On the thin edge of the wedge | Sanna Lenken

Ahead of its screening as part of the Ziguzajg Arts Festival for Children & Young People, we speak to Swedish director Sanna Lenken about her debut feature film, My Skinny Sister, which tackles the difficult topic of anorexia through the lens of a young protagonist

Amy Deasismont as Katja and Rebecka Josephson as Stella in My Skinny Sister
Amy Deasismont as Katja and Rebecka Josephson as Stella in My Skinny Sister

Anorexia isn’t only the main focus of My Skinny Sister – your debut feature film – but it was also the subject matter of a previous short film of yours, ‘Eating Lunch’. What drew you to this subject?

I wanted to make this film because eating disorders are so common and yet it hasn’t been told in many fiction films before. I felt very strong it had to be made and I also wanted to tell a strong story about sisterhood. Eating disorders are like any other abuse, it is both the sick person and her family and friends who get involved and we have seen plenty of films about alcohol or drugs.

Another reason for me was of course that I had anorexia myself when I was a teenager and I knew I wasn’t alone with this experience.

What led you to choose a child’s perspective to tell this story? What kind of advantages did it give you as a writer-director, and how did it help you shed light on anorexia?

It was easier to look at the disease from a distance since I had been sick myself. Stella and Katja are two sides of myself. The healthy side (Stella) and the sick side (Katja). Stella is mirroring herself in Katja as she grows up. She also wants to be seen and loved the way Katja is but no one sees Katja is sick. To me, this is what the sickness is about. In society everyone adores perfect, skinny, beautiful people before they get a diagnosis. I also think a young girl gave a warmer, more humorous touch to the film.


What do you hope younger viewers will get out of this film? On that note, how did you balance out the narrative’s ‘didactic’ elements with the need to first and foremost tell a dramatic and engaging story? Or were they one and the same in your mind?

In my mind, they were the same. I think of the story as a love story between two sisters and how they both struggle to be seen for who they are. I just wanted to tell a moving story. I didn’t think of the story as a “lesson”, or anything like that. It was just an experience I knew would resonate with the audience, and make them feel less lonely. And that’s a beautiful thing about films – connecting people through emotions.

What would you say are some of the challenges the contemporary European filmmaker faces, and do you think that having a ‘topical’ issue like anorexia at the core of your film helped to push it to prospective financiers?

I don’t know… you have to ask the financiers! I would like to think it was the film itself that moved them, not the topic. But as I said, I also know the topic wasn’t really addressed in film previously, so perhaps it was the right story for the right time.

I think we have to do something better about the digital market. We have to accept that the younger generation is finding films on the internet, and make it into something legal.

My Skinny Sister will be screened at St James Cavalier Cinema, Valletta on November 21 at 15:00, as part of this year’s edition of the Ziguzajg Arts Festival for Children & Young People. The film is rated 12+. For more information and bookings, log on to: http://www.ziguzajg.org/