My Burden, photo by Jorun Jonasson

Life goal achieved: a year with The Burden

Existentialist musicals with sad stop-motion animated animals are a hit both in Sweden and abroad – the Swedish short film The Burden (Min börda) won a Guldbagge Award and has been screened at a record number of festivals around the world. We had the opportunity to chat to director Niki Lindroth von Bahr.

The Burden is an opera set in abandoned locations symbolic of the consumer society – a hamburger restaurant, a call centre – starring melancholy fable animals singing about their lives. The voices are by comedy group Klungan, Hans Appelqvist composed the music and Martin Luuk wrote the song lyrics.

The short was written and directed by Niki Lindroth von Bahr, who trained as a set designer and animator and has a master’s degree in fine arts. Following One Night in Moscow (En natt i Moskva, 2008), the Guldbagge-nominated Tord and Tord (Tord och Tord, 2010) and the acclaimed Bath House (Simhall, 2014), The Burden is her fourth stop-motion animated puppet film.

The film won the audience award and the major short-film prize Startsladden at the Göteborg Film Festival in winter 2017, was selected for the prestigious Directors’ Fortnight section in Cannes shortly afterwards, and has been on a victory parade of film festivals around the world ever since. It has been shown at the Sundance festival and Fantastic Fest in the USA, in Sarajevo, Tampere and Valladolid, and has won prizes at film festivals in Clermont-Ferrand, Paris, Annecy, Toronto, Melbourne, Austin, Chicago, Bilbao, Dresden, Glasgow, Hong Kong and many other places.

“The past year really has been incredible. The film has just won its forty-third award since premièring in 2017,” says von Bahr.

What has the past year with The Burden meant to you?

“It’s been quite overwhelming, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. The great thing is that the film has been a hit in so many arenas, from small arthouse festivals to places like Toronto, where it won the prize for best short film. It has generated loads of exciting feedback and new contacts. I’m still having trouble taking it all in as everything’s so intense even now, over a year later.”

What’s your best festival memory?

“I think it was winning the Cristal for best short in Annecy, actually being there when something like that happens is absolutely unbeatable. Especially sitting there in the audience and not having a clue, and then being called up on stage. It was a thrilling combination of joy and complete terror.”

Is there any particular audience reaction you remember?

“Yes, when a complete stranger in Los Angeles had the fish from the long-stay hotel tattooed on their arm after watching the film! Life goal achieved!”

What current project are you working on?

“I’ve just started looking into an animated TV series. It’s more of a thriller with supernatural elements, set in the world of finance,” Niki Lindroth von Bahr concludes.