Archive spat keeps film history offline

Long, long ago, before most Swedes had televisions, SF and others made newsreels. As in many other countries, you could get a taste of the breaking stories of the day before the feature film. SF stopped production of SF-journalen in 1960, and four years later sold their enormous newsreel archive to Swedish Radio. Today, it is owned by Swedish Television.

Thanks to a cooperation between Swedish Television and the good people at the National Sound and Image Archive (as well as a bit of cash from the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond and the Knut and Alice Wallenbergs Foundation), those films have now been digitized. You can’t see them, though, unless you’re willing to get up and get on over to the Archive on Stockholm’s Karlavägen.

It seems that Swedish Television is, for the moment anyway, calling a halt to the Archive’s plans to make the materials freely available on the internet.

Swedish Television is making a little website of its own, and there might be some problems if SF-journalen is available in both places. There might, in fact, be some problems if SF-journalen is made available at all.

Unfortunately, a spokeswoman for Swedish Television wasn’t given much room to elaborate in DN’s recent article, titled “SVT stops free newsreels on the net”.

The National Sound and Image Archive has so far digitized 5,554 films as a part of their Journal Digital project. The oldest film (the first made on Swedish soil!) dates from 1896. Unfortunately, the better part of the material belongs to Swedish Television, and they aren’t budging.

As a result, the Archive’s homepage for the Journal Digital project is a little bleak at the moment.

Swedish Television just launched a new interactive platform, SVTi, and apparently the Journal Digital site and SVTi were a little too closely related. Swedish Television is, for the moment, keeping their films to themselves; after the new year people should be able to view bits and pieces of Swedish Television’s productions on the site.

Sven Allerstrand, the head of the National Sound and Image Archive told DN that the Archive’s position is a simple one: “Put it all out free on the internet for the Swedish people; it’s our common historical memory.”

The films have all been digitized and are available on a few hard drives in the Archive. So if you get an itch to find out, say, how the Swedish media portrayed World War One, you might want to get over to Karlavägen. Otherwise, just keep checking both websites, and something might come up eventually.

The National Sound and Image Archive

Sources: Dagens Nyheter


How a Swedish film festival is offering a nurse downtime during pandemic

A front-line Swedish nurse is getting some Covid downtime with a week of private screenings of the Gothenburg film festival, in a former lighthouse off the country's west coast.

How a Swedish film festival is offering a nurse downtime during pandemic
Competition winner Lisa Enroth.

More than 12,000 candidates from 45 countries applied to watch the festival's films in almost near isolation on an island 400 kilometres (250 miles) from Stockholm.

The prize is a week viewing as many of the festival's 70 premieres as they like in a hotel in the former Pater Noster Lighthouse. But they will be in isolation and will have no access to their own computer or laptop.

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The bright-red lighthouse, built on a tiny island off Sweden's west coast in 1868, is surrounded by a scattering of squat, red buildings originally built to house the lighthouse keeper's family. It can only be reached by boat or helicopter, depending on the weather.

After a series of interviews and tests, festival organisers chose emergency nurse and film buff Lisa Enroth for the prize, in keeping with the 2021 festival's theme, Social Distances.

Before boarding a small speedboat out to the island on the clear, chill winter's morning, Enroth said she had applied not only out of her love for the cinema, but also to seek respite from her hectic work as an emergency nurse during the pandemic.

“It has been hectic, so it's a nice opportunity just to be able to land and to reflect over the year,” she said.

Months working amid Covid crisis

Sweden, which has taken a light-touch approach to the pandemic compared to its neighbours, has been facing a stronger than expected second wave of the virus. So far, more than 11,500 people have died from Covid-19 across the country.

Enroth works in the emergency ward of a hospital in Skovde in central Sweden. Since the start of the pandemic, her hospital's work caring for virus patients on top of their regular workload has been intense.

Lisa Enroth on her way to the remote festival location. Photo: AFP

“We had a lot of Covid cases during this year and every patient that has been admitted to the hospital has been passing through the emergency ward,” she told journalists.

The organisers said they were surprised by the numbers of applicants for the prize but were confident they had chosen the right candidate — not only for her love of cinema.

“She has also dedicated this past year in the frontline against the Covid-19 pandemic,” the festival's creative director Jonas Holmberg said to AFP.

“That's also one of the reasons we chose her”. 

Isolated screenings

Boarding the boat dressed in a thick survival suit, Enroth sped over the calm, icy waters, jumping off in the island's tiny harbour and disappearing into her lodgings.

A screen has been set up in the lantern room at the top of the windswept island's lighthouse, offering a 360-degree view of the sea and coastline around.

Another wide screen has been set up in one of the island's buildings.

Enroth will also have a tablet and headphones if she wants to watch films elsewhere on the island, which measures just 250 metres by 150 metres.

With only one other person staying permanently on the island — a safety precaution — Enroth's only contact with the outside world will be through her video diary about the films she has viewed.

The festival's films will be shown online and two venues in Gothenburg itself will allow screenings for just one person at a time.

Holmberg, the festival's creative director, said he hoped events like these would maintain interest in the industry at a time when many screens are closed because of pandemic restrictions.

“We are longing so much to come back to the cinemas and in the meantime we have to be creative and do the things that we can to create discussion,” he told journalists.