Swedish watercolour artist and filmmaker Knutte Wester draws a great amount of inspiration from the stories of his grandmother’s impoverished, trying childhood in the downtrodden, incendiary, but still sadly relevant documentary A Bastard Child.
Born in 1909 to a single mother – who was branded as a whore, as was custom in Europe at the time – Wester’s grandmother, Hervor, was forced to suffer for her mother’s actions. When she spent time living with her mother, they lived far below the poverty line, something Knutte’s prideful great-grandmother didn’t deal with very well. Hervor was bounced around between various types of “foster homes,” but her presence was rarely welcomed and often openly derided. It was a situation so dire that Hervor’s mother almost committed suicide and took her daughter with her.
Things might not be as bad for single mothers today as they were in undemocratic, early 20th century Sweden, but as a piece of women’s rights history, the story contained within Wester’s semi-animated watercolour re-enactments of events proves indispensable. The style of A Bastard Child takes more than a little getting used to, and I’m still not sure if this is more suited for cinema, television, or an art gallery, but the pain and sacrifice here is undeniably powerful. These are the kinds of films that force us to remember where we have been as a society, and allow us to look forward so such inequalities can be mended and eradicated.