"Unaccompanied" is an upcoming film project, part of the interdisciplinary project "Outside/In" with sociologist Amber Horning. It takes its starting point a group of refugee teenage boys finding themselves in a rural community in Sweden. Here they are both at-risk and perceived as "risky."
Documentary Feature, 2016
TRT: 94 min
Directed by Sara Jordenö
Written by Sara Jordenö and Twiggy Pucci Garcon
Cinematographer: Naiti Gámez
Music by Qween Beat
Produced by Annika Rogell, Story and Lori Cheatle, Hardworking Movies
Distributed by IFC/Sundance Selects, Folkets Bio & Picturehouse
World Premiere in competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Winner of Teddy Award for Best Documentary & Essay Film, Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights, Outfest Emerging Talent Award, Queerscope Award, SHOUT best documentary award. Nominated for the 2017 Independent Spirit Truer Than Fiction Award.
In New York City, LGBTQ youth-of-color gather out on the Christopher Street Pier, practicing a performance-based artform, Ballroom, which was made famous in the early 1990s by Madonna’s music video “Vogue” and the documentary “Paris Is Burning.” Twenty-five years after these cultural touchstones, a new and very different generation of LGBTQ youth have formed an artistic activist subculture, named the Kiki Scene.
KIKI follows seven characters from the Kiki community over the course of four years, using their preparations and spectacular performances at events known as Kiki balls as a framing device while delving into their battles with homelessness, illness and prejudice as well as their gains towards political influence and the conquering of affirming gender-expressions. In KIKI we meet Twiggy Pucci Garçon, the founder and gatekeeper for the Haus of Pucci, Chi Chi, Gia, Chris, Divo, Symba and Zariya. Each of these remarkable young people represents a unique and powerful personal story, illuminating the Kiki scene in particular, as well as queer life in the U.S. for LGBTQ youth-of-color as a whole.
The spectacular Kiki balls, a consistent component of the Kiki subculture, offer performers a safe and empowered space to enact various modes of gender expression, including a stylized femininity that, if executed in the communities in which they grew up in, could provoke ridicule and violence. Kiki scene-members range in age from young teens to 20’s, and many have been thrown out of their homes by their families or otherwise find themselves on the streets. As LGBTQ people-of-color, they constitute a minority within a minority. An alarming 50% of these young people are HIV positive. The Kiki scene was created within the LGBTQ youth-of- color community as a peer-led group offering alternative family systems (“houses”), HIV awareness teaching and testing, and performances geared towards self-agency. The scene has evolved into an important (and ever-growing) organization with governing rules, leaders and teams, now numbering hundreds of members in New York and across the U.S and Canada. Run by LGBTQ youth for LGBTQ youth, it draws strategies from the Civil Rights, Gay Rights and Black Power movements.
In this film collaboration between Kiki gatekeeper, Twiggy Pucci Garçon, and Swedish filmmaker Sara Jordenö, viewers are granted exclusive access into this high-stakes world, where fierce Ballroom competitions serve as a gateway into conversations surrounding Black-and Trans-Lives Matter movements. This new generation of Ballroom youth use the motto, “Not About Us Without Us,” and KIKI in kind has been made with extensive support and trust from the community, including an exhilarating score by renowned Ballroom and Voguing Producer Collective Qween Beat. Twiggy and Sara’s insider-outsider approach to their stories breathes fresh life into the representation of a marginalized community who demand visibility and real political power.
DAVID SIMS, THE ATLANTIC "At a moment when trans rights, which had experienced tentative progress in recent years, are increasingly under threat, Kiki feels both relevant and hopeful. The film is a beautiful celebration of a subculture that’s still struggling to win the full respect it deserves."
JUSTIN CHANG, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES "Electrifying. An energetic and enveloping documentary about New York City's LGBT ballroom scene. Kiki often casts a rueful gaze, but it’s also exuberant and alive, and never despairing. It leaves you with the bracing sense that however tough and resilient its subjects might be forced to become, their hope of a better, more tolerant future will never go out of style."
MANOHLA DARGIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES “Kiki fluidly combines interviews with on-the-street and dance-floor scenes to create an exhilarating, multifaceted portrait of ballroom participants, a number of whom are L.G.B.T. activists. Kiki is also an indelible, must-see ode to gay New York."
LANRE BAKARE, THE GUARDIAN “A complex documentary. It’s a kaleidoscopic and vivid rendering of a world that is larger than life, flamboyant but ultimately fragile. It’s an ultimately uplifting film and one that doesn’t patronise or placate: the ballroom is shown for what it is, complex, flamboyant and a place to express yourself.”
AMY TAUBIN, FILM COMMENT "Kiki, which will be compared to 1991 Sundance prize-winner Jennie Livingston’s Paris Is Burning, is a far more optimistic movie, thanks to its hugely talented and accomplished featured performers, poets and writers, and political activists."
RICHARD LAWSON, VANITY FAIR “A joyous, genuinely inspiring documentary about the current ball culture in New York City, Kiki is in many ways an update of the seminal 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning. But there is something more hopeful about Sara Jordenö’s new film, which takes place at a time when great strides have been made in gay visibility, when protests against racism are happening across the nation, and when the needle seems to finally be moving on trans awareness. There is an undercurrent of righteous anger running through Kiki, especially at the way these people’s lives are often marginalized so the more mainstream gay-rights movement can focus on marriage between affluent white men. But Kiki is not a polemic. It’s a spirited, funny, touching portrait of some seriously smart, creative, and defiant young people. The film makes you feel good about the future, which is pretty hard to do these days.”
EUGENE HERNANDEZ, FILM COMMENT “A highlight of this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Bursting with the pulse of the emphatic, high-energy dance scene that it documents, Kiki is also alive with the attitudes of the bold, outspoken people of color it profiles.”
KATIE WALSH, THE PLAYLIST "It takes some moxie to make a documentary on the same subject as one of the best-known and most influential films ever in the form — Jennie Livingston’s seminal 1990 hit “Paris Is Burning” — but that Sara Jordenö pulls off another movie set in the voguing world is testament to her talent. Co-written with one of the film’s subjects, Twiggy Pucci Garçon, it shows, per Katie Walsh’s review, “how crucial access is for a filmmaker,” with more of an insider than outsider view on the world, but also “stands on its own, with subjects who are incredibly smart, open, and eloquent in expressing their personal histories and current situations.” Utilizing some smart stylistic motifs, it never loses focuses on “groups of LGBT people of color who have had to create their own families, clubs and societies when they weren’t accepted in others,” and shows the first-time Swedish director to be a compassionate and assured filmmaker first time at bat.”
DANIEL WALBER, NON FICS “Kiki is a smart, confident debut and a real credit to its polyphonic subject. A STRONG COMMUNITY PORTRAIT THAT DOES GOOD BY THE LEGACY OF ‘PARIS IS BURNING’ A Wonderful, attentive study of New York’s contemporary ballroom scene, directed by debut filmmaker Sara Jordan with a remarkable eye for portraiture and the empowerment that comes from self presentation.”
SEAN P. MEANS, SALT LAKE CITY TRIBUNE “Kiki is as bright, colorful and fully alive as the New York LGBT dance scene it captures and celebrates. Jordenö’s camera captures both the pain and heartbreak, but also the sense of community in this brightly lit scene. The inspiring message is that the people in Kiki don’t choose to be gay or trans — they just are — but they do make the choice to be who they are as fabulously as possible.”
DAVID ROONEY, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER Twenty-five years after Jennie Livingston made Paris is Burning, about the drag scene and voguing balls of 1980s New York, that ineffably fabulous underground culture pulses with fresh energy in Kiki. The big difference in Swedish filmmaker Sara Jordeno’s vibrant documentary portrait is that it surveys the lives of LGBTQ youth-of-color at a time when Black Lives Matter has become a national movement and trans rights is making a long-overdue entry into the political conversation. But this is also an innately political film. With a simple eloquence that never gets preachy, it makes the point that the gay marriage movement was driven by the white middle class, while the marginalized transgender community remains largely unrepresented. No mention is made of breakthrough celebrity trans figures like Caitlyn Jenner. But few will fail to observe that the struggle for identity, visibility, respect and rights being explored here is not the journey of a rich white Republican with a team of stylists, a Vanity Fair cover and a massive support infrastructure. But there’s also an underlying sense of empowerment and liberation running through Kiki, notably in the series of beautiful still shots of faces engaging direct-to-camera, and gorgeous displays of voguing attitude in public spaces like Christopher Street Pier.”
“This film never rests on its laurels and declares the fight over. Instead it goes to great pains to illustrate the sliding scales of representation and discrimination” And, “Above all, Kiki makes very clear that so much of this side to New York's history has been forgotten, and its attempts to restore this history back as far as 1920 is certainly fascinating.”
“This doc rules! I missed seeing this at Sundance and finally caught up with it here [Berlinale] and it's outstanding. Full of so much genuine compassion, appreciation and hope. The film profiles the LGBT community in New York City known as the "Kiki" community, a large group of people (including many trans individuals) who host dance events and shows to support each other. The access filmmaker Sara Jordenö gets is impressive, and it's a very well-made doc that challenges all of us to throw out prejudices and appreciate every last person. It also successfully introduces the Kiki movement to the general public.”
“The ballroom scene offers not only spectacle but also potent social and political activism to its lower-income Black and Latino youths. The Houses of LaBeija and Xtravaganza have made way for those of Juicy Couture and Unbothered Cartier, but the commitment to squashing heteronormativity, transphobia and HIV are as fierce as ever.”
Kiki - Official Trailer I HD I Sundance Selects
KIKI Swedish Trailer
KIKI clip #1
KIKI clip #2
KIKI Screening at Brooklyn Bridge Park at BAM Cinemafest, June 2016
NYC community premiere at El Museo Del Barrio, in collaboration with RBMA Festival, 2016
TEDDY AWARD for Best Documentary Essay Film goes to "KIKI"
Documentary Short, 2016
Directed by Sara Jordenö
Cinematographer: Maja Dennhag
Editor: Rasmus Ohlander
Sound Design: Gustaf Berger, Auditory
Producer: Lisa Rosendahl, Public Art Agency, Sweden
Over the last decade, artist and documentary filmmaker Sara Jordenö has returned to her hometown Robertsfors many times to document the relationship between the residents and the largest employer in the area: the synthetic diamond factory. Her efforts have resulted in a number of different works shown in Sweden and internationally. In 2015, after the announcement that the factory was to close permanently, some of the employees asked Jordenö if she could come back one last time to document their place of work before it was gone for good. The finished film begins with former employees’ personal stories and focuses on how the factory and its closing have impacted the local community.
Diamond People is the third part in Public Art Agency Sweden’s series Industrial Society in Transition, which in different regions and through different artistic practices attempts to depict the societal transformation that has been going on in Sweden over recent decades. Rather than describing the transition to a postindustrial existence through an industrial-historical focus on buildings, machines, and products from peak manufacturing years, the artworks center on people and their contemporary experiences.
In Diamond People, Jordenö invites former employees to visit the empty factory buildings and reflect on how their work and the factory closure have impacted their lives. The problems in Robertsfors mirror those in large parts of the country, and these personal stories are in many ways characteristic of the narrative of Sweden in general.
Robertsfors was a typical factory town: first came the paper mill, then came a planned community around it to ensure the existence of a workforce. This established a strong symbiosis between industry and the community, which is symptomatic of the emergence of the Swedish welfare state in general. This also created an almost unshakeable loyalty of employees toward the factory, which over time came to characterize all of Robertsfors. How is the story of a once self-evident relationship between society and industry affected when the contract of reciprocal loyalty has been broken?
The old paper mill’s patriarchal structure gradually shifted to a state-owned industry, which in turn became privately owned and a part of a multinational concern. During the last six months the factory was active in the region, employment was managed by an employment agency. The decision to close the Robertsfors factory and move its operations to Ireland was part of a global plan rooted in many other factors than just the productivity and projected profits of that specific factory. The factory was functioning well and was a world leader in the development of technology, and both factors made the decision difficult to understand. In the film, one possible answer is given by the Robertsfors Economic Development Director, who compares laws in an international perspective: in Ireland, it would have cost the company around 26 million SEK (2.7 million EUR) in employee severance packages if they were to close the factory. In Robertsfors, it was essentially without cost. How much did legislation affect the multinational concern’s decision to close Robertsfors in particular?
In Robertsfors, it is clear from the city planning how everything was once connected: the factory production enabled the building of homes as well as the presence of a school, a healthcare clinic, and a supermarket. Without a large employer in the area, the society and its various functions are at risk for disappearing. What happens to people when the obvious hub and economic engine of their community is taken away? Former employees say that it wasn’t only the jobs that disappeared when the factory was closed, but also their sense of belonging and their familiar meeting place. When they see each other again at a career development training about the digital network LinkedIn and other social media, the contrast between the conditions for public life today and in the past becomes evident. “You are the commodity now,” explains a representative from the adult education center and encourages the unemployed attendees to start blogging.
But we shouldn’t glorify the blue-collar mentality that came with secure jobs and the unquestioned possibility for many people to find jobs at the factory right after graduation, either. “When generation after generation goes to the same place, it affects your ambition,” says one of the voices we meet in the film, wondering if it might be difficult to reach your full potential, to become who you’re supposed to become, when it’s more comfortable to do the same thing everyone else does and keep on working at the factory.
In Jordenö’s portrait, people’s living memories and physical presence are contrasted with the emptiness and silence of the factory. The connection between workplace and society is emphasized by using the sound recordings from the active factory to set the tone for the camera’s travels through Robertsfors. The observer is also reminded that Jordenö’s artistic practice and the film in itself are, in a way, products of the diamond factory: this is where her father worked, where she had her first job, and where the political consciousness that later came to characterize many of her artworks was awakened.
The film premiered in Robertsfors in October 2016 and was screened in Skelleftehamn, Holmsund, and Boliden before reaching other parts of Sweden. In Västerbotten, screenings will be followed by a discussion with the director, participants in the film, and the audience. The goals are to share personal experiences of changing workplaces and together situate them within a larger historical, economic, and social perspective. How can a local community respond to a decision to close a factory when the main employer is just one piece in a multinational puzzle? What are the ramifications of the law in Sweden and internationally when it comes to a town going under because a company shuts its doors? What does it mean to become unemployed after having worked at the same place your entire life? How can we handle the great transformation from having one primary employer that unites a region to working for an employment agency, starting your own business, or turning to other careers? Can the negative experience of receiving your notice also pave the way for new possibilities and ways of viewing your existence?
Digitally transferred 16 mm film, color & b&w Total Running Time: 13.29 minutes Production year: 2009 - 2012
Directed, Produced and Edited by Sara Jordenö Director of Photography: Petrus Sjövik Sound Design: Jonny Farrow B-Photography: Maja Dennhag Interviews with Hedvig Olofsson and Kerstin Kalström Produced in collaboration with Baltic Art Center and Film i Västerbotten
Courtesy of the artist and Malmö Konstmuseum
Distributed by Filmform
Hedvig Olofsson lives in a set house that was constructed for the production of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona in 1965, Close by Bergman built his own artist home, which in the summer of 2009 was up for sale for millions of Swedish crowns. Hedvig was during many years Ing¬mar Bergman’s closest neighbor. Film enthusiasts and tourists from the whole world is coming to document her house due to it’s film histori¬cal value. Hedvig is of the opinion that the tourists are infringing on and limiting her personal space. The film is about my desire to film her house, Hedvig’s continuing refusal to become fictionalized and the negotiation that takes place between us.
Scene from Hedvig (The Set House)
Documentary Short, 2001
TRT: 3:10 min, 4:3, DV, Stereo, Color
Directed, Produced and Edited by Sara Jordenö
Distributed by FilmForm
VIDEOACTIVE portrays a membership video store located in Los Angeles called Videoactive. The store has a unique categorization system, where the customers and employees place the films on themed shelves. It is revealed that the copy of Persona is in flux, moving between different shelves and interpretations.
S-16mm film (2003)
Directed by Sara Jordenö
Cinematographer: Marie Chao
with Elizabeth Liang, Thea Wolfe
Distributed by Film Form
Premiere at RedCat, Los Angeles
The Pool is an experimental film about a church in Moscow turned into a swimming pool coded with lesbian desire, before turning into a church again. In Los Angeles, a researcher is going swimming meeting a mysterious woman. Places and contexts are constantly shifting.
Short film, 4 minutes
Directed by Sara Jordenö
With Thea Wolfe, Elizabeth Liang
Women, all actors, are asked where they come from and why they came here.
Location Interviews, video still
Location Interviews, video still
Location Interviews at Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna