The opening film of this year’s hastily – and impressively – digitised CPH:DOX festival, Kenneth Sorento’s The Fight for Greenland offers a balanced, clear-eyed view of an indigenous populace grappling with the prospect of autonomy from the Kingdom of Denmark.
Colonised by the Danish in the early 18th century, modern Greenland is viewed by many in the western world – the current incumbent of the White House included – as a resource-rich, commercial ‘asset’ rather than a country with its own rich culture and traditions. The Fight for Greenland follows four impassioned activists on both sides of the Denmark/Greenland divide: some dreaming of a fully-independent state in control of its own oil fields, fishing waters and destiny; others aware of the current social disparity but intent on improving standards of living in cooperation with Denmark.
One individual in favour of the latter is Tillie, a local politician putting the case forward for a “Kingdom of Denmark 2.0” – a system that offers more autonomy to the inhabitants of both Greenland and the Faroe Islands, whilst avoiding the “populist” anti-Danish rhetoric of independence. On the other side of the void is rapper Josef, his partner Paninnguaq, and student-cum-potential-parliament-member Kaaleeraq. Kaaleeraq is arguably the most complex of all the film’s subjects, relying on the Danish healthcare system to treat a degenerative eye condition while at the same time bemoaning the fact that Greenland cannot offer a comparable service to its citizens.
To its credit, The Fight for Greenland deftly flicks from micro to macro analysis. Complex discussions regarding Greenland’s trading rights and commercial infrastructure are juxtaposed with scenes of Josef and Paninnguaq getting traditional Inuit tattoos, or Paninnguaq putting forward the case for the use of the Greenlandic language in an amateur college production rather than purely Danish. Where the film does struggle, perhaps, is in convincingly fleshing out the “remain” argument beyond simple pragmatism. alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide are a scourge on the country’s youth, but it’s never made clear how Danish rule can help rather than hinder progress.
The 2020 digital edition of CPH:DOX runs from 18-29 March.