A work in progress – Jonny Von Wallström

Jonny Von Wallström

The third edition of Peace & Love Film Festival just had it’s serious kick off. Just as previous years, most of the festival will be hosted at Biopalatset in Borlänge, and the program is impressive. We had a flying start at 10.00 a. m. in the form of a workshop with the documentary maker Jonny Von Wallström.
Jonny proved to be a keen and well-articulated “doer” with heart. He presented his ongoing work on a documentary still in production: Pearl of Africa. A 26-minute-long sample from the film turned out to be both touching and infuriating.
The documentary follows 27-year-old Cleopatra Kambugu. Cleo is a transexual: Born as a man but now considers herself being a woman. At the start of the project she was living in Uganda, but since then homosexuality got banned in the country, and forced her to move. Her goal is to go to Thailand, undergo a sex change and be able to live in Uganda with her husband, just as any other woman.
Jonny Von Wallström started out as a photographer, and this is his second documentary (the first being Zero Silence). He handles most of it himself.
– Filming, screenwriting, financing, music and so on. I travel alone with a camera. Partly for financial and logistical reasons, but also to get closer to the people. If needed, I get assisted on site.
He usually equips the person being filmed with a “lavalier” (small microphone) and just goes for it.
The result is an intimate, natural ambience that would be more difficult to produce with a team.
Another reason for Jonny to do as much as possible by himself is to avoid becoming dependent on pre-financing by for example SVT (Swedens national television). By going solo, he can make the movies he wants (without adapting to the formatting formula), have the full copyright and be able to do what he wants with it, in the collaborations he deems appropriate.
The latter includes a number of innovative plans and ideas of both production and marketing.
– It is important that interest and commitment to the film has been built up before it is displayed.
The documentary is financed and produced parallel, in batches. As the reality of Cleo has changed the screenplay has for obvious reasons been radically rewritten.

Jonny Von Wallström

During Peace & Love Film Festival 26 captivating minutes was shown of the work in progress – a condensed rough cut, but still a fairly clear indication of how the TV documentary and feature film version of Pearl of Africa will look like.
– I feel a responsibility to show that this is ordinary people who just want to live a normal life based on who they are. Many documentaries appear to show ordinary people, but are often angled in such a way that it ends up being something different, says Jonny.
To generate intrest in Cleo and the project Jonny and his various partners plan to among other things make a series for web TV, where you get acquainted with Cleo. Talks are being held with potential online magazines, and YouTube joins them for the trip.
Jonny will defer to involve crowdfunding – donations from individuals who want to contribute to the films completion – until the filming is done and it’s time for the final cut.
Another documentary is also planned. It will follow five different people, of whom Cleo is one. Apart from her there will be a journalist, a musician, an activist and a politician.
Parallel to this they plan a fundraiser for Cleos sex change, but that will be a separate project.

Text: Anders Lundquist
Translation: Gabriel Lundquist
Foto: Malin Sydne