The playful existential film by Danish documentary filmmaker Max Kestner (“Blue Collar White Christmas,” “Amateurs in Space”) is shepherded by Denmark’s Bullitt Film (Prix Europa for “Absolute Beginners”), with Ruben Östlund’s Swedish banner Plattform Produktion and the U.K.’s Hopscotch Films (“Story of Film”). Bullitt and Plattform teamed up earlier on the 2023 Sundance special jury prize winning doc “And the King Said, What a Fantastic Machine.”
Commenting on the DR Sales pick up, Kim Christiansen, executive producer, in charge of documentaries and co-productions, says: “Max Kestner has for decades been one of the most intelligent filmmakers in Denmark, and I have personally been a huge fan since his 2002 TV series ‘Blue Collar White Christmas,’ which in tone and humor was way ahead of its time.”
“It’s a privilege to work with Max on his finest and sharpest film to date. The film is funny, clever, polemical and we hope it will spark debates, wherever it will be shown. There’s no doubt the film will travel far,” he observes.
In “Life and Other Problems,” Kestner sets out on an adventurous journey of self-discovery and existential questioning, which was sparked more than a decade ago by … the killing of a giraffe. Back in 2014, the shooting of the gentle mammal Marius at the Copenhagen Zoo and live autopsy in front of a crowd went viral and created global outrage.
Combining philosophical reflections with a scientific vantage point from experts such as biologists Karen Lloyd, Eske Willerslev and Charles Foster, author of the New York Times best-seller “Being a Beast,” Kestner explores how we humans perceive life, our own position in the ecosystem and connection to other species.
Going back to the “spectacular murder mystery of the Danish giraffe Marius,” Kestner says the animal’s death “is a fantastic example of how both interested and confused we humans are when it comes to life, individual lives as well as life on the planet in general. And I share that confusion!,” he tells Variety. “Is life governed by chance or by will for example?,” he asks.
Reflecting on his artistic endeavor and existential journey, Kestner says the biggest challenge was “perhaps predictably” that science cannot answer the big questions previously answered by religion, although he pays tribute to the “brave and imaginative scientists” who “threw themselves in the deep sea of uncertainty, with care and sensitivity.”
The film is ultimately “a series of completely impossible situations where everyone tries to help someone else – me!,” says the helmer, playfully. “You can say it’s love in action. And in a magical way, the very attempt of asking these questions becomes a form of tribute to the free intelligence, how mediocre it may be for each one of us,” he says.
Produced by Bullitt Film’s founder Vibeke Vogel, “Life and Other Problems” will bow March 12 at CPH:DOX’s opening gala and will compete for the festival’s main DOX:Award.
DR Sales’ large slate of premium documentaries takes in the Norwegian film “A New Kind of Wilderness,” which took home the world cinema grand jury prize at the recent Sundance Film Festival.
Copenhagen’s leading international documentary festival CPH:DOX will be running March 12-24.