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28 October 2014

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You are in: London > Entertainment > Films > Features > Extreme cinema alert!

Asif Kapadia

Asif Kapadia on location

Extreme cinema alert!

Hackney filmmaker Asif Kapadia's career has taken him to the Himalayas, Hollywood and the high wastes of the Arctic, where his latest, Far North, is set. Here, ahead of its screening at the London Film Festival, he talks to us..

Hi, how are you?

I'm great thanks. Suffering from a sore throat though.

You must be busy in the run-up to the screening of Far North - what do you do to prepare for it?

I'm pretty busy doing press and there are quite a few other festivals during October, so I'm trying to attend as many as I can. An independent film like this needs all the help it can to get the word of mouth going.

Any nerves on the night - will you have family and friends there for instance?

It's always a nervous feeling to screen your work to an audience, especially when it's in London in front of people you know and respect. A lot of the crew, friends and family will be there which will make it that much more exciting.

A still from Far North

Far North's Michelle Yeoh and Sean Bean

Far North is set in the wastes of the Arctic tundra and you filmed it in Norway. It's a long way from Hackney and home...

You can take the man out of Hackney, but you'll never take Hackney out of the man!  It was a long way from home, but the original short story was set on ice, so that was a given that we would shoot it somewhere extreme.

I was lucky to work with my usual crew who are like family really, and my wife Victoria Harwood was the Art Director, so in a way home was the Arctic for a short time!

The film stars Michelle Yeoh and Sean Bean and it's been described as dark and thrilling, a story of jealousy, revenge and courage. Is it something you felt compelled to make?

Yes, the short story by Sara Maitland on which the film is based is very powerful and shocking. There were certain images that stuck in my mind.

My aim was to make a film with the same impact that I felt when I first read the story. It's taken nearly four years to get the film up onto the screen.

It couldn't have been easy filming in those sub-zero conditions. What was that like - and did it push you in ways you hadn't foreseen?

Cold weather is very hard to work in. Your body slows down, your brain seizes up. It's hard to think in those conditions. During a location scout the weather dropped to minus 40 degrees!

"Your body slows down, your brain seizes up. It's hard to think in those conditions..."

Asif Kapadia on filming in sub-zero conditions

We were driving snowmobiles over the frozen sea and it was so cold that my glasses froze solid. You have to be careful how you dress, it's vital to not put on too many layers in the warm as your sweat could turn to ice as you step out into the cold.

Also we were shooting on Svalbard, a group of Norwegian islands, which is known for its polar bears, so none of the crew were allowed to wander off in case they came across a hungry bear.

In a way, you've been here before. Your debut feature The Warrior was shot in India and the Himalayas - you seem to like thinking on a big canvas, having what film people call 'the vision thing'...

Once I find a story I want to tell, I love to research the landscape and the characters that live there. I love going to a new place as an outsider, being inspired by the imagery and creating the universe of the film.

My aim is to make cinematic films for the big screen, to tell intimate stories on an epic scale.

Michelle Yeoh and Asif Kapadia

On set in Norway with Michelle Yeoh

Far North was well received by Venice audiences earlier this year. What are you hoping Londoners will get from it?

Premiering at the Venice film festival was like a dream come true. I really hope the film goes down well with audiences in London, especially as it's been made by a team of Londoners!

Far North is a dark adult fairy tale depicting life on the harsh wastes of the high arctic, where people are forced to do extreme things to survive.

My dream is that the film stays with the audience that sees it and that they will push others to see it for themselves.

Whether you welcome it or not, budding young filmmakers see you as an inspiration and a role model. Do you have a piece of wisdom or advice to impart?

Follow your gut instinct and trust yourself. Don't be afraid of being different.

There are a lot of filmmakers out there, so if possible, try to find something that sets you out from the crowd. Find your own style.

Finally, what's next for you - any plans for a film set in London for a change?

I'd love to do a film in London, my co-writer and I just need to find the right story.

Having done The Warrior in the East, Far North in the North, we'd like to complete the quartet of films by doing a film in the south, maybe in Latin America... and then hopefully a Western!


Far North screens at the London Film Festival on 30 & 31 October. Use the links above for more details. The Festival's opening night Gala is on 17 October.

last updated: 17/10/07

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