Interview with Mia Engberg (Director of BELLEVILLE BABY)


Festivalblog: It´s hard to tell what BELLEVILLE BABY is: Is it a fiction film? Is it a documentary?

Mia Engberg: When I get invited to different festivals I compete often in the west-nordic documentary section. "They" call it a documentary but I don´t.

Festivalblog: No it isn´t a documentary....

Engberg: It's just a film. Genres and classification are something for sales agents. I am not a business person. I am an artist. I don´t have to label my film.

Festivalblog: For me your film could be shown as an art installation...

Engberg: When I started to work on the film it was more like a short film compilation. I thought that I might screen it in an art house or gallery. So you can see the different pieces as you want. But after a while I saw the story as one story. It was just at the end that all was melting together.

It´s surprising that so many people love the film although it has not reached the cinema yet. I thought it is an experimental film, that will not be understood and people will think that this is just some snobbish intellectual work. But it seems that we were taking it to their hearts.

Festivalblog: Maybe because it is a very personal film? Were you reluctant to disclose this part of yourself?

Engberg: Yes it´s me...

Festivalblog: ...and maybe there is more of you in this movie than in other of your movies?

Engberg: is! When I was making this movie I had to tell myself that I possibly will not show the movie to anyone. I had to not censoring myself. Because: What would my mother say or my students at film school? If they know that I was with this bank robber guy?

I had to think that the film is only for me. When it was done it had it´s own life. It´s not me anymore. It is now flying with it´s own wings.

Festivalblog: What was your motivation at the beginning? Was it more finding a new artistic form or was it about yourself?

Engberg: I started without a film team. I was writing the film, reading it, rewriting it. It was like writing a story about myself. On the other side it was the search for a new cinematic form. I am so old now. There is nothing I do for the first time anymore. This makes me bored. I am an adventurous person. I had to find new ways to do it.

Festivalblog: To give yourself a challenge?

Engberg: Yes! I never do anything twice. When I am done with one film I do not want to do the same film again. When I made DIRTY DIARIES they asked: „Will you make the DIRTY DIARIES 2?“ But no...someone else could do that.

Festivalblog: In the Q&A after the Film you said that you had the idea to show just the a black screen with the voices. Maybe it was a joke...but actually Derek Jarman did something similar in BLUE...

Engberg: know that one? This is a really good film...I love it! So yes...first it was one of the ideas I had. I think that BLUE is really a beautiful film. Derek Jarman is dying of AIDS and he starts seeing blue; he feels blue. If you really give yourself time in the cinema and listen to his voice it is brilliant. I really wanted to do something in the same way; without compromise.

Festivalblog: One of the main questions in the story about you and Vincent are about truth. What is fiction, what is memory, what is reality. At the end: does it really matter?

Engberg: I made a lot of documentaries. Most of them in the cinema direct tradition. They look very real. I didn't add anything. But this film is still the most true I made. I describe something in detail what I really feel and felt...from my heart. For me it´s true. Maybe it didn't happen in the exact order...but this doesn't matter.

Festivalblog: You were also reflecting some other almost philosophical questions for example: “Why I ended on the good side and somebody else with the same starting condition on the bad side?”

Engberg: We didn't really have the same starting condition....

Festivalblog:... but with Florence Rey you had...

Engberg: ...yes, with Florence it is true. Sometimes you don´t know if there is a destiny or there is just luck. It makes me uncomfortable that I am just lucky. Do I really deserve to be at Berlinale? That my films are so successful? That I am healthy?

Festivalblog: Do you feel privileged to express your story in this kind of way.

Engberg: Yes...very much...

Festivalblog: But Vincent can actually not do the same.

Engberg: I am one of the most privileged people in the world because I am an artist. I live in this part of the world where I am free to express what I want. That´s the most powerful position you can have. To make interpretation of reality and show it to others. He is in the most powerless position: being a criminal, spending a lot of time in jail, people think that you are an evil person, you are always chased by the police. You don't have power at all. So he is the lowest and I am the highest in society.

Festivalblog: In the movie there is one scene where you both saw youth riots on the street and he suddenly recognizes that this is his school, in the town where he was born. You wanted to go there and film but he said: „This is not a Zoo. You do not have to go there with your intellectual background and look at them.“ But isn´t it similar with BELLEVILLE BABY? Isn´t he seen as a dangerous person, a dangerous animal?

Engberg: Yes...I think you are absolutely right. I am exploiting him in some way...although exploiting is maybe not the right word. But that is what documentary is doing. Vincent is questioning me and calls me a colonizer. You go to people who are in poor or very vulnerable positions and you film them. Even when you do it with your heart: you are exploring their unhappiness in someway. That is what what I am doing. I am also objectifying him: a criminal guy with a vespa and a gun. It´s also the female gaze on him. But this is as well my way of questioning myself: to make this movie and let him ask the questions
When we were rioting for justice he says that there is no justice. This film is also a proof that there is unjust.

Festivalblog: On the other hand you said to Vincent that the movie could change something; for example people could get more aware of the conditions in jails.

Engberg: I am from Sweden and our Prison system is very soft compared to France. In France they have the highest level of jail suicides in Europe; twice as much as in Germany and three times more than in Spain. If you experienced all that you might understand that just a little documentary at the Berlinale does not change anything. I come from another perspective. I am naive but this is a good thing I guess. It´s good to try . So...he is right but I am right too!

Festivalblog: Did you closed a chapter when you finished the film?

Engberg: When the sound mixing was finished and the film was ready it was done for me. Now, with meeting the audience or journalists, this is completely different. It has almost nothing to do with the time when I was working on the film. Now the film is more like a product or something that I am trying to present. The feelings do not come up again.

Festivalblog: So the the journey is finished?

Engberg: …..(thinking...) Yes, I closed a chapter in my life somehow. I am 42 now and maybe I have half of my life behind me. For me it is the time for reflections over my existence.

Festivalblog: Did you discuss your movie with people you know...

Engberg: The first year I did not show it to anyone but to my boyfriend who also make the music in the film and he is also a film maker. He was there all the time watching the film and telling me not to compromise with my vision.

Festivalblog: You had a very good response in Berlin.

Engberg: Yes, that is surprising. When I had the first screening of the film in the Swedish Film Institute, who had financed the film, there were 10 people in the audience. They didn't expect anything. It was just that it was done and I was showing it for them. I didn't expect anything either. But they were crying and it was very emotional. They were saying: “This year we will come to the Berlinale.” They were so sure...and then we came here...

Festivalblog: What is the life for this kind of movie? Where will it be shown?

Engberg: That is an important discussion. We have swedish cinema distribution and swedish television. But for the rest of the world we don´t have a sales agent, we do not have distribution and even the small agents have problems. One said: „I love your film! It is a great piece of art but we can not work with it. We do not know how to describe it. Is it a cinema film? Is it a TV film?“ So they don´t take it. But where people can see the film? Not all can come to the Berlinale!

Festivalblog: For sure it will be shown on TV.

Engberg: Big festivals are contacting me now, we had a beautiful review in Variety and people are talking about it. So hopefully some brave TV Stations or cinema distributor will find it. But for me it´s done...I don't care. I am happy with the film. I do not expect anything from the market because I do not believe in the market anyway. But for the audience: They should see it.

Festivalblog: You are also familiar with film as economic project. You are part of the production company STORY.

Engberg: Yes and last year we had at the Berlinale BLACK POWER MIXTAPE about the Black Power Movement. It was sold to 25 countries. Also the DIRTY DIARIES project was sold to many countries. So sometimes there is a subject. But with this film? When they do not even know how to describe it? There should be more cinemas, more windows, more possibilities for people to see this kind of films. I think people want that!

Festivalblog: Is it a movie for the cinema? Not only because of the big screen but because you need the darkness of the cinema for this movie?

Engberg: We were joking just the other day when it comes to TV and the film has this the black parts...(laughing).... people will think that their TV is broken.

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Belleville Baby



Mia Engberg


Flagge SchwedenSchweden




76 min.