The music biopic about the biggest Norwegian pop band ever had its world premiere at Tribeca’s Spotlight Documentary section, ahead of its Norwegian launch September 3rd.
A long-time a-ha fan and former band musician himself, documentary director and producer Thomas Robsahm (Modern Slavery, Punx), together with co-director Aslaug Holm (Generation Utøya, Brothers), have made an honest and fascinating portrait of the a-ha trio Pål Waaktaar-Savoy, Magne Furuholmen and Morten Harket.
Mixing archive material - including never seen before footage - fly on the wall, animation and current footage from the band filmed between 2016-2020, the film tells the full success story behind the a-ha brand. How the trio met, burst onto the international music scene with their 1985 hit ‘Take on Me’, and continue to fill stadiums with fans from Japan, Scandinavia to Brazil. However backstage, a battle of egos wages. The trio’s personal conflicts force them to split on several occasions, but the a-ha brand brings them back together, again and again.
The film was produced in Norway by Robsahm and Motlys’ Yngve Sæther, in co-production with Fenris Film, Germany’s Kinescope Film and Neue Impuls, support among others from Nordisk Film & TV Fond. Broadcasters that have secured rights include TV2 Norway, SVT, Yle, RÚV, ZDF for Arte France/Germany, VRT Belgium, SRF and RTS Switzerland, YES Israel, ERT Greece.
The film will be released in Scandinavia via Euforia (Norway), TriArt (Sweden) and Øst for Paradis (Denmark). First Hand Films handles world sales and theatrical distribution in Switzerland.
Robsahm is also producer of several award films including Joachim Trier’s Louder than Bombs, Thelma and 2021 Cannes competition entry The Worst Person in the World.
a-ha-The Movie world premiered on June 12 at the Tribeca Film Festival. The festival runs until June 20.
TO SEE THE TRAILER CLICK HERE.
Robsahm answered our questions via email.
How important is it for you to launch the film at Tribeca?
Thomas Robsahm: It’s great to open in the country where a-ha were number 1 in 1985. Pity, we could not be there, though...
When did you first have the idea to make a documentary about a-ha the group, and why did you want to make this film? In the 80s you played in various bands, but it was punk and post-punk - far from pop music…
TR: For years I have wanted to make a film about a band or artist making an album. I asked a-ha in 2009 and they were positive, the only problem was: there were not going to be any more albums, because they were splitting up! Then they came back together, of course, but they’ve not made new music since I started filming, so that film is still to be made.
How long did you follow a-ha and how approachable were Morten Harket, Magne Furuholmen and Pål Waaktaar-Savoy during the entire filming process?
TR: They were very approachable separately, but it’s not often the three are in the same room, except when on stage.
What idea did you have of a-ha before starting the filmmaking process and what vision do you have of them now as artists and human beings?
TR: I’ve been a fan for ages and I had met Magne a few times before we started. I thought the process would be more difficult, but they are all very nice people. And funny. Again: Separately. As a band they are hard to nail down.
Aslaug Holm is credited as co-director. How did you split your directing duties and what did she bring to the project?
TR: I’ve known Aslaug for ages and she did a great job with the Norwegian doc classic Cool & Crazy (2001) as DoP and editor. Also, I was one of her consultants on her masterpiece Brothers (2015). I invited her to take part in the film mainly as director of photography, but I also wanted her to be alone with Morten, Magne and Pål at times, and it worked out great, especially with Morten. She had a very important part in the making of the film. Same goes for editor Hilde Bjørnstad, who spent months and months editing, and producer Yngve Sæther. I couldn’t have made it without these three.
How did you have access to the enormous amount of photographic, footage archive material? What were the biggest challenges in the editing room while going through this material?
TR: The amount of material to go through and clearing it was a really big job. Hilde Bjørnstad did an amazing and wonderful job researching a lot, in addition to what I did myself, and we got some really great, never before published material from Magne. Lauren Savoy - Påls wife - also gave us lots of stuff.
You had the brilliant idea to use animation for the parts describing Morten, Magne and Pål’s childhood, and the rotoscoping animation is strikingly similar to Steve Barron’s video of Take on Me, considered one of the best animated music videos of all time. Who did the animation? How costly was it?
TR: It was done by director Julia Müller at Darwin Buffet Studio. The idea was that since there is not that much archive from the early days, I wanted to use the same technique as ‘Take on Me’ for the early years.
The film was originally meant to launch worldwide last November, and the Norwegian release was schedule to coincide with the a-ha concert in Oslo November 28…all this had to be cancelled due to Covid-19. What’s the plan now for the film’s distribution in Norway and around the world? Will you be able again to tie the film’s theatrical release to a-ha concerts?
TR: The premiere in Norway will be on Sept 3rd, unfortunately more than half a year before a-ha will play in Oslo again. But, there will be a special screening connected with their shows at Oslo Spektrum - for the fans who bought tickets ages ago.
Has the band seen the film? What has been their reaction?
TR: Some of them like it, and some don’t...
What will be your next film as director?
TR: Who knows… I guess I will have to continue as a producer to make a living.
Will you be in Cannes to walk up the red carpet of the Palais des Festivals in July with Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World that you’ve produced?
TR: Yes, I will!