We met up with DOX:AWARD nominee Erik Gandini “The Swedish Theory of Love” that has its World premiere at the 13th edition of the documentary film festival.

What is it that you wish to tell with the documentary?

– It’s something that I have been thinking about and been annoyed by for a long time. You see, I grew up in Italy, but I live in Sweden now. I came to Sweden when I was 20 years old, but I come from an Italian-Swedish family. My mother is Swedish, so I have been living in two countries for my whole life. And Sweden is the opposite of Italy in many ways. And I had difficulties understanding the Swedish lifestyle that is so much focusing on every individual. The whole idea of independency is very crucial in the cultural values of Sweden. That is something that is difficult to understand if you come from another country. I found out that it was actually a political project of guaranteeing every citizen this freedom from the family, from depending from anybody.

There was a manifesto written in the 1970s, where the second line of goal was that no adult individual should ever be economic dependent on anybody else. And this has affected the whole society. And this is something that has been implemented effectively in all of the Scandinavian countries. So that means that a young person can move out at an early age, that an elderly person is not dependent on his or her children, a woman is not dependent on her husband. This is existentially interesting. And it is not only in Scandinavia – it’s tendency in the whole world, but especially in the Western world. And here Sweden was better at implementing it than any other country. So to end your answer, I have issues with this because it is not so obvious to me that this independency is equal to happiness, even though I am Swedish. I think that there is a level of loneliness that is scary. The film is basically saying “Great idea, but are we sure that this is really the main goal?” Can we do a reality check? That is what I wish to do with the film.

What do you hope the documentary will result in?

– It’s very hard to say. You think the topic is so super interesting, but then when the audience see the film it’s just not as interesting for them. But it could also start something new that eventually could lead to some sort of change. Because I don’t think it needs a revolution, but it’s more something that needs a bit of correction. I don’t know about Denmark, but Sweden has a history of correcting things and collectively solved like gender issues, or environment, or traffic death. And the whole society moved there and fixed it. So I really hope that this film is going to be the new topic to deal with. And then suddenly people will do it. I hope that interdependence will become more interesting than independence.

How did you feel when you found out that you were nominated in DOX:AWARD at CPH:DOX?

– I have been at the festival many times before and I really really like it. It is definitely the most interesting documentary film festival in terms of profile. Let me tell you a story. In the late 80s when I went to film school in Sweden, at that time documentaries were seen as sort of a continuation of a journalistic approach. You shouldn’t be too present in the film, had to give the impression of being neutral. Because there was this idea that documentaries should be seen as an observation. If I look at what is happening now in documentaries it is fantastic because documentaries are not like that anymore. There has been an acceptance of the personal value in documentaries and in that sense CPH:DOX has gone even further in really looking beyond. Because all these rules that I was describing before are going against what artistic expression is. And documentaries are an artistic expression. It just feels so good to come here and see these big posters with CPH:DOX on the busses and at Strøget. Because of the risk of documentaries is that it is this unglamorous feeling to them, and less aesthetics, less visual, less entertaining. All that is something that I have tried going against with all the topics that I have made. It is not a film, not a rom-com, but again the feeling of bigness that you get here is so so important.


Watch “The Swedish Theory of Love” on November 14 at 14:30 at Cinemateket. Read more about “The Swedish Theory of Love” here