Acclaimed Danish documentary maker and poet Joergen Leth, whose The Five Obstructions, his collaboration with Lars von Trier, is being shown as part of IDFA's special programme and which has been nominated for a European Film Award, has confirmed that he has put his Tour de France project on hold and will instead push ahead with a number of other projects, including one involving von Trier.
The $635,000 (Eu538,000) cycling documentary, which was to have depicted the cycling event as a 'work
of art', had been entered into The Forum, IDFA's three-day co-production financing session, but was pulled at the last minute.
"The reason people want me to do a Tour de France film is obvious - because I have done films about that subject before and it is very close to my heart. But I also have to think if I can do anything that matches the earlier films," Leth told IDFA Screen Daily before his IDFA masterclass yesterday.
"I also had doubts about priorities. I have several projects that I am developing and I was hesitant about putting forward this one now ahead of the others. So I had a dispute with my producer [Mikael Opstrup of Final Cut Production in Copenhagen] about that and told him I would like to wait. That is a big headache for him as he went as far as to get the project accepted at the Forum. I had hoped it would have been withdrawn earlier."
Leth says he is now likely to press ahead with Bayreuth - Lars Von Trier Doing Wagner, a documentary tracking von Trier and German conductor Christian Thielemann's staging of Richard Wagner's Ring Der Nibelungen in Bayreuth in summer 2006. Berlin-based production outfit Razor Film, which was set up earlier this year by former Senator Film executives Gerhard Meixner and Roman Paul, will co-produce with Copenhagen's Zentropa Entertainment's non-fiction arm Zentropa Real.
"Von Trier asked me to do a film about the mise-en-scene surrounding his production of Wagner's Ring. I think I will accept that challenge; I feel attracted to it and would like to take it on. He has asked me to do the 'Joergen Leth film' about that, so it is not a question of doing a portrait of him.
"Filming this really fantastic challenge of him coming face-to-face with the Wagner mythology as a documentary sounds exciting to me. I have taken a long time considering the project, but I finally made a decision and recently talked to Lars about entering it."
Leth is also working on two pictures with Marianne Christensen, a producer at Nordic production company Nordisk Film. The first to be completed will be Stories From Aarhus, a portrait of his home town. Leth described the picture as "a smaller film for a young audience, an assignment more or less, about my childhood town, a kind of memoir in my own style." The project will shoot in September 2004 and is set to be completed in late 2004 or early 2005.
The other Nordisk project is The Erotic Human, which the Danish Film Institute looks likely to back. In this piece of docu-fiction, the film-maker sets out to investigate the different forms of eroticism around the world and slowly gets ever more involved with his subject matter.
Locations include Brazil, Senegal, India, Japan and Iceland. He has already shot sequences in Rio de Janeiro and Haiti. The picture is unlikely to wrap before the end of 2004 and will not be ready for release until the last half of 2005. Although financing for the project is yet to be finalised, Leth said "there is a lot of interest in it, so it is not a problem".
The Tour de France film too may yet be made. "It is possible that I will come back to the project," said Leth. "The piece has a lot going for it but I just want to postpone it a little bit."