When Raging Grannies Speak Out, People Listen


Håvard Bustnes’ (pictured) Norwegian documentary Two Raging Grannies about economic growth, aging and friendship is opening today in Norway.

Word of mouth is already very strong as audiences from preview screenings attended by the main protagonists -91 year-old Shirley Morrison and 84 year-old Hinda Kipnis- have been enthused by the ladies’ fighting spirit. The director spoke to us about the film, backed by Nordisk Film & TV Fond. 

How did you get the idea for Two Raging Grannies?
Håvard Bustnes
: I was interested in economic growth and I was looking for characters who were working on this issue, especially elderly people, because when you’re in you’re in your 80s-early 90s, you have experienced the Great Depression, and you know that growth doesn’t last forever.

When and how did you first hear about Shirley and Hinda?

HB: We simply found them on the internet. We found a clip on Youtube about ‘Raging Grannies’. It’s an organisation with activist grand-mothers, who fight against nuclear waste, socio-economic environmental questions. We were fascinated by these old ladies, still fighting for a better world. They have groups all over the US and Canada. We contacted some of them and got in contact with Shirley and Hinda. When they started to discuss like an old couple, I fell in love with them. When Shirley who is 91 told me she had been arrested 12 times for activism, I was amazed. This was in 2011. We decided to go to Seattle and stay in the US for 20 days just to shoot a three minute pilot to finance the film. We came back with 60% of the material needed for the film. After that we did a preview trailer and used it to sell the film. A year later we spent an extra 20 days in the US.

How did you actually build the storyline once you had found the two characters?
 Shirley and Hinda didn’t agree on issues, which was interesting. Then it came up that Shirley who was ill, wanted to go from Seattle to New York where she was born. We decided to go with them. We focused the story around the two ladies’ road trip as they go about asking experts questions about economic growth and if it can be sustained forever. I found it interesting that people got angry when they asked the simple question: why do we need growth?

The story of friendship between the two ladies is heart-warming. Is it in the editing room where you decided to change the balance from the political and micro-economic angle to a more human aspect?
 Absolutely. I discussed a lot with Anders Teigen who is my usual editor. We did change the focus from the expert angle to a personal angle. And at the end, Two Raging Grannies is more a film about friendship, how it is to grow old and still want to save the world, than a film about economic growth.

What’s the distribution and festival plan for the film?
HB: The film [coproduced by Copenhagen-based Fridthjof Film] was released in 40 cinemas in Denmark through DOXBIO late November. It then screened in competition in Gothenburg. Films Transit handles world sales and so far we’ve signed around 10 countries. We have been accepted for a big US festival as well and hope to have a contract signed with the US within the next month.

What’s next?
HB: We have just received support from the Norwegian Film Institute’s ‘nye veier’ programme for another project called Golden Girl.


via the Nordisk Film and TV Fond

Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.