Women to the fore in Göteborg film fest

The Göteborg Film Festival has long established itself as the most important film festival in Sweden, something that was in evidence this year, thanks to an impressive line-up of both Nordic and international films.

Several Oscar nominated film were shown at Göteborg such as Good Night and Good Luck and Munich. Transamerica, with Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman as a transexual, was one of many films that explored gender and sexuality.

This gender focus was in evidence in a number of the festival’s master classes: the British documentary filmmaker Kim Longinotto, who focuses on the conditions of women around the world, was there with her latest doc on women in South Africa, entitled Sisters In Law. Canadian independent director Larry Kent brought with him The Hamster Cage, and Canadian director Jean Marc Vallée, was there with his film C.R.A.Z.Y a coming out story about a young man in Quebec in the 1960’s.

The festival also looked at the role of women in the film world. Seminars were held to discuss how to increase the participation of women in film-making, with perhaps one of the most eye-catching initiatives coming from Doris Film, a group of Göteborg-based film-makers who have written their own Doris Manifesto for feminist film-making. In this, they insist that all their films are written by women, that they all have at least one female leading part, and that women fill all the major artistic and decision-making roles.

One Swedish woman leading the way is director Lena Einhorn, who not only took home the most prestigious award for Swedish film this year, the Guldbagge for best film and script to Nina’s Journey, but also won a newly established award – the Mai Zetterling Award, named for one of Sweden’s most renowned directors, and a pioneer for Swedish women in film.

The festival featured 200 new Swedish films, many by debutants. The festival serves as a meeting place for directors, actors, critics, distributors, buyers and spectators – all impacted by innovative seminars on the themes this festival’s films explore.

Göteborg has earned the reputation of being a good spot to catch the best films of the year not only from Sweden, but also from Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

The movies presented at the festival included ten films in progress and twenty new Nordic films, including Amir Chamdin’s God Willing (Om Gud vill) about an immigrant to Sweden who has started a hamburger chain, with new original film music by Nina Persson (The Cardigans) and Susanna Edward’s feature debut Keillers Park, that tackles the subject of homophobia and hate crime.

“It is very exciting to be able to present work in progress programme as strong as the one we have this year. And we are also very happy that, for the first time, the programme includes Nordic TV drama,” said Cia Edström, project manager of the Nordic Event.

Moira Sullivan

Moira Sullivan is a freelance journalist and member of the Swedish Film Critics’ Association


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.