Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Ukraine

Synopsis

As the war in Eastern Ukraine takes a heavy toll on poor families living near the frontline, a small group of strong-willed social workers work tirelessly in a special kind of orphanage to create an almost magical safe space for kids to live in while the state decides the future fate of the child and family.

Director's Statement

I have been working in Ukraine since 2015, but I didn’t actually set out to make A HOUSE MADE OF SPLINTERS. Initially, it all started with a growing concern I had towards the future fate of the main character in my previous film THE DISTANT BARKING OF DOGS.

I asked my Ukrainian fixer and assistant director Azad Safarov to help me find out. Azad’s research led us to meet and connect with Lena Rosvadovske, who had extensive experience working with vulnerable kids and families living near the frontline. Lena became an indispensable ally in our search for answers, helping us get in touch with both state and local administration. The authorities were open and interested in shining a light on the situation with vulnerable kids and families near the frontline and invited us to come see for ourselves. I prefer to view it as us being the right team to tell the story that was being revealed to me, but something Azad and Lena knew already. There was a growing number of kids who had been removed from their homes due to neglect caused by alcoholism, addiction, domestic violence … all stemming from the trauma and lack of resources caused by the ongoing war in the region. This tragic situation gave us a real sense of the devastating impact of the long-term consequences of war. When introduced to Margarita’s shelter, we instantly knew this was an extraordinary place. There were drawings on the walls, teddy bears, music lessons, and such care and warmth from the incredible staff. There was real hope and potential here. That’s when we first started to consider making a film, realizing no one had told this story. Having proven ourselves with THE DISTANT BARKING OF DOGS, we were given exclusive access based on the trust we had gained.

Witnessing the kids’ life circumstances resulted in a lot of internal discussions about the ethics of making the film, but it was also clear to us very early on that there were only two outcomes of what we had discovered: either we wouldn’t make a film, and potentially nobody would hear about these kids, or we commit to them, amplify their voices, and help carry their stories into the world. We chose the latter, and it goes without saying, we made sure we had all the correct permits and permissions from the authorities, parents, and guardians. The responsibility of handling such a sensitive subject weighed heavily on the whole team. It was crucial for us to collaborate closely with the authorities and caregivers. We spent a lot of time with the staff, social workers and psychologists discussing how, when and why we filmed the scenes we did, and agreeing that we would never film anything without their permission. Their insight, experience and professional sparring were enormously helpful in our interaction with the kids, and how to go about filming them with the respect it demanded. It was important for us that it was a positive experience for all the kids, something they were okay participating in and could even be proud of. We went to great lengths to explain to them what we were doing there and why we were filming them. We asked if it was okay to film them and made sure they understood that if they were not comfortable with something, simply walk away or turn their back to us, and we would stop shooting immediately. By respecting these rules and always being transparent, we managed to build a mutual trust in which the kids felt safe enough to come to us if they had concerns or questions.

Director's Biography

Born in Copenhagen, Denmark. Simon graduated as a Documentary Film Director from The National Film School of Denmark in 2009. His first feature documentary film THE DISTANT BARKING OF DOGS (2017), premiered at IDFA and was awarded Best First Appearance. It has since then won 35+ awards worldwide, among these the McBaine Documentary Feature Award at San Francisco’s SFFILM Festival. It was nominated for a European Film Award (2018), an Emmy (2020), and shortlisted for an Oscar (2019). The film also won a Peabody Award (2020).

FILMOGRAPHY:
2022 - A HOUSE MADE OF SPLINTERS, Documentary
2017 - THE DISTANT BARKING OF DOGS, Documentary
2014 - THE FENCING CHAMPION, Short
2013 - CHIKARA - THE SUMO WRESTLER’S SON, Short
2009 - DORMITORY MASTER, Short
2008 - ABOVE GROUND, BENEATH THE SKY, Short
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Simon Lereng Wilmont

Produced by: Monica Hellström, Tobias Janson, Sami Jahnukainen, Darya Bassel, Viktoriia Khomenko

Cinematography: Simon Lereng Wilmont

Editing: Michael Aaglund

Original Score: Uno Helmersson

Sound: Heikki Kossi, Pietu Korhorhonen, Peter Albrectsen, Sune Kaarsberg

Nominations and Awards

  • Documentary Selection 2022