New Documentary “Smile” Examines Final Years of Norwegian Poker Legend Thor Hansen’s Life2 weeks ago
What happens when a poker legend receives a death sentence of incurable cancer with only a few months to live, but battles courageously, living life to the fullest, and survives for more than six years? That’s the gist of Smile, a poker documentary about the last years of Norwegian pro Thor Hansen.
Hansen, known throughout the world as the Godfather of Norwegian Poker, received his terminal prognosis in 2012, though he lived until late 2018 before passing away at age 71. His death brought a swelling of sadness and fond memories from across the poker spectrum, far beyond his considerable poker accomplishments. Those achievements and honors included a pair of World Series of Poker bracelets, nearly $3 million in recorded tourney winnings, and a multiple finalist for induction into the Poker Hall of Fame.
All that and more serves as the backdrop for Smile, a project that came together in 2015. Norwegian filmmakers Kari Wåle and Linn Amundsen were at the 2015 Norwegian Poker Championship, there to work on a small charity film benefiting blood cancer (leukemia) research. The two sought a couple of poker players to help with their project, and while there they learned about Hansen (who was also present) and his terminal diagnosis.
After they approached Hansen, he agreed to the appearance for the charity film, but Wåle and Amundsen realized that Hansen had his own story to share. He agreed to be featured in the just-created project, along with his wife, Marcella Braswell, and over the next three years, until Hansen’s passing, the bulk of Smile came together.
The film’s focus, of course, would be on how Hansen maintained his upbeat and charismatic lifestyle while battling the inevitable, knowing that he was already living on borrowed time. Smile also focuses on the poker community and its reaction to Hansen’s love of the game and his slowly fading health. The result is bittersweet, but it’s a story worth preserving.
“I’m nearing the end of a long life,” he tells the camera at one point, as his disease progresses, “but I don’t know how long I have left. I don’t have any dreams now. I’ve always taken one day at a time.”
Wåle and Amundsen’s film has been released under the Zacapa Film banner, and it checks in at a modest 75 minutes in length. The film may never garner a theatrical release, but it is available now on Vimeo for a small rental or purchase fee. The film’s trailer is also available at that link, free of charge.
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