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Freedom, Weiwei and Greenaway hit Stockholm

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Freedom, Weiwei and Greenaway hit Stockholm
A scene from Concussion, one of the many films at this year's festival. Photo: Stockholm International Film Festival
16:41 CET+01:00
As the 24th Stockholm International Film Festival opens for business again this week, Peter Vinthagen Simpson takes a look at this year's theme of "freedom" and finds out why Peter Greenaway is likely to be dining out in the city.

"This year’s spotlight is 'freedom' and presents an opportunity to put the spotlight on the fact that many film makers, artists and journalists still during the 2000s are not able to perform their work without the influence of censorship," reads a festival statement.

It has been announced that the Stockholm Lifetime Achievement Award has been awarded to French director Claire Denis, who has produced films such as Nénette and Boni (1996), Beau Travail (1999) and 35 Shots of Rum (2008) in the course of her 25 year career.

"This year's Lifetime Achievement Award, and one of three Bronze Horse awards, goes to a film maker who continues to seek what others turn away from, always fearless and with a rare eye for visual poetry," a jury statement reads, crediting her with being "a bold explorer of postcolonial Africa".

Click for a selection of the films on offer at this year's Stockholm International Film Festival 

French film is set to caused something of a stir at the festival this year with the widely acclaimed, and graphically sexual, Blue is the Warmest Color, set to premier.

The film stars Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos and tells the story of a romance between the teenage Adéle (Exarchopoulos) and the older Emma (Seydoux). While the film landed the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes the young actresses have been critical of the director Abdellatif Kechiche, saying that they will never work with him again.

Generating a great deal of interest in Sweden in the run up to the festival is the directorial debut of Anna Odell in Återträffen ('The Reunion'). Odell is an artist previously best known for the controversy over a faked suicide attempt as part of a graduation art project which led to her conviction for violent resistance.

The film has received strong reviews and is one of 20 competing for the Bronze Horse award for best film and has been credited by some observers with taking Swedish film to new heights.

"I hope the audience understands that I do not want to say that the others in the class were the bad guys and that I was the good guy. What I want with all my art is to show how unconscious we are. Just how little we reflect on our actions in different groups and how we deal with and relate to power," says Anna Odell.

The Bronze Horse has in the past been awarded to the likes of Willem Defoe, Quentin Tarrantino, Lars Von Trier, Larry Clark and Debra Granik.

The recipient of 2013 Bronze Horse in the category of Stockholm Visionary Award has been awarded to British director Peter Greenaway who will be in Stockholm to receive the award on November 8th.

"By questioning traditional notions of artistic expression and combining the latest techniques with his vast knowledge of the classic art forms, this year’s recipient of the Stockholm Visionary Award has indeed created a new cinematic language," the jury statement reads.

The British director is one of the highlights of the Face2Face seminar series.

Many of the seminars are in English and Face2Face gives the fans the chance to meet all the directors, actors and filmmakers visiting the festival.

The festival is set to open on Wednesday with the Steve McQueen slavery epic 12 Years a Slave and ends 12 days later with Stephen Frear’s highly acclaimed Philomena. In between can be enjoyed a feast of film featuring more than 180 premiers from 50 different countries.

The jury this year will be joined by Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei, who will be represented by an empty chair in Stockholm due to travel restrictions forcing him to follow the festival from his home in Beijing.

This is the first time a jury member has been unable to attend the festival and organizers have registered their displeasure with the Chinese authorities.

Weiwei is not the only foreign dissident unable to attend the festival, with Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof also banned from travelling from his native country and thus prevented from personally presenting his film Manuscripts Don’t Burn.

"It is unacceptable of the Iranian authorities to prohibit him from leaving the country and that he is being prevented from acting as a filmmaker. It is a violation of freedom of speech and basic human rights," said Stockholm International Film Festival director Git Scheynius.

The film has a further political edge to it this year after the announcement of new “Under the Rainbow” initiative showcasing LGBT-related films. November 9th will be a full day of film and debate involving a slew of directors and actors active within the genre.

Josephine Tengblad, the director of international festival hit Kyss Mig (Kiss Me) is behind the project, which it is hoped will become an established feature of the festival.

"I hope this initiative attracts a new audience and puts the spotlight on stories that allows us to take one more step towards a world without prejudices," Tengblad says.

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