Göteborg shows Nordic films to the world

On the 27th January the curtains will go up on the 29th Göteborg Film festival, with the Swedish premier of the biopic Good night and Good luck directed by George Clooney.

The festival started back in 1976 as a vehicle to showcase non-mainstream movies to the general population. The size of the festival has grown year on year, from an initial showcase of 17 movies in 3 theatres watched by some 3000 visitors it now runs over 400 films in a multitude of cinemas and is visited by over 110,000 people.

The festival is also used to attract world attention to Nordic movies. Within the festival runs a 4 day showcase called the Nordic event during which Nordic movies are screened to over 130 invited guests, including some of the and most powerful names in world cinema. The aim is to promote Nordic movies that may then be picked up for other festivals and for worldwide release.

“The Nordic Event at the Göteborg Film Festival is the largest marketplace for new Nordic films, with specially invited guests from all over the world, The work with the market is one way of promoting Nordic films abroad,” says the festival’s Åsa Larsson.

However, even in Sweden the amount of revenue created by Swedish movies is eclipsed by American films in particular. Currently about 20% of cinema receipts each year in Sweden are for Swedish movies, but with the exception of two or three films the majority of Swedish movies have a hard time making a profit. Does the Nordic event work; is there an increase in Nordic film sales?

“The mere fact that we have a large festival increases the public interest for film. One example of this is that all of the cinemas in Göteborg, not only the ones that we use sell more tickets during the festival than they do a normal week in January,” says Larsson.

“As the festival takes place in January, of course the winner of the Nordic Film Award has an advantage when it comes to the marketing during both the Berlinale and the Cannes Film Festival.”

Göteborg has an established mix of the old and new when it comes to cinemas and it is still a place where you can find one screen cinemas eking out a living in the shadows of the large Multiplexes that have seemingly taken over the viewing experience for the majority of movie goers. Larsson says the access to classic cinemas has an effect on the tone of the festival.

“We like to give the audience a proper theatre experience where they can enjoy good films on the big screen.

“It is quite a problem to find suitable theatres to use for screening as more and more of the cinemas are closed down.”

The reality that the older cinemas are closing down is one faced by almost all cities in Europe. The fact that they hung on for so long is a testament to the cities cinema going public. But the huge numbers attending the festival attest to its popularity. Over 100,000 people come to the festival each year, that’s a pretty impressive number for late January.

“I think the fact that we offer such a wide range of really good films is the base of it all. Anyone can find something in our programme that they like.”

“Hopefully some of the passion for film that everyone that works with the festival has shows in our work and in the laid-back and generous atmosphere that characterizes the festival as a whole.”

Films from over sixty countries are competing in the festival, with movies being shown from countries as diverse as Cameroon, Kyrgyzstan, Guinea-Bissau and the UK and Ireland. This in itself marks the festival as a world event.

The festival has a number of awards each year with the main event being the Nordic Film award. This year the finals list for this prize includes Beowulf & Grendel (Sturla Gunnarsson) which was shown at the Toronto Film festival to rave reviews, We Shall Overcome (Niels Arden Oplev) which has been selected for the kinderfilmfest at the 2006 Berlin film festival, the biopic Matti – Hell is for Heroes (Aleksi Mäkelä) and Wellkåmm to Verona (Suzanne Osten) a burlesque Swedish movie set among senior citizens.

The festival opens to the public on 29th January. Tickets can be booked online at:

Gerry Coburn


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.