Arts Festival

Tremors and secrets that won’t be contained

HEAD on confrontation. Uje Brandelius in ‘Run Uje Run’, directed by Henrik Schyffert, which features on the European Film Festival South Africa, 14-24 October. Photograph by Johan Paulin

WHEN YOUR LIFE, and everything you thought it was, shifts irrevocably in a five minute medical consultation, you enter a complicated vortex of loneliness and reality that cannot be sidestepped. Run Uje Run, directed by Henrik Schyffert is an autobiographical foray into Swedish musician Uje Brandelius’s confrontation with Parkinson’s Disease. It will be available online and without cost, as part of the 8th European Film Festival South Africa, which runs from 14 until 24 October 2021.

Unlike much of the pickings of this film festival, Run Uje Run is more of a documentary than a staged film that hangs on a fictional yarn. In its 75 minute-duration, in strong and clear lines, it constructs and destroys Brandelius’s life, dreams and priorities, around his diagnosis. It’s about being polite to the broadly disinterested world in the face of personal calamity. It’s about the numbing ultimatum of huge secrets and how to hold them until you cannot, any longer.

Similar to the 1997 film, Sick, which deals with performance artist Bob Flanagan’s battle with Cystic Fibrosis, this piece is unrelenting. It leaves you feeling helpless, but enswathed with a level of awareness which is shattering. On paper, Brandelius’s tale is not too different from that of American actor Michael J Fox who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s while still in his 20s and has become an advocate for awareness of the disease.

But balanced with a reflection on a simple plot, this beautifully filmed work plays with Brandelius’s music, how his palsy rudely compromises his ability to play the piano and be himself, and the desperate frustration of an illness which steals one’s dignity, inch by unrelenting inch. Whatever else it is, this film is, however, not a pity party, nor a medical foray. It’s about the depletion of the soul when life turns around on one ostensibly ordinary day, and kicks you in the teeth.

This film is also not a happily-ever after saga. It’s a sophisticated and astonishingly beautiful tale of the loneliness of stigma, which is given voice on so many different levels of being in the world, from talk radio to student art projects, from stand-up comedy to summing up a life in a juvenile school assignment. It’s a fierce and bold extraordinary achievement. It is, however, is difficult to watch, and may leave you completely depleted.  

Run Uje Run is directed by Henrik Schyffert and features a cast headed by Martin Aagård, Anders Bennysson, Elisabeth Berg, Peter Bergared, Ulla Bergholtz, Oscar Bergman, Einar Bodström, Bixi Brandelius, Catti Brandelius, Jerker Brandelius, Juno Brandelius, Uje Brandelius, Vega Brandelius, Johan Carlqvist, Christine Cedringe, Tommy Dahlberg, Melody Farshin, Emelie Henriksson, Dominik Henzel, Therese Hörnqvist, Johan Jonason, Stefan Karlsson, Maja Långbacka, Helena Lindgren, Ullacarin Lindquist, Marie-Chantal Long, Timotej Mimen, Sture Olsson, Johanna Ovelius, Michael Petersson, Irma Schultz, Eva Schyffert, Lina Selleby, Ester Sjögren, Bo Skoglund, Henrik Svensson and Birthe Wingren. Written by Uje Brandelius, it is produced by Anna-Klara Carlsten and Tomas Michaelsson and features creative input by Juno Brandelius and Uje Brandelius (music), Frida Wendel (cinematography), Adi Omanovic (editing), Lina Friberg and Carl-Petter Montell (casting) and Emelie Henriksson (costume). In Swedish with English subtitles, it is part of the 8th European Film Festival South Africa, screening online and without cost from 14-24 October 2021.

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