Location: Split between Gothenburg and Stockholm
Films directed: 12
Awards won: 45
Production company founded: 2002
Ruben Östlund, currently Sweden’s hottest film director, is the first to admit that film-making – in the end – is a joint effort. “On set I have to be a bit of a dictator,” he says. “I have to hold onto my vision very hard because, if I didn’t, there would be no point in me directing anything. But at the same time, it’s important that all my team members trust their own artistic vision and dare to speak their minds.”
The 43-year-old director is currently enjoying international success with his latest film, The Square, a satire set in Stockholm’s art world that won this year’s Palme d’Or in Cannes. But he has been building his impressive filmography for more than a decade, creating both feature films and documentaries. Some of his closest team members have stood by him even longer: he met his producer Erik Hemmendorff, with whom he runs the production company Plattform Production, and his creative adviser Kalle Boman back at film school in Gothenburg in the late 1990s (Boman was his professor).
Östlund previously won acclaim with his 2014 film Force Majeure, a dramatic dark comedy that won numerous awards on the film-festival circuit. While the film didn’t help Östlund realise his dream of getting into the main competition at Cannes Film Festival, he found that setting ambitious goals and speaking about them publicly is what kept him motivated. “Goals are an essential tool in improving my own performance,” he says. “And it’s important to talk about them out loud. Because if you don’t, you’re not taking the risk of failure either.”
And what’s the next goal for Östlund and his team? Winning an Oscar for The Square, of course. The film is Sweden’s candidate in the Foreign Language category – and the director already knows whom he will be thanking onstage should he win. “I think surrounding myself with the right people is one of my strongest abilities.”