Moa Junström

Born 9 August 1981 in Stockholm, Sweden / 163 cm / weight: “secret” / Greyish-blue or greenish-grey eyes / Favorite Atari game: “Never played Atari”

Moa and I work very different schedules, but we like to make the time to meet up for drinks regularly. Whether it means we’re surrounded by old people or tourists, we somehow started a tradition of seeking out weird bars to meet in. Every time it’s an adventure.

She is easily the only person I’ve ever met who helps finance her documentary filmmaking by working in a late-term care center for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Moa’s films are a showcase for her captivating talent of getting people to speak their minds – as in Thank You, Goodbye, Go Home (a collaboration with Ingrid Holmberg) which inserts the viewer into the uneasy circle of fraternizing among leaders of an anti-Muslim political party. And speak their hearts – like when a 44-year-old woman whose desperate dream was to have a child allowed Moa to document the emotional toll of her relentless attempts for successful artificial insemination at clinic after clinic (Det känns som att det är sista chansen “It Feels Like It’s the Last Chance”).

I met Moa for the first time in 2008. She was living in Los Angeles and I was living in Louisville, but we were both visiting Stockholm at the same time. She made an immediate impression on me as the kind of person I like to have in my life. Now we both live in Stockholm and I feel lucky that she has become one of those people. I get to talk with her about serious and ridiculous topics, some of which you get to see right now.

PHOTOS BY EMILY DAHL

 

WHY DO YOU LEAVE YOUR PHONE RINGER OFF ALL THE TIME?

[pause, then laughing…] Why do you leave your phone ringer on all the time?

[laughter] YOU KNOW, YOU CAN’T DO THAT FOR EVERY QUESTION. [laughter] I LEAVE MINE ON BECAUSE I WANT TO KNOW WHEN PEOPLE ARE CALLING ME.

[ten seconds] Well, that’s a good question.

HAVE YOU ALWAYS DONE IT?

Yeah.

LIKE, SINCE YOUR VERY FIRST PHONE?

I’ve done it for a long time, because I remember in the States on my [voice mail] I said, “My phone is probably on mute,” which people thought was really weird. That was a couple years ago.

YEAH. THAT WAS 2009? 2008?

Yeah. Well, I just…

YOU DON’T LIKE TO BE DISTURBED?

No. I’d rather call back. Also there are a couple of people… I don’t like it when they call me, so I don’t wanna know.

WHO ARE THOSE PEOPLE?

[laughter] It’s not you.

WHEN YOU BUY A MAGAZINE IN A STORE, DO YOU TAKE THE ONE THAT’S ON TOP OF THE STACK, OR DO YOU TAKE ONE THAT’S FURTHER BACK AND IN NICER CONDITION?

The one on top.

SAME THING IF YOU’RE BUYING A JUICE THAT’S IN A REFRIGERATOR, OR A WATER?

Yeah.

ARE YOU GOOD AT KEEPING THINGS NICE?

No. [laughs] No, that’s one of my biggest flaws. My apartment looks a police – what do you call it? – a polisrazzia.

A POLICE RAID?

…a police raid! …after I’ve been in a room. [laughter] So, yeah. You’ve seen my phone.

YEAH.

It looks like crap.

I’M SURPRISED APPLE MADE THAT.

Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know how to take good care of stuff.

[consoling…] THAT’S OKAY. [laughter] THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DON’T WANT ME TO ASK YOU ABOUT?

[reluctantly…] Yeah?

WHAT ARE SOME OF THOSE THINGS?

Eh, that’s not fair. [laughter, then a short pause] No. I don’t want to answer that question. [laughter]

WHEN YOU ARE MAKING A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT SOMEONE, HOW DO YOU GET THEM TO TALK?

[eight-second pause] I just stay quiet. Then they want to fill the air. But I also… I don’t say anything that I think they would disagree with.

WOW, BECAUSE MY INTERVIEW STYLE IS EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE. [laughter] I TRY TO UPSET THE PERSON I’M INTERVIEWING. [laughter]

Yeah, and I don’t talk about myself and I never say anything personal. Just like a little piece of information so that they… [stops abruptly] God, I shouldn’t tell you this, though, what if they read it?

WELL, THE PEOPLE WHO WOULD “KNOW”… YOU’VE ALREADY INTERVIEWED THEM.

Yeah. I try not to talk about myself. I just put all the interest on who they are. But you have to share one or two things to make people feel comfortable.

DID THEY TEACH YOU THAT KIND OF STUFF IN FILM SCHOOL?

No, they didn’t at my school. I just thought that it would be a good strategy.

I THINK IT WORKS. [laughter] IT SEEMS TO WORK. DO YOU PREPARE QUESTIONS IN ADVANCE? DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO TALK TO SOMEBODY ABOUT BEFORE YOU SHOW UP?

Sometimes. Sometimes I do. I’m not good at preparing, either, because I’m so lazy. [laughter] So I’ll just… and sometimes I try to prepare but the best interviews are not when I’m prepared. They just happen when the camera is rolling.

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A CELEBRITY CRUSH?

Yeah. Loads.

YEAH? YOU WANNA PICK A FEW OF THEM AND SHARE?

Yeah. Hilary Swank.

REALLY?

Yeah, after I saw Boys Don’t Cry. Then I had a teacher that looked like her. Then I fell in love with her. So I had a really great grade in [laughter] Business Economics because the teacher looked like Hilary Swank who I had a crush on. I also… Michael Jackson.

HOW RECENTLY? WHEN YOU WERE LITTLE OR…

When I was eleven or so.

…LIKE RIGHT BEFORE HE DIED?

[laughs] Noooo! I also had a crush on some guy in Take That when I was ten.

OH, A BOY BAND?

Yeah. Mark something. I can’t remember the last name. [laughter]

HE WAS PROBABLY PRETTY CUTE THOUGH?

Yeah.

HAVE YOU EVER STOLEN ANYTHING?

When I was a kid, I used to steal CDs from the big chain CD store. Then I would sell it to the used CD store. It’s a classic!

IT’S A GOOD MOVE! DID YOU DO THIS A LOT?

I think a couple of times. Maybe four or five times. It wasn’t like I made a living doing that. [laughter]

IT WASN’T YOUR JOB?

[laughs] But, I mean, I was just 14 so I think it’s like… I don’t steal anymore. But I’ve stolen other stuff, too. Once me and my friend stole money from a rich girl in the bathroom.

HOW MUCH?

I don’t… Because I gave… She took all the money.

[exasperated] WHAAA?

[laughs] But she was the one stealing it. She was the one who really stole it. I was mostly… Because she could’t pay her rent and this other girl had so much money…

OH, SO IT WAS ENOUGH TO PAY RENT? SO THOUSANDS OF KRONOR?

I think it was like two thousand or something [about $300 US].

WOW. BUT YOU’RE NOT THE BAD GIRL. IT WAS THE OTHER GIRL.

Yeah.

THAT’S THE WORST BECAUSE YOU WOULD STILL GET IN TROUBLE BUT IT WASN’T YOU DOING IT.

[laughter] Yeah, I wasn’t smart.

IF SOMEONE WERE TO MAKE A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE, WHO SHOULD PLAY YOU?

[six seconds, then thinking out loud…] Who should play me? God… [eight seconds] Who should play me? [three seconds] Probably Courtney Love should play me.

[disappointed] REALLY. [laughter] YOU THINK SHE HAS THAT KIND OF ABILITY AS AN ACTRESS?

[laughs] Yeah.

DO YOU THINK SHE COULD REMAIN SOBER ON THE SET FOR 90 DAYS WHILE THEY MAKE A MOVIE?

[laughter] Yeah!

IF THAT MOVIE WAS BASED ON A BOOK, WHO SHOULD WRITE THE BOOK?

Toni Morrison, but I don’t think her book about my life would be very good, but… [laughs]

WHY NOT?

[laughing…] Because my life is not interesting enough! [laughs]

I DON’T KNOW, MAYBE IF SHE’S A GREAT WRITER… WHAT GENRE WOULD IT BE? A COMEDY? MYSTERY? DRAMA?

I think a drama. Because, I mean, I am sort of a drama queen, in a quiet way. [laughter]

YOU ARE SORT OF AN UNDERSTATED DRAMA QUEEN.

I’m always in trouble, so I must be a drama queen.

WELL, I THINK YOU’RE A TROUBLEMAKER.

That’s true. So maybe it should be a comedy! I mean, all this weird stuff keeps happening.

DO YOU LIKE THE DRAMA THAT COMES FROM YOUR TROUBLEMAKING?

Yeah. I think so.

ARE YOU HOOKED ON IT?

A little bit.

DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL IMPORTANT?

No, but I can’t really deal with everyday life. So if things seem bland to me, I think I… Not on purpose, but unconsciously I’ll do some shit to just ruin everything.

MMM HMM… THAT’S A GOOD STRATEGY.

[laughter] I know! It worked. I’m still alive.

DO YOU READ BOOKS?

Sometimes in some periods. Sometimes I read a lot and sometimes I don’t read at all. It depends. But I think I’ve read [a lot] of books during my lifetime.

WOULD YOU SAY MORE THAN A HUNDRED?

Oh yeah.

MORE THAN A THOUSAND?

[tentatively…] Maybe not… or maybe?

NAME THEM.

Okay! [laughing…] Starting from “A” because I have a list. I totally write down all the books I read, and then I’m just totally anal about it. [laughter]

[in a nerd voice…] “OH HERE, LET ME COPY THIS SPREADSHEET FOR YOU. I HAVE IT IN AN EXCEL FILE.” [laughter] WE’VE TALKED A LOT ABOUT YOUR JOB IN THE PAST, BUT NOW THAT I AM RECORDING, I WONDER IF YOU WOULD ENTERTAIN ME AGAIN BY TELLING ME ABOUT WHAT YOU DO AT WORK.

I take care of people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

YOU WORK AT A CARE CENTER WHERE PEOPLE LIVE, AND THEY USUALLY LIVE THERE UNTIL THEY DIE, RIGHT?

Yeah, all of them. I mean, it’s the last stop.

AND YOU GET FOOD FOR THEM?

We make the food. We have to do everything because people with Alzheimer’s don’t remember anything. So we have to dress them, give them medicine, help them to the bathroom, change the diapers, make the food, feed them, and so on. And then also deal with all of their psychological problems. I think just because they’re old that people can’t see that it is related to other psychological diseases.

WHICH ONE IS IT?

“I’m With You.” [laughs] Yeah. That’s a nice pop song, but I kind of… She doesn’t seem genuine at all to me.

BUT YOU SEEMED KIND OF HESITANT TO SAY NO, OR AM I JUST IMAGINING THAT?

No, but I don’t like to say that I don’t like someone. Like, if you say that you don’t like Avril Lavigne, that’s like kicking an open door, if you know what I mean. [laughter]

IT’S LIKE KICKING AN OPEN DOOR? NO, I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN.

That’s a Swedish saying. [laughter] No one likes her. If you ask like…

SOMEBODY WHO’S POPULAR AND LOTS OF PEOPLE LIKE?

Yeah, and I say no.

LADY GAGA.

That would be surprising.

DO YOU LIKE LADY GAGA?

Yeah. [laughs] Yeah, but if you said, “Do you like [Swedish singer] Erik Saade?” and I say no, that’s like kicking an open door, because nobody likes him.

WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING LEFT-HANDED?

Uh… [three seconds] I never think about it. But other people comment on it.

DO YOU EVER FEEL STRANGE OR DIFFERENT OR DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BECAUSE YOU’RE USING THE WRONG HAND?

No, because I only use the left hand to write. I do everything else with my right hand. So I can scissors and knives and stuff that other left-handed people have problems with, as I’ve heard.

RIGHT. OH SORRY, I DIDN’T MEAN TO SAY “RIGHT.” [laughter] I MEAN “CORRECT.” I UNDERSTAND. DO YOU PLAN TO GET MARRIED OR HAVE CHILDREN?

Ehhh… I could. I don’t plan it. I never had a “secret dream about my wedding day.” That’s American women. [laughter] But I could go to Vegas for fun or something. I think if I got married I would just do it for the day.

JUST FOR THE DAY? [laughs]

Yeah. I wouldn’t plan like, “Oh, this is going to be forever.” Because nothing is forever with me. I’ll always want to tag along. [laughter] I’ll tag along and then I’ll move along. [laughter]

OKAY, SO IF YOU DID HAVE CHILDREN…

I’d like to have children someday, but I’m not planning it because some people can’t have children. I don’t want to get disappointed.

SO IF YOU HAD FIVE CHILDREN, WHAT WOULD THEIR NAMES BE?

Actually, my sister stole both my names. Because I was supposed to have one kid… I wanted to name him Leo. Then she called called me – she was supposed to name her son Ramon – then she called me…

YOU ALL HAD TALKED ABOUT THIS BEFORE?

Yeah, and she was like, “Can I take Leo because you… I mean, he looks like a Leo.” And then I said, “Alright.” Then she just had a daughter, and I was like, “What are you gonna name her?” and she was like, “Luna.” [Then I said] “Do you remember when I was in high school [laughing…] I wanted to name my daughter Luna?” She was like, [casually] “Oh, that’s right.” So yeah, both those names are taken!

WELL, YOU COULD STILL GIVE YOUR KIDS THOSE NAMES!

That would be weird!

YOU CAME UP WITH THE NAMES. [laughter]

So, now, if I had a son I might like to name him Birger [pronounced beer-yer], but that’s weird in American because it would be like “burger.” [laughs]

FIRST NAME, HAM?

Yeah. So that would be weird, so I can’t do that.

JUST DON’T EVER LET HIM GO TO AMERICA.

Yeah. I think Elisabet is a nice name, too. But I don’t know. Until my sister stops popping out babies [laughs] I won’t have a name. [laughter] No!

YOU CAN’T SAY ANY MORE NAMES YOU LIKE, OTHERWISE SHE’LL TAKE THEM!

[laughter] Yeah.

moa-junstrom-4--k-composite-magazine

WHAT NEEDS TO BE INVENTED THAT HASN’T BEEN YET?

Ah! I thought about this the other day. Maybe it’s already invented. I thought it would be nice – this must be invented, though. You know the doors to your apartment? They should go both ways.

LIKE SWINGING DOORS BUT WITH A HANDLE?

Yes. Because when you push a wheelchair, you always have to open the door, push it back… But most swinging doors don’t have a handle, they’re just swinging.

THEY DON’T STOP IN THE MIDDLE AND YOU CAN’T LOCK THEM.

No.

SO MAYBE IT NEEDS TO BE LIKE WHEN YOU LOCK IT, PART OF THE WALL EXTENDS. OR THE LOCK IS NOT ACTUALLY ON THE HANDLE BUT IN THE WALL.

Yeah? It’s annoying with wheelchairs when you have to go through all these ordeals to use a door.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR FIRST BOYFRIEND.

Hmm. Who was my first boyfriend. [nine seconds] Like my first boyfriend boyfriend, or my first, like, “yeah!” [laughter] 

HA! “MY FIRST, LIKE, YEAH!” [much laughter] WHOEVER YOU THINK WOULD MAKE A MORE INTERESTING STORY.

Whew! [contemplating, 16 seconds] I can’t really recall any interesting boyfriend ever. I had a… [12 seconds] Mmm. I had a boyfriend when I was nine years old.

HOW OLD WAS HE? 42?

No, he was also nine.

WAS HE IN YOUR CLASS OR SOMETHING?

Yeah, I asked if he wanted to be my boyfriend, and then he didn’t say anything.

JUST A TYPICAL SWEDISH GUY? THE GIRL HAS TO DO ALL THE WORK?

Yeah! [laughs] Then, in my desk at school, he put a tennis ball that said “yes.” But then I got so confused. Does he really want to be my boyfriend or is he just joking with me?

OR DOES HE JUST WANT TO PLAY TENNIS?

Or is he just making fun of me? So then nothing happened after that.

DO YOU REMEMBER HIS NAME?

Nils. [laughter] But then I met him a couple years later and he was like, “Since neither of us broke up, I guess we’re still dating!” [laughter] Yeah. Nothing happened that time either.

THAT’S A VERY OPEN RELATIONSHIP! YOU GUYS WERE DATING FOR YEARS AND YOU DIDN’T KNOW.

Yeah, yeah. I became too shy after that.

THAT’S LIKE THE NINE-YEAR-OLD VERSION OF “THE HANGOVER.”

[laughs] But I guess if you… That must have been my first boyfriend… [in faux sadness] who I never even made out with. Or hugged! [laughter]

AWW. POOR NILS.

From K Composite 15

PHOTOS BY EMILY DAHL