ByJames McDonald, writer at
James is a Movie Critic and Celebrity Interviewer with over 30 years of experience as an Award-Winning Filmmaker.
James McDonald

Teenage outsiders take refuge into an underground world of strange subcultures. A father is training his daughter to manage without him. The kids from Palestine are crafting slingshots. Two boys reject their parents in a rite of passage.

Gottsunda is a district in Uppsala, Sweden. In 2007, it had 9,474 inhabitants of whom 4,610 had a foreign background. The majority of present buildings there were built as part of the so-called Million Program, an ambitious public housing program implemented in Sweden between 1965 and 1974 by the governing Swedish Social Democratic Party to make sure everyone could have a home at a reasonable price. “Under Gottsunda” is a documentary that chronicles the lives of various different people who live there, some of whom are Swedish nationals but most who are foreign.

I kind of half expected a dilapidated and decaying estate, full of crime and violence and while there were some cars set on fire over the years, that was about the extent of it. The area itself was well-kept and in good condition and while the real-life characters throughout the film are what the story focuses on, you can’t help but notice their surroundings because it can play a very big part in their actions and decisions. We meet a young teen girl who lives with her father and having moved from Macedonia many years prior, he wants to go back home but she wants to stay.

Having been in the military, he trains her and prepares her for a life on her own as he makes it perfectly clear that it’s only a matter of time before he leaves. We meet a group of kids in their late teens who instead of joining a gang with the intention of causing harm to others or vandalism, instead, learn how to defend themselves and discipline and instruct each other every day so as not to become complacent. We meet a young man who takes his skateboard with him everywhere and says that if it weren’t for his new means of transportation, he probably would have taken his life long ago.

We also meet two young men from Palestine who remember the horrors of living there and their constant battle with Israel, having witnessed the horrors of war and the senseless killing of men, women and children and in one scene, they describe how they witnessed young children being run over by tanks and it is horrific and stays with you for a long time. There are so many characters we meet but the one thing that struck me was how optimistic they were, for the most part anyway. Having obviously moved from other areas or indeed, countries, where their way of life was not very good, Gottsunda seems to be, what I could best describe, as a stepping stone.

A place to gather your thoughts and gain your bearings, before deciding to stay there or move onto somewhere else. Granted, Sweden has the world’s eighth-highest per capita income and ranks highly in quality of life, healthcare and education but that won’t always be the defining factor(s) for someone who has the whole world at their fingertips. Director Viktor Johansson introduces us to a group of diverse and discerning people from all walks of life and instead of interacting with them, as is the case with most other documentaries, he simply stands back and records them being themselves, faults and all. The movie is absorbing and captivating and gives a little insight into the lives of others in a country that most people never give a second thought to. Highly Recommended.

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