Feb 28, 2016

It was the morning after Kjell’s 30-year birthday party

I was lying in my bed. It was a slow Saturday morning, waking up from my brother in law, Kjell’s, 30-year birthday party the night before. In 1,5 month I would give birth to my first son, I was big and my back did hurt. My husband had been out in the white February morning picking up the newspaper. Came back. Said “Olof Palme is dead”. I don’t know if he crawled up in the bed with me or if he stayed in the kitchen making us breakfast. All I know is me lying in bed reading the words looking at the pictures. Not being able to take it in. Like every Swede that morning.

Olof Palme was the Swedish Prime Minister shot and killed on the street in Stockholm on his way home from the movies Friday evening February 28 1986. A man born conservative upper class joining the Social Democrats, becoming a skilled controversial politician, admired by many and highly criticized by others, even hated. Olof Palme left no one indifferent.

The police investigation, 30 years later still ongoing, is the most extensive in the world. The data base includes 87 318 personal documents. 10 225 persons have been interrogated. 133 have admitted the shooting. No one has been convicted. The murder weapon was never found and the murder is unsolved. And I don’t think Swedes in general have hope that it ever will be.

The investigation, conducted in the Palme Group, has worked on different tracks or leads through the years. The PKK track, the lonely shooter, the police track, the South Africa track. Today there is no main track that we know of, although the investigation claims to be very active, still putting in a lot of effort on tracing the murder weapon. Time is working against it though. Locations changes, memories fade, people die. All three investigators will retire within the next couple of months and the director is thinking about an early retirement too.

After 30 years, would it make any difference if the case was solved? It would. The Palme murder is to Swedes what the JFK is to Americans. A country needs a closure. 

It says Sweden lost it’s innocence when Olof Palme was shot. I think that’s true. And it’s a trauma. Like every American (and many many other throughout the world) knows in detail where they were and what they did when President Kennedy was shot, every Swede recalls their exact situation as the news about Olof Palme reached them.

September 10 2003 our Minister of Foreign Affairs Anna Lindh was stabbed shopping in a mall in Stockholm. She died the morning after. I was at work following the news casts with my colleagues. I know exactly where in the room I was sitting. It happened again.

Can you loose your innocence more than once? I think you can. One definition of chock is when something happens that completely alters your perspective. Of yourself, of the world close to you or the one spinning in the solar system.

I think the next time the Swedish innocence was lost was when the nationalistic Sweden Democrats had 9,7% of the Swedish vote in the European Union. Being followed by a 12,9% vote in the Swedish Parliament the same year. It had been unthinkable, but it happened. Who had we become? And this fall and winter Sweden has closed it’s borders to refugees in great danger and despair. Who have we become? Is this my country? Who are we in the world? What had Olof Palme been thinking about his party the Social Democrats following in the foot steps of the racist and xenophobic Sweden Democrats? What had been his stand? We will never know.

But this was a Prime Minister who’s opinion about the United States’ actions in the Vietnam war was so strong the U.S ambassador in Sweden John Guthrie was summoned back home. We can be sure he would not had hold his tongue.

Today my (ex)-brother in law is turning 60, now a grand father. My oldest son will be 30 in 1,5 month. A generation has passed. Media is remembering, contemplating, finding new angles, telling the story, over and over again. As they should. Doing their job. But also giving the country a chance to grieve and morn. As we need. As we must. Again.

Feb 21, 2016

The portrait of an entrepreneurial life

We are there! It’s a bit hard to take in, but we are really there!

I first met Krister Olsson in 2004 when I pitched a film to him, the story about a city design project his company Balticgruppen and the City of Umeå had launched together. Staden mellan broarna, The City Between the Bridges, a dramatic change of the waterfront scene at the Umeå River. We were about to get a new front porch!

Krister Olsson didn’t know me and I’m sure he had never seen anything I had produced, but his response was positive! The result was a 25 minutes long documentary about an extremely exciting project involving the most prestigious Nordic architects… that never happened. The City didn’t do it’s part of the job. Or, according to my footage I can be very blunt here, claiming our most powerful politician Lennart Holmlund didn’t step up to his responsibility. Coming to that man, it’s hard to say if it was strategy or if he was just plain stupid.

Back then, in 2004, Krister Olsson and I also decided on a film portrait about him. Telling the story about his life as an entrepreneur. About the boy who wanted to become a pilot, but chose not to when his father, a pilot himself, died in a plane crash, taking off in the Swedish mountains. Krister was 19 years old. Instead his choice became taking care of the family business, a small plumbing firm which he over the coming 50 years developed into a business- construction- and developing company worth of today around 3 billion Swedish crowns - I am trying converting into US dollar but getting different numbers, and since me and math isn’t to trust I am staying out of it. Krister Olsson’s total focus today is developing Umeå.

Anyway, the years passed. He didn’t have the time, or didn’t make the story of his life a priority. Until summer 2013. For me, as a storyteller, the timing was great. The collapsed city design project was to some degree replaced with the creation of a new cultural center down at the waterfront, and one of the architects from 2004, Norwegian Snöhetta, was hired for the design. The name of the building is Väven, The Weave - or The Fabric.

My idea was to tell the story of Väven parallel with the story of Krister. About twenty people around Krister and Krister himself are weaving his tale meanwhile Väven grows to change the Umeå skyline as well as the waterfront.

It’s been 2,5 interesting and tremendously fun years. And the reason I have been able to follow it through although I’ve mostly been tied to my couch is my wonderful and competent crew. I can totally trust them on doing a creative and professional job and I am always confident they will bring home the material I need. The two cinema photographers Tomas Olsson and Martin Gärdemalm, sound engineers Johannes Oscarsson and Linda Iro Näsström, Trouble 2 in charge of the post production, Fay the graphic designer, and Trouble 1 as composer of the original music. I am blessed to be working with these people: my children and their friends.

The result is a film, just shy of two hours. A portrait of the boy who wanted to fly, but instead came to make Umeå take off for a different level. On Wednesday Trouble 2 and I executed the solemn hand over to Krister Olsson. 2016 a two hour film is delivered on a tiny shiny USB-memory engraved with the film title. And in this case packaged in a custom made blue box, crafted by the bookbinder Åsa Bergqvist - my ex sister in law by the way.

The review came the day after. The portrait was well received. Our work is done and I can allow myself feeling proud and happy. But most of all I am incredibly grateful for the trust Krister Olsson gave me, laying the story of his life in my hands.

Feb 14, 2016

Crowded, good or bad?

Seattle often occurs on lists. Of different kind. I am sure the one the city takes most pride in is Most Livable City in the U.S. according to Forbes. 2015 Seattle was ranked nr. 6, but has had higher numbers earlier on. The list of Worst Traffic might leave the city in shame though, nr. 7.

Now, for the first time, Seattle ranks in the Top Ten for population density. With 7,962 people per square mile in 2014, Seattle leapfrogged Baltimore into the No. 10 spot among the 50 most populous cities in the country. Seattle’s population density has increased by nearly 10 percent since the 2010 Census. And if current growth rates continue, Seattle will bypass No. 9 Los Angeles within five years. Here is the list:
  • Nr 1  New York City 28,056 (per square mile)
  • Nr 2  San Fransisco          18,187
  • Nr 3  Boston                     13,586
  • Nr 4  Miami                      11,997
  • Nr 5  Chicago                   11,959
  • Nr 6  Philadelphia            11,635
  • Nr 7 Washington DC       10,793
  • Nr 8  Long Beach, Calif.   9,416
  • Nr 9  Los Angeles              8,383
  • Nr 10 Seattle                      7,962

Now, is this a good thing? Well, it depends on who you ask. Worst Traffic, bad, that’s something nobody is arguing against. Most Livable, yes, that’s a nice thing. Population Density, somewhat unclear.

Looking at the Seattle map, Capitol Hill is the most populated. Still, the area is mostly true to it’s modern origin. Old beautiful brick walk-ups, may be four stories, garden apartments at the lowest level, the neighborhood fabric is wonderful. You can walk to the grocery store, there are parks nearby. That’s some of the densest part in the city, yet  it doesn’t feel overwhelming. It’s very human-scale. The densest part of Capitol Hill packs in about 55,000 people per square mile — actually comparable to Greenwich Village in New York.

The fastest growing area in Seattle is South Lake Union, and we all know who to blame. Amazon. Invading a sleepy warehouse and small business area transforming it to a crowded glass and steel construction. That’s the general opinion, which makes it ok to to say density is a bad thing. 

Then again, we have neighborhoods like Madrona which needs people to make it’s little center going. That’s where I stayed my second visit in Seattle summer 1995, and I loved the cafés, the barber shop and the cute restaurants on 34th Avenue, all in walking distance. But of course you need a loyal crowd for the business to work.

There is something though, everyone can agree on. Something drastic needs to be done about housing and traffic. Or else the ranking on the Most Livable City- and Worst Traffic lists will be numbers no one wants and nothing to be proud of.

Feb 7, 2016

"You really are a storyteller"

I’m not sure what would be the best picture to symbolize the feeling. But maybe giving a long concert with no applause until the end. If the applause arrives.

This Thursday was the day for showing the film to the client. Or more correctly, to my contact at the client. The documentary, a film portrait of The entrepreneur/ developer of Umeå, Krister Olsson, that I have been working on for the last 2,5 years. http://homeisawayawayishome.blogspot.se/2016/01/the-joyful-process-of-film-making.html

Three weeks ago there was a film in one piece. Which doesn’t mean it’s done. It only means it’s in one piece. Since then different persons have been working on there special expertise for the finish. And it’s practically been a family affair. Trouble 2 does the grading. Cousin Johannes the audio editing and sound design. Audrey is the graphic designer and Trouble 1 composes the original music.

So, Thursday Trouble 2 and I welcomed my contact (his name is Staffan) to my place at the end of the road for a screening. Me on my couch, he in my most comfortable sofa chair. He had only watched a couple of clips before, so taking off for a two hour long documentary was… well, exciting is an understatement. I would rather say nerve wrecking. 

There were a couple of spontaneous positive comments. And some giggle. To keep the focus up Trouble 2 served coffee and warm Danish after an hour. I was extremely tensed. Would it work? Had I got it all wrong? Imagine getting a two hour long documentary wrong!!

Staffan used to be a TV and film producer in his earlier days, so he knows the field. And I would say praising and giving random credit isn’t his thing. In other words, if he didn’t like what he saw he would let med know. That I could trust. 

The sunny afternoon had faded into dusk when my logo ended the film. And Staffan told us he liked it. He really did. And he praised (!) the photo and the cutting. Trouble 2 and I exhaled simultaneously out, of relief. He had comments, of course. We will do a few adjustments, so this week will be some re editing and trimming, but nothing that weighs on us. On the contrary, we are excited to take on the final polish of this film that’s been our companion for a long time now.

I am so relieved. And I am incredibly happy. The applause arrived. But what really made the day and will for all my days ahead is Staffan’s comment on me and my work: “You really are a storyteller Maria.”