KOKO-DI KOKO DA: An Interview with Director Johannes Nyholm

KokoDiKokoDa US Poster

Runtime: 1 hour 26 minutes
Director: Johannes Nyholm (THE GIANT)

Starring: Peter Belli, Leif Edlund, Ylva Gallon, Katarina Jackobson, Brandy Litmanen
Language: Swedish and Danish with English subtitles
Rating: Not Rated 
Genre: Horror, Fantasy

I had the pleasure of talking to Johannes Nyholm, director of Koko Di Koko Da.

A horror film about Elin and Tobias a happily married couple who regularly vacation with their young daughter. The family is on a dreamy holiday when an innocuous case of food poisoning derails their plans and forever alters the course of their lives.

YR: You have said that the setting for the film was in the wee hours of the morning when dreams are the most untamed and that is how you came up with idea for the film.  Was that the process throughout the filmmaking?

Johannes Nyholm: Yes. This film had its own life. First of all, it was inspired by a dream that came to me. I saw what was happening in the film in front of my eyes while being half awake asleep in the wee hours. I wrote it down and shot it and I realized it had to be something more. It was too crude, harsh, too nightmarish. It was impossible to watch it.  Things happen in my life by chance and the story elements that I added to the film were really strange things that just happened that told me how the story should be told. It did not feel like I came up with it.  It is more like it came to me.

YR: You mentioned you had a background in classical animation.

Johannes Nyholm: Yes, I went to animation school along time ago. I also have a history of working with musician and doing a lot of music video. Music goes well with animation.

YR: You had two scenes of a family of rabbits telling the story of death, was that a way of paying homage to classical animation, including it in your work?

Johannes Nyholm: It wasn’t an idea of paying homage. I just felt it was needed to tell the story from a different perspective. And to show a little comfort and some beauty and poetry to the audience as well.  Other wise without these images and musical interlude the film would be too horrible to endure.

YR: How and what did you do to prepare as a writer, director and producer for the film?

Johannes Nyholm: I started this film as a learning process. When I started to make this film, I had no experience directing. I had almost no experience working with a big film crew. I have made some music video before but did not have any sound on set there were just a couple people with a camera doing some improvised stuff. Now, it is like a complex story with a lot of people involved. For me it was a bit scary. But most of all, I kind of like the idea of losing control, of not really knowing what to do and how to solve things. It is more fun to work that way. I had hoped it adds some kind of primal element to the story. Even I as the director cannot really control it and something else would come out, something that is bigger than my thoughts, better than my thoughts, something more irrational.

YR: What was it like working with your cast members?

Johannes Nyholm: It was fantastic. As I said, it was like a learning process for me working with actors. I never even cast them. There was no competition for the lead characters.

I found two actors I have seen in a short film that a friend of mine had directed. And I really like their energy, their energy together. I knew with this film, did not have so much money. But what I wanted was time. So, I wanted people to invest their time, their energy in the film. I wanted someone that could go the extra mile. I felt that directly with them. I tried some scenes with them, going around in the car, tested out some dialogue and it felt right. I gave them the part without asking someone else or looking somewhere in another direction.

YR: Can you tell us if there are any other projects you are working on or that you are planning on?

Johannes Nyholm: Yes. Right now, I am writing a script for something completely different. It is a lot brighter, a lot lighter story. It is a slap stick comedy. It is inspired by old classic slap stick comedy, like Charlie Chaplin. I want to give a bit brighter side to life.

YR: As a filmmaker, how has COVID-19 impacted you?

Johannes Nyholm: For me personally, no, it does not affect the writing process. It doesn’t affect my actual filmmaking. but it affects the way the film I made is presented.

I think it is tragic that you cannot see movies in a theater but through the computer.  It is sad.  I would have loved to be in the states and be there in the audience and talk to them and discuss the film with them afterwards. That is a lot of what filmmaking is about, trying to communicate and talk about your experiences. You kind of lose a little part of that.

Distributed in North America by: Dark Star Pictures
Runtime: 1 hour 26 minutes
Starring: Leif Edlund, Ylva Gallon, Katarina Jacobson, Peter Belli, Morad Baloo Khatchadorian, Brandy Litmanen
Director/Scriptwriter/Producer: Johannes Nyholm
Director of Photography: Johan Lundborg, Tobias Höiem-Flyckt
Executive Producer: Peter Hyldahl
Co-Producer: Maria Møller Christoffersen
Produced by: Penelope JulieBruun Bjerregaard
Assistant producer: Maria Møller Christoffersen
Co-producer: Peter Hyldahl
Executive producer: Johannes Nyholm
Cinematographers: Tobias Höiem-Flyckt, Johan Lundborg
Editor: Johannes Nyholm
Music: Olof Cornéer, Simon Ohlsson