FILM

WorldPride’s opening film Prince of Dreams highlights Erik’s decade-long gender dysphoria

”The film takes us on an existential journey. At its core, it’s about understanding who you are, what shaped you and how to accept yourself and move on,” says director and producer Jessica Nettelbladt.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
August 12, 2021

WorldPride is an including event sprung from the organization Interpride that started in the 80s. This edition, Malmö/Copenhagen, will be the 7th event arranged, opening tonight. Due to the current situation, it’ll be physically smaller while aiming to reach even more people through the online program, worldwide.

The opening film, Prince of Dreams, is directed by documentary filmmaker Jessica Nettelbladt, premiering tomorrow night.

— The film fits in really good when talking about human and equal rights, she says, continuing,

— It is about Erik, struggling with gender dysphoria and mental illness. The film takes us on an existential journey. At its core, it’s about understanding who you are, what shaped you and how to accept yourself and move on.

— I got to know Erik when he was 17, while he was in high school, through his teachers. It didn’t take long before I decided to follow Erik on his journey, while he struggled to make peace with himself and find acceptance. It affected me deeply to hear his heartbreaking description — that it was like being trapped in the wrong body. That a human being could lose the will to live. And how there had been years of bullying at school. This is an account of ten years in Erik’s life, through puberty to adulthood. He encounters setbacks and difficulties along the way but finds the courage to move on, to work through his issues. Erik’s multi-faceted story is framed by the pilgrimage that begins in the district of Rosengård in Malmö, Sweden, and ends in Spain’s Camino de Finisterre.

— Erik’s personal journey is one that is shared by many others, one that people of all genders can relate to, says Nettelbladt.

What was the most challenging part? 

— It’s a big question, as all parts of the process are challenging in different ways. To get the finance in place is a heavy piece, also filming during such a long time, more than 10 years, creates a lot of raw material that needs to be edited down. But, this part is also creative and fun as well because I do like editing movies. Actually, you should write a book for every film you do, because so much happens along the way and you learn new things, both about yourself and others. How to do or not do next time.

Why should we see it?

— Mental illness is a growing issue around the world. There are so many children who encounter bullying, abuse, and trying to find their own identity. I think the pressure and stress on the youth today is much greater with all social media hammering a perfect picture. Some choose to be the bullying ones in the hope to fit in, some are never seen or heard and become the object of bullying. I think the film can gain a greater understanding and insights for all.

Can you share any memorable moments?

— When I met Erik, he was a teenager in high school. He was shy, introverted, and very withdrawn. His classmates were shouting swear words to him in the corridor because he wasn’t one of them, he was different. I find this scene in the film interesting because it reflects the exclusion and how the great masses follow the current. So few that’s standing up saying it is not OK. But the scene also shows the strength Erik has, despite contempt, jeer, and enormous resistance, he has the courage to follow his own way.

— In another scene, Erik describes it very gently: When your soul is in pain it is difficult to mend. If breaking an arm you can easily fix the arm with plaster, but how do you mend a broken soul, how do you heal?

— The film is existential and humane and has multiple layers. I think a lot of people can recognize themselves even if they don’t have the same story as Erik, Nettelbladt concludes.

Prince of Dreams will be live-streamed as the opening film tomorrow night, August 13, and also August 17 in Copenhagen and August 19 in Malmö. The Swedish movie premiere is on August 20.

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