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Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024
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Sundance

A New Kind of Wilderness: A Touching Documentary about Moving Forward After Loss

The Payne family appears in A New Kind of Wilderness by Silje Evensmo Jacobsen, an official selection of the World Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Maria Gros Vatne.

The opening of A New Kind of Wilderness is narrated by Maria Vatne. Maria is the mother of a family in Norway living outside of civilization. As she tells the story of her family you quickly draw the assumption that this is a documentary on living away from the hustle and bustle of society. Growing your own food, staying away from technology, and homeschooling your children. However, you are quickly shown still photos of Maria fighting cancer at home followed by pictures of her family without her.

A New Kind of Wilderness directed by Silje Evensmo Jacobsen delves more into the Payne family’s journey after a tragic loss to keep their way of life but also adapt to their current situation.

Maria was the main support financially for her family with the sale of her photography. Losing this source of income forces Nik to make the hard decision to sell the family farm. Nik and Maria had 4 children Ronja (from her previous relationship) Freja, Ulv and Falk. Ronja goes to live with her father shortly after her mother’s death. Nik is left with the daunting task of trying to homeschool 3 children, while providing a source of income for his family. He makes the decision to move closer into town. While Maria and Nik wanted to homeschool their children throughout their education, Nik quickly realizes he must send them to school at least 3 days a week so that he can work.

A New Kind of Wilderness showcases Nik’s struggle trying to maintain their way of life while also facing the reality of his situation. He doubts himself much more than he did when his wife was alive. He even grappled with the thought of moving the children back to the UK (Nik was raised there) so that he would have more access to childcare and better job opportunities.

In addition to Nik’s struggles a large part of the documentary is told through the eyes of Freja, Nik and Maria’s oldest. Maria’s death effects Freja the most out of Nik’s three children. You really see the stress she has worrying about her father, how they will live, and having to go to a regular school (to which she referred to as prison early in the film). 

Her relationship with Ronja is also a source of stress as the two seemed to drift further apart. The documentary does a great job focusing on this relationship as it is the most complicated relationship of the film. Ronja also a child albeit a teenager deals with her mother’s death by pulling away from her family. Being around the other children reminds her too much of her mother. She is not oblivious to the fact that her sister Freja needs her, and you see her try to navigate being there for her sister while taking care of her own mental health.

A New Kind of Wilderness was an enjoyable documentary about the importance of family support. A heartwarming story that will make you fall in love with the Payne family. And while I don’t believe this was the story Jacobsen set out to make in the beginning, it came together in a heartfelt way.

  • DIRECTOR(S)SILJE EVENSMO JACOBSEN
  • PRODUCERMARI BAKKE RIISE
  • EXECUTIVE PRODUCERKIM CHRISTIANSEN
  • CINEMATOGRAPHYSILJE EVENSMO JACOBSENKARINE FOSSERLINE K. LYNGSTADAAS
  • EDITORSKRISTIAN TVEITCHRISTOFFER HEIE
  • COMPOSEROLAV ØYEHAUG
  • SOUND DESIGNERYNGVE LEIDULV SÆTRE
  • COLORISTTOM CHR. LILLETVEDT
  • FEATURINGULV VATNE PAYNEFALK VATNE PAYNEFREJA VATNE PAYNERONJA BREDA VATNEMARIA GROS VATNENIKOLAUS ITHELL PAYNE
  • PRODUCTION COMPANYA5 FILM
  • YEAR2024
  • CATEGORYFEATURE
  • COUNTRYNORWAY
  • LANGUAGEENGLISH, NORWEGIAN
  • RUN TIME84 MIN

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