Rie Rasmussen On HUMAN ZOO,
By Paul Fischer in Los Angeles.
The gorgeous and uncompromising Rie Rasmussen was born in Denmark in 1978 to an artist mother and an Economist father. She was raised in the Danish country in an extended family with nine brothers and sisters. She moved to New York at the age of 15 to paint and has continued to travel ever since. She lived in Huntington Beach California where she briefly attended film school as a director in 1998. While writing in Paris she was cast in Brian De Palmas Femme Fatale After her role in Brian De Palma’s film she was picked by director Tom Ford as the exclusive worldwide face of Gucci. At the age of 24 she directed her first short film, Thinning the Herd which she also wrote and acted in. Thinning the Herd nominated for a Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival 2004. She opened Taormina film festival with her second short film ‘Il Vestito’ which she also wrote and appeared in. Shot on location in Palermo, Sicily as a black and white homage to Italian Neo-realism. In 2005 she was cast as the lead in Luc Besson’s Angel-A a French speaking black and white fairytale set in Paris. Human Zoo her first fe ature which she wrote, directed and produced was officially selected at last years Berlin Film Festival and was the opening night Panorama presentation. The film opened in the New Beverly cinema in Los Angeles before making the rounds around the country. The non-linear film casts the director as young Serbian-Albanian Adria Shalam an illegal immigrant traumatized by her past. Every now and then Adria recalls her life in Kosovo, when she was saved from rape by a deserter called Srdjan Vasiljevic in 1999. They move to Belgrade where Srdjan becomes a gangster, dealing weapons and becoming an assassin. Adria learns how to shoot and helps Srdjan with his work at first, becoming his mistress later. The film switches back and forth between Marseilles and Kosovo.
The former supermodel talked to PAUL FISCHER in this exclusive chat about her life and work, as only the outspoken filmmaker can.
Paul Fischer: Where did the desire to become a filmmaker come from, given your background?
R.R: My life is a living testament to filmmaking. I was born in Denmark and it was quite the opposite of your lovely country. It was dark, rainy not much of a promise of anything and escape. Then there are Hollywood movies and that is where you go. Also I had a weekend father who had me every other weekend. So you get a bunch of videotapes, get some burgers and that was how I learned all about the movies and directors such as Sergio Leone, Kurosawa, Scorsese, Woody Allen you know, everything. So that’s what I did: I escaped from the dreariness of Denmark and discovered cinema at a very young age.
P.F: So what is realistic for you to become a filmmaker as you’re growing up given walked you’re going through as a child?
R.R: That reality came about when I went to California. I’m also a graphic illustrator and I wanted to be a Disney animator when I was younger. And at15 I came to America, New York city, and I had a vague concept that films more like one fluid piece of art. I followed a surfer boy to California and what kind of stuck in that community was kind of making hi eight videos and that kind of shit. By the time I was 18 I was at the Hollywood film Institute. And learned hands on 35mm cameras Learned how to load film I’m from that point I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I could do my own storyboards and by then I was fucking around writing my own stuff. I already have this very eclectic traveling background ready but then I decided LA stories we’re not the stories but I was going to tell. I was going to tell International stories and so I ended up in Paris like Henry Miller living little crazy painting hot girls late at night and doing a bit more than just painting the girls if you know what I mean. But hey I’m an artist in Paris so what can I say? Then I was cast in Brian de Palma’s film, Femme Fatale, which was really massive. There was nothing cooler than Brian de Palma. Then the head of Gucci was the one who hired me to be the face of Gucci. That was crazy to be honest with you. Tom Ford wanted to make movies and subsequently has now and that’s what we connected on and that’s how happened. I was only in it for two years and then I worked with all creative geniuses and it did some pretty cool art. Two years after I’m making my first short film in 35 mm and 8 months later it’s opening at the Cannes film Festival.
P.F: Did you use all those modeling and fashion experiences impact your writers or goals as a filmmaker?
R.R: No I didn’t yet. Human Zoo is very autobiographical meaning my first year in America like a young girl at 15 launched into this different kind of mentality culture and society. And you know there was this alpha male dominated violence skateboarding community that I made it into so there was this whole parallel as to how I told Human Zoo. I mean this is a girl fighting for her own femininity at the same time learning the game. This was all very autobiographical and straight up what happened in my life. I haven’t integrated the fashion stuff into my writing as yet because it has to be a story for itself because of there is a fantastical element to it that had no roots in a story that is about the human zoo of life , the invisible borders that surround nationalities and cultures that are being discriminated against , of this ovarian lottery that we either win or lose. This is a story about raising a girl or raising a planet of people that accept each other. And because of fashion has no relevance in political schemes in the world it just didn’t fit in there at all.
P.F: Why the idea of exploring the Bosnian period of history with its brutality?
R.R: it was after Sarajevo and after Bosnia we have Kosovo. There is an amazing immigration conclave in Serbia that’s been there since the 70s and following Tito the communist leader at the time the Serbians took over. It was terrifyingm which is why Bill Clinton obviously came in. So, there was this pocket of ethnic cleansing and discrimination that was going on. Everything was weeded out and this was a massive political event even in American history And it was really awesome place to take this young girl out of and to put this sociopathic monster in there who’s not really a monster but who just fits in when there is anarchy in the social structure. I just loved the alpha male pointing out the humanity in the rest of us. That’s what I’m trying to tell the entire world like why are we separating from each other; it’s just so terrifying with Visa bloody borders around us.
P.F: Did you always intend to act in the movie?
R.R: No I felt maybe I can play a small part and that will be interesting and we went back and forth a zillion times but in the end it was just easier for me to do it. First it cost less when you have the director the writer and the actress as one person under the other guy Sean the American actor was a good friend and we’ve been creative partners for years. For me it was a very economical decision and an easy one.
P.F: There are some very graphic sex scenes in this movie. Was very important for you cannot make the sex scenes as realistic as possible?
R.R: Yes it was important because I always wanted to go and see a really good sex scene. God I was so tired of them cutting to the open mouth cut to the hair on the shoulder someone goes down but out of frame. No, no he is going down on her. This is what’s happening, this is sex and of this is how it should be and I want to see sex scenes that are better than real life. We got it all in one take and though it was a m*therf*cker of a scene to shoot it ultimately looked awesome.
P.F: And what’s next for you?
R.R: I have a script that I’ve just been attached to that one of my best friends called Nicolas Constantine wrote. It’s his first script and I can’t even believe how good it is. I’m actually really jealous of him. But now I get to direct it so I’m happy. Basically its a story about are we born evil or do we learn evil? Is it societal or is it genetic? It’s based on Philip Carlo’s book The Night Stalker about serial killer Richard Ramirez. And once I read the script I just couldn’t believe this f*cking story. This script is really fantastic.
P.F: I take it you won’t be in it?
R.R: No I will not be that I am not Hispanic.
THE HUMAN ZOO IS CURRENTLY SCREENING AT THE NEW BEVERLY CINEMA IN LOS ANGELES.
Rie Rasmussen On HUMAN ZOO,