2021-01-28 13:28Press release

Swedish films at the Sundance Film Festival

Björn Andresen. Photo © Mario Tursi 1970Björn Andresen. Photo © Mario Tursi 1970

Five Swedish films and one co-production have been selected for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, which starts today January 28. Ninja Thyberg’s Pleasure (also selected for Cannes 2020) and Frida Kempff’s Knocking will have their world premieres at the festival. The Most Beautiful Boy in the World by Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri and Sabaya by Hogir Hirori will both compete in the Documentary section. Flex by David Strindberg and Josefin Malmen will screen in the Short Film section. Also screening is Swedish co-production Flee by Jonas Poher Rasmussen.

Pleasure by Ninja Thyberg – World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Pleasure is set in the American porn industry. Bella, a young and ambitious 20-year-old, travels from Sweden to Los Angeles to become the next big porn star. Sofia Kappel makes her feature debut in the lead role, surrounded by a mostly authentic cast from the porn world. Pleasure is a film about ambition and feminism, set in one of the world’s most patriarchal structures. Pleasure was chosen for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival's Official Selection.

– I am incredibly happy that the film has been selected for Sundance. I screened the short film with the same name there in 2014, and have longed for the feature film to be shown in the US where it also takes place. The positive thing about this year's festival being mostly digital is that I get a chance to show the film to audiences in all states. I feel very expectant of their reactions! says writer-director Ninja Thyberg.

About the director: Ninja Thyberg won the Canal+Award for Best International Short Film in Cannes 2013 with her film Pleasure, which competed at Sundance the following year. Pleasure is Thyberg’s feature film debut.

The Most Beautiful Boy in the World by Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri – World Cinema Documentary Competition

– It has been fifty years since director Luchino Visconti named Björn Andrésen the World's Most Beautiful Boy, in the role of Tadzio, in the legendary Death in Venice. Björn used to call it "the movie that ruined my life". But who was this boy? And what happened in his life? It is a journey through unwanted attention and real darkness, says co-director Kristina Lindström

– We are very happy and honored that our film has been selected for the competition, and will have its world premiere at the fantastic Sundance festival. We are grateful that Björn was so brave during the filming and that he let us tell his story, says co-director Kristian Petri.

Actor Björn Andrésen made his film debut in Roy Andersson's A Swedish Love Story (1970) and was then cast in Visconti's Death in Venice at only 15 years of age. Andrésen’s most recent role was in Ari Aster's Swedish-American horror film Midsommar (2019).

About the directors: Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri are filmmakers, journalists, and writers. Lindström has directed highly acclaimed documentaries about the writer Astrid Lindgren and the ex prime minister Olof Palme. Petri won Best Director at the Swedish Guldbagge Awards for his first feature film, Between Summers (1995), which was selected for Quinzaine des Realisateurs in Cannes. His latest film is L136 (2018) about Ingmar Bergman and Vilgot Sjöman.

Knocking by Frida Kempff – Midnight

Molly (played by Cecilia Milocco), a woman who has just experienced a traumatic incident, is unnerved by a haunting knocking sound from upstairs in her new apartment building. As the noises become more desperate and increasingly sound like cries for help, she confronts her neighbors, but it seems no one else can hear them. Molly soon realizes that no one believes her, and begins to question if she even believes herself – a realization that is perhaps even more chilling.

– I am incredibly happy to show my debut film Knocking at Sundance in the Midnight section. A section known for films like The Blair Witch ProjectHereditary and The Babadook. It is clearly an honor for Knocking to be in the same context, says Frida Kempff.

About the director: Kempff’s films films range from documentaries to narrative dramas. Her work has been screened and won awards at festivals including Cannes, IDFA, BFI London Film Festival, Hot Docs, and Telluride. Her feature documentary debut, Winter Buoy, premiered at festivals and cinemas in 2015 and won several international awards.

Sabaya by Hogir Hirori – World Cinema Documentary Competition

With only a mobile phone and a gun, Mahmud, Ziyad and their group risk their lives to try to rescue Yazidi women and girls held captive by IS as sabaya (sex slaves) in the most dangerous camp in the Middle East, Al-Hol in Syria.

– It is a huge recognition that Sabaya is part of Sundance, it feels absolutely fantastic for all of us who have worked with the film. I am very excited to see how the film will be received, says Hogir Hirori.

About the director: Hogir Hirori is one of Sweden’s most acclaimed documentary filmmakers. Born in Iraqi Kurdistan, Hirori fled to Sweden in 1999 and is now based in Stockholm. His previous documentary The Deminer (2018) won the Special Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature at IDFA. Since then, the film has screened at more than 50 international film festivals and aired on more than 30 broadcasters worldwide.

Flex by Josefin Malmén and David Strindberg – Short Film

He may be god enough, but is good enough? Flex is a slightly surreal comedic exploration of a bodybuilder’s self-loathing and self-loving.

– This is so crazy in the best of ways. For us, Sundance is the Festival with a capital F. For two people whose lives only revolve around film, this is not a career goal but a goal in life, says writer-directors Josefin Malmén and David Strindberg.

About the directors: Malmén and Strindberg are based between London and Stockholm, working both separately and together using the moniker BABYBABY.

Flee by Jonas Poher Rasmussen (co-production)

Flee is an animated documentary telling the true story of a man who is forced to confront his past in order to save his future. Amin came from Afghanistan to Denmark as a traveling child. As a 36-year-old, he is a successful academic and married to his boyfriend. A secret that has been hidden for 20 years risks destroying the life he has built up. For the first time, he tells his story to a close friend. The film was selected for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival's Official Selection.

About the director: Jonas Poher Rasmussen is a Danish director. His last film, the biographical documentary What He Did (2015) won the Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Olso/Fusion International Film Festival.

For more info on screenings and Q&A's, please contact Theo Tsappos, Festival Manager at the Swedish Film Institute: theo.tsappos@sfi.se, +46 76 779 11 33.

For production notes, see Swedish Film, published by the International Dept at the Swedish Film Institute. 

The five feature films/documentaries have all been supported by the Swedish Film Institute.

The Sundance Film Festival takes place January 28 – February 3. See the full program here.

About The Swedish Film Institute

The Swedish Film Institute is a collective voice for film in Sweden, and a meeting-place for experiences and insights that elevate film on all levels. We preserve and make available Sweden’s film heritage, work to educate children and young people in film and moving images, support the production, distribution and screening of valuable film, and represent Swedish film internationally. A broad diversity of narratives establishes discussions and insights that strengthen the individual and our democracy. Together, we enable more people to create, experience and be enriched by film.


Jan Göransson
Head of Press
Jan Göransson
Per Perstrand
Communications Officer – Press
Per Perstrand