Berlin Opener Director Lone Scherfig Praises American Charity

Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival

"It's impressive how many ordinary people go out of their way for people in need," the Danish filmmaker behind 'The Kindness of Strangers' says in the German capital.

Lone Scherfig, who calls her Berlin opener, The Kindness of Strangers, a film about down-and-out people with a happy ending, on Thursday praised North Americans for the charity they show one another.

"It's impressive how many ordinary people go out of their way for people in need," the Danish director told a press conference at the Berlin Film Festival for her latest movie, which is a Canadian co-production.

"Year in and year out, particularly now that it's so cold in the U.S. Midwest and Toronto, where we shot — that's worth making a film about," Scherfig added. The Riot Club director said her latest movie, which stars Zoe Kazan, Tahar Rahim, Andrea Riseborough, Caleb Landry Jones, Jay Baruchel and Bill Nighy and is having its world premiere in Berlin on Thursday evening, is filled with people who, each in their own way, struggle to survive a cold New York City winter.

And yet, despite their hardships, Scherfig's characters find laughter, love and kindness in each other. The drama — shot in Toronto, New York City and Copenhagen — revolves around Clara, a woman who arrives in wintry Manhattan with her two sons after escaping from an abusive husband, a cop, who tries to hunt them down.

Despite that tragic backdrop, Scherfig said she felt a need to produce a happy ending for The Kindness of Strangers. "The world is a tough place, but for this film, every day when we were working, it made sense to make a film where the audience could have hope and a sense of community," she explained.

Kazan said she relied on research she had done on abusive households before an earlier stage play she appeared in to play Clara in Scherfig's drama. "I felt confident about my understanding, limited as it could be, having not walked in her shoes," Kazan told the presser.

Nighy, who plays a restaurant owner, said he welcomed an uplifting movie during what he sees as politically divisive times. "Any film that emphasizes those things that unite us rather than those things that divide, it's not only desirable but essential in the current climate," the British actor told the Berlin media.

Nighy insisted ordinary people tend to get along with one another. It's just politicians who attempt to divide them for personal gain. "People get along fine, until they are manipulated in that way," he said. "It's marvelous that there's a film that celebrates that."

The Berlin Film Festival runs through Feb. 17.