Director Mika Gustafson in Venice
Director Mika Gustafson in Venice. Photo by Lauren Vu/SIPA/Shutterstock

Double win for Mika Gustafson at Venice

Mika Gustafson's debut feature Paradise is Burning picked up two awards at this year's Venice Film Festival.

At the big awards ceremony in the Sala Grande of the Palazzo del Cinema on the Lido last Saturday, Paradise is Burning won the directorial prize in the official Orrizonti section. A few days earlier, director Mika Gustafson picked up the Pedicini Authors under 40 Award for Best Direction. Incidentally, the same prize that Swedish director Isabella Carbonell was awarded for her debut feature Dogborn at Venice last year.

– Winning one of the Venice Lions for Best Director is an incredible honor. When I also, on top of this, won the critics' prize at the same festival, it was almost hard to grasp. It is great that Sweden can continue to compete at the highest international level in film, says Mika Gustafson.

In a working-class area of Sweden, sisters Laura (16), Mira (12), and Steffi (7), get by on their own, left to their own devices by an absent mother. With summer on the way and no parents around, life is wild and carefree, vivacious and anarchic. But when social services call a meeting, Laura has to find someone to impersonate their mom, or the girls will be taken into foster care and separated. Laura keeps the threat a secret, so as not to worry her younger sisters. But as the moment of truth draws closer, new tensions arise, forcing the three sisters to negotiate the fine line between the euphoria of total freedom and the harsh realities of growing up.

Three sisters: Safira Mossberg, Bianca Delbravo and Dilvin Asaad star in Paradise is Burning. Photo © TriArt Film

Paradise is Burning
is Mika Gustafson's feature film debut. Documentary Silvana (2017), which she co-directed with Olivia Kastebring and Christina Tsiobanelis, won the Swedish Guldbagge Award for Best Documentary.

Written by Mika Gustafson and Alexander Öhrstrand, Paradise is Burning was produced by Nima Yousefi, Hobab, in co-production with, among others, Film i Väst and Film Stockholm. The film has been supported by the Swedish Film Institute, Feature Film Commissioner Anders Nylander.

Paradise is Burning is distributed domestically by TriArt Film with a Swedish cinema premiere set for October 27. International sales by Intra Movies.