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GÖTEBORG 2017: Rojda Sekersöz on her new film, Beyond Dreams

How did you get started as a filmmaker?

I started studying film when I was fifteen years old and did subjects during upper secondary school. Before that I had been an active member in the theatre and had also been writing a lot, so it felt natural for me to study film. None of my family or friends had been in film, media, or cultural fields before, so I was the first one there. After finishing school, I made some shorts before I applied to the Stockholm Institute of Dramatic Arts and finished my education there. I guess that makes me a very institutionally trained filmmaker!

How did the Beyond Dreams film come to be?

The producers and the scriptwriter, Johanna Emanuelsson, had called me hoping to have me be part of the film. There was no story or characters, it was just something we wanted to do together. We spent three years developing the script, and this was Johanna’s first. We really built it together, it’s not personal in the sense that we didn’t base this on our personal lives. The theme is very universal and many people go through breaking up with friends or family, so it’s not something we had to research. We did research the prison system and this part of society by visiting prisons and speaking to people there.

You’ve been screening the film at the Göteborg Film Festival. What was the audience reception like?

It’s been really good! It feels like it moves people. I always sit in the cinema with the audience during screenings and it feels good that people are laughing sometimes. Then towards the end you can hear them sobbing.

The script feels like it’s critical of the ‘Swedish Welfare State’. Is that something you wanted to address?

We wanted to question the situation of young workers. In my generation, no one has a secure job; they all work freelance. We wanted to question why it’s like that, and why it feels like we always have to be available because there is so much uncertainty about when the next job will come. I don’t think critical is the right word because the film is more complex than that. Our main character Mirja does everything someone is supposed to – she gets a job and really works hard. But what happens if someone else has all the power? That’s what we wanted to address.

Friendship, too, is a key theme here…

We were interested in the dynamic between the group and the individual. We wanted to explore whether or not someone has to cut off their history when they are trying to improve their future. With groups, there is a certain sense of security and the group becomes unstable when one member distances themselves. This can be said about groups as big as society, or in a small group of friends.

In the film, we follow the group of friends planning to rob a local store. Why did you decide to use Disney marks? It feels like there is some symbolism there…

Like everything in film, we just wanted to play. In life, you do so many weird things and not all of it has a purpose. When she pulls faces in the mirror or applauds herself at work these are the kinds of things you do in real life but don’t necessarily see in the cinema. When we were thinking about the robbery scene, we wanted to make sure we were representing the types of girls we have committing the robbery. They are funny, they have energy so if they are going to rob a bank they wouldn’t do it in black. They’d do something fun with it and that says they want to play and enjoy life.

The music in the film really contributes to this playfulness, with a nice upbeat drumbeat…

Even before we got to the set I had a vision of drums playing in the film. I pictured someone in the neighbourhood playing drums and that would integrate into the score. I spoke to the composer and she came back with the idea to add violins to make a clash between the two sounds. I love that the music is so loud and vibrant.

The film is practically an all-female film. Was that a conscious decision?

Everyone asks about that and the question comes from what we are used to seeing. This wasn’t a conscious decision we made; we wanted to tell a story about a group of friends and it ended that way. There was just no room in the script for prominent male characters. In male-only stories, they don’t need a relationship with a female to reflect on, but when you see female characters often they have a man or a love interest. In real life, for women, it’s not always like that. We have other things to worry about.

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.