Swedish filmmaker Jens Assur is one of our festival guests. His films are inspired by his own experiences as a war photographer and from the news and news photos.
You started your career as a photographer. During the years working for Expressen, you were working as a war photographer e.g. in Somalia, Rwanda and Yugoslavia. What kind of an experience was it for a young man?
It was very exciting. To be young, curious and eager to learn about the world and to be able to go wherever you want to and do your thing, was a great combination. Perhaps for me it was also those premises that made it possible. Today I am taking much less risks, don’t want to leave my family if I don’t have to.
Your first short film Last Dog in Rwanda, portrays a young war photographer in the middle of the civil war in Rwanda. How autobiographical is the story?
Quite a lot, although it is important to stress that it is fiction. I came to Rwanda, as one of the first journalists after the massacre in 94 and it was a horrifying experience, that I often think about even today.
Your second film Killing the Chicken to Scare the Monkeys deals with death sentences. Where did you get the inspiration from for this film?
I read an article in The Times with this picture of a real execution in China. This image had been taken by a photographer who had smuggled it out of the country to be able to published it. That picture stayed with me for years, and gave me the idea to think and elaborate on what could have happened before that devastating scene took place.
It is the kind of film that leaves the responsibility of building the whole story to its receiver. Was it difficult to decide how much information you want and need to give and how much you can leave out, trusting in the receiver’s imagination?
I am personally very fond of stories and films that leave a lot of the plot and the interpretation of the story to the viewer. In this sense, I like questions more than answers. In this film, I wanted to play with this way of telling a story and challenge both myself and the audience. It is of course a balance to not to loose the viewer, but to keep the suspense and the eagerness to see more.
A Society is a film about the migrant crisis in the European borders. How should we, in your opinion, react to the increasing amount of immigrants? How to create safe routes to the people who are heading to north to escape war, violence or poverty, so they wouldn’t end up in the same situation as in your film?
I am in the opinion you should always help and support people that are in need. That is what makes us human. I don’t think its acceptable that people are drowning in the Mediterranean sea when escaping war and terror.
You will have a masterclass in Tampere. It includes the screening of Hot Nasty Teen, a distressing film about sexual abuse of an teenage girl. How did you come up with this story?
In Sweden we read these articles in the newspapers every now and then: older men with seemingly normal lives, in terms of family situation, carrier and social life, that take advantage of young women. They live “double lives”, organize themselves to buy and sell these women in networks. When one of Sweden´s most prominent police officers were caught in one of these sex networks I felt an urge to put this disturbing and awful phenomenon in the spotlight.
What else can we expect of your masterclass?
I will talk about the importance of a good story, how to find your own photographic language and give some useful tips and do’s and dont’s when taking the step from short film to feature film. And of course answer all interesting questions.
You are working on your first feature film. Can you tell us something about it?
Ravens is based on a best selling novel in Sweden. It takes place in the rural parts of Sweden in the seventies. It is a psychological drama about a farmer and his family. We are working in post-production right now and aiming for a premiere at one of the big festivals this year. By the way, Maria Heiskanen is in the lead role, she is fantastic.
Thu 9.3. 4 pm, Plevna 6
Sat 11.3. 12 noon, Plevna 4 (masterclass)
Sat 11.3. 8 pm, Plevna 6