On January 24th, members of the cast and crew of Ivalu gathered together for a screening of their film. Producer Rebecca Pruzan remembers how she was sitting next her Co-Producer Kim Magnusson (who is also her husband) as well as Anders Walter (Ivalu’s Director). Her children were sitting behind them. Eleven-year-old lead actress Mila Heilmann Kreutzmann was watching the completed film for the first time.
Then, as they watched the live announcement of the 2023 Oscar nominations in LA, Rebecca describes her reaction as “an explosion of joy… I was so happy and so proud.” Their film, Ivalu, had been nominated in the Best Live Action Short category! “It was filmed in Greenland, in a different language, and covering a taboo subject. And now it’s been nominated for an Oscar. It’s been a pretty crazy ride.”
Written and directed by Anders Walter (and co-directed by Pipaluk K. Jørgensen), Ivalu opens with majestic visuals of Greenland’s glaciers. Realizing that her older sister “Ivalu” (Nivi Larsen) has mysteriously disappeared, “Pipaluk” (the character played by Mila Heilmann Kreutzman) begins a desperate search across the Greenlandic landscapes. The pristine beauty of the glaciers with all their inherent dangers—emphasized by Rasmus Walter Hansen’s music—create the perfect atmosphere upon which the story builds and ultimately reveals its heartbreaking truth.
Rebecca felt an overwhelming need to tell the story of Ivalu to a wider audience.
A few years ago, Anders gave Rebecca a hard copy of Ivalu, known then only as an award-winning Danish graphic novel. Set in remote areas of Greenland, Morten Dürr and Lars Horneman’s horrifying story of sexual abuse, incest and suicide among children left Rebecca in tears. She immediately felt an overwhelming need to tell this story to a wider audience.
Rebecca had built a career at DR (the Danish Broadcasting Corporation) and had held many different positions since she first joined the company. In her final years at DR, she worked as a commissioning editor in children’s programming. She describes working on content for and about children as work that gave her a strong sense of purpose. “I love working with content for children. I think it’s the most important target group of all.”
Rebecca and Anders had previously worked together on projects focused on children in need (including bullying and living as children of alcoholic parents). Even so, at first they found the content of Dürr and Horneman’s graphic novel to be too harsh for the screen. “The novel itself is beautifully drawn with almost childish colors. It’s very poetic. But the story is so brutal.” Nevertheless, Rebecca explained that she “felt an obligation to leave the audience with more than just hopelessness… I felt like we needed to give Ivalu something more, give it some sense of hope.”
The Ivalu team wanted to communicate some hope for Pipaluk’s future, that “she’s not alone, she’s seen, and there’s a community around her.”
Eventually, the team all came to a mutual agreement: the story would need to be adjusted if they were to make a film out of it. They didn’t want to leave their audience in tears and sadness. Instead, they wanted to communicate some hope for Pipaluk’s future, that “she’s not alone, she’s seen, and there’s a community around her.” This film version of the Ivalu story shows the audience the importance of finding the courage to communicate such experiences to the people around you.
Even though there are a lot of reports and documented facts on the topic of incest, Rebecca found little film or literature that covered the subject matter, so, for her, this film can become one of the ways in which professionals can open up the conversation with young people who have experienced such trauma.
Rebecca said she always wanted Ivalu to have a “bigger life.” She describes the “first life” of the film as gaining worldwide recognition from critics and filmmakers. Now, the Oscar nomination has also given Ivalu a “second life.” She is collaborating with Gyldendal (one of the biggest publishing houses in Denmark), and will also be working with the Save the Children – an international NGO – to increase awareness among the youth about taboo subjects such as incest.
When it came to the physical production experience, Rebecca said that even though the work of a producer was similar to what she’d done before, the experience of being a part of this film was very unique. Although the original core team was based in Denmark, most of the filming was done in Greenland. Top that with the travel restrictions imposed by COVID, and the team had to rely on casting over computer-based video calls. Pipaluk K. Jørgensen was brought on to work on casting, however, she ended up playing such an integral role that she became the co-director, handling a lot of the actual direction of the children.
Rebecca found the guide’s love of Greenland and the nature around him very inspiring, and this shared love of their surroundings can be felt in the film’s beautiful cinematography by Rasmus Heise.
The production itself required a lot of extra planning and contingency shoot days because of Greenland’s unpredictable climate. Since they planned to shoot in temperatures below zero degrees fahrenheit, they hired a local glacier guide to ensure everyone’s safety. Rebecca remembers asking the guide “how he would take us there and how he knew it was safe. He was very calm and said ‘the ice whispers to me.’ He knew exactly what he was doing.” Rebecca found his love of Greenland and the nature around him very inspiring, and this shared love of their surroundings can be felt in the film’s beautiful cinematography by Rasmus Heise.
Rebecca believes the media has a big responsibility to portray all types of children, and to develop characters that they can see themselves in. This is especially so given the dominating role that media and social media play in children’s lives. Throughout this project, the importance of representation of children in need has been a key driving factor because “every child is different.”
Rebecca says Swedish author Astrid Lindgren has made “a tremendous difference to a lot of girls… in her stories she gives them superpowers.”
For a long time, Rebecca says she has looked up to Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, best-known for her children’s series Pippi Longstocking. Rebecca says Lindgren has made “a tremendous difference to a lot of girls… in her stories she gives them superpowers.”
Rebecca Pruzan is exceptionally humble and never forgets to thank her team. She also credits her husband—co-producer Kim Magnusson—by emphasizing that a supportive partner can make a world of a difference.
As Rebecca approaches her 50th birthday she describes how, as a woman, “just daring to try new things and trusting that you can do it” has been key for her. “Even though you’re starting at 50, you know there’s no time limit. There’s no expiration date.”
© Katusha Jin (2/14/23) – Special for FF2 Media®
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Watch the Trailer for Ivalu on YouTube.
Unfortunately, even though it was published—in Danish—in 2019, the graphic novel written by Morten Dürr and illustrated by Lars Horneman does not appear to be available (yet) in English. Here is a link to a French edition published in 2021. Read reviews in English here & let’s all keep our fingers crossed!
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured Photo (from left): Kim Magnusson and Rebecca Pruzan (Co-Producers) with Anders Walter (Director) on site in Greenland. (Color slightly enhanced by FF2 EIC Jan Lisa Huttner for dramatic effect.)
Middle Photo: Ivalu poster featuring Mila Heilmann Kreutzmann as “Pipaluk.”
Photos Provided by London Flair PR. Used by FF2 Media with permission. All Rights Reserved.
Bottom Photo: Astrid Lindgren at her typewriter. Statue created by Marie-Loise Ekman at Stora Torget, Vimmerby, Sweden. (16 July 2013) See complete credit info on Wikimedia.