Stockholm festival thrives on variety

”It’s one of my favourite festivals,” says Quentin Tarantino. Not the hip Sundance or the glamorous Cannes, but Stockholm. Cinemas across town are currently hosting the 17th edition of the Stockholm Film Festival, the Nordic area’s largest showcase of new films, which runs until 26th November.

This year’s programme is strong and varied. The festival is divided into more than ten sections, ranging from American Independent Cinema to Arabica, a spotlight on new Arab cinema.

Dozens of film-makers and actors are attending too, offering question-and-answer sessions with audiences after screenings. Special guests this year include Oscar-nominated Swedish director Lasse Hallström, recepient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, and American maverick Darren Aronofosky, whose new film The Fountain, starring Rachel Weisz, is showing.

Look out for Your Life In 65 Minutes, from Spanish director Maria Ripoll. This meditation on death is anything but morbid – it’s a funny, vibrant day-in-the-life of three charismatic and likeable 20-something men from Barcelona. Ripoll succeeds in bringing new light to an age-old topic, and doing it without cynicism but through sharp humour and an unobtrusive directing style.

As far as concert movies go, Awesome, I F***In’ Shot That has to be seen to be believed. At a 2004 concert in Madison Square Garden, New York rappers Beastie Boys gave 50 fans a video camera each and only one instruction – to never stop shooting. The result is a seminal concert movie, as innovative and groundbreaking as 1970’s Woodstock.

Argentina continues to churn out superb, incisive films at an extraordinary rate. The latest of these, fresh from a Palme d’Or nomination at Cannes, is the taut thriller Buenos Aires 1977. The film is based on the book by Claudio Tamburrini, a footballer and student who was kidnapped and tortured by the military junta in Argentina.

The film, brilliantly directed by Adrian Caetano, tells the story of Tamburrini and his fellow inmates’ daring escape from the mansion of horror in which they were held. Indeed, Caetano’s style resembles a vintage horror movie, with the added dimension that the story is both real and alarmingly relevant to the war on terror.

American indie film Wild Tigers I Have Known is a visually sumptuous coming-of-age story about a 13-year-old boy and the erratic way he comes to terms with his sexuality. The sublime cinematography and perfectly-judged musical score create a dreamy feel, succinctly reflecting those unreal years between childhood and adulthood. At its heart is a daring and courgaeous performance from Malcolm Stumpf as Logan, the teenage outsider.

Documentaries are well-represented at the festival. Already making waves are a number of American titles, including Wal-Mart : The High Cost Of Low Price, a damning analysis of the less-than-impressive side-effects the American superstore has had on small towns across the US.

Edited in the style of Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock’s hit Supersize Me, experienced filmmaker Robert Greenwald gives plenty of screentime to Walmart CEO Lee Scott. But it’s the interviews with Scott’s employees and small business owners whose livelihoods have been destroyed that make a mockery of the compassionate corporatism Mr. Scott espouses. Curiously, this is no left-wing polemic; many of the passionate critics of the retail giant are proud Republicans.

Jonestown: The Life And Death Of Peoples Temple is a chilling and extraordinary insight into the largest mass suicide on record, when over 900 people were poisoned under the watch of cult leader Jim Jones in the utopian town he created for followers of his “socialist religion”, the Peoples Temple. Interspersing audio with archive footage and moving interviews with survivors and former sect members, this powerful documentary serves as a blunt warning about the power of idealism.

The festival contains no ‘blockbusters’ as such, but one big-name film to look out for is Little Children, starring Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connolly. The non-judgmental way it deals with the sensitive subject of a child sex offender’s return into the community is brave. But it’s about much more than that – a grown-up story of marital ennui and terminal suppression, with some solid performances, but rather spoilt by an unnecessary and cumbersome voiceover.

There are feature-length and short films from all over the world, and here are a few more to keep an eye out for: American indie comedy Little Miss Sunshine; British drama Ghosts, from documentary-maker Nick Broomfield; Daft Punk film Electroma; Richard Linklater’s new film A Scanner Darkly, based on the novel by Philip K Dick; excellent character-based indie film Half Nelson; and French film Ils (Them), a solid horror movie with a neat and disturbing twist.

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Eddie de Oliveira