What do you get if you cross a classic Western with a strict, Christian sect in Central Europe? Rebecca Daly, the director of 'Good Favour' has an idea, and it features on this year's programme. Daly, who has was born and rasied in Ireland and was raised as a Catholic, has addressed thoese religious tensions in a moving picture with several Danish cast members.
Daly's made her feature film debut in 2011 with ’The Other Side Of Sleep’ (2011) which selected for the Director’s Fortnight in Cannes and Discovery section in Toronto. In 2016 her film ’Mammal’ participated in Berlinale Residency and premiered on Sundance Film Festival.
Her third feature film, 'Good Favour' is, as Daly puts it herself, a Western inspired "a-stranger-comes-to-town" story about a young, bruised man, who stumbles out of a forest and into a small, secluded Christian sect. The Jesus parable is plain to see in her clever drama about the fear of the unknown and the limits of benevolence. The Danish contributions include Lars Brygmann, Clara Rugaard, Alexandre Willaume and Baard Owe.
We met up with Daly to ask her about the film, who and what inspired her, and the slight abundance of Danes in the film. Catch the last screening Wednesday 10 October at Empire Bio at 22.00
CPH PIX: Why make a film about a christian sect? From where did you draw the inspiration to explore this theme?
Rebecca Daly: I’m from Ireland, where catholicism has been the dominant religion for a very long time. In recent times a lot of problems has emerged within the church, and people are becoming more aware of what happened in the church’s abuse of people in the past. I’m not a religious person, but I was raised as a catholic. My grandmother, who died as we were shooting the film, was a very religious person, and she understood that these abuses had happened. But she could sort of encompass the whole thing and accept the problems because her faith was strong and overruled the horrors of the past. I found that quite interesting how someone could have such a complex relationship with their faith. On one hand understanding the problems yet sticking to the church because of its greater good.
The society is very isolated and strictly controlled by the leader (Lars Brygmann). Where did the inspiration for such a radical society come from?
There are communities like this in Europe for people who don’t want to live in the wider world because they wish to reject modern temptations such as television or social media.
We were inspired particular by the Hutterites in North America, who live of agriculture and then sell the products outside of the community. Actually the Hutterites would have more technology than our community did, but we were quite inspired by them and by their particular faith. However we adapted it to our needs as well and created our own concept of a community inspired by them.
It’s a very international film and the spoken language is english - yet few of the characters are natively English speakers. Can you tell me about this choice not just to cast English speakers?
The idea is that they’ve come to the community from different countries. What brought them together is their shared faith and their unwillingness to be in the wider world. We thought it made sense for their common language to be English, yet the story is set in Germany.
We wanted it to be in Central Europe, because it create some political resonances in relation to Tom as a stranger entering such a closed community, as if he comes from outside of Europe - or even further away. In that way it is a classic stranger-comes-to-town story like a western. I used to say it’s a religious western.
What is the story behind the many Danes in the cast?
We wanted European actors from different countries but with good english skills. And there is definitely a perception of Danish actors as being particularly strong, which is why I specifically sought out Danish actors. We were able to find a Danish co-producer who could facilitate that.
Actually often times what happens is that you enter co-production which results in a cast of actors from different countries. But it was the reversed incident in this case, because I wanted to work with Danish actors and therefor ended up in a co-production.
Your film contains quite a few symbols and biblical references, and they seems to be used in a very magical way where reality is challenged. What was the thoughts behind that?
I wanted to push the boundaries of reality. It’s possible that everything that happens is real, but it’s also possible that it’s some sort of hallucination, or even something miraculous. In order to walk that line and allow for all these possibilities to exist in those surreal moments, it had to be depicted very close to reality. I was interested in making the reality of those moments just a little bit off kilter and not create a situation where you think “wow, that’s a really strange moment”.
An example of one of these symbolic elements is the abundance of bees in the film. What’s up with them?
Well I’m interested in bees and how they’re environmentally linked, and how the loss of bees signify environmental damage and to things deteriorating. So to me the bees signify that all is not well in the community. But in the bible there is a passage where God sends a plague of locusts, so I suppose it was a bit of reference to that as well.
What has it been like screening the film at festivals?
It has been a really good and interesting experience. Faith is a very personal thing, and when people watch the film they bring their very personal experiences to it. That’s the best part about being a filmmaker, when the audience talk to you about how they interact in a personal way with the film. I think the film leaves a lot of scope for people to insert themselves and understand it from their own perspective, which often leads to some interesting discussions.