DoubleTap is an interview series with creatives whose work explores sex, body and identity.
Sidor recently took time to chat via e-mail about her efforts to obliterate such norms, the vitality of representation and the power that exists in us all.
What provided you with the initial inspiration for this movie? Was it spawned from research or personal experience, or perhaps a combination of the two?
The idea was pretty clear to me from the start. I was thinking a lot about how me and my friends behaved during our teenage years, especially when we were both girls and boys hanging out together. Inspired from that time of my life and with the knowledge I’ve gained since then, I wrote “Fuck You.” So it’s a combination of personal experience and my interest in gender norms, what I saw around me as a teenager and what I still see around me now 20 years later.
How have sex toys like strap-ons provided both genders with an alternative forms of sexual expression?
Sex toys are often seen as taboo and they challenge gender norms since they encourage people to explore their sexuality, try new things and to play with power. In “Fuck You,” there is a situation where the main character gets the opportunity to challenge gender norms by questioning her boyfriend’s thoughts about girls. Instead of following the norm, he gets curious about her new side and they both get the chance to explore their sexuality and experience new things together.
Yandeh Sallah, who is so marvelous as Alice, exudes a sense of empowerment while wearing the strap-on. To what degree would you say she is empowered, and what sort of conversations did you and Yandeh have about it onset?
We had conversations about how we see gender norms around us, how norms can affect us and how important it is to see images that are questioning norms. Power is something within us. We all have power and control, no matter who we are – but gender norms often create situations where men gain power rather than women.
In “Fuck You,” the strap-on is a symbol of power, which Alice first tries on as a funny thing, but then she decides to keep wearing it. This ends up challenging her boyfriend and their friends, who don’t know how to respond. Later when she takes it off, she still feels the power within herself. The image of a girl with a strap-on is challenging and for some people even frightening, even though it’s just a toy made of plastic or silicone material. The lack of stories and images of women in power is something that drove me to make “Fuck You.”
How did you and cinematographer Marcus Dineen go about visualizing the internal experience of the characters through such techniques as keeping the camera at the eye-level of Johannes as Alice approaches him with the strap-on?
Marcus is an amazing cinematographer and our idea was to let the camera move as one’s own character. In that way we, as an audience, can observe and follow the characters in a very close way and see what they see. When Alice is in power, the camera choses to show Johannes’ perspective so that we can experience the situation with him, from his POV, as well as follow Alice without knowing what she’ll do next.
The final encounter between Johannes and Alice is viscerally erotic. What do you feel both characters are discovering about themselves during this sequence?
I’m happy you find the scene erotic and that image is also one of my favorites. In life, we learn that love, attraction and sex are supposed to exist in a certain way if we are a girl or a boy. We all want to fit in the norm, to belong, and most of the time, we do what people expect of us. For me, this film is about a young couple who, for the first time, ignore the norm and try something new. They both discover something they like about their own sexuality.
Has this film broken certain taboos in Sweden regarding frank explorations of teenage sexuality, and what sort of provocative conversations has it sparked?
Some of the strongest reactions I received came from women of different ages who said they thought the sex scene was really erotic and they realized they wanted to try and explore more of their own sexuality. There were also some men who came up to me and wanted to talk more about gender norms as well as why it’s so taboo for men to be passive and women to be active.
I’ve had discussions about why femininity and masculinity seem to belong to certain genders and I’ve heard stories from people longing for change. I have received a lot of love from people of color, especially black people saying they felt empowered by the film, people who felt that they could identify themselves with film characters for the first time.
I’ve also had many conversations about the lack of films with both women and non-white actors who gets challenging roles. A lot of people have reached out to me saying that the film inspired them to explore something they never felt before, something they didn’t even know existed within them. For me as a director, it’s an amazing journey and I’m very grateful that “Fuck You” has been, and still is, screened at some of the greatest film festivals around the world. I have gotten the pleasure to meet audiences from around the world—interesting, smart and fantastic people who have shared so many personal experiences and emotions with me. It means a lot to me and it has given me energy to keep on doing films that are critical of the norm.
For more information on Anette Sidor’s “Fuck You,” visit the film’s official Facebook page here.