'Don't ask me what genre Terribly Happy is, I wouldn't know,' says Henrik Ruben Genz cheerfully. It is a typical reaction from the Danish director of the Crystal Globe winner at last month's Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. After all, this is a man who prides himself on his lack of industry smarts and once sat near Clint Eastwood at the Academy Awards and failed to recognise him.
'I feel my way into each scene and my films end somewhere in the territory between melancholy drama and comedy while trying to stay loyal to a certain existential tone,' Genz says of his film-making style. His debut was the family feature Someone Like Hodder, which grossed around $1.6m (144,000 admissions) in Denmark. In 2006, Chinaman won international attention, picking up the Fipresci prize at Karlovy Vary and going on to screen at the Marrakesh and Seattle film festivals.
Like Peter Schonau Fog's 2007 Danish hit, The Art Of Crying, Terribly Happy is an adaptation of an Erling Jepsen novel. It is the story of a young policeman from Copenhagen who moves to a small town in southern Jutland and learns to respect the traditions of the region. Starring local names Jakob Cedergren, Kim Bodnia and Lars Brygmann, it is produced by Fine & Mellow Productions. TrustNordisk is handling international sales, securing deals to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. Nordisk is releasing the film in Denmark in October.
Genz was nervous before the world premiere in Karlovy Vary, concerned the international audience would not understand the film's humour. But he had nothing to worry about. 'The more specifically regional I thought the jokes were, the more people got it,' he says.
DVD copies of Terribly Happy are now in the post to international distributors and festivals. 'An A-list festival prize like the Crystal Globe means a lot of exposure we wouldn't get otherwise,' says Thomas Mai of TrustNordisk. 'Last year, Jar City, a film we also sold, won the same prize and sold to 15 countries outside Scandinavia including the US.'
HENRIK RUBEN GENZ'S CULTURAL LIFE
Favourite recent films: 'I was blown away by the master storytelling in Babel and Crash. It is way beyond what I can imagine to reach.'
Favourite books: 'I'm reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 and is touching me profoundly.'