A Q&A with Tove’s director, Zaida Bergroth
BY NADIA DAVIES
A lyrical and romantic biopic of the beloved creator of the Moomins featuring an incredible central performance by Alma Pöysti is screening at this year’s BFI Flare.
Describe your film in three words.
Intimate, honest, joyful.
What inspired you to make the film?
I wanted to get to know the young and ambitious artist Tove Jansson before she became the world-famous “Mother of the Moomins”. I wanted to widen the public picture of her, and I also wished to salute the meaningful relationships in her life, especially the complicated but life-changing relationship she had with theatre director Vivica Bandler.
What does screening at BFI Flare mean to you?
I’m very proud to have Tove among these wonderful films at BFI Flare. I love that BFI Flare helps our film find its possible audiences. That’s what you most hope for as a filmmaker: that the people who might really connect with your film have the chance to see it.
What do you hope audiences will take away from this story?
I hope they will have experienced something intimate and honest, that we will have shared something relevant. I hope they will have felt a closeness to the world and experiences of Tove Jansson and that the themes of love, freedom, and independence will linger in their minds and spark interesting discussions.
Why is it important that queer films and documentaries are showcased every year at an event like this?
To focus on something gives a clear and powerful message; these stories are essential, this angle on the world is to be celebrated. The more queer stories and the more queer characters, the less harmful, simplistic stereotypes. There is again a bit more oxygen in the air because of events like BFI Flare.
BFI Flare is completely online this year, giving everyone across the UK the opportunity to watch the amazing line-up of films available. How important is accessibility with regards to representation on screen?
If there is a silver lining in the current situation, it’s this accessibility angle. It’s absolutely wonderful that people interested in the BFI Flare line-up can watch the films wherever in the UK they are situated. We had a similar online screening at Gothenburg International Film Festival, and it was very successful: people around Sweden really wanted to see our film. If we are not allowed to sit together in a cinema, we at least get to experience a new sense of community through these festival screenings! We choose to be together in this way.
What are your words of advice for any aspiring queer filmmakers/actors?
We need your stories, your characters, your voice. Make it personal; let us see the world from your perspective. I’ve said this before, but it’s important to love your ”weaknesses” and the eccentric sides of your personality. They are what make you who you are and are a source of power; there’s no need to try to blend in.
How has the pandemic impacted you creatively?
We were fortunate last year when working on Tove. We were able to finish the main shoot without any restrictions, and the post-production was completed more or less the usual way. Of course, it’s been strange not to be able to travel with your film now that it’s finished and meet with different audiences, but I’ve enjoyed this quieter time also. I’ve been more relaxed, probably! I’m a pretty fast-paced person, so this unfortunate situation has forced me to slow down, and that’s at least good.
Who is your LGBTIQ+ screen hero?
The first person that comes to my mind is director Todd Haynes. I loved his film Carol. I also appreciated Céline Sciamma’s Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, and I’ve understood her latest film is brilliant as well.
Tove plays as part of the BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival, 17-28 March.
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