Interview: Twin Sisters

In her mid-length competition film Twin Sisters, Norwegian director Mona Friis Bertheussen chronicles the lives of identical Chinese twins Alexandra and Mia, abandoned at birth and separated a matter of weeks later when adopted by Norwegian and US families.

Alexandra grows up in the village of Fresvik (population 234) located in the bucolic Norwegian countryside. Mia, meanwhile, goes to the bustling and industrial US city of Sacramento. They were never denied information about their familial ties, and the girls communicate regularly by letter and telephone. In Bertheussen's film, however, the time has come for them to be re-united after eight years of separation.

Alexandra's life in Norway seems uncomplicated. She roams the countryside unaccompanied, tends to the family horse and looks after mice that she finds in the family barn. This means that she has more time to think and talk about a sister whose life in the US is altogether more cluttered, defined by sleepovers and soccer practice. What's more, Mia is not allowed out on her own in Sacramento, such is her parents' concerns about her safety.

"Both of the girls are very bright and smart, and have strong characters, but I think their personalities may be a strong reflection of the society in which they live," comment Bertheussen. "Alexandra was more reflective on their situation, but of course she's walking around those tiny streets and she has the time and space to think and to write letters to Mia. And that's maybe something people can resonate with when they watch the film. It's not just about the twins. It's also about how you live your life, what does your everyday life have to do with the relationships that you have? Do you have time to remain in touch with people if you are always on the go?"

When the girls finally get together it is very touching. They squeal in anticipation of their imminent meeting and subsequently disappear together for the duration of the holiday, lost in a world that isn't defined by parental input. They swim, run, gambol and frolic, continually finding non-verbal ways to communicate with each other (Alexandra cannot speak English and Mia cannot speak Norwegian). Of course they have to go their separate ways again, but Bertheussen believes that her film is just the beginning of a project that could run years into the future. "It may be a lifelong thing but of course it depends on how the girls think about it when they get older. I think there could be amazing sequels when they are teenagers and grown up. The families told me that if I want to do another film with them then they will do it. That is the best feedback you can get."

Nick Cunningham
Opening film: Stranger in Paradise October 18, 2016 | IDFA 2016 will open at the Royal Theatre Carré on November 16 with Stranger in Paradise by Dutch director Guido Hendrikx, exploring the relationship between Europe and refugees in a film on the boundary between documentary and drama.
Three films selected for IBF Europe distribution support October 18, 2016 | The IDFA Bertha Fund has concluded the final selection round of 2016. Three documentaries will receive grants through the IBF Europe scheme for distribution support.
IDFA Forum Selection 2016 October 17, 2016 | The selection for IDFA Forum 2016 has been announced. This year's Forum welcomes 60 pitch teams from 25 different countries.
Film List 2016 October 10, 2016 | The full line-up for IDFA 2016 is now online. Full details on all films and programme information will be announced November 3.
IDFA Spotlight in Ramallah October 4, 2016 | IDFA will present a documentary programme during the upcoming ‘Days of Cinema’, taking place October 15-21 in Ramallah.
Special focus program: Assembling Reality October 4, 2016 | In the IDFA 2016 special focus program Assembling Reality, leading international editors - including director/editor Frederick Wiseman - will discuss the role of editing in constructing documentary narratives.
Special focus program: Shifting Perspectives September 27, 2016 | The special focus program Shifting Perspectives will investigate the role of opinion-shaping in terms of the way we see and think about race and identity, as well as the perspectives from which we do so.
Special focus program: The Quiet Eye September 20, 2016 | IDFA’s special focus program The Quiet Eye will investigate ‘slow documentary’, presenting documentary projects that take the experience of time in real life as their starting point.
Sergei Loznitsa to present Top 10 August 30, 2016 | This year’s IDFA Top 10 will be compiled by Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa. His latest documentary, Austerlitz, will have its world premiere at the Venice film festival and will screen at IDFA as part of a retrospective of Loznitsa's work.
IDFA Award at Docu Rough Cut Boutique August 19, 2016 | At last night's closing ceremony of the Docu Rough Cut Boutique of the Sarajevo Film Festival, the IDFA Award was given to City of the Sun by Rati Oneli.
The Vice Documentary Pitch at IDFA July 25, 2016 | VICE returns to IDFA to launch The VICE Documentary Pitch at IDFA, offering filmmakers a chance to win a commission from the VICE documentary team. 
IDFA Bertha Fund Concludes May 2016 Selection July 12, 2016 | Eleven documentary projects from countries including Sudan, Chile, Syria, Cuba, Afghanistan and Ukraine will be supported through IDFA Bertha Fund - Classic. The selection includes new projects by Maite Alberdi, Alisa Kovalenko and Manolo Sarmiento.


IDFAindustry @IDFAindustry 10 hour ago
RT @sheffdocfest: We're heading back to Amsterdam with our legendary Sheffield Doc/Fest & @Dogwoof Party at @idfa - Tue 22 Nov! RSVP: https…
IDFAindustry @IDFAindustry 3 days ago
On November 16, IDFA 2016 will open at @theatercarre with Stranger in Paradise by Guido Hendrikx:…
BankGiro LoterijVPROOxfam Novibde VolkskrantFonds 21VSBfonds