Art can change minds and hearts; perhaps no medium more powerfully than film. Not so long ago, films that depicted the LGBTQ experience were almost exclusively about persecution. This was certainly justified as so much of this segment of the population felt forced to hide their lifestyle and their true sense of self. As exposure and acceptance has made gains, films like 1-1 find an eager audience. This comedy about a group of friends and their experiences that ensue due to dating apps is timely, full of laughs, and gives evidence that the time for telling these stories has come.
Swedish born actor Rojan Telo plays Samir, one of the four central characters in the film 1-1 which appeared at the Iris Prize (the world’s largest LGBT film festival and largest short film prize in the world) and also received the prestigious Pixel Talent Award in Sweden. Director/Writer Naures Sager hired Rojan for 1-1 without an audition, simply based on the excellence of the actor’s prior work from as far back as 2015. Later Sauger revealed to Mr. Telo that Samir was actually based on the director himself and his experiences with pranking his friends; thankfully this was communicated after filming.
Also starring Siham Shurafa as Amirah, Robert Hannouch (known for his work in the Royal Television Society award-nominated series A Missing Beat) as Ayman, and Jonatan Ohlin as Jonas, 1-1 is the kind of film that establishes and new and quite welcome tone for films centered around the LGBTQ community and lifestyle.
Amirah, Ayman, and Samir are just an average group of friends; well, an average group of really attractive friends. Just how close they are is exhibited early in the film when Ayman meets up with Jonas whom he has been chatting with on a dating app and the two walk in on Amirah & Samir having sex on a couch. This is the first in a series of good natured but daring pranks among the foursome which establishes that young friends will test the boundaries of comfortability in a group. Samir is certainly the “free spirit” of this collective of friends.
Rojan describes him as, “He sees himself as a free soul and an earthling rather than someone of a specific nationality. Amirah’s weirdness is what attracted him to her. I thought of Samir as one of those guys who had been to a silent retreat in Thailand for a few weeks and taken a course on spirituality that eventually left him with a sense of being enlightened. I had lived in LA prior to making this film and actually hung out with all kinds of people so it wasn’t really that hard to tap into this idea.”
It’s evident that Samir has a deep love and trust for Amirah which is why he agrees to her pranks without truly understanding how far it will take him. The sensitivity, devotion, and passion he exhibits communicates that Samir is not attached to any sense of “what a modern man is supposed to be” but rather it further instills his individuality. Overall, it causes one to wonder that there might be something to his hippie-ish demeanor as he is a deeply sweet and simultaneously adventurous person.
Along these lines, Rojan Telo’s contribution to this film is immensely important as he challenges the audience to recalibrate any opinions they might have coming into this film concerning how to define such a person. Samir is endearing and fascinating, all due to the manner in which Rojan has envisioned and delivered him to the story.
Every truly great actor has a deep inclination for empathy, often rooted in their own experiences. A Swedish born actor of Kurdish descent who grew up in challenging neighborhoods, Rojan concedes, “Coming from the hoods/ghetto of Stockholm and saying you want to be an actor makes you a laughing stock. ‘Come on man. Stop dreaming. Who do you think you are?’ are the kinds of things you would hear. I never dared to do it in my very young years but I always had the dream.
Much later, I went to LA to study Film and fibbed to my mother that I was studying Business. After one semester, I just couldn’t lie to her anymore and confessed on a trip home. She said ‘Why didn’t you just say so? I am fine with whatever you do. Those words meant everything for me; it was like the last blessing I needed. I’m so happy to be part of a direction in films that push for more acceptance.”
Writer: Coleman Haan