Tempo Documentary Festival is back this year, and this is a special edition for them, as they’re celebrating their 20th anniversary. So we’ve decided to go all in, and bring you not only an interview with Artistic Director Melissa Lindgren, but also one with Sebastian Ringler about his film Raggarjävlar, which opens the festival on March 4. You can check both out below.
Melissa Lindgren, Tempo Artistic Director
Ok, so can you run us through the line-up quickly for this year’s festival?
Sure! We’re very proud to announce the largest programme in Tempo’s history and there´s so much I’m excited about. We have a brand new section for culinary docs called ’Reality Bites’ where we thematically curate film and food to a sensational experience. I’m such a big foodie myself so this is a bit like a dream come true for me. As usually we’ll present the most interesting international work from the past year including festival buzz films like Oscar-nominated Hale County, this morning this evening and award winning Cassandro the Exotico, about the first openly gay lucha libre wrestler with the same name. I’m also looking forward to all the amazing guests coming to the festival. Tempo aims to be that bridge between the film and the spectator and to introduce international filmmakers to our lovely audience is certainly one of the privileges of working with the festival. We are all about the conversation that follows a screening and are happy to have Q&As after almost all screenings. Finally I have to mention our audio documentary program that often gets overlooked in the program. I’m especially looking forward to our sound sauna, hot audio docs in an even hotter environment and Short Dox Radio, our competition for short audios docs under 3 minutes.
This year marks the festival’s 20th anniversary, and the theme for it is therefore ‘Heritage’. How does it feel to reach that milestone, and how is ‘Heritage’ reflected in this year’s festival?
It feels great to finally turn 20 and to be able to do it with such a large celebration. We really want to acknowledge that fact that we’ve been an important part of Sweden’s cultural scene for such a long time. The main theme “Heritage” will of course look back on our own heritage but also look to the future and how we can use our platform to create change. The theme will also be depicted in many of the documentaries in the program. Some of my favourites are The Silence of Others about the open wounds left after the Franco regime in Spain and Hamada centred around three young adults in a refugee camp in the Sahara Desert, told with both humour and depth.
The festival opens with Raggarjävlar, why did that feel like the choice to go with to get the festival started?
When we first watched Raggarjävlar (The Swedish Greasers) it felt very fresh to Swedish documentaries. The director Sebastian Ringler has primarily made music videos in the past and the beginning of the film has that same pulse and action. But as the story unfolds we get to know a part of the Swedish society very rarely depicted on film. The characters are extremely brave and open and in the end we’ve fallen in love both with them and with the subculture we all love to hate.
Finally, now that the festival has turned twenty, how would you like to see it develop into the next twenty years?
I’m looking forward to seeing what Tempo can do in the future. I think that festival has such a wonderful foundation to build on mixing great documentaries with great conversation. Even though Tempo has grown a lot since the start I still think the festival has a family feel to it. I recognise many from our audience and I would like to keep that atmosphere of a festival where everyone can feel welcome. In politically harsh times I think this is even more important. Documentary storytelling possesses an amazing power to impact the viewer and create change. We’ve seen great examples of that in the past and I’m sure we’ll see more in the future. I believe that now more then ever we’re in need of inspiration and brave voices. Tempo as a platform, a festival and a voice of its own has an important part to play here and I’m looking forward to see what the future holds.
Sebastian Ringler, director Raggarjävlar
Ok, to start off, what exactly is the Raggare subculture, for those who might not know? Where did it originate and what do they do?
The raggarculture evolved in Sweden in the 50-60´s. It came from a generation of young Swedes that were fascinated with American pop culture. American cars became a vital part of the culture. The cars were relatively cheap in Sweden back then. Raggare was a youth culture that rebelled against everyday society. Some of the Raggare formed clubs, consisting of friends sharing interests and a passion for cars. You can recognise them by their vests, on which they have their club name embroidered. As time went by the culture evolved. Car meets were organised all around Sweden during the summer where raggare would meet up to party and show off their cars. Many of these events are still popular today such as: Classic Car week in Rättvik and Summer Meet in Västerås. They attract a lot of veteran raggare and the new generation of vintage car enthusiasts. A big part of the culture is the cruising bit- where you go in a car parade to attract attention. In Stockholm the Raggare usually meet Friday evening to cruise down Sveavägen.
What got you interested in the subculture, and when did you decide to make a documentary about it?
I stumbled upon a Raggarklubb called Moonshine Cruisers three years ago when I was out looking for locations for a music video shoot. I had never experienced the raggar culture before and was astonished by how visually interesting the environment was. I met a lot of interesting characters in the club and the idea for the documentary evolved.
The film follows Sami and his friends, how did you initially get in touch with them and sell them on the idea of making a film about them? Raggare have gotten an awful lot of negative media attention over the years, were they suspicious about letting you into their world?
I met Sami and his friends in Mattsvart for the first time in a ditch in rural Värmland. We were filming another group of raggare on our way to a vintage car meet. When we met Sami and his friends we found their energy infectious and we went on filming Mattsvart instead. At first Sami and the rest loved the idea of being filmed. But I guess they didn’t understand the commitment it would mean. Many times they were tired of me and the camera but after that many years of filming we became friends with mutual respect for each other.
The film also follows Sami at the point where he’s starting to consider his participation in raggare culture, and has a dilemma about stepping away. Does that make him a more compelling character to hook the film on?
Sami is an intelligent young man and his analytical/reflective side is what makes the film interesting.
You describe raggare culture as being something that is usually ignored by the rest of Sweden. What are the benefits then of making a film about it, and opening it up for people outside the subculture?
I don’t know if the raggarculture is ignored but I guess you could call the culture ‘the black sheep of Sweden’. In times of environmental awareness- the use of vintage cars with V8 motors with massive fuel consumption is generally frowned upon. For people like myself brought up in Stockholm, I had no idea the culture was so big. First time I went to Västerås Power Meet I was surprised by the amount of people and cars present- around 30, 000. I guess it’s a big part of the Swedish culture which people brought up in the larger cities are not aware of.
How did your impression of raggare change, comparing before you made the film and after? What did you learn about the group after spending time with them?
I didn’t know anything about the raggarculture when I started. I liked vintage American cars because I had seen them in music videos from American hip-hop artists. As time went I got to know a lot of people in the community from all around Sweden. And I could sense the feeling of community in the culture. The project also gave me a deeper understanding of Sweden.
Do you think it’s a classic youth subculture, a reckless and adventurous way of blowing off steam for people who want to squeeze some fun out of their lives?
Yes, having these type of cars you get a lot of attention. You sort of become a Rockstar. And I guess for many people it’s a way to blow off steam and feel young again. The rebellious attitude is still very present in the raggarculture today.
Finally, without giving us any big spoilers, what part of the film stands out for you as an especially significant or meaningful moment?
I had the opportunity to follow Sami and his friends during a couple of significant years in their lives. The process of being able to follow them growing from adolescents to young adults felt most rewarding.
Tempo, March 4-10, various venues.
All Raggarjävlar photos: Stills from Raggarjävlar