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An older man and a young guy – exploring the need for intimacy

Swedish short film Mr Sugar Daddy immerses us in the dynamics of inter-generational attraction

An older man and a young guy – exploring the need for intimacy
Mr Sugar Daddy – a short film by Dawid Ullgren.

A short film from Sweden, Mr Sugar Daddy gives us the story of Hans – an older man looking for a fresh start. On a night out in a club, Hans falls for younger guy Andrej.

We spoke with filmmaker Dawid Ullgren for a behind-the-scenes look at Mr Sugar Daddy:

What was your inspiration for this story?

The idea started with a glance from an older man at a club in Gothenburg. I started to follow him, from a distance, to see how he interacted with the club – how boys came up to him, sat on his lap, and got a drink for that gesture.

For me, it had to be something more than just that kind of intimacy. The search for something more. That thought was the starting point for the theme of Mr Sugar Daddy – love versus attraction.

I wanted to make a short film that exclusively took place in a club. I was thinking about how there is a kind of invisible hierarchy there. If you try to connect with someone who is on another level than you, then you immediately get corrected.

Are Hans or Andrej characters that you identify with at all?

I feel very attached to Hans and Andrej. They are characters that I can really identify myself with. There’s a sense of wishing to fit in. Hans from the outside looking in, and Andrej who doesn’t know how to be something else other than the person he already is. They both want to try something new.

What was the production process like?

It took a long time to make Mr Sugar Daddy – almost four years from idea to finished film. But we knew when we started that we wanted to make it right, so it feels alright now that I look back at it. The shoot only took three days.

What was the casting process like?

It was a pretty easy casting process, because I wrote the characters with the actors in mind. I usually work like that.

I really wanted to write something for Bengt CW Carlsson [Hans], because I’m a big fanboy of him. I’m really proud that he took a chance on me. I’m not sure that it would have been a film, had he turned it down.

After I met Aleksandar Gajic [Andrej] I got the same feeling, that he would be perfect for this type of character, this club kid.

The selling point is the chemistry between them. I’m really proud of how they dared to put their hearts out in the film.

Were you worried that audiences might interpret the film as somehow reinforcing negative stereotypes about gay men and gay sexuality?

I wanted to make a film with gay characters that wasn’t about their sexuality. That they didn’t have to come out or something like that. A film that I desperately needed to see when I was a kid, that didn’t shame the sexuality, and just showed it wasn’t a big deal.

For me, this is a love story that never happened.

Does the film have a point of view about inter-generational relationships?

The film is about a connection between two men in different stages of their lives. For me, love is not an age thing, its more about the connection. If you can’t connect, then it will never be something more. Andrej is not ready to connect with another person, so the love story is already dead at the beginning. I like to think that Hans and Andrej are perfect for each other, but it’s not the time yet.

What do you hope that audiences feel when watching this film?

I hope that the audience sees the beauty in this film about a heartbreak.

It’s never easy to go forward in your life, but you should always try. That’s one of the things I really love about our lead character Hans.

What sort of response have you had to the film so far?

It seems that people really connect with Hans and feel for him. At the premiere of the film in Torino we heard gasps from the audience, which was so overwhelming. We wanted to make a film that stayed with you, and I feel that we’ve done that.

What next for Dawid Ullgren?

I’ve just finished a new short film about the sauna culture in the 80s in Stockholm called Nittonhundraåttioett [1981]. It’s a film about the male gaze. It will be released in 2018.

Mr Sugar Daddy is distributed by Peccadillo Pictures as part of its compilation Boys On Film 17: Love Is The Drug.

Read more from Gareth Johnson

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