At the recent Venice Film Festival, Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen and director Nikolaj Arcel were questioned regarding the lack of diversity in their 18th-century drama, “The Promised Land.” The film focuses on Ludvig Kahlen, a character who arrives in Denmark to cultivate the land but encounters various challenges. One of the main actors is a black woman, included for the sake of historical accuracy.
A reporter asked why there weren’t more black actors in the film, implying that it lacked diversity. The reporter pointed out new diversity rules in Hollywood and wondered whether the film’s perceived lack of diversity might jeopardize its chances of competing in the best picture category.
Mikkelsen interrupted the reporter, asking him to clarify his question. The reporter restated his query, asking, “There is said some rules of diversity across the Atlantic for competing in the best picture, the equivalent to this competition. 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. Are you worried about that?”
Mikkelsen responded by turning the question back on the reporter, saying, “You’re putting us on the spot so you answer the question.”
The reporter then mentioned the South Korean movie “Parasite” which had a “level of diversity” and was eligible for the competition, suggesting that “The Promised Land” faced a conundrum due to its all-Nordic cast.
After expressing his confusion over the question, Mikkelsen allowed Arcel to address it. Arcel explained, “Well, first of all, the film takes place in Denmark in the 1750’s, 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 and almost nobody, she was probably at the time the only one in the entire country of Denmark so I would say that it hasn’t been, it wasn’t a thought in our minds, that I think it would be a little weird, you know, if – it’s just a historical [portrayal] of how it was in 1750.”