At the 2023 Venice Film Festival, actor Mads Mikkelsen and director Nikolaj Arcel were questioned about the lack of diversity in their new film, Bastard, which is a Danish production and has an all-white cast. The question was asked by a journalist, also Danish, who probably did not know how to ask it, since it was clearly not to the liking of the actor, who responded between laughter and discomfort.
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Bastardalso known as The Promised Landis an epic historical film based on the book The Captain and Ann Barbara of Ida Jessen, and tells the story of Ludvig Kahlen (Mikkelsen), a soldier who arrives on the arid plain of Jutland in 1755, and has the ambition to cultivate the land following the king’s call, in search of wealth and honor. However, he faces off against the ruthless landowner Frederik De Schinkel, who considers the land his own. It had its world premiere at the 80th Venice International Film Festival and will screen at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Why isn’t Bastarden diverse?
Due to the time in which it is set, the journalist’s question seems a little out of place, although after pointing out the lack of diversity he asked if they are worried about the rules for competing in the Oscars:
It is a Danish cast and production, totally Nordic. Therefore, one would say that there is a certain lack of diversity, and there are also new implicit rules in Hollywood. Some diversity rules on the other side of the Atlantic to compete for Best Picture (…) if you do not live up to these standards with this film, and it is curious, because it is not for artistic reasons, but for lack of diversity, that it cannot participate in that competition. They are worried?
Mikkelsen laughed at the question and replied:
You are? I’m being honest because you’re putting us on the spot, so you answer the question.
After that, the subject clarified his point (or tried to). It seems that his intention was to point out that he found the diversity rules unfair, since in the case of Parasites- 100%, a South Korean film starring entirely Koreans, won the Oscar for Best Picture:
In comparison, Parasite was a great movie coming from South Korea, it had the same level of diversity, but coming from South Korea it was still eligible for the competition. In its case, as a Danish film with a completely Nordic cast, it is not, and that is an enigma.
Mikkelsen simply said that he didn’t understand the question, so the director said that the historical context did not allow for diversity:
First of all, the movie takes place in Denmark in the 1750s. We had a big plot about a black girl who is being subjected to racism, and it was very rare for there to be any black people in Denmark, almost no one; probably at that time she was the only one in the entire country. So I’d say it wasn’t a thought in our minds…I think that would be a little strange…that’s what it was like in the 1750s.
Perhaps the journalist was misunderstood and that is why his question seems malicious, but his example of parasites suggests that what he wanted to know was the actor and director’s opinion on Hollywood’s diversity rules, which do not allow a film with a white cast from Denmark to compete at the Oscars, but allow a film from Korea to compete at the Oscars. Bastard also stars Amanda Collin, Simon Bennebjerg, Melina HagbergKristine Kujath Thorp, Gustav Lindh, Morten Hee Andersenand Thomas W. Gabrielsson, among others.
You can see the original video here.
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