Multi-award winning Swedish director Anna Eborn has presented her fifth feature-length project at the Visions du Réel’s Pitching forum, one of the key industry sections at the documentary film fest in Nyon, Switzerland.

The two-time Dragon Award-winner for Best Nordic Documentary at Sweden’s Göteborg Fest (for “Transnistria” in 2019 and “Pine Ridge” in 2014) was brought onboard by Stockholm-based production company Film and Tell.

A coming-of-age doc about the effects of childhood cancer treatment on young adults, “Aana” (a working title) is still in early development. Film and Tell has secured funding from the Swedish Film Institute and the Swedish Arts Grants Committee, and is in search of co-producers to close the €500,000 ($600,000) budget, as well as international distributors.

The brainchild of Film and Tell founder Oscar Hedin, who himself suffers from cancer and is recovering from a stem cell transplant, the documentary tells the story of 20-year old Aana, who was diagnosed with a rare kind of kidney cancer as a child. It follows her as she enters adulthood with all its thrills and fears, and has to contend with the legacy of her illness, including the risk of infertility.

The film’s two other main characters are her best friend, Julia, and Ci, who also suffered childhood cancer and its aftermath, which has meant undergoing a double hip replacement.

“These characters are extremely wise and strong, they are 20 but they have been through so much, and they know a lot about life’s big questions, so they are really inspiring, they are fighting spirits,” says Eborn, who interviewed some 50 young people to find the protagonists for her film.

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Aana Credit: Pia Lehto (DoP)

“It’s like they are grateful for surviving cancer but at the same time they have to live with the side-effects for the rest of their lives – things that are not visible at first glance: they look like normal, healthy, beautiful girls but they have physical pains which may be more visible in intimate scenes.”

The production team chose to work with Eborn because of her “poetic cinematographic language,” explains producer Marina-Evelina Cracana. “Oscar (Hedin) and (co-director) Åsa (Ekman)’s style is more observational, pure realism, so we thought it would be a nice fusion because what these characters have been through is really deep – it has this spiritual dimension.

“But while the cancer adds complexity to this turbulent life phase they are going through, it’s a coming-of-age film about youth, womanhood and growing independent. The strength and the beauty of the characters lies in this, not necessarily in the illness itself,” she adds.

Working with Finnish-Swedish cinematographer Pia Lehto, Eborn shoots digitally with a single lens in long hand-held takes. They never shoot more than an hour a day so as to not tire their characters. Most scenes will be shot outdoors – a trademark of Eborn’s artistic approach. The goal is to film over the course of the seasons, with nature acting as a mirror for emotions – a process that is expected to take two years, setting the release date for November 2023.