Daniel Dencik – Moon Rider
Filming a cycling documentary on Super8 seems like a crazy idea these days, when it’s so easy to add any retro-filter you want to your digital footage in post-production with just one mouse-click. Nevertheless the guy to the right did it the old-fashioned way.
His name is Daniel Dencik. He’s a writer, editor and filmmaker from Copenhagen, Denmark, who just released his fascinating first documentary film “Moon Rider” as a director.
“Moon Rider” is the coming-of-age story about the Danish bike rider Rasmus Quaade who struggles to become a professional rider. Rasmus’ physical abilities are extra ordinary and build for cycling but his mind is build for thinking. His constant reflections about life and death become his biggest obstacle in reaching his goal of becoming a World Champion. Daniel Dencik’s film paints an honest and heartbreaking picture of the extreme and lonely life of a young championship rider.
Please feel free to join our little conversation with Daniel and hear how it all started, which obstacles he encountered while filming “Moon Rider”, why he loves Bernard Hinault and why he wants to be as dreamy and irrational as possible in his documentaries.
Please give us an introduction to you first. Where are you from? How did you get into the movie business? What kind of artistic education do you have?
I am from Copenhagen, I got accepted to The National FIlm School at a young age. I was trained as a film editor, but while at school I got my first collections of poems published. Since then I have written several books. But I kept editing at the same time, and at a certain point I just felt like I ought to direct a movie.
Do you have a special relationship to cycling or why did you choose this topic for your first big feature film as a director?
I fell in love with bicycling when I was two years old. I remember watching Bernard Hinault and crying all the time because I could not accept that he wasn’t my father. I love everything about it. Even during the latest Lance Armstrong-interview I felt a strong connection with him. He’s as enigmatic as it gets.
Rasmus Quaade is the star of your movie who struggles to become a professional rider. How did you get in touch with him in the
beginning? What was first, the idea of doing a cycling documentary in general or the idea of portraying Rasmus personally? Did you have to convince him to take part in your movie?
We grew up in the same neighborhood of Copenhagen, Valby. But he’s way younger than me, so I didn’t know him before making the movie. The idea of doing a cycling film came first. But then I came across the name Quaade, and I just found it to have this heroic and mysterious air about it. I had to convince him, he was kind of suspicious at our first meeting: I invited him for a dinner. He chose the restaurant that was nearest to his mother’s home, since he found it very weird that an older man wanted to meet him for dinner.
How long did you accompany Rasmus at all? Did you encounter any obstacles or throwbacks while filming the movie? How did his team mates like the fact that there was always a camera around to portray him?
I followed him for 2-3 years. The obstacles were so many, I don’t know where to begin. First of all, shooting on Super8 turned out to be a really stupid choice. Beautiful, but stupid. Try to change a film cassette on a motor bike going 60 km/h while there’s a bicycle race going on next to you and you’ll know what I mean. His team mates where mainly just jealous that someone was following Rasmus and not them. They were all completely unknown when I started shooting.
You shot the film on Super8 and also created a very special atmosphere with additional sound effects. What was your intention or rather your philosophy behind this concept?
I have one very strong moral principle: My main character has to like the film. That’s the only thing I care about. I am not a journalist, I think there may be a greater truth hidden in a personal story when you let it evolve around dreams, sensations, fears, humiliation, imagination and grandeur instead of just clinging to the factual order of events. We are dreamy, irrational beings – so when I make a film I want it to be as dreamy and irrational as I can.
You also wrote two books of poetry and a collection of short stories. How does this background as a writer affect your work as an editor and director?
Well, in the case of Moon Rider the two disciplines melted together in a very poetic way. I could use Quaade’s words in an almost sculptural way. I was spending weeks with the sound designer constructing sentences out of the dictaphone material, deleting fillers, building new phrases. We even got Quaade back in the studio to refine it even more.
If our readers like your movie: which other documentary would you like to recommend them to watch? Which one did you influence or impress most recently?
Of recent documentaries I liked very much “Senna”, “Searching For Sugarman”, and ‘Into The Abyss”.
Are there any upcoming projects you already want to talk about?
Sure, my next film is already finished and will open in 50 cinemas around Denmark as we speak. It’s called ‘Expedition To The End of The World’. The film is set on an old wooden schooner, an original pirate-ship that set sails for one of the last white spots in the world: the vast fjords of North East Greenland. It’s a film about science and art and nature. The ice is melting now and it’s just so breathtakingly beautiful. The soundtrack is by Mozart and Metallica.
More about the movie and the place to purchase the DVD: