Sanna Lenken (SE)

Director. Born 1978, Gothenburg. Directorial studies at Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts and film studies at the European Film College in Denmark.

Sanna Lenken’s first feature My Skinny Sister (Min lilla syster) was lauded as one of the strongest debuts of 2015 in its dramatic depiction of a family crisis from the perspective of the youngest sister. The film’s many awards include the 2015 Berlin Crystal Bear for best youth film and the Grand City of Gothenburg Award at the Gothenburg film festival in 2016.

Sanna Lenken was born and grew up in Gothenburg and got her film education at the European Film College in Ebeltoft in Denmark and at the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts. One of her earliest film assignments was as runner on Ulf Malmros’ cult film Slim Susie (Smala Sussie, 2003). She has also had several stints as casting director and assistant director on various feature productions.

Her first short, Carrots and Mashed Potatoes (Morötter och potatismos, 2007), was shot during her time at the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts. Like several of her early films, it deals with issues around eating disorders, as does Eating Lunch (Äta lunch, 2012), a painfully intimate depiction of the ordeal of having to consume a serving of meatballs with thick gravy if you’re an anorectic. The feature debut My Skinny Sister (2015) takes a close look at the relation between two sisters, Katja and Stella, and the events unfolding when Katja develops anorexia. With profound empathy and compassion for both the theme as well as for the art of cinematic storytelling, Lenken instantly proved herself a fresh filmmaker force to count on. She also showed an admirable concern for her young leading ladies, Rebecka Josephson and Amy Deasismont, who both garnered considerable acclaim for their respective performances. My Skinny Sister was Lenken’s sixth collaboration with producer and fellow student friend Annika Rogell; the two have to date brought eight joint projects into finished works.

In a conversation in the film magazine FLM in connection with the 40th anniversary of Laura Mulvey’s seminal essay on the male gaze, Lenken offers the following reflection on being a woman and a filmmaker: “What is imagination and what is real? Which dreams are our own dreams and which dreams have someone else made up for us? I very rarely recognize myself in the female roles, whether we’re dealing with the 1960s, 1970s or 2010s. Also, now I’m the mom with the baby food goo on my sweater, trying on premiere outfits (in an attempt to look like Lauren Bacall) while stressing myself to death regarding all the commitments I have this week. I am the woman trying to maintain the image, while at the same time I want to kill her. And God knows that everyone – men and women alike – loves this image and maybe that’s what sometimes hurts me so much. How very loved that image is. That’s when I also want to rip the screen apart. Not just because it makes me angry that a film director reproduces stereotypes, but also because it really hurts. The image of the woman makes me existentially sad – and I don’t know if a 40-year-old essay cheered me up very much. It was and still is all too relevant. However, this conversation is a booster. When I attended the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts eight years ago, I was advised by many directors and producers in the industry never to speak out about feminism. That would stand in my way as a director. I have stopped listening to this, because the pressure inside me has become too great and because I no longer feel alone.”

In the summer of 2017, national Swedish television premiered Lenken’s short feature Night Child (Nattbarn, nominated for Best Short at the 2018 national film awards), based on Hanna Gustavsson’s graphic novel of the same name (Nattbarn), a story about puberty and searching. This is what critic Gunilla Brodrej wrote about the film in Expressen: “It’s not the least bit smart-aleck and wholesome and didactically portrayed. Rather, it’s believable, down to earth and tender. And with a great feel for the original story. /…/ Iggy is a spiky hard rock emo girl on the surface, but soft and full of love and longing on the inside.”

The decidedly personal short film The Artist Has a Baby (Konstnären får barn) competed in 2018 in the Startsladden section at the Gothenburg Film Festival. The film tackles the physically very different conditioning circumstances for female and male artistic geniuses and the female artist’s relationship with her pregnant body. The film was conceived during Sanna Lenken’s parental leave, and the cast consists of Lenken herself and her two children.

Mikaela Kindblom (2017, edited in 2018)
(Translated by Jan Lumholdt)

Basic info

Main profession: Director
Born: 1978
Active: 2003-


Comedy Queen (2022)
Tunna blå linjen (tv-serie, 2021)
Konstnären får barn (2018)
Nattbarn (2017)
Min lilla syster (2015)
Äta lunch (2012)
Yoghurt (2010)
Travemünde Trelleborg (2009)
Mellan 11 och 12 (2008)
Valborg (2008)
Morötter och potatismos (2007)

Konstnären får barn (2018)
Nattbarn (2017)
Min lilla syster (2015)
Äta lunch (2012)

Konstnären får barn (2018)

Storm (2006)
Buss till Italien (2005)
Steget efter (2005)

FAD (First Assistant Director):
Myskväll (2007)

SAD (Second Assistant Director):
Ciao Bella (2007)

Håkan Bråkan & Josef (2004)
Irmelin (2003)
Mamma pappa barn (2003)
Smala Sussie (2003)

Kim Novak badade aldrig i Genesarets sjö (2005)

Storm (2006)
Kim Novak badade aldrig i Genesarets sjö (2005)
Steget efter (2005)
Håkan Bråkan & Josef (2004)

Read more about the films at Svensk Filmdatabas (SE)


2023: Gullspira, för framstående insatser inom svensk barn- och ungdomsfilm.
2022: Kristallbjörnen vid filmfestivalen i Berlin (Comedy Queen).
2016: Göteborgs Stora Filmpris (Min lilla syster).
2015: Kristallbjörnen vid filmfestivalen i Berlin (Min lilla syster).

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