Into the Blue

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Ömer Sami

Is there a particular documentary film or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

Frederick Wiseman and Marc Isaacs.

What motivated you to make this film?

Into the Blue is a continuation of my work telling intimate stories that explore themes of belonging, generational legacy, and loss of innocence among a world of contradictions. When I discovered the bootcamp, usually barred from the press, I saw potential for creating a unique microcosm of Danish society, and a lens through which to examine universal teenage social dynamics. I wanted to challenge preconceived notions of the government’s so-called “ghetto” areas and the people living there.

Through ‘playing cops’ I wanted to explore the girls’ ideas about the police, its role in society, and the values they chose to impart upon the girls. In Tatheer I saw an introverted yet observant young woman with a vivid inner life. I knew that through her journey we could experience the bootcamp and its dynamics in a way that is both intimate and insightful.

Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it: 

Sony FX6 – it’s very light, perfect for handheld shooting.

How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be? 

Going into the shoot, we were given no details about the specific activities of the bootcamp – just like the girls. In that sense, I had a gut feeling that something happen within Tatheer during the week, but couldn’t guarantee it. For the first 3 days she remained very much outside the group as an observer, and I was concerned that there would be no film. I could never have imagined what would happen during the ‘trust exercise’ culminating in the lake. (In fact, it was a mistake that she goes underwater – she was supposed to be caught by the person in the water). Nonetheless I felt incredibly uncomfortable bearing witness to that and felt complicit in something I disagreed with. I was certain that I would never use that scene in the film. But after that event, it was as if Tatheer became noticed by the group. She came out her shell and her self-confidence suddenly developed. I realised it was a crucial moment for her, and that she saw it as a moment of triumph instead of defeat.

Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this film: 

Watching Tatheer stand up for herself and challenge authority at the end of the film. It was also the very last thing we recorded, which feels true to her experience.

What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Follow your instincts and don’t overthink. Make something that is important to you, that moves you, and there’s a high chance it will do so for others.

What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

The element of surprise. When you are entirely present in a moment and things happen or someone does or says something that you could never have imagined yourself. It is humbling and mind-opening.

What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why?

Water bottle. If you are not hydrated you will wilt like a flower!

Please share a personal story about your experience making this film:

I had a dream of making the score entirely from sounds of the girls voices and bodies. A kind of visceral choir. But when I brought them together to record it, they thought it was the most boring, worst idea ever and would run out the room every 20min to look at handsome boys walk by. I eventually gave up and played some of the Danish rap you hear in the film, and suddenly they became fully engaged. I learned a valuable lesson not blinding imposing your own ideas upon reality – when to hold on, and when to let go.

Can you describe any obstacles you encountered in making your film and/or in your distribution/exhibition efforts?

I am yet to find a distributor! The general response from distributors has been very positive, but they have cited the following issues: relatively violent content, length, spoken language. I’m currently in discussion with an outlet.

What do you want audiences to take away from this video?

To reflect on your own ideas about the police, your own relationship to authority, and your own transformative experiences.

Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion: 

Role of police in society

What values do the police want to impart upon the girls? How do the girls view the police?

Why do they want to participate?

Representation within the police force

The conversation around race and policing has never been more urgent.

Women and minority groups are both underrepresented in the Danish Police. Of all active police officers, 18% are female and just 2% have immigrant backgrounds (versus 10% of the eligible population). Women with immigrant backgrounds are especially underrepresented – comprising just 10 out of 1404 in the Police Academy class of 2019. The police account for this discrepancy with the fact that recruits must have Danish citizenship.

Notion of ‘deprived housing area’ (specifically ‘Ghetto law in Denmark’)

I want to challenge preconceived ideas about ‘Ghetto’ areas and the people that live there.

Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the video. How have things changed or not changed?

Tatheer is thriving personally. The police continue the same program for other groups. The Danish Police force is currently dealing with numerous accusations of abuse and misuse of power. 

What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

Contact me.

Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.):


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