A fierce and vulnerable woman,Silvana is a portrait of a young musician with a powerful message and a personality difficult to define in plain words.
Silvana Imam is captivating. She is a white rapper, a feminist and a rebel. The film about Sweden‘s most recent pop icon offers an insight into Silvana‘s complex personality, while also showcasing the artist‘s significance for the Swedish music scene and LGBT community. She can be arrogant and she can be sensitive. Her words, her music and everything she stands for echoes her inner life and struggles. Not everyone likes her, but – sure thing is – everyone will remember her. Silvana is genuine and her feminism is not wrapped in sophisticated concepts, but it’s instead raw and originates in a life lived. She stands against racism and discrimination, her message is not delivered softly, and my guess is, she’s come to stay.
With a Latvian mother and a Syrian father, Silvana grew up in Sweden, not looking like a typical girl and not feeling like one either. Starting the journey towards becoming her true self meant taking ownership of her various identities as a lesbian woman and an immigrant, with both parents coming from conservative cultures. She has to fit in a new society which seems liberal by comparison to others, but where at the same time, stereotypes of women and how they should look and behave nonetheless exist.
The camera follows Silvana over several years and captures her performing, expressing her ideas, partying and screaming out loud in the streets. She seems arrogant and overly dramatic at times, but before you jump to your conclusions, Silvana will take you by surprise when you discover her vulnerable heart, her self-doubt and her worries. Silvana is difficult to pin down. She is all these identities in one person, clashing against one another at times, and sometimes just blending together – creating the music that made her name known.
«The voice of this young musician demands to be heard.»
Her relationship with musician Beatrice Eli evolves as the film unfolds and eventually the two become an iconic couple – potentiating each other’s talents and self-confidence. Winning awards, performing in front of large audiences and being recognised on the street: Silvana is a celebrity. Yet for someone outside of Sweden it is difficult to realise just how famous she actually is. Despite the fact that her celbrity is a vehicle to bring her messages forward, the film is not about her fame, but about the inner world of a young woman. Surfing the wave of her fame is a way to express herself – but most importantly – it is a personal process of becoming and discovering who she can actually be.
Sweden is known to rank high when it comes to country evaluations on gay openness and LGBT rights. It is thus surprising to realise that the battle for acceptance and openness in Sweden is anything but over. The film doesn’t make it perfectly clear what she’s actually up against. Sometimes it seems she is fighting false pretences and people and circumstances that force women to behave different from how they feel in order to be accepted. And sometimes it feels like she’s simply fighting her own demons. But these demons don’t arise out of nowhere.
«Some interactions create a carousel of emotions in her.»
She wants to change mentalities and break the kind of gender stereotyping and intolerance propagated by religious institutions and the media alike. But that is a long way to walk. Some interactions create a carousel of emotions in her. Outside her circle, so many of the most basic interactions in her life seem to require some form of negotiation and choosing the right words. Following a discussion with a priest – In one scene she is disappointed, and even fearful, after being sent away from the very church where she received Communion back in Lithuania. A bit later she shies away in silence when a neighbour tells her it is time to find a boyfriend. Further on, she is angry while describing the charged questions she gets from journalists.
A human experience
«Silvana will take you by surprise when you discover her vulnerable heart, her self-doubt and her worries.»
In many ways, the film fills in the exact gaps that words seem to widen. It makes you witness emotions and real life, and leaves you no space for misunderstanding. Human experience is a powerful common denominator. Silvana’s story invites you to make sense of her broader context, to walk into other people’s shoes and relate to their struggles. It challenges what you think you already know. If you find it hard by the end of the film to define who Silvana is, that really won’t matter as her lyrics, her thoughts and her life will have already shaken you from your comfortable seat, leaving you to think and wonder.