At the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival in April, CreativeFuture sponsored the Student Visionary Award and presented it to filmmaker Ninja Thyberg. Recently, CreativeFuture caught up with the Stockholm-based filmmaker to discuss her award-winning film, Catwalk, and other projects, including her next short film, Girls and Boys.
CreativeFuture: How did you react when you learned that you had won the Student Visionary award?
Ninja Thyberg: I was surprised – honored – but mainly proud of my team and their work and dedication to this project. We all worked really hard together to make this film into what it is. I never thought it would get as far as this, but of course I hoped that it would get some attention.
CF: What are some of the social conventions that you are questioning in Catwalk? Is there is a unifying theme in your work?
Ninja: For Catwalk, it’s that the villain of a story is always a person. I don’t believe in “bad people.” To me the antagonist is a structural problem. In all of my films, I explore the themes of identity, femininity, and group dynamics. I’m interested in the mutual need to be socially included and accepted, and that almost everything we do is about seeking love and approval from other human beings. I’m also interested in how identity is constructed by media images and commercials.
CF: Can you tell us a little about your upcoming film, Girls and Boys?
Ninja: It is a classic high-school comedy but with reversed gender-roles. I wanted to challenge the genre and how men and women are usually portrayed on screen.
CF: Can you describe your relationship with technology, what opportunities it has afforded you, and what challenges it poses?
Ninja: It provides an opportunity to democratize moving images and make them more available. The challenge is to keep up with the development and speak to new audiences in their terms.
CF: To make your work available and attempt to speak to these audiences, some would say you should use the technology available to you to give your work away for free — how do you feel about that?
Ninja: My goal is to create useful images and stories for as many people as possible. That’s much more important than profit. The only trouble is if I put my films out on Vimeo or YouTube, for instance, I lose the chance of getting it into one of the bigger festivals (like Tribeca). You have to be very strategic on how you distribute your films today. But I hope that’s going to change in the future.
CF: Do you feel that filmmakers and storytellers have a responsibility to create art that provokes and moves audiences to evaluate their ideas or beliefs?
Ninja: Yes. At least that’s the reason why I make films. I believe that new images are needed to create new realities and that our understanding of the world is defined by the way we tell our stories.
About: Ninja Thyberg was born 1984 in Gothenburg, Sweden, and now lives in Stockholm. Besides film studies, Ninja also studied sociology, film science, and gender studies. She is currently in post-production of her next short film with the working title Girls And Boys, a 30 minutes short film that takes place in a world with reversed gender roles.