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Exploring human rights in 'Till death do us part'

Monday, March 11, 2024

In the documentary "Till Death Do Us Part", parallel stories explore the difficulties of marriage annulment in the Philippines, which is the last country in the world without divorce. The project received development support from Film & TV Lindholmen 2023. We met the film's creator Samir Arabzadeh and producer Annika Hellström to hear more about the work, challenges and the future.

en person som gråter glädjetårar

Samir Arabzadeh, director "Till Death Do Us Part"

"Till Death Do Us Part"  depicts both two people's struggle to divorce and regain control over their own lives, as well as how the divorce ban affects the country at large. 

Samir Arabzadeh, director, tell us about the documentary film and why you decided to tell this particular story?

- Till Death Do Us Part is about the Philippines and the fact that it is the last country in the world where you can't get divorced. In the film, we follow several characters who struggle to get out of destructive or abandoned marriages. When I moved to the Philippines in 2009, I got together with a Filipina girl. Everything was perfect and I felt like she was the one - I planned to propose to her until I heard from other people that she was actually already married. I was completely shocked and felt betrayed, and then I was afraid that her husband would come looking for me. But she explained that this is how it is here, this is how everyone lives. Because there is no divorce. We continued to be together but I think the fact that she was married possibly caused us to break up because it was so weird to be with someone who is married. I have thought about this ever since and now that I have married here in Sweden, I have thought back to my previous relationship and reflected on how the divorce ban affects and destroys so many people's lives. I feel both fascinated and frustrated by it and want to tell their stories in the hope that it will lead to change.

Bild på Samir Arabzadeh i profil

Samir Arabzadeh, Director "Till Death Do Us Part"

The project was granted Film & TV Lindholmen's development support for innovative actors in 2023. Have you encountered any challenges with your innovative solutions?

- Right now we are looking at how we can use generative AI in the creation of artwork based on people's stories and integrating that platform into the crypto world. We are trying to find a suitable method to easily and efficiently convert people's stories into prompts. It is indeed a challenge and therefore it is important to find the right skills in generative AI.

- Through the character Maggie Wilson's celebrity and social media network, we have been given a channel out to the public in the Philippines, which enables us to collect people's lives and stories of their struggle to try to get out of destructive marriages. In parallel, research work has begun to find an aid organization in the Philippines that fights for women's rights and that can share in the income that the platform will generate. 

- Another possible challenge for the project going forward could be if copyright legislation would affect the functionality of the tools we intend to use for generative AI.

What does the upcoming work look like?

- Right now  the focus is on cutting through and inventorying the first material. One of the main characters, Sheila, just got her marriage annulled, which is an incredible victory. We were there filming at that very moment.

- Til Death Do Us Part is also one of seven projects selected to pitch at the Tempo Documentary Film Festival. It will be held on March 7 for the industry and we are fully preparing. After that, it will be workshop #2 of Nordisk Panorama's Doc Forward Talent Workshop, which will take place in Oslo in May, where we will also pitch for the industry and now for the entire Nordic region, the Nordic Film Institutes and the Nordic TV channels.

en person som tittar in i kameran

Annika Hellström, producer "Till Death Do Us Part". Photo: Ines Sebalj


Annika Hellström, producer at Cinenic Film, when is the goal for "Till Death Do Us Part" to meet its audience?

- We plan for the film to meet its audience during the winter of 2025/2026. 

As usual, Cinenic Film has many irons in the fire, what do you have going on besides "Till death do us part"?

- It's very exciting going on. The closest thing is a psychological horror drama, FLÄTAN, (screenplay Joen Windahl and Jessika Jankert, directed by Angelika Abramovitch) which we are financing in 2024. We also have an exciting daughter/father relationship in DEN LENA HUDEN (screenplay and direction Minka Jakerson, co-writer Adam Starsmark), an arthouse drama set in barren Bohuslän. Cinenic has now stepped into the TV drama world with Frida Hallberg as producer, with GLIMMANDE NYMF, which is about Bellman's muse, Ulla Winblad. She was the inspiration for many of Bellman's songs - a famous poet and troubadour who lived in 18th-century Stockholm. The series takes place in the present tense.


"This is a very interesting story, with a subject that touches and engages on multiple levels. From an innovation perspective, the film is particularly interesting as it explores a hybrid form of recorded scenes, archival footage and different types of animation techniques. I am very much looking forward to seeing the film as a whole."

Gunnar Eriksson, Program Director at Film & TV Lindholmen, and part of the Innovation Support reference group.

Received Film & TV Lindholmen's innovation support in 2023

The project was granted Film & TV Lindholmen's development support for innovative actors 2023.  The justification for the granted support was due to the project's innovative potential, among other things to develop a website where Filipinos, anonymously, can share their stories connected to the subject. A website that becomes a gallery where, among other things, AI is used to generate images.