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Pop power: ‘ABBA Forever – A Celebration’ focuses on Swedish supergroup

The documentary “ABBA Forever – A Celebration” will air at 9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 30, on New Mexico PBS. (Courtesy of Stanza Media Ltd.)

Filmmaker Chris Hunt met the members of ABBA more than 20 years ago.

Since then, he’s forged a friendship with them.

It was only natural that Hunt would be the one to revisit the band with the documentary “ABBA Forever – A Celebration.”

The documentary will air at 9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 30, on New Mexico PBS.

“I had done a film about them just about 20 years ago,” Hunt says in an interview. “That documentary was a jumping-off point for me. This one is a remake of my original film and tells a more complete story this time.”

In 2019, members of the Swedish pop supergroup ABBA celebrated several anniversaries – 50 years since they first met, 40 years since their last concert and 20 years since the musical “Mamma Mia!” gave them a second life.

Filmmaker Chris Hunt

Hunt says the documentary is a celebration of the lifetime of joy the group has brought to American fans.

It features original interviews and rare archival footage and uses storytelling to set up what went on behind the scenes with the songs.

Band members Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad provide surprising insights. Other storytellers include original studio engineer-collaborator Michael Tretow, costume designer Owe Sandström, singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka, singer Donny Osmond, record producer Pete Waterman, pop authority Paul Gambaccini, tour manager Thomas Johansson, singer Barbara Dickson, and Emmy-, Grammy-, Oscar- and Tony-winning lyricist Tim Rice. “Their story is a fascinating story, because it’s one that doesn’t ever get old,” Hunt says. “Particularly because the music is relevant to the new generations. Even though they broke up in 1982, their music is everywhere. They are more popular now than they were back then.”

Hunt says one of the draws to the music is the writing.

“As I’ve known them and put the film together, I became more aware of how good the songwriting and production is,” he says. “They are up there with the very best pop songwriters of all time. Their harmonies are pretty much unrivaled.”

Hunt says he had to draw on his deep knowledge of the band.

The journey takes viewers from the original Swedish version of “Waterloo” to the Swedish island retreat where Andersson and Ulvaeus wrote many key songs, into the recording studio watching those songs be completed, onto the stage at ABBA concerts, and back into audio mixing studios to deconstruct the recording secrets behind songs.

“Their popular hits weren’t some of their best songs,” he says. “I believe some of the best songs, like ‘The Winner Takes It All’ and ‘The Day Before You Came,’ were written after they split personally. I often wonder how the band managed to create these songs and make them so powerful.”

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