History and Collaboration

‘One Week West of Molkom’ is a response to the documentary ‘Three Miles North of Molkom (2007)’ which serves as a key representational nexus for the community of Angsbacka in Sweden and for the main festival (The No Mind Festival), it organizes every year. It was also the film that prompted my initial  interest in the community. Since it’s production in 2008, circulation in film festivals and broadcast on Swedish television the documentary has been responsible for many people coming to Angsbacka. It also serves as a vehicle for the community to discuss how it wants to represent itself and contested and shared vision within the community itself. In early  visits,  how people spoke about the the film really helped me find out what is key about how the community wanted to represent itself.

I was a  volunteer in 2010 (1 month) , 2011 (1 month) , 2012 (1 month) and 2013 (2 weeks). While developing the MA in Visual Anthropology at Kent I had established a voluntary placement as key to collaborative media training and I wanted greater insight from my own experience.

In 2010 I did a lot of jobs in the community from wood cutting to dish washing and meal preparation.   ‘Three Miles North of Molkom’ occasionally came up in conversation and it gave me a great insight into the challenges  of representing  the community to a wider audience. In 2011 and 2012 I returned in a filmmaker role in the media team, representing the community and No Mind festival  through social media. In 2013, I occupied the role of Media Volunteer Co-ordinator.

In 2011, 2012 and 2013 I created a number of short films that constituted a process of learning about the community while contributing to it. I also learned of the particular video aesthetic they were developing while developing my own particular interests in the community in different areas. Here are a couple of shorts on humour.

Personal transformation was also a focus.

The creation of this evocative short film, encouraging people to come to the festival,  was particularly challenging.

The use of audio-visual gifts, in this case on the theme of mindfulness, resonated particularly with the idea of shared anthropology .

All these short films entailed a negotiation between my interests as filmmaker and anthropologist and the needs of the media and marketing team. As time progressed and I learned more about the community and the particular visual aesthetic and socially constitutive role of the films they produced, I was able to create more films that reflected the particular emphasis that led to ‘One Week West of Molkom’.

In a short with Siddhartha Silversol I began to examine the impact of documentary  and frame a potential response to ‘Three Miles North of Molkom’.

The popularity of this film (indicated by views) and another more recent film on Contact Improvisation convinced the media team to develop a greater focus on content based videos that were longer than the three minute films they decided were most effective in communicating the values of Angsbacka.

This final film had a considerable impact on the desire for more improvised body based practice in the community. I went on to work with Johan in Five Ways In.

Filming for ‘One Week West of Molkom’ was carried out outside of the specific requirements of my role as a volunteer at the 2011 and 2012 No Mind festivals. My initial concept was to focus on one spot in the festival site and use it as a basis for an experimental documentary that would look at the experience of the festival from the perspective of volunteers. I had been inspired by Lars Von Trier use of obstructions in filmmaking, particularly in the film ‘The Five Obstructions‘.

I saw the obstruction of only filming from or towards one location in the festival site to be a useful strategy to communicate the need for finding one’s own integrity in a festival that was popularly regarded as a rollercoaster of emotions.

This led to my editing a documentary film entitled ‘The J Spot’ (55mins)-(contact me for password), based on the goings on around the central juice bar at the festival..


Two of the protagonists had appeared in ‘Three Miles North of Molkom’, so I was able to establish a dialogue with this previous film to allow some degree of commentary, whilst also continuing their story. Extensive feedback screenings with this initial version were carried out in the community and with most of the protagonists in the film in 2012 in Sweden, Norway and the UK. I took the feedback received and in early 2013 worked with a recently qualified NFTS graduate, John Murphy after seeing a film he had edited (Beach Boys). I also created a facebook group to communicate some of this process to those who appeared in the film.

I then documented the co-editing process, recording our conversations, storing versions of the evolving documentary and key editorial decisions. One question was to see to what degree John’s involvement could both more effectively represent the volunteer experience for a wider audience, and also satisfy the community. This experiment in collaborative editing transformed ‘The J Spot’ into a tighter and more cohesive documentary led by the need for coherent narrative, informed by my previous research and knowledge of the community. As we co-edited the J Spot, we recognized that we were creating a new film and named it ‘One Week West of Molkom’ to identify it as a response to ‘Three Miles North of Molkom’ and to claim a truth value closer to the values of the community. Angsbacka is actually one mile west of the village of Molkom and it had always perplexed many of the community that the title ‘Three Miles North of Molkom’ had mis -represented the location of the community for the sake of a more catchy documentary title.