Swedish director Gabriela Pichler’s second feature is an extraordinary piece of work which defies categorization. Co-written with best-selling novelist Jonas Hassen Khemiri, it has recently won the Dragon Award at Goteborg Film Festival.
Amateurs takes us to Lafors: a typical, small, Swedish town, with a proud history of agriculture and manufacture, but which is now dying. The local council is keen to attract German discount store “Superbilly” to the town, and decides that it needs to make a promotional video to assist with their pitch. In a cost-cutting measure they give the brief to the local high school, and good friends Aida (Zahraa Aldoujaili) and Dana (Yara Aliadotter) take up the challenge with gusto. So much so that, when the council decides the school films aren’t good enough and bring in a professional, the girls continue with their film, unfazed by criticism.
Much of the cast of this film is inexperienced and therefore bring a freshness to the work. In fact, 99% of the cast were “amateurs” themselves. Aldoujaili and Aliadotter are brilliant as the two schoolgirls who take on the council’s sanitized version of the town they love. Pitchler deliberately cast people who had expertise in the area of their character, rather than experience in acting. For example, Fredrik, the town councillor, is actually played by a municipal councillor. Parts of the film were improvised, which adds immensely to the immediacy and truthfulness of the work,
The diversity in both casting and writing is a breath of fresh air: neither girl is the standard “pretty teen”; there are unfussed hints that they are lovers; the dialogue is in Swedish, Tamil, German, English, Kurdish, Arabic, Bosnian and Romanian, reflecting the multi-culturalism of modern Sweden.
This film questions the nature of self-image, both for individuals, and communities, especially those of contemporary Sweden; it cuts through stereotypes and filmic expectations; it even questions the very authenticity of film itself. This work also asks us to question the short-term gain of allowing large, outside companies, to bolster a local economy. At what long-term cost? And at what cost to those off-shore workers supplying much of goods? Amongst other things, it is a love-letter to the dying, artisan industries of Sweden, such as tanning. It is hilarious, moving, sweet, serious and utterly unpredictable.
Pichler is that rare creature: a truly innovative voice in film.
Amateurs is currently showing as part of the Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival at Palace Nova Eastend and Prospect.
Check out screening times here.