Moral crusades in the East: Swedish filmmakers ‘going abroad to do good’

Olof Hedling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article is an attempt to identify some common themes in a body of work while at the same time regarding Sweden as especially conducive to pessimism regarding the decline in the moral economy of the world. Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the newfound independence of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Swedish filmmakers have repeatedly crossed the Baltic in search of subject matter not readily available in the supposedly well-ordered domestic setting. In these films, the former communist territories have almost invariably been imagined as marked by malaise, decay, a crumbling infrastructure and as destinations for sex tourism. Social security is undercut, poverty is rampant and phenomena such as prostitution, trafficking, drug use and child abandonment all seem to be on the rise. A famous example is Lukas Moodysson’s 2002 film Lilya 4-ever, the story of an abandoned teenage girl from the former Eastern bloc, who is manipulated into coming to Sweden as an involuntary sex worker. However, Moodysson’s film does not stand alone, but rather shares certain characteristics with other works exploring the Baltic connection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-257
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Scandinavian Cinema
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Oct

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Studies on Film


  • post-Soviet film
  • welfare state
  • Baltic Sea
  • moral imperialism
  • Scandinavian cinema
  • Lilya 4-ever


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