Michelle Yeoh and director Asif Kapadia during the Tromso International Film Festival, January 17-18 2008. Exclusive report from Tromso by Karl A. Roman

[photos by Karl A. Roman. click to enlarge]

Michelle Yeoh, talking to our Karl A. Roman during her stay in Tromso for the TIFF Film Festival Friday, 18 January, made it very clear that she really loved being back:

"I will remind you that I promised to come back for the screening of "Far North," but the true reason why I am here is my own longing for the unique nature and kind people of the North of Norway and Svalbard. I really feel that the filming last year made quite a few true friendships," said Michelle.

But she would not deny the fact that her stay in the cold and demanding environment of the arctic winter made deep changes in body and soul, so to speak.

"Working extremely long hours (in temperature) far below zero, makes your mind almost twist towards some kind of craziness. And this fact really helped my acting, because it in a way made the very odd ending of the film (which we definitely not are going to reveal) plausible". In my opinion the extreme environment plays a primary part in this film, not Michelle Krusiec or me.

Michelle also went on highly praising the honesty and truthfulness of her new friends in Norway through the Q and A session held by her and the director of "Far North," Asif Kapadia, after opening night in Tromso. I asked Michelle why she accepted the not very kind role of Saiva, and she replied that she has always been an adventurer, and this time the adventure offered new places of the world as well as in her own mind: "Especially towards the end of the movie I had to find a character far from what I like to think of as my own. I had to find a believable reason for such extreme acts between beloved ones."

"And now you accept the end?"

"In my mind it might not be the end. Anyway, I would like to see more. It is still very possible that life goes on for Saiva far north," said Michelle Yeoh thoughtfully.

But what about Asif Kapadia, the director, will he consider a follow up?

"Just now I have already laid this film behind me, and am working on new projects, but I can reveal that we as a matter of fact made another more definite ending, and maybe in the back of the mind there was a wish that made us choose not to use it."

The director was taken by the landscape, the very special light above the Polar Circle and the almost metropolitan lifestyle of the little town of Tromso, which is almost as "far north" as you can possibly live.

"The light and the arctic weather though turned out to become quite a challenge, since we at the end of the shooting session in October 2006, had only four hours daily of sufficient light. And at the same time hoping for the very necessary snow to fall and the light not to fall was a thrilling experience", said Asif.

His affection for Tromso was awakened when he was invited to show "The Warrior" at the Tromso International Film Festival in 2003, and that event made him change any plans he may have had to shoot the "Far North" in Canada. The five page long short story by the British feminist writer Mrs. Sara Maitland that made the seed grow towards a full evening movie are probably based on an Inuit fairy tale from the North of Canada. And as a matter of fact Asif Kapadia also told us that the very first words of the short story were: "Far north".

The film is now due to be shown in cinemas all over Norway, but Asif did not think it would be presented before the coming autumn, also having in mind the subtitling work (which still is the main way of making a foreign movie ready, since dubbing in Norway mostly is done for the kids).

In response on our question regarding release for the United States he could tell that the IFC has bought the film for distribution, but he did not think it would be ready for the cinemas sooner than this spring, making an autumn release the most likely time for presentation in USA.

Anyway, knowing that the film has already been listed among last year's 100 most important ones, but first of all after seeing it with my own eyes, and certainly not influenced by the fact that my 10 year old daughter is participating a tiny bit, I can assure the American audience that they have something great to look forward to. With my namesake Mr. Roman behind the camera Asif Kapadia and his team have made this very dramatic story into a great epos from a freezing cold but still exotic part of the Earth.

Michelle with Narissara Inkhai Roman

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