News 2013

Interview with Anna Odell, director of Återträffen (The Reunion)

Giulia Ghigi Who was Anna Odell before becoming a director?

Anna Odell I started out as an artist and I have a Masters degree in fine art. Approaching my teenage years, as I realized the time had come to stop playing as kid, there was an enormous void. Discovering that art is a grown-up way of playing was my way out of that void. Art is my way of relating to life.

I have always had a great interest in, as well as being sensitive to human power structures and hierarchies. In 2009, I presented a work that sparked a huge debate in Sweden about what art is and how far one is allowed go in the name of art. Its title is Unknown Woman 2009-349701 and it is made up of several parts, but the part that got the debate going was the one where I chose to enact a psychotic episode on a bridge in Stockholm. I have myself suffered from a psychological illness for several years. I chose to use myself and my own experience to put the spotlight on power structures within the psychiatric care system and I used myself as an object to portray society and psychiatry.

GG Why did you choose this story for your debut film?

AO I have wanted to work with the subject of bullying for many years. Throughout elementary school I was bullied and so I wanted to use my experiences in some way to, among other things, research the relationships within a group following changes in the hierarchy. The thing that drives me in my art is to create fiction and to bring the fiction out into reality and then let reality react to the fiction in order to create a work where all parts rely on each other.

GG Why did you choose a film as a way for your artistic expression?

AO When I started working with the project my first thought was to create a work of art with documentary elements. I knew it was about time for a 20th anniversary for my former school class but I didn’t know when it would happen. But I started writing a speech that I wanted to read if ever there was a party. I would then use the reactions from my classmates as a starting point for the project. During these preparations I learned that there had been a class reunion but that I hadn’t been invited. That’s when the idea of making a feature film was born. I decided to use actors to shoot The Reunion, the one where I would be invited. I decided to push the envelope in the film and then contact my real class mates and show them a rough cut of the enacted class reunion.

GG How was the experience on the set on a feature length film? (Most satisfying and more difficult moment?)

AO The journey, working with all these committed people, has been fantastic. The actors I worked with have been fearless and generous with their own experiences which has meant a lot for the process, particularly for the first part of the film. This part is mainly improvised, even though we’ve had a well defined screenplay to keep in line with in each scene. The greatest challenge has been to both direct a film for the very first time and at the same time play the lead.

GG What does it mean the research of point of view for you?

AO I want to shed light on the things we are often aware of but for different reasons choose to ignore. My working method is to explore a theme and through that process find an artistic portrayal. The research point of view is an important part of what drives me creatively.

GG Even in your previous artistic performance, Unknown Woman (2009), you resort as well to a camera: do you use the camera as a witness?

AO I use the camera as a tool when exploring our behaviours and in that sense you might say that I use the camera as a witness when I enact something in real life.

GG How much do you think relationships between classmates can influence an adult person’s life?

AO I think that our experiences from school affect us enormously and that we are shaped by and influence each other throughout life. This also means that we can change and recover from bad experiences by coming into new contexts where we are able to take part. That’s why I believe that we all have a big responsibility in our relationships with each other and that we can all help in preventing bullying and ostracism.