Swede Anita Ekberg, from Malmö in Skåne, played an iconic leading role in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1961). She is notably remembered for the scene where she bathed in la Fontana di Trevi. Born in 1931, she won the Miss Sweden title at the age of 20, and then went to USA to compete in Miss Universe. Although she didn’t win, she worked as a model and a hostess and got small film roles.
She was famously opinionated and refused to change her surname saying that if she became famous everybody would learn her name, and if she didn’t it wouldn’t matter.
Ekberg appeared in many films, but interestingly never a Swedish one. She retired from acting in 2002 and died in 2015 at age 83 in Rome.
Marvel Comics recently released an advert for an upcoming event with the slogan ‘Knull is coming!’ The headline has caused raised eyebrows, and curiosity, in Sweden.
Knull is apparently a super villain in the Marvel universe. Knull is an all-powerful creature that kills other gods. He is immortal and self-healing. His name should imbue fear and dread. The problem is in Sweden, it is more likely to inspire ridicule.
The thing is that the word ‘Knull’ in Swedish means ‘fuck’.
So, ‘Knull is coming’ has a whole different meaning to the Swedes than the rest of the world.
I wonder who’s going to tell Marvel? Or maybe they already know – and don’t give a knull.
I remember the first Swedish film I ever saw. I was living in London, and there was a film festival in a cinema on the South Bank. I’d never heard of the film, but had heard of the author who’s book it was based on – Astrid Lindgren. The film was called ‘Ronja, the robber’s daughter’, and it was a dramatic romp set in the Viking era. I loved it.
Since then, I’ve seen many Swedish films, of varying quality, from Christmas romcoms to Bergman. The Swedish film industry is alive and kicking, and many films are released in the Swedish language every year. Sweden even has its own center of film-making lovingly nick-named Trollywood.
If you’re self-isolated at home and you’d like to watch a Swedish film, here are some that I think are good, in no particular order:
1. ‘Monica Z’ – drama about Swedish jazz legend Monica Zetterlund, played amazingly by singer Edda Magnusson.
2. ‘Border’ (Gräns) – dark drama about a border guard who can smell fear
3. ‘As it is in heaven’ (Så som i himmelen) – drama about a famous conductor who retires to a remote village and takes over the local choir. Drama ensues.
4. ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ (Män som hatar kvinnor) – a action thriller about legendary anti-hero Lisbet Salander and a twisted murder mystery plot. Starring Noomi Rapace.
5. ‘House of Angels’ (Änglagård) – a comedy drama about a modern young woman who inherits a house from her mother in a small rural village. But she is not welcomed by all.
6. ‘The Dalecarlians’ (Masjävlarna) – a comedy drama about a woman who visits her hometown to celebrate her father’s 70th birthday. An urban-rural clash takes centre stage. Starring ‘The Bridge’s Sofia Helin.
7. ‘Fanny and Alexander’ – a long Bergman film about a wealthy family in Uppsala. A classic Christmas saga and probably the only Bergman film that everybody likes.
8. ‘Let the Right One in’ (Låt den rätte kommer in) – a drama horror film about a vampire child living in a dark Stockholm suburb
9. ’My life as a dog’ (Mitt liv som hund) – a drama about a young boy and his odd way of dealing with life’s set backs.
10. ’The Hunters’ (Jägarna) – a drama thriller about a wicked group of hunters in the north of Sweden.
11. ’A man called Ove’ (en man som heter Ove) – a drama comedy based on the best-selling novel about the adventures of a grumpy, old man in a Swedish small town.
12. ‘Show me Love’ (Fucking Åmål) – a drama comedy love story between two young girls in the conservative town of Åmål.
On Sunday, it’s the annual Oscar’s gala and this year there are 2 Swedish nominations included. Over the Oscar’s 91-year history, 14 Swedes have taken home a statue. Many of these academy awards are for lighting, costumes, photography and direction. Not much for acting. In fact, despite Sweden’s excellent acting corps, only 2 people have won an Oscar for their acting talents.
Do you know who they are?
Below, you will find their names.
1944, Ingrid Bergman for Best Lead Actress in ‘Gaslight’ and in 1956 for ‘Anastasia’. She also won for Best Supporting Actress in ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ in 1974
2016, Alicia Vikander for Best Supporting Actress in ‘The Danish Girl’
Sweden has also had a few actors who were nominated and didn’t win:
1972, Ann-Margret for Best Supporting Actress in ‘Carnal Knowledge’ and Best Lead Actress for ‘Tommy’ in 1976
1989, Max von Sydow för Best Lead Actor in ‘Pelle the Conquerer’ and in 2012 for Best Supporting Actor in ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’
1990, Lena Olin for Best Supporting Actress in ‘Enemies: a love story’
Swedish legend Greta Garbo never actually won an Oscar, although she was nominated 4 times. In 1955, she was given an honorary Oscar however.
This year, Sweden has no acting nominees. So we’ll have keep our fingers crossed for the categories best make-up and best music instead.
It can hardly have escaped anyone’s attention that Swedish actress Alicia Wikander is currently the sweetheart of Hollywood. Receiving an Oscar, marrying film star Michael Fassbender, coupled with fantastic acting ability, grace and poise, has positioned her firmly as the actress of her generation.
As I read about Alicia, I became curious about other Swedish actresses who have conquered Hollywood. To my surprise, she is the latest in a list of Swedish actresses stretching back 100 years. I found that there was at least one Swedish actress who broke through per decade (with questionable exception of the 90’s) and who made the Transatlantic step from Nordic success to international recognition and fame.
Here’s the list,
2010s – Alicia Wikander
2000s – Noomi Rapace
1990s – Urma Thurman (pushing it I know – she has roots in Trelleborg)
1980’s – Lena Olin
1970’s – Maud Adams
1960’s – Ann Margret
1950s – Anita Ekberg
1940’s – Ingrid Bergman
1930’s/20’s – Greta Garbo (dominated the 20’s and 30’s)
1920’s – Sigrid Holmquist
1910’s – Anna Q Nilsson
Other internationally-famous Swedish actresses, past and present
Rebecca Ferguson (2010’s)
Sofia Helin (2010’s)
Malin Åkerman (2000’s)
Britt Ekland (1960’s)
Viveca Lindfors (1950’s)
Zarah Leander (1940’s – Europe, refused to relocate to USA)
Maybe you have a favourite that I have missed out? If so, who?
Negativity. Fear. Concern. These are some of the reactions many Swedes are experiencing about the influx of immigrants to Sweden in the last couple of years. So, I became curious to learn about some of those individuals who came here as refugees or immigrants to make a better life for themselves. People with roots somewhere else who built a home here and who contributed to Swedish society in a positive way.
For the next seven days, I will celebrate these people. My hope is that we can lift our eyes from the challenges of immigration and understand what useful contributions these people can make to society if given the chance. To our society. Our Sweden
Part 4: Madubuko A. Robinson Diakité
Many people in Sweden know who Swedish rapper Timbuktu is. His many hits and TV appearances have made him a household name. However, very few know about his father – a human rights lawyer, writer and documentary filmmaker – who emigrated to Sweden in the 1960’s. – Madubuko A Robinson Diakite.
Madubuko was born in Harlem, USA and moved as a teenager to Africa after his mother married a Nigerian journalist. Inspired by his step father to work with social injustice, he returned to the USA in the 60’s and earned a degree in law. In 1968, he moved to Sweden to study film-making and continued on with a Ph.D. In 1992, he earned a Law degree at Lund University. Currently, he researches in human rights at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Lund and is active in anti-discrimination organisations in Sweden.
He has published articles on film and human rights law for several international publications, and has headed several projects on the rights of people of African descent. he also wrote the book Not Even in Your Dreams, a semi-autobiographical work studying child abuse in Africa.
Madubuko Diakite came to Sweden as a student and has become a strong voice in the academic and human rights communities. With his own experiences and competence, he has worked to make Swedish society a more open place.
His conviction passes on through the lives he has helped and through the popular music of his successful son.