Jesper Ganslandt’s fourth feature, Jimmie, is his most personal film yet. The director stars alongside his son, Hunter, in the story of a father and son fleeing Sweden for a safer land during a time of conflict, as told through the eyes of the four-year-old boy.
The film opened the 2018 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) yesterday (Jan 24).
Financed by the Swedish Film Institute’s Moving Sweden initiative, Jimmie previously won the Eurimages Lab Project Award at Haugesund’s New Nordic Films market.
Ganslandt, whose previous feature credits are Falkenberg Farewell, The Ape and Blondie, is also in post-production on his first English-language film, Beast of Burden, starring Daniel Radcliffe.
TriArt Film will release Jimmie in April in Sweden, following its Rotterdam launch and its Swedish premiere at Goteborg.
What was the starting point for this film and what were the themes you wanted to explore?
When my son was just over a year old, I started watching him to see what he saw of the world, as I suspect many parents do. It gave me ideas for some scenes I then proceeded to shoot. In these scenes, the adults were many times off camera and this child was in the center.
From there, I wanted to make a whole film seen from the eyes of a small child, to make us see the world from a different angle. So we would discover the world with Jimmie - it’s beauty, faults, dangers and challenges.
How many years in all were you working on the film?
We started out in 2013 with these early scenes. Some are still in the film. And then shot the main parts of the film in 2016, so in it’s whole close to five years.
What were the biggest challenges of shooting the film, both emotionally and logistically?
Planning the shoot we did something not so common, we decided to take the whole crew and cast all the way to the south of Europe. This was a challenge logistically on a smaller budget but we had great help from our co-producers in both Austria and Croatia.
The most challenging parts were to get the children to stay in the picture. I gave them a lot of freedom to just exist in the scene to create the naturalism I was after. But they would make up stuff, sometimes just leaving the set and doing their own thing. However, I always enjoyed that, it is very interesting to watch when people of any age just go their own direction.
Emotionally, my son and I really bonded during this experience, but at times it was hard on us both. When we would wake up and none of us wanted to shoot that day it would be an internal struggle between being a parent and being a film director with a vision. The fix was a lot of times to slow down and take the time, we would eventually find our way in front of the camera and then it started to happen again.
How did you work with Måns [Mansson, DoP] to get this intimate outlook for the cinematography?
I had seen Måns’ films [Mansson is also a filmmaker] and very much liked his camera work and imagery. Especially those where he was both director and DoP. So I asked him if he would come aboard to shoot this film with me, because I needed a DoP who could give instructions when I was too busy in front of the camera.
We did tests with a camera rig called Gravity to be able to shoot handheld at one-meter height and ended up using that for the whole movie. It was very liberating to be able to be so low without to much strain on the operator so we could do very long takes every day.
Why was it so important to tell the story from the child’s perspective rather than an adult’s?
I think seeing this story of people leaving their homes with what they can carry and traveling long distances to find a better place would be very different from an adult’s point of view. Then we would demand a lot more context for what the war is about, who is doing what to who and why? And those constructions would end up feeling stale and not real.
Telling the story from Jimmie’s perspective, we get so much closer to the people emotionally and physically. We can relate to the constant struggle and the impressive feat of transporting yourself, young or old, from country to country. In it’s fragmented view, everything becomes so much clearer. It is not about drama or plot or politics or backstory. It is about people.
Did your experience with your preivous film Falkenberg Farewell help with how you made Jimmie?
Yes very much. I felt like I was re-discovering how we did Falkenberg Farewell when making Jimmie - how to work with someone when it is their first time in front of the camera. I always make my films in the editing room. I want to gather material and then decide. Very similar to Falkenberg Farewell.
You’ve also got Beast Of Burden ready this year, how do you compare the two filmmaking experiences?
They share some expressions but are also very different in what they are trying to say. Beast Of Burden is meant to raise adrenaline levels and Jimmie is made to connect emotionally to your inner child. They are also different in the sense that Swedish intimate filmmaking and US indie filmmaking are far apart when it comes to politics on set and how to build a crew and cast. I will say it was very stimulating to work on both at the same time.
How will it feel to see your film, and indeed yourself and your son, on a giant screen as Jimmie now opens Rotterdam?
I am excited and fearful of this first screening. I have done films in the past that were very intimate and personal but this is more than that. I am happy it is Rotterdam and then Goteborg because these two festivals are fantastic at creating a home for films that strive to be something new.