Oscar-Nominated Short Film ‘Ivalu’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

When we look back at our childhoods, we realize that there were many things that we didn’t understand at the time. Any form of trauma is carried out and later processed. When our brain is developed enough to understand what happened. Children experience so many things as they grow up they find it difficult to discuss. They can’t find the words, so they express themselves in ways they know how. Whether they run away, stay quiet or lash out, these are emotional responses to situations they don’t quite understand. Director Andres Walters tastefully shows a young girl’s journey navigating sexual abuse towards her sister from their father in Ivalu. 

The short film is based on the graphic novel of the same name, illustrated by Lars Horneman and written by Morten Dürr. The story is about sexual abuse and suicide among children and young adults. A young girl has to face this trauma and realization when her older sister Ivalu disappears. Producer Rebecca Pruzan was taken by the novel, “The colours and drawings are very poetic, and then the story is brutal.” Andres and Pruzan wanted to address these children’s issues while still creating a sense of hopefulness. Things can change if adults learn to communicate with children and help them through tough times. The graphic novel is morbid and does not have that sense of hope, so that is the main thing that they changed when they decided to adapt it. 

When handling subject matter like this involving children, it’s more important to show it from the child’s perspective. And to conceal those traumatic moments because they may be difficult to watch. Andres chose not to show intimate moments because the reactions from the younger sister became more effective. Children are more intuitive than adults make them out to be, and she felt like something was wrong. She didn’t quite know what was happening when her father closed the door, but she knew it wasn’t right. Andres wanted to structure it differently to make it more impactful,

“It’s structured very much like a crime almost, a mystery. If it was only about showing incest and violence, it wouldn’t work for me. I’m not saying it wouldn’t work. But, for me, it had to be the other way around, and I wanted to try to tell this from the girls’ perspective.” 

Andres Walters, Director ‘Ivalu’

Walters used nature to offset the pain and confusion of Pipaluk (Mila Heilmann Kreutzmann) as she ventures into the wilderness to find her older sister. The flashbacks are effective as she goes on this journey, as the viewer can piece together the reason her sister left. Without much dialogue, Kreutzmann delivers a heartbreaking performance. Walters does explore womanhood through Pipaluk as she begins to understand the conditions women live under. The loss of innocence is felt in the middle of this film, and the tone shifts to push her into the next part of her life. 

Pruzan and Walters hope audiences watch Ivalu and change their perspective on communication with children. Children are suffering from many traumatic experiences, and they made this short film to raise awareness because children won’t be able to express themselves the same way adults can. The short film has been nominated for an Academy Award, and they plan to use this platform to expand on the short film by publishing a digital book so it can be read in schools all over Denmark. And hopefully, other schools all over the world. Stories like this may be difficult to watch, but they are essential viewing because of the subject matter. Children must be protected and raised within a community willing to help them grow.  

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