For an Oscar Shorts Category Veteran, His Nomination This Year Is “the Most Important Subject Matter I’ve Ever Dealt With”
When Kim Magnusson and Anders Walter make a film, their peers tend to pay attention. Their first collaboration, a 2012 short film called 9 Meter, was Oscar shortlisted, and they won an Oscar together in 2014 for the short Helium. Though they’ve made features—including the 2017 fantasy drama I Kill Giants—they continue to be drawn to the speed and independence of short films, and they’re back in the race this year with Ivalu, a live-action short about a Greenlandic girl searching for her missing older sister.
Adapted from the graphic novel of the same name, Ivalu is at once both a moving story about a sibling bond and a heartbreaking tale about the disappearance of a young woman, the titular Ivalu. The film is narrated by Pipaluk, the sibling left behind, whose memories of Ivalu grow more sinister as she realizes what has happened to her sister.
Though the story and the setting might be new for Ivalu writer-director Walter, the perspective isn’t. Nearly all of his films up until this point have featured youthful protagonists like Pipaluk. “It was very natural for me to want to do a story like this one,” Walter says. “For some reason I can’t explain, I just connect extremely well with stories about kids who find themselves in some kind of injustice or in a difficult situation. I feel like I want to defend them.” In Ivalu, which focuses on the issue of child sexual abuse that has plagued communities in Greenland, the mission is even more urgent. “This is the most important subject matter I’ve dealt with,” Walter says.
To make Ivalu, Walter turned to longtime collaborator and fellow Dane Magnusson—who with eight Oscar nominations and two wins, all in the live-action short category—is a titan of his field. This time, they added a third person to their creative partnership, Magnusson’s wife, producer Rebecca Pruzan, who took on the responsibility of getting local support in Greenland for the film, which takes full advantage of its location with stunning shots of the island’s barren coast and snow-covered mountains.
Codirector and Greenland native Pipaluk Jørgensen played a particularly essential role when the pandemic began, preventing Walter, Magnusson, and Pruzan from traveling to Greenland for casting. “She became my extended arm inside Greenland,” says Walter. “She was a tremendous force. She really knew how to tap into the kids and how to direct them, so it was quite easy for me to pick the right ones from the tapes.”
With just 56,000 residents, Greenland had a particularly limited pool of child actors, but Walter says he knew quickly he’d found his Pipaluk and Ivalu in Mila Heilmann Kreutzmann and Nivi Larsen, respectively. “They stood out right away,” he says of the actors, neither of whom had acted in a film prior to Ivalu. Their father is played by Angunnguaq Larsen, one of Greenland’s most well-known actors.
Ivalu joins live-action short nominees set in Luxembourg, Norway, Ireland, and Italy, a reflection of the Academy’s efforts to diversify its ranks with more international members. “The great thing about the Oscars is that this film gets to travel and it gets to be talked about,” says Walter, explaining that he wants to shine a brighter spotlight on the subjects at the heart of Ivalu. “Hopefully it also finds some of the victims so they feel like they have been seen or heard or recognized and maybe, hopefully, they feel less alone.”