Kon-Tiki set to sail on the screen

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A major new film  that will dramatize Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl’s famed Kon-Tiki expedition has won financial support, just as Heyerdahl’s grandson sets off on a new expedition himself. Olav Heyerdahl is part of the crew on a unique raft called the Plastiki. 

The famed Kon-Tiki will soon be the subject of a film. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

The Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947 captured international attention in a post-war world, became the subject of a best-selling book and later a documentary film that won an Oscar in 1951. Its crew, which included resistance heroes along with the handsome adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, has long inspired would-be filmmakers keen to dramatize what they went through during their 101 days on a papyrus raft over the Pacific.

Now the Oscar-winning British producer Jeremy Thomas, who has held the film rights for years, is teaming with Nordisk Film and has secured NOK 18 million in support from the Norwegian Film Institute to make a film about Kon-Tiki. It will be directed by Espen Sandberg and Joachim Rønning, the pair behind a recent film about resistance hero Max Manus that was a huge hit in Norway. 

The film has a budget of around NOK 100 million, will be made in both a Norwegian and English version and is due to premiere in the fall of next year.

Part of the national heritage in Norway: Thor Heyerdahl PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

“It’s with a certain amount of fear that we tackle a story that is reckoned to be part of the national heritage,” its Norwegian producer, Aage Aaberge, told newspaper Aftenposten. “Thor Heyerdahl is without question the most well-known Norwegian abroad in modern time, and we know that this project has great international potential.”

It hasn’t been decided who will play Heyerdahl. His oldest son Thor Heyerdahl Jr told Aftenposten that his father opposed any Hollywood-type production, and thought for years that the documentary from 1951 was enough. But after Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) made a successful four-episode TV series on the expedition, he relented and approved plans for a film.

Heyerdahl died in 2002. His grandson Olav, a building engineer and craftsman in Norway, has inherited Heyerdahl’s sense of adventure and environmental duty, sailing on the Tangaroa expedition in 2006.

Now Olav Heyerdahl will be part of the crew on the Plastiki expedition, due to sail from San Francisco this month. The Plastiki is a handmade 60-foot catamaran built entirely of recycled plastic bottles, and its goal is to draw attention to recycling and pollution. The expedition will be led by adventurer and environmental advocate David de Rothschild (photo).

Heyerdahl told newspaper Aftenposten that he hopes the expedition will highlight the problem of floating garbage dumps on the open sea. His grandfather was concerned about the oil clumps and garbage the Kon-Tiki ran into while crossing the Pacific, and now the younger Heyerdahl is concerned about the huge amounts of plastic thrown into the sea.

He said a 27-meter-thick mass of garbage floats south of Hawaii, while there were reports last week of another floating garbage dump in the Atlantic.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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