Swedish director Gabriela Pichler describes the protagonist of her film as a "no shit 21-year-old tomboy Muslim immigrant who spends her time looking after her worn-out father, and hanging out with her fellow workers from the vegetable packing plant." Raša Abdulahović, who can pack 12 bags of lettuce in less than five seconds, finds her tough, small-town existence radically changed, Pichler says, when she loses her job and "is forced into a world where bureaucracy rules and ‘confidence coaching’ is deemed necessary."
Did you draw on personal experience in making this film? "[I was] brought up in a working class home, worked at the local cookie factory. Got in to Gothenburg film school, and 'Eat Sleep Die' is my first feature film. Mother from Bosnia and father from Austria, born in Sweden."
What did you find most challenging about this production? "Making a non sentimental and honest film about working class people, without having to surrender to conventions or stereotypes. Not taking the easy way out, and to never let go of my gut feeling."
How did working with first-time actors affect your goals? "That makes the style in the film very straight forward and authentic. My main goal was to get people to act very natural and bring their own personal stories or life experiences to the film."
Where did you draw inspiration for this film? "I wanted to tell the story about the people I always loved, but was ashamed to be a part of. I wanted to make Rasa a 'Rocky Balboa'-kind-of-character in Swedish countryside. Not fighting in the ring, but against unemployment and society's bureaucracy."
What would you like audiences take away? "The humor and warmth of the characters. The marvelous performance of Nermina Lukac – as our main character Rasa."
Indiewire invited AFI FEST competition directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival. Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch for the latest profiles.