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Moral crusades in the East: Swedish filmmakers ‘going abroad to do good’

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The article is an attempt to identify some common themes in a body of work while at the same time regarding Sweden as especially conducive to pessimism regarding the decline in the moral economy of the world. Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the newfound independence of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Swedish filmmakers have repeatedly crossed the Baltic in search of subject matter not readily available in the supposedly well-ordered domestic setting. In these films, the former communist territories have almost invariably been imagined as marked by malaise, decay, a crumbling infrastructure and as destinations for sex tourism. Social security is undercut, poverty is rampant and phenomena such as prostitution, trafficking, drug use and child abandonment all seem to be on the rise. A famous example is Lukas Moodysson’s 2002 film Lilya 4-ever, the story of an abandoned teenage girl from the former Eastern bloc, who is manipulated into coming to Sweden as an involuntary sex worker. However, Moodysson’s film does not stand alone, but rather shares certain characteristics with other works exploring the Baltic connection.
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Keywords: Baltic Sea; Lilya 4-ever; Scandinavian cinema; moral imperialism; post-Soviet film; welfare state

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Lund University

Publication date: 01 September 2018

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  • The Journal of Scandinavian Cinema is a new scholarly journal devoted to film in the Scandinavian countries. It aims to become the prime site for excellent research and engaging discussions on cinema in Scandinavia, both within the national context of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and as a region existing in a globalized world.
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