Maria Eriksson-Hecht’s latest short film, I Think I Have A Crush On You (Jag tror jag är lite kär i dig), tells the devastating story of a young girl who is groomed by an online predator.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge spoke to Maria about this pressingly important film which has already garnered over 2 million views on YouTube.
Watch ‘I Think I Have A Crush On You’
Q: ‘I Think I Have A Crush On You’ is a hard-to-watch but incredibly important short film. What led you to take on the unsettling issue of online predators and grooming?
A: I was actually asked by an organisation [Aktiv Skola], who work on this issue in schools, to make a film about grooming.
I didn’t know very much about it before I started researching. I read books and went through the full investigations of real legal cases. I was very shocked and angry while reading about all this shit going on. Pelle Rådström [the scriptwriter] and I based the film on some of these cases. A lot of the dialogue is directly inspired by how one of these predators manipulated his victims.
Q: The absence of Nadja’s parents in the film is a stark remind of how the internet can allow these situations to escalate quickly and undetected. What do you think is the best route forward to protecting children online and on social media?
A: To educate them! Don’t try to protect them by not talking about difficult subjects such as these. And don’t try to stop them being on the internet – they will be anyway.
Talk openly with them and educate them, for example by using our film and discussing it afterwards. Also, have an open dialogue about how their day on internet has been. Don’t only ask: ‘how was your day at school?’ But also ask: ‘how was your day on the internet?’ Because most of them live a big part of their lives out there.
Q: I imagine this film would act as a big wake-up call to a lot of parents. Have you had any notable responses to it so far?
A: Yes, we’ve had a huge response from both parents and kids. Whether they have seen the film on YouTube, at a film festival or in school. Parents are shocked, but the kids say that this is their reality and that we need to talk more about it.
The film has been shown at schools in Sweden, and I got the impression that it has been a catalyst for important dialogue between the adults and kids. This issue is getting bigger and bigger – it is shocking that most people know so very little about it.
I think the film has been – and will continue to be – a wake-up call to many.
Q: We named Inez Dhal Torhaug in our Best Short Film Performances of 2018. Can you tell us about working with Inez and how she coped with such a challenging role?
A: Inez is such a brave girl, and she’s got such a big emotional capacity as an actress. Her mother and father are actors too (her mother actually plays the mother in the film), so she has a good understanding about what acting is.
We met before the shoot and talked. We were also joined by Emil Almén, who plays the online predator, to get to know each other better. It helped that we had also tried out some of the scenes in casting. This meant we had the chance to establish a strong bond of trust before shooting.
I think these things helped prepare Inez to manage the hard parts of the role. She actually loved the shoot, although it had such difficult scenes. I think she likes being challenged as an actress.
Q: You’ve looked at issues of grooming and bullying among children. Why are you drawn to these big topics relating to young people?
A: As a filmmaker, I want to make films that take on important subjects in our society and do so with a gripping story. And I really love working with – and towards – a young audience. Everything in this period of life happens for the first time, which is both beautiful and painful. Something which makes it an interesting space for telling stories.
Q: You’ve worked with a number of talented child actors. Do you have a favourite child actor performance and/or film about youth of all-time?
A: Henry Thomas in E.T – what a kid! Brooklynn Prince in The Florida Project – a knock-out. And then also the amazing performance by Anton Glanzelius in the beautiful Swedish film, My Life As A Dog.
Q: What kind of work can we expect from you in the future?
A: I will continue making films that interest me, about subjects that affect me, both in short formats and longer. Sometimes with adults in the main roles, and quite often with young people in the main cast.
My boyfriend [scriptwriter Pelle Rådström] and I are working on new stuff. We hope to be shooting our first feature next year, if everything goes as planned.