Date of Submission

Spring 2014

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Film and Electronic Arts

Project Advisor 1

Peter Hutton

Project Advisor 2

Peggy Ahwesh

Abstract/Artist's Statement


“10 Days of Darkness” is not a documentary. This film, in my mind, is a confessional. I left for Rjukan - a small Norwegian village that doesn’t receive sunlight for six months of the year due to the surrounding mountains that block out the low rising sun – on January 6th, yet to this day, I am still coming to terms with why I felt the need to go. On the surface, the reason was obvious: three heliostat mirrors were built hundreds of meters above the center of the town to reflect a steady beam of light and relieve the villagers of their shadowy, static state. When I read about it, images of pagan rituals, UFO abductions, and live performances flooded my overactive imagination. I was interested solely in the sensation of the event; the community at large and the history of the town meant almost nothing to me. Was it going to be a documentary, a narrative, a hybrid? At the time it didn’t matter. Acting swiftly, I launched a successful Kickstarter campaign that not only provided the funds I requested (and then some), but garnered widespread interest from filmmakers, bloggers and media outlets. Before I was even able to purchase the film, NRK – the Norwegian Broadcasting Company – was sending me emails asking if I would be willing to come to their station in Oslo for an interview. Of course, I accepted each and every request, but internally I was forced to confront the question I consistently repressed: why was I making this movie?

The trip, overall, was a success. I shot 20 rolls of 16mm film and nearly a dozen hours of digital footage. I interviewed Martin Andersen - the artist responsible for erecting the mirrors - the cultural historian of Rjukan, and countless other villagers. My assistant director and I befriend and collaborated with other filmmakers who were there at the same time, documenting the phenomenon. The local paper even ran a story about us. But when we returned to America, I was left with an overabundance of material and no clue as to what to do with it. The issue remained: what is this film about?

The movie I completed is not, in the end, the definitive story. There are various angles and versions that I could have gone with and I intend to produce alternate edits that tackle different issues surrounding Rjukan. “10 Days of Darkness” though, is about confronting desires that have no attainable explanation. Jules Verne, author of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “Around the World in 80 Days”, visited Rjukan in 1861. In his diaries, he wrote that his reason for travelling to Norway was unexplainable: he simply needed to go. During our interview, Martin Andersen told me that he was compelled to bring sunlight to his home of 12 years not out of a desire to be an agent for community action, but to turn a dream into reality. “There’s no theory behind it,” he said. “10 Days of Darkness” is about navigating a landscape that literally lies in shadow, but it is also about reflection and allowing oneself to become lost in darkness in order to understand what it is we’re looking for.

We were lucky in that the sun came out and hit the mirrors. This happened only once. Surrounded by a small yet patient gathering of Norwegians, we stood in the village square for nearly four hours. When the light finally hit us, we looked up in unison at our fabricated sun. It was blinding, dizzying, and all too brief. Yet there’s no way to accurately describe the sensation of staring at something that isn’t real. It was something that simply had to be done.

- Sam Taffel

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