Only a minute long, the first Swedish film production [Konungens af Siam landstigning vid Logårdstrappan of 1897] is news footage of the King of Siam disembarking a vessel by the staircase below the royal castle. Not quite a love scene, but the first human interaction in Swedish film is when King Oscar II removes his hat, takes a bow and gives the Siamese king a kiss on each cheek. The film is certainly award-worthy as a historical moment, but in terms of technology, and art, things have evolved a bit since then. If we fast-forward past Greta Garbo’s debut, the addition of sound, Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal, a bit of Swedish sin and Lasse Hallström’s life as a dog, it takes us to the autumn of 1990 and the premiere of Stockholm Film Festival.
Over the course of four days it brought a broad selection of quality films to the doorstep of Stockholm’s cinophiles. The festival set the stage by having David Lynch’s Wild At Heart as its opening salvo. The aim for Stockholm International Film Festival is to ”broaden the selection of films in Sweden with creative new films of high quality, and to offer the visitor an orientation within modern film to stimulate a continuing debate”. Apart from the obvious film screenings, they offer seminars and opportunities to meet actors and filmmakers during Face to Face-sessions.
During the tenth edition of the festival, in a pre-metoo-environment, Roman Polanski was presented with their Stockholm Lifetime Achievement Award while the 20th instalment offered a couple of outdoor screenings on a giant screen made of ice. Now with their 30th edition, they celebrate French cinema, put the spotlight on organised crime and manage to create real gender equality by having 40 percent of the programme made up of work by female directors.
The festival is recognised for its promotion of un-established filmmakers, as a large portion of the 150-strong film programme is made up of directorial debuts, and only directors with three films or fewer are selected for the competition section. This year, Palme d’Or-winning film producer Erik Hemmendorff is chairing the jury, responsible for picking out the best cherry from a tree full of invitingly-appetising fruit.
You are taking the position as head of the Stockholm Film Festival jury, responsible for picking the winner of the Bronze Horse. Are you looking forward to the task, the films, and I presume some heated discussions with other jury members?
It’s a privilege and a great responsibility and I look forward to meeting the other members of our group and leading the jury in the work. It’s about making sure everything runs smoothly, creating energy within the group plus ensuring that all the various competing films are treated carefully and with the same respect. And yeah, I assume there will be discussion.
You have also been on the receiving end of various prizes and awards with films you have produced and made. What is your general view on competing in this artform?
To compete is part of our job as filmmakers. To win the Palme d’Or in Cannes was a big moment. At the best of times the competitive element gives you energy and puts the right kind of pressure on you, in that you have to anticipate the moment the film is screened in the cinema and its reception. On the other hand, it’s not always so that a filmmaker wants to be popular and embraced by a jury. There are times when what you want to achieve is quite the opposite. For me it has always been as important to lose, as it has been to win. Don’t underestimate the power of the revenge.
What has Stockholm Film Festival meant to you over the years, both earlier in your career and now that you have become established?
Our film De Ofrivilliga (The Involuntary) had its Swedish premiere at Stockholm Film Festival and we won two awards – one for best script plus the audience award I think. That was a big thing for us. Both Ruben [Östlund, director] and myself were parents with young children at the time and were both out in the countryside when we received the news, with no possibility to make the award ceremony in time – despite Git (Scheynius, founder and Festival Director) and others furiously calling us. That has always been a nice memory, you sit somewhere far away in the autumn darkness with a little baby while someone calls out your name at an award ceremony at the same time.
I think Stockholm Film Festival is both unique and an important date on Stockholm’s cultural calendar, would you agree on that, and explain what you personally think it brings to the table for the cultural life of the Stockholmer?
I think Git and Stockholm Film Festival have been outstanding in creating a festival that has always felt relevant throughout the years. You have to make it seem worthwhile to go to the cinema and that’s something that Stockholm Film Festival has succeeded in year after year. The city lights up during this time. And to me personally it means a time when I can meet colleagues from all over the world. To work in film means that you, regardless of your role, can devote yourself 100 percent to something and it’s nice to experience it together with other people. Plus, I’d like to heap a lot of praise on all the chauffeurs, volunteers, machinists and visitors that make it all work. I would like to urge everyone to go see even more film this year. Can we agree on that?
Stockholm International Film Festival, 6-17 November. For more see www.stockholmfilmfestival.se
Photo: Carla Orrego Veliz