When are we going to stop seeing farmers as racists?

Categories Films & books

In Wiktor Ericsson’s feature film debut, Jordgubbslandet (2017, English title: Strawberry days), the harsh reality of Eastern Europeans coming over to Swedish farms to pick berries and fruit comes to light. We follow 15-year old Wojtek (Staszek Cywka) who comes to work in a strawberry field in southern Sweden with his parents. Immediately we understand that Wojtek and his parents, alongside the other Polish workers at the field, aren’t treated with the same respect as if the workers were from a western European country. Director Ericsson highlights this issue when Wojtek begins a romance with the farmer’s daughter, Annelie (Nelly Axelsson).

Early in the film, Annelie’s father remarks how “you can’t trust those people”, meaning the Polish workers, and Wojtek’s mother calls the Swedes “peasants” – the divide between them is clear from the start. Following a Hollywood-esque pattern of a teenage romance, the two teenagers must meet in secrecy and around others they pretend they don’t know of each other’s existence.

The film is visually stunning and uses the natural light and beautiful landscape of Sweden to its advantage, much like how Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s Hjartasteinn (2017, English title: Heartstone) captures the Icelandic nature. But there is something about Jordgubbslandet that doesn’t feel right.

Every Swede in the film, except Annelie, are two things: 1. white Swedish farmers, and 2. racist. The adults are depicted with solely capitalistic goals who refuses to call an ambulance when Wojtek’s mother falls ill on the field, and the teenagers drive cars decorated with the Confederate flag and give the impression that they’re too lazy to have any ambitions. They follow their parents’ footsteps by being just as horrible to the Eastern European guest workers and Annelie seems to be the only one who’s not running around shouting slurs.

There’s a common misconception that farmers are racists. Not just in Sweden or Scandinavia, but throughout Europe and Northern America. They are constantly described by the media as uneducated working class people who just want to point to the easiest target as the root of economic downfalls. This is most notably during general elections when racist and fascist parties take place in parliaments over the world and it’s those racist farmers that we are to blame.

This is, of course, ludicrous as we can just point towards top business people and high-income politicians who can just as well be racist. But instead, they are seen as “charity lovers” – their racism isn’t about beating up Polish workers but seeing immigrants as a charity. Whilst the Sámi people are far from immigrants, quite the opposite, it’s notable in Amanda Kernell’s film Sameblod (2016, English title: Sami Blood), of how the white Swedes see the Sámi people as something you have to take care of and nurture, similar to a helpless child.

Throughout the entire film, the farmers are nothing but extremely racist. Not one of the characters develop or change their standpoint – even Annelie, whilst welcoming Wojtek to her, avoids him when they are with others, as she fears what will happen to her if they find out that she’s with a Polish boy. Unknowingly, she is active in her actions, actions that feed racism.

I  do believe that there are farmers who neglect workers’ rights and see Polish people as scum, but I  doubt that all farmers, who hire Eastern Europeans to pick their strawberries and cucumbers, are this racist. And the reality is far from what’s depicted in this film.

I am not from the countryside. My closest connection with a strawberry farm has been when I’ve gone there with my parents and cousins to the self-picking fields as a kid. But I refuse to believe that all people on the countryside are uneducated and lazy racists. The depiction of the Swedes, however important and thoughtful it may have been from the director’s side, is false. It’s just as false and degrading as saying that all immigrants are terrorists. As opposed to the issue of every man being part of a structural system that feeds the patriarchy and misogyny, farmers are not part of a structural system that feeds racism. And I am extremely disappointed that this is the way that they are depicted in a film that’s being praised to the sky.

Nevertheless, the film is an important film. With the rise of racism, fascism and the issues between the farmer and guest worker relationship, Jordgubbslandet is a film that must be watched. But we must look at it with a critical eye and we must stop seeing all farmers as racist.

Weekday shirt

Categories Study & work, Style

I’m at that point in life where I refuse to check my bank account as I know it will only make me stressed and sad. I’m basically doing stuff that’s either extremely cheap or free, which means eating the occasional ice cream and reading on the balcony. As I’m pretty much the only one of my friends who don’t have a job or a holiday planned, I’ve so far read 2,5 books and neglecting all my uni work. I’ve also been sorting out paperwork to get my last name changed (finally!) as I’d rather have my maternal grandmother’s last name than the one I have now for several reasons, but the main one being that my current one, Svensson, is just simply too fucking common. So hopefully that will be sorted out and approved in some 6 maybe weeks.

A couple of weeks ago I saw this shirt at Weekday, but it was 500SEK at that point. Lucky for me it was on sale yesterday for only 150SEK and I got the last one, hence why it’s massive as it’s a large. But it’s so comfortable and I feel like a person who eats healthy and laughs in every photo that’s taken of me. (which doesn’t happen though)

On a little funny note; during the spring term, I took an online course from Umeå University in democracy, human rights and sustainability. I had one final essay to hand in about a month ago, but due to other uni work I decided to prioritise, my birthday and moving house/going back to Sweden, I didn’t hand it in until a few days ago. (26 days late – do not recommend) Lucky for me, the professor agreed to read it and mark it as the essay was the final one and I had to pass it to pass the course. Earlier today I got an email from the professor saying that, whilst I did pass with distinction, my essay had “inappropriate use of informal language”. As I was stressed and wanted to hand it in asap, I didn’t proofread it properly, so in the essay it said:

“…The four countries alone are responsible for over 50% of total GHG emissions in 2012 – fucking important that they sort themselves out

I had forgotten to take out my own notes in the actual essay. Hopefully, he had a little laugh about it.

(also, I have about 90 photos from my disposable cameras from the past three months, so I’ll show you guys those later!)

Pia x

 

Pink

Categories Life, Style

It’s been a bit quiet here lately. Since the last proper post, I’ve been to Barcelona, had my 21st birthday with bbq celebrations, Summer Ball, a bit of uni work, and of course, gone back to Stockholm. As usual when I go back, I pretend that I’m rich and go off and buy things in shops that I can’t find back in England, like these sunglasses from Designtorget Stockholm and a bra from Monki. (can be found in London but I feel it has less stuff though, and no student discount)

I’ve been seeing some friends, going to two graduation parties, but I’ve actually spent most of the last week indoors. I’ve had this little hole in my heel that’s been a previous blister, and it’s been trying to heal and I can’t wear plasters or socks as it kinda rips open and that kinda sucks. So I’ve been reading and finished one book so far (The Girls by Emma Cline) and halfway through another.

I did a short 2 day runner job last week for Astrid S’ new music video which, even though I was sweating as fuck as it was 27 degrees outside and I ran errands, was really fun and a good experience. I have a similar job for my internship in August but I’m hoping it’s gona be a bit cooler and I won’t have a heel that hurts every time I walk. I’ve been lucky to get an internship in Soho, so I’ll be going back to England in the beginning of August to move into my new house with my new housemates (!!!) and hopefully some better weather than the one here in Stockholm. (rain, 12-18 degrees, no joke) Until then, I have a dissertation to research for and Swedish food and people to enjoy.

Pia x

21

Categories Life

I turned 21 on the last day in May and had a joint birthday bbq with my friend Sonal with our closest friends before getting drunk at the Student’s Union and then passing out in my bed. 5 out of 5 toasters.

A little hello

Categories Life

Over a month has passed and except for a little post the other day about the film I made during the spring term, it’s been quiet. I spent April in both Stockholm, Egham/London and in Berlin (with photos still on the disposable camera, waiting to be developed), the latter one to spend time with Maria and Gustaf. I’ve written several essays, done a presentation and started working on my dissertation.Second of May was Harry Potter day and I spent the day reading Deathly Hallows and the evening watching Deathly Hallows part 1 and 2, and the Philosopher’s Stone with a friend.
I’ve been meaning to write this entire time. Writing here, writing a script I’ve been planning for quite a while, just writing. It hasn’t really gone that well, and won’t for a good while now. I have class on Tuesday and Wednesday, but on Thursday I’m going to Barcelona with friends from my course, and when I get back a week later, I have a few things left to do for my Economic History course as well as my own + friends’ birthday celebrations.

I’m leaving England in exactly 4 weeks, taking an evening flight back to Stockholm. I haven’t booked my flight back yet, as I don’t know how long I’ll stay there, it all depends on my internship. But I’ll be there until the end of July at least. I haven’t planned to work as I’m only there for a month and a half or two months. Instead, all I want to do is to sit in parks with my friends, cold beer, pizza, eat Swedish food, going out in the archipelago with the ferries, walking around Södermalm, take the ferry over to Djurgården and have a picnic, and go to the cinema on rainy days. I’m supposed to work on my dissertation during the summer, but as third year (!!!) doesn’t start until late September, I’m giving myself a full vacation for the time I’m in Stockholm. Every time I’ve been back there since starting uni, there has always been some work to do, or something else keeping my mind busy – this time, I want to treat it as if I’m on a holiday. (which my bank account won’t like)

Pia x

The Beach (2017)

Categories Filmmaking

On their first anniversary, a young couple travels to the beach.

Starring: Ellie Panton and Luana Picard-Boni
Written & directed by: Pia Svensson
DOP: Michael Guan
Sound design and orginal score by: Omar Chamsi-Pasha
Crew: Molly Stapleton, Hollie Hurrell, Pavel Šmídmajer and Martha O’Brien.

Many thanks to:
Sussex Film Office
Seaford Town Council