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Tribeca ’09 Interview: “The Swimsuit Issue” Director Måns Herngren

Tribeca '09 Interview: "The Swimsuit Issue" Director Måns Herngren

Editor’s Note: This is one of dozens of interviews, conducted via email, with directors whose films are screening at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival in the narrative and doc competitions as well as the Discovery section. The festival takes place April 22 – May 3..

“The Swimsuit Issue”
Director: Måns Herngren
Screenwriters: Jane Magnusson, Måns Herngren, Brian Cordray
Cast: Jonas Inde, Amanda Davin, Andreas Rothlin Svensson
(Discovery section)

Synopsis: What begins as a joke turns into a new shot at glory for a group of over-the-hill athletes who decide to form Sweden’s only all-male synchronized swimming team. The less they’re taken seriously, the more determined they are to win the world championship in this fun, feel-good comedy about friendship and family. (Description provided by the Tribeca Film Festival.)

Please introduce yourself.

I was born in Stockholm in 1965 and began working in film as an actor at the age of 10. At the age of 17, I went on to do TV-comedies. I have been writing and directing feature films since 1993.

What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?

After I had done television for 10 years I got the opportunity to move on to a bigger format. And size does matter!

What prompted the idea for your film and what excited you to make you undertake it?

Jane Magnusson, the screenwriter, came to me with the idea of making a film about some middle-aged men, who start training with the goal of competing at the World Championship of Synchronized Swimming. Of course, I immediately recognized the story’s originality and comedic potential. When Jane later mentioned that synchronized swimming had originally been an all male sport, but was overtaken by women in the 1940’s, I became obsessed and determined to make this movie.

Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making your film.

I have always enjoyed British underdog-comedies such as “The Full Monty,” “Brassed Off,” and “The Commitments.” I marvel at the way they portray their characters in such a realistic manner and then spice things up with larger-than-life stories. Even if these films are technically “comedies,” they never chase after laughs. Of course, I enjoy watching Will Ferrell in films such as “Blades of Glory,” but that wasn’t the way I wanted to make our movie about male synchronized swimming.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?

Male homophobia and cold water…

How do you define success as a filmmaker, and what are your personal goals as a filmmaker?

It’s exciting when you’ve done something that emotionally connects with other people. Especially when the audience is from a foreign country. The more films I watch from around the world, the more I realize how much we have in common and how little there is that divides us.

What are your future projects?

At the moment, I’m working with several different ideas. Over time, the strongest idea will survive and the weaker ones will be forgotten.

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