In 1916 Sire Marainen was suffocated. She was pregnant at the time. In the short narrative film of Liselotte Wajstedt, we follow Sire’s everyday life until her final moments. We are a part of her little world and get to see how big that little world can be. How rich it’s in emotions, sounds and memories. To handle her situation, she needs to focus on the small details. Sire reminds us of life and not death.
Based in Stockholm, Liselotte is a Sámi multimedia artist from Kiruna whose work spans film and video, collage, painting, photography, sculpture, textiles, and installation. Her experimental moving image body of work comprises over two dozen shorts and feature-length films. Spanning hybrid documentary, experimental media, music video, dance, and fiction films. It is our pleasure to speak to her about the making of her latest film project.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?
I am a trained visual artist and when I was studying at art school, I started to explore
motion drawings and discovered a new world. I did my education at the Film
Academy: Animation and Experimental Film, documentary film and screenplay for
feature film. I studied in Stockholm, which is far from Sápmi and my Sami culture.
I grew up in the north of Sweden in Kiruna, which is a Swedish mining town in the
middle of Sami country. My Sami mother did not teach me much about the Sami
culture because she was afraid that I would be exposed to racism. When I then
moved to southern Sweden, I started getting questions about my Sami culture and I
discovered that I knew nothing about it. Then I started searching for my Sami identity.
With the camera as a shield, I traveled into Sápmi to find out if I belonged to the
culture. It became a documentary film called Sámi Nieida Jojk (58 min, 2007). I found
my identity and since then I have been working in film full time.
What genre of filmmaking are you looking to work on and why?
I work in many genres and have never wanted to be stuck in one box, I always want
to explore new possibilities. My background is visual arts; then experimental film;
documentary. I have just launched my first feature film, which is a documentary about
abuse where I followed two vulnerable girls for 7 years. The film is called Tystnaden i
Sápmi (72 min, 2022). We have an international premiere at Montréal: International
First People's; Festival Présence autochtone on August 15th. I am happy and proud
that the film will have its international premiere at an indigenous festival. It is where it
is most needed.
In the summer of 2021, I recorded the fiction film "Sire and the last summer" which I
have completed in parallel, during the year, with the documentary film "The silence in
Sire and the last summer is fiction and right now that's where I want to be. I have
written my first long fiction film for which I have received development support.
I also write a TV series. I want to do so much and have ideas for a long time to come.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent female filmmaker?
I am proud to say that women have helped me move forward in my career. Right
from the start, I have had female producers and consultants who believed in me. I
have mostly worked with documentary film and know that world.
Today I find it difficult to find a producer for feature films. My experience is that the
feature film world is a more male world. Men rule where there is money and women
are dominated in the documentary world, where there is more heart and less money.
It's just my own experience, I don't speak for everyone. It's quite difficult to find
female feature film producers who make films on women's terms. I'm often my own producer, but that doesn't work in feature films.
How challenging is it to fund indie films?
Applying for film funding is challenging. I think the process of developing a film and
applying for financial support for the film is an exciting process. It helps the project
move forward and is an indicator of whether the project is successful or not.
If several financiers say no, then the project needs to be developed further.
I started my company in 2009 when my daughter was 1 year old and I decided that I
will do nothing but film. I have succeeded in that so far. I decided that the time I would have spent on a "regular job" I now spent on applying for money and developing the projects, which also made me better at writing. I think you should see that work as a challenge and that it is a good thing.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in
Lynne Ramsay's film "Morven Callar"(2002) was my first experience of how I want to
work with film. It is experimental with a lot of silent dialogue. I loved the move that the
music found in the film is experienced through the main character's Walk Man.
Swedish director Ingmar Bergman and the film "Persona". Persona is such a
beautiful experience. There are female close relationships with many bottoms.
David Lynch has been one of my favorites from the start. Twin Peaks has laid the
foundation for my desire to work with the experimental in film: to always dare to try
something new. I feel that he is brave who does not play with "safe cards", but he
dares to challenge the audience by leaving a lot open to their own conclusions.
I also want to mention the Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki. I like the silent dialogues
along with the scenes that build up like moving paintings.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
This summer I recorded a short film "EADNI" which is one of 6 films in the ÁRRAN
360° project. It will be presented in a purpose-built giant lávvu and equipped with a
360-degree screen designed to showcase these special works.
The world premiere of ÁRRAN 360° is in Venice, Italy, on the 26th of August. ÁRRAN
360°is an official part of the extended program of ´The Sámi Pavilion´ at the 59th
International Art Exhibition of La Biennale de Venezia
For the moment I am writing the script for a feature film "Lisa and Cilla" which is a
kind of Thelma and Louise in Sápmi. It's about a woman who runs away from her
violent husband and comes home to her hometown in northern Sweden, where she
gets to live in sheltered accommodation with her daughter. In Kiruna, she meets her
childhood friend Cilla and they tentatively find their way back to each other. It results
in warm friendship but also a violent rebellion against the destructive relationships
they find themselves in.
I'm also writing a TV series with the working title "With my heart in my hand in a
garden of stone" which is a continuation of the story about Lisa.
Also have two other feature films and several short films in development in my head.
It's like there's not enough time. It’s like treasures.
What was the inspiration behind your latest film project?
Sire and the last summer came about because I suddenly got a severe pollen
allergy in 2017 so that I couldn't breathe.
Throughout my growing up, I have heard the story of Sire, my grandfather's mother,
who was suffocated. She was pregnant and they could feel the fetus kicking in her
stomach for several hours after she died. The breadth of that story came as I sat
there struggling to breathe. It was like her story just came, it flowed through me and I
could feel what she felt. It may sound fuzzy, but it was as if she was talking through
me. I wrote and wrote and it became a kind of poetic conversation between her and
her unborn child. The child was there as a spiritual voice to ease her fears. And
maybe even my fear.
When then Corona broke out in 2020, the film suddenly got a relevant voice in the
time. I wanted to make a beautiful film about death, a kind of comfort.
How did you find the cast and the crew of the film?
I wanted to work with a Sami team and I prefer to work with women.
Since the main language in “Sire and The Last Summer” is Sami, I needed to look for
The Sami world is small. There are only about 30,000 of us in Sweden and that
means both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that I know the culture
and the people, and the disadvantage is that there are too few of us. But I am very
proud of the team I got together. Post-work with music, sound mixing and coloring I
have done in Stockholm together with some of those who have been with me since
the start of my career.
What is the distribution plan of the film and did the film receive any screenings or was it
featured in festivals?
The film is new and has not yet premiered. It will premiere in September at the film
festival Filmfest Sundsvall, where it is in the competition. It will be shown at an
exhibition CHIRAPAQ, Center for Indigenous Cultures of Peru October 13-15. It will
be included in some art exhibitions during the year in Sweden and in the Faroe
Islands in February 2023.
Then we'll see where the film move forward. I am extremely grateful that you want to
pay attention to the film!
Why do you make films and what kind of impact would your work have on the world?
I choose topics that are close to my heart, such as women's issues, abuse and
violence. Mostly it takes place in Sápmi, where I come from.
My education is visual artist, animation and experimental film, documentary film and
now script for feature films and TV series. I have lived in different places and in
different cultures. Therefore, I have a lot of experience.
I really believe that I can help others through my films, which usually deal with identity
issues, abuse and breaking silences.
My latest feature film Silence in Sápmi is about abuse in a Sami environment.
Research shows that Sami women are to a greater extent exposed to abuse than
ethnically Norwegian or Swedish women. Sápmi is grand and beautiful, to the
surface. But beneath the beautiful façade are secrets that rub. I wanted to show the
fragility and if we scratch the surface there is something else. Even though the film
takes place in a Sami environment, I think many people can take it to heart: other
indigenous peoples or people living in smaller communities that can be helped by this
film. It turns out that abuse is all over the place in every subculture where it becomes
taboo. It can help open up about difficult topics we don't dare talk about. #metoo
must not be forgotten.