Describe the reception to Tintin and I in Belgium and in the rest of the world.
Anders Østergaard: Interestingly, “Tintin and I” had more repercussions outside of the French-speaking world than inside. Don’t ask me why. But you should probably not underestimate the cultural differences in documentary storytelling. My style is clearly Anglo-American, which I guess is a result of my upbringing in British television. The most receptive countries so far have been Canada, Britain, Scandinavia, Australia, Spain and Brazil.
I am truly excited about the American premiere on POV, especially because the U.S. has been considered a wasteland for Tintin so far. And for no obvious reason. If Americans can pick up soccer, why not Tintin as well? It’s all cultural globalization at its best, so it will be really interesting so see what happens.
Tintin has a devoted following. What reaction has Tintin and I received from the “tintinologists?” What was their reaction to your portrayal of Hergé? Did they think you were too harsh on Hergé?
Anders: Most Tintin aficionados — “the tintinologists” — really appreciated that the film was made and they have advertised it generously on their websites. But there is a predictable conflict between a filmmaker’s selective point of view and the more encyclopedic approach of the typical fan. The tintinologists would ask: Why was this or that Tintin story never mentioned? Why didn’t you discuss Snowy the dog, etc., etc. These are needs that you can’t really satisfy unless you want your film to fall apart completely.
I was never accused, however, of being too hard on Hergé. People expect a documentary to be scrutinizing these days. And — if anything — it has been debated whether the film is too complacent about his war record and about the racial prejudices of his youth. These are both very interesting points, which I am sure will be taken up by a U.S. audience as well. And my answers are:
No, Hergé was not a Nazi. Certainly not. The humor and humanity of his work makes this idea absurd. But you may accuse him of being an irresponsible escapist — in the Furtwängler tradition — when he chose to work for the only newspaper allowed by the Germans in occupied Belgium. In brief, I think the point of my film is that he took too long to grow up and face the real world because he still believed in this strange pact that he had made with the abbot Wallez in his youth. He paid the price, and then he woke up.
No, Hergé was not a racist either. The silly and childish ideas he had about Africans when he drew Tintin in Congo — at the age of 23 — were absolutely mainstream at the time. This was 1930 and most Belgians had never seen a black face in their lives. Hergé was fed on colonialist nonsense and did not really get access to any other source of information until much later in his life. But already in 1934, when he made friends with Tchang Chong-chen, he completely revised the idea of the Chinese with The Blue Lotus. And that was highly progressive at the time.
You went from making a film about a Boy Scout-ish cartoon character to Gasolin a film about a bunch of Danish hard rockers. Is there anything Tintin and Hergé havee in common with the musicians? Do you expect any overlap in the audience?
Anders: We will have to go into subtleties in order to find an aesthetic link between Hergé and Gasolin. They both share a talent for blending realism and poetry — and a constant sense of humor. But the real connection is that both of them were household gods of mine when I was a kid in the 70s.