Kris Rothstein's Blog

VIFF 2018: Amateurs

Kris Rothstein

Dana and Aida are teenage girls who live in Lafors, a small Swedish town. Both are visible minorities and while their parents are immigrants, they are typical Swedes.

Lafors has a manufacturing background - textiles and leather - but it’s harder to make a living now. And that is why the sleepy town council is so thrilled that a German low-quality low-cost superstore corporation is interested in locating a factory in their town.

But how to convince them that this is the best location? As one council member points out, Lafors has a terrible web presence - the top hits are all embarrassing videos from a big western themed town fair the year before (which opens the film). An official town video sounds like a great idea. But, no money. Musse, the most lovable councilor, and a visible minority himself, has a plan. He will test out the local young talent and get high school kids to try their hands at filmmaking. That’s where Dana and Aida come in. They are animated by the project and shoot artistic footage at the council office after hours while Aida’s mum is at her cleaning job.

It is no surprise when the amateur videos are rejected, and a pro is brought in to do the job. He shoots rustic cottages and picturesque bridges. But does this reflect life in town? Aida and Dana beg to differ, and continue in their filmmaking venture. While talking to people they start to question the idea that the superstore will be good for the town. They learn about the history of local industry and the poor conditions in which the superstore workers produce goods. They get angry and they ruffle a lot of feathers.

Amateurs is very funny. It is life affirming. And it is anti-capitalist, as it points out that Sweden was not a perfect golden age utopia fifty or a hundred years ago, but that workers were exploited then, too. Director Gabriela Pichler and her co-writer Jonas Hassen Khemeri are very sensitive to questions of class, race and culture. They ask questions about who can afford to fight for social justice and workers’ rights. Aida’s mother asks Dana’s parents to intervene and stop the girls from filming. She is afraid she will lose her job. She thinks activism is fine for some people, who are educated and have more financial stability. And the film certainly sympathizes with her point of view. Can the working class see protest as a luxury because they have to put food on the table? Or is every decision important, including where to buy toilet paper? I believe the film comes down on the latter side, applauding Aida and Dana and how they make their voices heard and, in the process, give voice to the ignored and silenced in their community.

Life can be hard, but it’s worth fighting for, and in a sleepy Swedish town it may be a weird amateur film that opens people’s minds. Watch the trailer - it will convince you to see this film!



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