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Short Films from a Small NationDanish Informational Cinema 1935-1965$
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C. Claire Thomson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474424134

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474424134.001.0001

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A Free Hand: The Art Film versus the Art of Documentary

A Free Hand: The Art Film versus the Art of Documentary

(p.143) 8. A Free Hand: The Art Film versus the Art of Documentary
Short Films from a Small Nation

C. Claire Thomson

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter focuses on the short art film, a genre which emerged around 1950 to mediate the visual and plastic arts, often for international exchange. Danish films about national cultural heritage and the applied arts were the focus for state-sponsored film. These often circulated very widely: the production and distribution of Shaped by Danish Hands (Hagen Hasselbalch, 1948) and Thorvaldsen (Carl Th. Dreyer, 1949) are detailed as examples of Danish films seen by millions of international viewers. The chapter also highlights the artistry of the informational filmmakers themselves, as institutional practice: the principle that the director should have a ‘free hand’ to interpret the brief. An example of an alternative circuit for the screening of art films in Denmark is detailed: art film screening series at Thorvaldsen’s Museum. Debate about the extent to which state-sponsored filmmaking should pursue art and to what extent documentary itself was an art form marks the late 1950s, as changes in leadership and funding shift practice and priorities within Dansk Kulturfilm. The chapter ends with a discussion of one of the agency’s final productions, Herning 65, which captures a site-specific artwork in a factory in the town of Herning.

Keywords:   Danish cinema, Art film, Carl Th. Dreyer, Thorvaldsen’s Museum, Herning

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