Interview with Oliver Tonning

In our continuing series of Fringe! 2012 director interviews, we had a chance to discuss Denmark, obstacles in love and fencing (quite possibly our new sporting addiction) with Oliver Tonning, who’s short film Allez is playing at Fringe! 2012. In Allez, shy teenager Sofia grapples with her crush on fencing classmate Trine. When Trine announces she’s leaving the team, Sofia quickly realises she must proclaim her love, no matter who stands in her way. Allez will screen as part of Fringe! 2012 presented by GIRLS LIKE US through their GENERATIONS LIKE US event at XOYO on Saturday 14th April 2012 at 2pm. Entry is free.

Oliver Tonning

Oliver Tonning

On screen, the short comes across as a very personal story about a lesbian teen. Is this based on any real life experience with someone close to you or was it an original story? If so, how did it develop?

The movie was based on my friend and the producer of the
film, Marisol Ortiz, own life story. It was her first lesbian crush in elementary school. The story started out as a normal high school crush story, but we found it boring and unoriginal, so we brainstormed about other circumstances in which the story could develop.

Of course we were thinking about the LGBT audience, but the
story isn’t that much about a gay/lesbian relationship, as it is about the first unexplainable fascination you get. The film reaches out to every other young people who experiences this fascination. And we tried to make very clear to ourselves that it wasn’t a homosexual film, but a story about fascination and love – because love between two of the same sex is the same as love between two straight people, and should be treated no differently. Only the obstacles are different.

Luise Skov in Allez

Luise Skov in Allez

I have to concede that I haven’t seen much onscreen fencing in films, especially in LGBT films. It’s such a specific sport. Was there any particular reason you chose this?

I used to fence at the same club where we shot the film, and I have always been fascinated about fencing. So therefore I suggested that we made a “sport-related crush” instead of it being the typical school crush, and she was on! – as you said yourself it is a very visually beautiful setting to let the story evolve in. Also, the fight between the fencers is an image of the fight she is fighting herself.

Anna Stokholm in Allez

Anna Stokholm in Allez

How did you go about casting the film? Did you have any problems because of the content?

I had no problem about finding the cast to the film, everyone was really open about it.

Generally people in Denmark are open-minded about homosexuality, and the issue isn’t that big as it is in a lot of other countries. The Danish fencing society has also promoted the film, but doesn’t seem that open-minded about the lesbian content. I think they are afraid of getting involved in stereotypical representations of the fencing sport, which I think is a shame. Because all in all, it’s just another love story.

What do you have coming up next?

Right now I’m still a student at The Copenhagen Film and
Photo School, and we are just about to start-up on our final project. What it is about, I can’t say yet.

Oliver currently resides in Nørrebro in Copenhagen. He works in film. Allez has been screened at The Grand Theatre in Copenhagen.

Allez will screen as part of a series of short films and a discussion on the theme of lesbian generations hosted by the magazine GIRLS LIKE US at their event GENERATIONS LIKE US. The screening will take place at XOYO, 32-37 Cowper Street, London EC2A 4AW on 14th April 2012 at 2pm. Entry is free.


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