Manuel Concha’s new film features a dream about being seen as a Swede

”I want to use humor to target prejudices that we all have regardless of background,” the acclaimed director tells.
October 18, 2021

Manuel Concha was born and raised in Malmö, Sweden. His parents were forced to flee the military dictatorship Chile and Manuel grew up with them having a packed suitcase in the hall, to be prepared for the day when they were able to move back.

— It’s something that I believe has shaped me in my adult life in the way that I am rootless and that search for identity is reflected in my stories, he tells.

Once they did return to Chile, it was a different country than his parents had been expelled from 15 years earlier, making it difficult to start a life there. 

— Also, we were Swedes in the eyes of the Chileans. So, we moved back to Sweden.

His career as a director kicked off as a 16-year-old when he won two awards at a film festival. It continued with around 30 short films, before moving to L.A. for two years of film studies, where the guest teachers included Christopher Nolan and Oliver Stone. He also began a film project together with Abel Tesfaye, which had to be cancelled after his breakthrough as The Weeknd… One of the short films, a hip-hop musical, has inspired how his new film, SUEDI, is cut, using short clips and voiceovers.

How’d you describe SUEDI?

— It’s a feature film about Mahmod, born and raised in Stockholm, whose biggest dream is to be seen as a Swede. One day he and his two friends find 90 MSEK in the forest and Mahmod can change his name, the way he walks, and the clothes, add blue contact lenses, and gets a Volvo. He becomes a genuine Swede.

Do you hope that the series will give the viewer a better understanding of crucial issues of today, such as integration?

— My first intention was to create a super fun movie for a mainstream audience. I want to use humor to target prejudices that we all have regardless of background. Culture clashes are exciting and the situations that come out of them often work well to turn into humor. If the audience has a reflection of our contemporary society, that is all a significant accomplishment. SUEDI is a fun story but also a sad reality, loosely based on my life, Concha concludes.

SUEDI, available on Viaplay now. Photography: Johan Paulin