Two filmmakers were asked by a reporter at the Venice Film Festival why their film about Daneland in the 1700s did not have a more diverse cast.
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen and director Nikolaj Arcel were asked to defend casting choices in their 18th-century drama, “The Promised Land.”
The film delves into the life of Ludvig Kahlen, a man who moved to Denmark to cultivate land, according to a report from the Daily Caller.
“The Promised Land” has been noted for its historical accuracy, including a black female actor in a lead role, according to the report.
“Hello, I am from Denmark and it’s a pleasure to be here,” a reporter prefaced his questioning.
“So you’re a little bit into it, this is a cast and Danish production, which is entirely Nordic, it therefore has some lack of diversity you would say,” the reporter continued. “There’s also new rules implied in Hollywood—”
Mikkelsen interjected, asking, “What are you onto?”
After some back and forth, the reporter clarified his question, wondering aloud if the film’s lack of diversity might run afoul of the new Oscar guidelines for best film awards.
“As I see, you don’t live up to these standards with this broadcast and there is just a curiosity, it’s not because of artistic reasons, because of lack of diversity that this can’t compete in that competition,” he stated.
“Are you worried about that?” the reporter asked.
“Are you?” responded Mikkelsen. “You’re putting us on the spot, so you answer the question.”
The reporter then mentioned the South Korean film “Parasite,” which had a diverse cast and was eligible for competitions, contrasting its cast with the predominantly Nordic cast of “The Promised Land.”
Mikkelsen expressed confusion at the line of questioning, but Arcel to stepped in to explain their casting decisions.
“Well, first of all, the film takes place in Denmark in the 1750s,” Arcel explained. “We do have a big plot line you know about a girl of color who is being subjected to racism and you know and which was very rare [to have] any people of color in Denmark.”
Arcel added the female was probably the only black woman in Denmark during the late 1700s, so they did not think about altering history to meet Hollywood diversity milestones.
“It’s just a historical [portrayal] of how it was in 1750,” Arcel said about their movie.