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Power, Pussy Riot and Redford hit Stockholm

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As the 23rd Stockholm International Film Festival draws back the curtain this week, Peter Vinthagen Simpson explores this year's theme of “power” to find out what Robert Redford and Pussy Riot have in common.

“With twelve films that pose uncomfortable questions and in different ways challenge power and authority, we discuss...the shapes of power within politics as well as within art and relationships,” reads a festival statement.

“May you come to the attention of those in authority” is said to be the second of three traditional Chinese curses and the one that captures the aftermath, and perhaps the intention, of Russian activist group Pussy Riot's Punk Prayer performance in a Moscow cathedral in February 2012.

The performance and the ensuing trial of several of the group's members became perhaps the news event of the year and brought global focus on the power wielded by President Vladimir Putin on the Russian courts.

The film Tomorrow by Andrey Gryazev tells the story of the Vojna resistance movement that spawned Pussy Riot.

CLICK HERE FOR THE TOP TEN SUGGESTIONS FOR THE 2012 STOCKHOLM FILM FESTIVAL

Power within the world of cinema is explored in Love Marilyn, presenting an insight into the mind-set of Marilyn Monroe, one of the most celebrated icons of the silver screen. The film portrays the struggles of being a sole female star in a sea of male leads.

The Perverts Guide to Ideology by Sophie Fiennes and featuring the philosopher Slavoj Zizek, is a cinematic journey into the heart of ideology defined as “the dreams that shape our collective beliefs and practices”.

The power of the mass media is brought under the microscope in the Central Park Five, a documentary by Ken and Sarah Burns about an infamous 1989 case in New York City that saw five black and Latino teenagers convicted for a brutal slaying that they did not commit.

The men were eventually freed from all suspicions in 2002 and the film gives them the chance to tell of their experiences as victims of a city-wide mob mentality fuelled by a frenzied news media.

Among the other films featured in the Spotlights section is The Company You Keep by Robert Redford.

The film tells the story of the Weather Underground - a group of radical anti-Vietnam war activists who launched a campaign of bombing on American soil.

The festival opens on Wednesday with Call Girl, a film by Swedish directorial debutant Mikael Marcimain.

Starring Swedish Star Wars actor Pernilla August as a 1970s society madam, the film is based on the true story of a prostitution case which led to the political scandal which became known as the Geijer affair.

The film is one of 20 competing for the prestigious Bronze Horse, awarded for "Best Film", and has been credited by some observers with taking Swedish film to new heights.

The Bronze Horse has in the past been awarded to the likes of Quentin Tarrantino, Lars Von Trier, Larry Clark and Debra Granik.

The jury this year will be lead by US actor Peter Fonda, still perhaps best known for his role in 1960s cult classic Easy Rider and a revamped version of the film is due to be shown on November 10th in his honour.

Fonda will however not be the only Hollywood a-lister in attendance with Willem Dafoe due to visit Stockholm to collect the newly created Stockholm Achievement Award.

The American actor is one of the highlights of the Face2Face seminar series.

Many of the seminars are in English and Face2Face gives the fans the chance to meet all the directors, actors and filmmakers visiting the festival.

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The festival's director Gitt Scheynius has described this year's festival programme as "perhaps our most daring to date" and points out that a third of the films were made by a female director.

Although it is a male director who has been awarded the festival's award for lifetime achievement in the form of veteran Swede Jan Troell.

Troell remains active despite his age of 81, although he is perhaps still best known to those outside of Sweden for his films based on the epic Emigrants suite of novels by Vilhelm Moberg.

The first of the two films, The Emigrants, was nominated for several Academy Awards.

The Stockholm International Film Festival is no glamorous cocktails and canapé mingle, it is a festival for the movie-lover and, there is sure to be something to titillate all tastes.

“May you live in interesting times” is perhaps the most well known of the traditional Chinese curses, but with over 170 films on offer over its 12 day duration, could just as well be a call to get yourself a festival membership card and immerse yourself in the magic of the movies.

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