Göran, you’ve worked with archive footage before, but how did That Summer differ from your previous projects?
I think I decided about ten years ago, for different reasons, that there was no need for a guy like me to go out and shoot footage. Because of technology now anyone can make a film and I wasn’t attracted to that. I feel like we no longer have the right to film like we used to. For example there’s no need for a dude like me from Sweden to go to Africa and tell Swedes how things are there, I don’t think we should necessarily tell stories outside of what we know, for authenticity reasons. There are so many images in the world, there’s not really a need for more but the need comes in interesting ways to present those images – the conclusion you draw from images. That’s why I’m into using existing footage in my work. This though, was something else. It was lost footage, it had never been seen before. My American producer met Peter Beard at a dinner who told him that he had found this footage that had been lost in a laboratory for 45 years. He knew that I was really into archive film, but also that I was fascinated with the New York scene in the 1970s, the art and the music and the people. They asked me if I could have a look at the footage, which I did, and I was blown away. The challenge in the film was ensuring that we treated the characters with the utmost respect as people, while still creating some kind of narrative around that that guides the film.
Did the narrative become clear as you watched the footage or did the film go through a lot of changes?
I wanted the audience to look at them like unpolished gems. There’s a saying in Sweden about making the platter look better than the cake tastes – I wanted the audience to have the same fascination for the material and be intrigued by it instead of sitting back and being fed by it, I wanted them to be drawn into their world. That’s why I didn’t use talking heads or an obvious storytelling arc. Documentary making has changed so much, as has how we watch them. Now, people watch documentaries while having Wikipedia open on their phone, doing their own research at the same time so you don’t need all the facts explained to you. So what was important about That Summer was allowing people to meet the Beales, try and understand their intricacies.