A fascinating history of LGBTQIA+ representation on Swedish cinema screens is a must see for cinephiles and newcomers alike
BY GEORGIA DIMDORE-MILES, IMAGE BY BFI FLARE
Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your experience so far as an LGBTQIA+ filmmaker?
I got the idea for the film when I was at an event at the Swedish Film Institute. I had a conversation with film expert Jan Göransson who also visits BFI Flare together with me.
We spoked about the queer characters that appears in several of Ingmar Bergman’s films and we continued to talk about Sweden and how the film industry for many years has been very straight and heterogeneous, which has been reflected in decades of Swedish film production. He told me something that caught my interest right away: that in the late 1910s and early 1920s, several of Sweden’s foremost film personalities were gay but kept it a secret, such as Mauritz Stiller, Greta Garbo, Nils Asther, Hjalmar Bergman.
With my background of having lived and studied in both San Francisco and New York, where the LGBTQIA movement is the largest and most prominent in the United States, a flame was raised to take a closer look at Swedish films from a queer perspective. I saw lots of early films, contacted several queer film experts, and picked out small scenes that can be interpreted in a queer way. It was interesting to discover this unique material and when I realised that it was completely unexplored in Sweden, I decided to make a movie.
What are three adjectives that capture your film’s spirit?
Entertaining, eye opener, unique
What inspired you to submit your film to BFI Flare and what does it mean to you?
With more than three decades behind it, BFI Flare is one of the world’s longest-standing queer film events, and the biggest LGBTIQ+ film event in the UK! It is a great honour to participate in this year’s film festival with Prejudice & Pride and perfect place for our UK premiere.
Why do you think onscreen representation at BFI Flare is valuable for LGBTQIA+ audiences and allies?
Prejudice & Pride is an eye opener for many people. If you look back to the 1920s when homosexuality was prohibited by law to still see just a glimpse of yourself represented on the screen meant so much because it was a confirmation that you existed. So even the silly characters were better than not being seen at all. Being able to identify yourself on film is important and can be a great comfort.
Part of BFI Flare is the #FiveFilmsForFreedom initiative – five films are streamed for free for audiences globally. It invites everyone everywhere to show solidarity with LGBTQIA+ communities in countries where freedom and equal rights are limited. Why do you think this is important?
It is very important to show that there is another way to live for those who live in countries where freedom and equal rights are limited.
Could you tell us a bit about your film and the themes it explores?
Prejudice & Pride describes how queer people have been portrayed from the silent film era via Persona, Fanny and Alexander, House of Angels, and Show Me Love. It is a film about a part of the Swedish film history that I and probably most others did not know existed.
It is a rainbow-colored rollercoaster ride through a stunning collection of films. From Mauritz Stiller’s filming of the world’s first gay romance in 1916 to Sweden’s exciting new wave of Scandinavian transgender films, there’s plenty of gay people, drag kings and drag queens, revelations about Ingmar Bergman, 70s sexploitation camp and Greta Garbo glamour, along with all the highs and lows of the century-long struggle for queer liberation.
If you had to choose one film that inspired this feature, what would it be?
A source of inspiration has been The Celluloid Closet, an American documentary from 1995, based on the legendary gay activist Vito Russo’s 1981 lectures with the same title. We hope that Prejudice & Pride will inspire other countries to show their film history from a queer perspective.
What do you hope LGBTQIA+ audiences take away from the film?
I hope the audiences will be eager to rediscover several of these iconic titles. The Wings 1916 by Mauritz Stiller’s is an astonishing film in many ways and according to many scholars the first queer film in the world.
What is your favourite LGBTQIA+ film of all time?
I must say The Wings 1916 by Mauritz Stiller. It must have been sensational to sit as queer in the audience and watch the clearly erotic charge between Zoret and Mikael in a time when homosexuality was forbidden by law in Sweden.
Finally, what do you think are the next steps for LGBTQIA+ representation in the film industry?
To continue creating artistic films and work on getting financiers to realise that the audience want and are ready for queer films in all genres.
PREJUDICE & PRIDE – SWEDISH FILM QUEER screens at BFI Flare on Thursday 23 March at 20:30 and Saturday 25 March at 16:00.
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