Aesthetic Documentary

We are used to seeing skateboards in cities and on the hard asphalt. This shows the first attempt to bring them into nature and skate on frozen sand beaches in Norway. Both documentary and a stunning piece of cinematography, Northbound exemplifies the strengths that the genre is making in terms of visual narratives. Jørn Nyseth Ranum expands on inspiration and intent.

ASFF: Where did you get the inspiration for Northbound?
JNR: The idea for Northbound came when I was out surfing in Northern Norway. It was one of the coldest days of the year, and when I came back upon shore after the surf session I noticed that the sand had turned rock solid by the cold weather. So the idea of trying to skateboard in this environment came to fruition. After some years, the Idea had been in the back of my head, and it grew bigger and bigger for each time I thought about it. After a while the idea  evolved from just skating directly on the sand to also try to build a full scale miniramp, and bring the best skaters into Norway to do this project. We spent about a year testing, and researching the idea before we found ourselves in Northern Norway in the middle of the winter.

ASFF: The film is inherently aesthetic, showcasing cinematography of the frozen landscape. How do you think that you find a balance between visuals and conceptual content?
JNR: I think that the visuals where kind of a part of the content. The film is about urban skaters trying to practice in an environment no one had ever tried before. It wasn’t about being rebels, skating a gritty trashy backyard or a street session where it about stomping a big trick on a huge staircase. It was about going out in nature, skating and experience something totally different. We wanted to show the beauty and rawness of the landscape, winds and the light.

ASFF: Who do you think is the main focus of the piece – the people or the environment?
I think this film is not more about one or the other, but its about merging two different worlds together. We really don’t get to know the person who is skating because its more about what they represent. That is why we wanted them to be in similar clothing and simply be people in the landscape.

ASFF: What do you think the purpose of the short is, and in extension, what the role of the filmmaker is in contemporary society?
For me this short is about seeing something familiar in a new way, and to explore what’s possible. Proving once again how skateboarders can change our interpretation of everyday surroundings. And isn’t this we do all the time as filmmakers or artists? Telling a story where you can relate somehow and try give the viewer a new perspective.

ASFF: How does your practice reflect this belief?
I like to learn something new. And the best part is if its not film related at all, but learning to see the world with different eyes and hopefully transfer the over to the screen.

ASFF: How does this piece compare to other films that you’ve worked on?
The other films I’ve done are usually connected to nature somehow. I like to push in a direction where the idea is original. I love to spend time outdoors and work with projects where you have to put a lot of effort into every shot to achieve the goal.

ASFF: Who is your favourite filmmaker and why?
It’s always difficult to answer who is my favorite filmmaker is. It’s like trying to figure out what my favorite food is. I love some filmmakers because they are so good at their craftsmanship. And some I admire because they are more artistic or creative in their production. I could make a long list over well known and unknown directors, cinematographers and sound artist. But I think it would change tomorrow. But for this film Spike Jonze is big inspiration.

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1. Trailer for Northbound. Courtesy of Vimeo.