Olivia was a sunny little 5 year old girl who just happened to have a rare form of aggressive brain cancer. The day after finishing nine months of treatment, her father, Holger, died suddenly of cardiac arrest playing badminton. A family of five was now a family of four. Olivia, her mother Daphne, 9 year old sister Lilly and 11 year old brother Espen were in shock. In the next years Daphne and her children, doctors and friends gave all they could to help save Olivia but she passed away just after her ninth birthday. It was now a family of three. Daphne, is traumatized from years of fighting cancer, Holger’s sudden death and Olivia’s slow death. These circumstances motivate her to embark on a unique journey documenting her own exploration of trauma. Daphne is constantly torn between the “trauma world” and the “normal world”, cultural clichés of how she should let go and move on feel forced. Daphne is overwhelmed by not knowing what to do with Olivia’s ashes so she gathers up over 50 of Olivia’s Barbies and starts a road trip from Las Vegas to Zion, Utah, in search of renewed hope and balance. Daphne creates an individual visceral vocabulary of processing loss. Despite confronting so much tragedy, Daphne’s approach to healing becomes more of a beautiful survival story rather than just a painful traumatic memory. The idea of letting go is turned upside down. In the darkest of times comes the brightest of lights.
The question, “Why I am making this film?”
The answer is as layered as life is. I ask myself this exact same question at times to be honest with you.
I’ve lost two of my family members in a short time, Holger very suddenly and Olivia over a longer period of time.
As I tell others what has happened to our family, at first I feel like I’m punching them twice in the face. Then I notice something magical and tremendous begins to happen. I realize that when I tell a part of my reality the way I tell it, that I’m moving people in not such a “normal” way. I usually look into the person’s eyes as I tell this and honestly see, how in most cases, people simply positively melt down to their own bare true emotion. In our society, these days, that’s rare. Of course some stand there in utter shock or run away, but mostly I witness a variety of very raw feelings and feedback, which in turn moves me. It’s the strangest paradox that an event so terribly painful can be transformed into a dynamic so powerfully beautiful. I talk about Olivia and our experience, I talk about extreme love, her passion for life, yet extreme pain and loss at the same time. It’s possible. Now it is time to tell the story visually! I know for a fact, that this story and the way I tell it from my own perspective is like a catalyst to others and can help those who have to go through what we did. In the same breath I say, whether you have lost someone or not, it’s universal how we humans suffer when we lose those we love. I’m convinced that my personal journey will support people in finding their own path of starting to live again and not just surviving. The film hopefully inspires others by letting them know that they have a say in their pain and to give them courage to explore their own roads to healing. How we deal with trauma is ultimately a subjective and individual matter. I chose this road trip with the barbies out of instinct. Humor and lightness was a huge aspect as how I dealt with overwhelming life and death events. For me it is and always will be an important tool to deal with trauma as it was for my children and Olivia. I believe this quality also is what makes this film so different. I know that processing trauma is very much an ongoing process, taking roads that get somewhere and roads that don’t. By attempting to find my own road and language for dealing with pain with images and visceral experiences, I hope to make the most beautiful film, which gives hope to everyone.
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