Zentropa was founded in 1992 by director Lars von Trier and producer Peter Aalbæk Jensen following their collaboration on Europa, which won three awards at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival. Within its short lifetime Zentropa has grown to become recognized as one of the most original and successful production companies in Europe winning the most prestigious awards on the international film scene.
Zentropa’s road to success was built on a progressive approach to film production that included room for artistic experimentation and financial risks as well as an autonomous organizational structure based on a flat hierarchy. This culture has helped Zentropa build a unique brand and attract some of the finest talent of the Danish and Scandinavian film industries.
An essential part of the rise to fame was the initial success and popularity of the works of Lars von Trier including the Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix-winning Breaking the Waves (1996), the Palm D’or-winning Dancer in the Dark (2000) as well as the TV-series The Kingdom (1994 and 1997). However, the Dogma 95-manifesto published by von Trier and three colleagues in 1995 arguably stands as the most iconic product of Zentropa’s innovative culture. The manifesto inspired a number of highly influential and successful films including von Trier’s The Idiots (1998), Lone Scherfig’s Italian for Beginners (2000) and Susanne Bier’s Open Hearts (2002) among many others. The manifesto’s call for a stripped down back-to-basics approach to filmmaking sparked off a worldwide movement and was later adopted by a long list of influential filmmakers.
Over the years Zentropa has expanded the activities beyond the Danish borders with projects, collaborations on co-productions and the establishment of local production units in several European countries. While high quality feature films produced for the national and international market have remained the primary focus, the increasing activities of Zentropa also include tv-series, documentaries, music videos and more.
To date Zentropa has produced more than 200 films including a long list of genre-defining and award winning titles by renowned directors such as Lars von Trier, Susanne Bier, Thomas Vinterberg, Per Fly, Lone Scherfig, Nicolas Winding-Refn, Kristian Levring, Niels Arden Oplev, Nikolaj Arcel, Mikkel Nørgaard, Annette K. Olesen, Christian E. Christiansen and many others.
Through the continued desire to break new ground and remain a progressive force in European film, Zentropa has remained an attractive home for the most visionary and talented Danish directors. In recent years a new generation of directors counting Mikkel Nørgaard (KLOWN, 2010, The Keeper of Lost Causes, 2013) and Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair, 2012) among others have started a new wave of Danish film resulting in record-breaking box office numbers and international praise.
Along with continued success and artistic growth of established heavy weights such as von Trier, Bier and Vinterberg, this has helped Zentropa maintain a position the forefront of Danish and European film. This position has been well documented by the comprehensive list of awards and distinctions won by the company’s films in recent years. This list includes, among many others, an Academy Award, Golden-Globe and European Film Award for Susanne Bier’s In a Better World (2010), Cannes Film Festival awards for Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (2009) and Melancholia (2011) as well as Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt (2012) and a Berlin Film Festival award for A Royal Affair (2012) and The Commune (2016). In addition to this The Hunt and A Royal Affair were both also nominated for an Academy Award.
In 2016, founder Peter Aalbæk Jensen resigned from the post of Managing Director and handed over to a new collective management appointed by Anders Kjærhauge, Managing Director.