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Short Takes on Film: The Hunt; A Defiant Dude Update

State of the Arts


Published November 20, 2013 at 1:44 p.m.

It’s autumn, and the men of a small Danish burg are gearing up for their beloved deer season. Soon one of them will find himself not hunting, but hunted — by his own friends and neighbors.

That’s the premise of The Hunt, the latest drama from director Thomas Vinterberg, whose best-known film is the Dogme 95 milestone The Celebration. The Hunt, a potential Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, didn’t play in Burlington-area theaters, but you can catch it this Thursday at a screening presented by the Burlington Film Society and Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center.

Most Americans know Mads Mikkelsen as a Bond villain or the new face of Hannibal Lecter on NBC’s “Hannibal.” He won a Best Actor award at Cannes in 2012 for playing the more sympathetic protagonist of The Hunt, who falls prey to the common presumption that, as one character says, “Children don’t lie.”

Lucas is a 42-year-old kindergarten teacher locked in a custody battle with his ex-wife. He’s great with kids, but his special bond with his best friend’s young daughter (Annika Wedderkopp) leads to a stray remark that another teacher interprets as an allegation of sexual abuse.

It’s actually no such thing, as the 5-year-old later tries in vain to inform the adults around her. (Wedderkopp delivers a strikingly nuanced performance for one so young.) But the gears of suspicion are rolling. Once a respected member of the community, Lucas becomes a pariah as the police investigate the case, and his teenage son (Lasse Fogelstrøm) is pulled into the fray.

Vinterberg collaborated on the screenplay with Tobias Lindholm, who wrote and directed A Hijacking (aka “that pirate movie that isn’t Captain Phillips”). Its witch-hunt storyline won’t shock anyone who is familiar with, say, the McMartin preschool case.

What’s more notable about The Hunt is the sensitivity and visual beauty with which Vinterberg portrays Lucas’ community, lingering on its shared Christmas and hunting rituals. This is no stereotypical hidebound village, but a place where our protagonist has enduring roots. The film’s drama lies in watching him struggle — and, eventually, break — when those roots are shaken.

The Hunt, Thursday, November 21, 7 p.m., at the Main Street Landing Film House in Burlington. Free; donations accepted.


What’s up with A Defiant Dude? In early 2012, director James Lantz and “Eat More Kale guy” Bo Muller-Moore received nearly $90,000 in Kickstarter pledges — well over their $75,000 goal — for their documentary about Muller-Moore’s trademark battle with fast-food chain Chick-fil-A. The company claims the Montpelier artist and T-shirt maker is endangering its “Eat Mor Chikin” slogan.

Today, the filmmaking is still in progress — necessarily, as Muller-Moore’s saga has yet to reach a conclusion. In May 2013, the United States Patent and Trademark Office delivered a preliminary ruling against him, which his lawyers appealed in September.

Meanwhile, Lantz has been busy shooting more than 200 hours of footage in 13 states. He recently sent the film’s Kickstarter backers a link to view about 30 minutes that he calls a “rough compilation of scenes that may become the building blocks for our film.”

While the final cut is still distant, those scenes offer tantalizing glimpses of A Defiant Dude. We see plenty of Muller-Moore, of course — getting an Eat More Kale tattoo, giving a TEDx talk, protesting in front of Chick-fil-A. Lantz has also traveled the country to put the case in context, finding intellectual-property experts to weigh in on the trend of corporations claiming ownership of words and phrases.

We hear from business owners who found themselves in court over their use of terms as generic as “entrepreneur” and “touch of,” and from others who got in trouble for riffing on an established property. (The makers of “This American Life” were not amused by a sex-worker podcast originally titled “This American Whore.”)

Milton Glaser, creator of the oft-copied “I [heart] NY” logo, has strong words for Chick-fil-A’s trademark case against Muller-Moore. “It’s nonsense, it’s delusion, it’s absurd, it’s selfish, it’s stupid,” he tells Lantz’s camera.

As for the dude himself, well, he’s still defiant. Since the battle began, Muller-Moore notes in the footage, his “Eat More Kale” T-shirt sales have soared. “What I want to do,” he says, “is be the guy who creates a precedent that the little guy can fight back.”