A son loses his father due to alcoholism; the population in a mining town in northernmost Sweden watches their community slowly disappear into a hole, never to return. Two situations beyond control leave only sorrow behind, but can personal grief be compared with the collective suffering?

Malmberget, Sweden. People moved to Malmberget hundreds of years ago to work the mines. They had children, who also had children. Now mining generates a large part of Sweden’s income, but as the mine expands, Malmberget slowly disappears. The children and youth growing up today know they will have nothing to return to, and the elderly can no longer walk the streets of their youth. There is a clear physical void in Malmberget.

The film Undermining is an artistic, investigative documentary film that stems from the grief of narrator and filmmaker Gustav Hillbom. After his father passed away a number of years ago in the wake of alcoholism, grief and loss set into his body, feelings that are reawakened when Gustav returns to his hometown of Malmberget. He sees the same absence and meaningless change that he himself experienced, but this time it is a collective experience. So he decides to make a film, and in it we follow his search for symbolism, understanding and a grasp of his own loss.

His observations and interviews with local residents are pieced into a collage that compares and examines the interplay between collective and individual perceived grief. They are different in shape but share the same tone. Two young guys playing music in a band together. They happened to be born right there, but are pulled between the security of staying in their hometown and the dream of branching out to see the world. A man operates a greenhouse and market garden in a place where it’s winter the majority of the year. A business he took over from his father and is passionate about, but that he will soon need to relocate or shut down. How does life look when what is familiar is change, loss and constant suspense? What unifies the people in the film is the sense that they all carry keys for how to relate to and survive change and grief.

Undermining is about a place that nobody knows until you are there; about an endless absence; about the life in Malmberget that has it’s own value; about power and powerlessness; and about the price we pay for our prosperity.