'In moving abroad I have gained a bilingual family and a filmmaking career'

For Denmark-based Irish filmmaker David Bourke, the proximity to nature is the best thing about living in Nødebo

David Bourke is an Irish filmmaker who lives in Denmark with his family. His latest film, Bakerman, was screened at the Dingle International Film Festival. He is currently working on 'a Roddy Doyle-esque dramedy'.

What is your background, and how long have you been away from Ireland?

I've been living outside Ireland for around 20 years – 18 in Denmark and around two years in Australia. I met my Danish wife when I was in Australia. We became good friends, kept in touch, and I came to visit her in Denmark a few times. Then we decided to try our hand at living together. We settled in Denmark, although we love going back to Ireland. Our kids especially love it.

How did you become a filmmaker?

My father boasted that he owned the first VHS player in Ireland, so when I was growing up, we watched so many films from the 1970s and 1980s. He was a big fan of Clint Eastwood, crime dramas and westerns – we watched them all. I didn't go to film school, my educational background is in engineering. But I moved into filmmaking after working on some short films at Filmbase in Dublin.

How did you get your big break?

When digital film technology came along, I made my own feature, inspired mainly by the independent scene coming out of America, and digesting a lot of cult, Asian and B movies. It was a valuable learning experience, jumping in and making a movie, more valuable than any film college.

My first film, surprisingly, got picked up by distributors in the US, Germany and Scandinavia. It found its niche audience fairly quickly. Since then I have made two more feature films, writing, directing and editing all of them .

What is your latest work?

My new film, Bakerman, is my most mature, although it nearly killed me (physically and mentally). But so far it has been very warmly received by critics, audiences and film festivals. Bakerman seems to be a good bridge between an artistic and a commercial film.

It tells the story of a baker, who works during the night and sleeps during the day. He has a fixed routine and he is continuously being pushed around by society – and one day he just snaps and causes chaos around him. It is my most personal film in a way, as the character of Bakerman is based loosely on my father, who passed away last year. We premiered at Denmark's biggest film festival CPH:PIX and it was labelled a Nordic Falling Down, made by an Irish director.

I have just been invited to screen the film at the Munich International Film Festival at the end of June. That's a big privilege... I was shocked and delighted.

Has it been shown in Ireland?

The Irish premiere was at the Dingle International Film Festival earlier this year. We had a screening at St James Church – I never thought I would see one of my films screened in a church.

At the moment it’s doing the festival tour thing and getting its feet somewhat – but we hope to release it officially later this year.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on several projects, but my main focus is on a science fiction feature, and also an Irish feature film, called The Teeth of Richard Harris, which is a Roddy Doyle-esque dramedy. Maybe it will be an Irish-Danish co-production. I have written one or two of the characters with very specific Irish actors in mind.

What is the filmmaking industry like in Scandinavia?

Getting funding can be very difficult. Like in Ireland, they have an official film funding body, so a few films get made every year this way. Saying that, more and more filmmakers are grabbing their cameras, cast and crew and shooting their own films.

Where do you live?

In the woods literally. A small village called Nødebo, in northern Denmark.

Tell us about your life in Nødebo?

I’m married to Catrina, who is Danish, and we have two great kids. We try to have meals together when possible and go and do stuff at the weekends, lots of small trips.

Is there an Irish community where you live, and do you get involved?

Yes, but I'm not really actively involved. Of course, I know everyone and they know me, as I have been writing a personal column for the Copenhagen Post for several years.

What are the best things about living and working in Denmark?

In Nødebo, it’s the proximity to nature, we live in the forest and beside a huge lake. We are 10 minutes from the next town, if we need groceries. I think folk are very trustworthy and friendly. I love the seasons in Denmark, cold snowy winters and warm summers. There is a big focus on family life here.

Are there any particular challenges associated with being there?

I think the language is always a challenge, it’s a very hard language to master. The tax is famously very high here and sometimes the prices frighten off visitors. But when you live here, you get to know where the cheaper places are.

Is there anything you miss about living in Ireland?

The Irish, generally, are easier to chat with, especially small talk. They are more polite and have great humour. Being a writer with an ear for language, I miss the musicality of the various dialects; that is a joy to hear when I visit.

What have you gained from working in another country?

I have gained a great bilingual family, an filmmaking career and a bunch of great new friends.