“My Skinny Sister” was met with overwhelming applause when it premiered at Sweden’s Goteborg Film Festival late January, in competition for the Best Nordic Dragon Award.
Sanna Lenken’s debut drama, about sisterhood and eating disorders, was also selected for Generation Kplus at Berlinale. The Swedish director has previously tackled the subject in her short “Eating Lunch,” nominated for a Guldbagge Award and screened at Tribeca in 2013. Particularly convincing in “My Skinny Sister” are the cast, established actors Annika Hallin and Henrik Norlén as the parents, and two debutants as the sisters, Amy Deasismont (also known as local pop star Amy Diamond) and not least 11-year-old Rebecka Josephson, the lead who was discovered just a month before shooting began. Variety interviwed Lenken as her film world premiered:
Congrats to a very warm reception. How did it feel?
It was great to premiere the film at a sold-out Cinema Draken. My lead actress, Rebecka Josephson, sitting right behind me, wept throughout the screening, so all I can remember is her sobbing. But she was very happy afterwards, and so was I.
How important is the fact that the anorexia was self-experienced and that your previous short addresses the same subject?
To work with a feature film takes year. In order to hold out, there has to be significance and a topic that you’re interested in and constantly want to know more about. Eating disorders is a kind of addiction, like alcoholism, but it is also a disease strongly connected to gender roles and the image of women. I know I’m not alone to have experienced this, but unlike what I did in my previous short, I here wanted to broaden the perspective and choose to have a little sister learning her older sister is sick. It makes the film more universal since everyone can relate to being close to someone feeling bad, and also the resignation you may feel when nothing really helps. But, to answer your question, I believe the self-experience elements have meant a lot for the film; I’ve felt safe in creating situations that may have been impossible if I hadn’t gone through them before.
What inspires you most in your work?
Good teamwork. In this case the actors and the crew showed such a love and passion for the project, which made it very creative and inspiring. I have lots of favorite directors and films, but what triggers me most are stories that move me, humor combined with density and darkness. That’s what I always try to achieve, and that is probably the hardest thing.
What will your next film be about?
I’ve started to explore some themes but nothing is decided yet. I have to be as keen on the subject as with this film. Probably I’ll have another woman in the lead, but this time she will be an adult. I prefer not to work with kids in the lead in my next film. Rebecka was fantastic, but to find her was a painful struggle; mentally, I was on the verge of collapse.