Border – Swedish Trolls for the Win

An article by
Ebba Rydqvist Ryan, editor at the Swedish Film Database
Border, 2018

The genre movie Border was recently awarded with the top prize Prix Un Certain Regard at this year’s Cannes Film Festival where it early on became a buzz title. And the future for the film is looking bright with rights already sold to several countries.

Ali Abbasi’s first Swedish feature film Border had its world premiere in the prestigious Un Certain Regard section of the festival. Based on a short story by John Ajvide Lindqvist, author of the acclaimed novel and later film Let the Right One In, Border centers on a Swedish customs officer with an uncanny sense of smell, thrown into a moral and personal predicament over a suspicious traveler that upends the world as she knows it. Screening early in the festival, it swiftly became one of the buzziest titles in the section with critics and audiences alike. Variety critic Alissa Simon was among the yay-sayers, predicting “cult classic” status for “an exciting, intelligent mix of romance, nordic noir, social realism, and supernatural horror that defies and subverts genre conventions.”

At a ceremony on May 18th, Border was given the Prix Un Certain Regard. Actress Eva Melander received the award from Benicio Del Toro, who presided over this year’s Un Certain Regard jury.

“Amazing. Big congratulations to Ali and all who worked on this unique and original film. It all started with John’s beautiful story that grew into an astonishing film. We are so proud and happy!” say Nina Bisgaard, Piodor Gustafsson and Petra Jönsson, the producing team behind Border.

Border was also awarded the Best Sound Creation Prize, awarded by The Week of Sound in collaboration with the Cannes Film Festival. The prize rewards a director for the excellence of the sound in their film, and was presented by the head of jury, French director, screenwriter and composer Régis Wargnier.

The film team at the premiere of Border (Gräns) in Cannes. From left to right: Isabella Eklöf, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Jörgen Thorsson, Eva Melander, Ali Abbasi och Eero Milonoff. Photographer/Source: Erik Dalström/Svenska Filminstitutet

In the aftermath of the film’s success in Cannes, its future seems bright with many festival bookings and rights sold to several countries. The film immediately inspired heated competition among buyers, with hip new U.S. distributor Neon — the outfit behind Oscar winner I, Tonya — buying North American rights. Border is the second foreign-language title in their portfolio and the distributor is evidently counting on strong arthouse crossover potential for Abbasi’s film.

Director Ali Abbasi was born in Teheran and educated at the National Film School of Denmark. His first feature, Danish horror film Shelley (2018), was screened at the Berlin Film Festival. The screenplay for Border was written by Abbasi together with John Ajvide Lindqvist and Isabella Eklöf. Christian Holm was the supervising sound editor. The film was produced by Meta Film Stockholm, Spark & Kärnfilm AB in co-production with Meta Film Denmark together with Film i Väst, SVT and Copenhagen Filmfund with financial support from Nordisk Film & TV Fond and the Swedish Film Institute, film commissioner Yaba Holst.

In Sweden Border is distributed by TriArt Film and is expected to have its Swedish premiere in the fall of 2018.

Swedish Films in Un Certain Regard

Border is the ninth Swedish feature in Un Certain Regard since its creation in 1978 by Gilles Jacob. Listed below are the previous Swedish films featured in the category.

  • Kristoffers hus (translated title: Kristoffer's House) by Lennart Forsberg was selected for Un Certain Regard in 1980.

  • Ormens väg på hälleberget (translated title: The Serpent's Way on the Rock) is directed by Bo Widerberg - one of Sweden's most acclaimed directors. He directed film such as the Swedish noir classic The Man on the Roof and Joe Hill. The Serpent's Way features internationally acclaimed stars such as Stellan Skarsgård, Pernilla August, Stina Ekblad and Reine Brynolfsson.

  • Swedish cinematographer and director Sven Nykvist is probably best known for his cinematography work in Ingmar Bergman movies such as The Virgin Spring, Cries and Whispers and Fanny and Alexander but he also directed 14 films. The Ox features Stellan Skarsgård, Erland Josephson, Ewa Fröling, Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann, and was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards in 1992. It was Sven Nykvists last film as a director.

  • Enskilda samtal (translated title: Private Confessions) by Liv Ullmann was written by Ingmar Bergman as a two part television series and is a freestanding sequel to Sunday's Children and The Best Intentions - also written by Ingmar Bergman. Private Confessions features the actors Pernilla August and Max von Sydow.

  • Ingmar Bergman directs and writes this story about a mentally ill man who tries to kill his wife. It stars Pernilla August and Erland Josephson as well as Peter Stormare - who the previous year had made his Hollywood debut in the Coen Brothers cult classic Fargo.

  • Director Roy Andersson is one of Sweden's most original voices. In 2000 the first film in his "Human trilogy", The Songs From the Second Floor won the Jury Prize in Cannes. You, the Living is the second installment in said trilogy.

  • Ruben Östlund's first film to enter the Cannes Film Festival is a tragic comedy or comic tragedy about peer pressure. It was produced by Erik Hemmendorff who also produced the 2017 Palme d'Or winner The Square by the same director.

  • In Force Majeure Ruben Östlund continued to explore human behaviour, lost dignity and the masculine gender role. It was critically acclaimed and was awarded with the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize. It was also short listed for an Academy Award. Three years later Östlund won the Palme d'Or for The Square which was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Picture.