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.

Book tickets at Kulturhuset in Sergels Torg or at at <a href="


Eddie de Oliveira


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.