Ai Weiwei art opens Stockholm Film Festival

The Stockholm Film Festival is underway after two ice sculptures by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei were unveiled on Tuesday as the event marked its 25th anniversary.

Ai Weiwei art opens Stockholm Film Festival
One of Ai Weiwei's sculptures. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

China’s most famous international artist and most outspoken domestic critic collaborated with Sweden's Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi to create the sculptures which were revealed in Stockholm on Tuesday afternoon.

Currently under house arrest in China, he sent sketches over to the Icehotel's sculptors, who completed the artwork over ten days.

Two pieces were created. Each weighs two tonnes and is more than two metres tall.

They were revealed at Stockholm Film Festival's opening ceremony at Norrmalmstorg in central Stockholm.

Introducing Sweden's rising film stars

The Stockholm Film Festival programme runs from November 5th – November 16th 2014 and will feature 201 films from 60 countries.

Hollywood actress Uma Thurman will grace the red carpet before she picks up the Stockholm Achievement Award.

Ai Weiwei is under house arrest in China. Photo: TT

Spectators flocked to see the Ai Weiwei sculptures as the festival got underway on Tuesday.
Alison Varley, a Londoner, said she was a big fan of films, particularly the "unusual ones" and was enjoying the opening ceremony.
"The short film screening draws you in and the lions are intriguing," she told The Local, pointing specifically to the oriental influences. 
"It makes you think about how we’re different but how different cultures, different age groups, and different professions can come together. People stop on their way home and it doesn't matter who we are."
Klara Mattsson, also on the scene, said the ice sculptures were a performance in themselves.  
"You watch the ice melt. The theme of the festival is Hope and the symbolism being that warmth/heat melts ice. It's reflecting Ai Weiwei's relationship to China," she explained.
Ai Weiwei was also a member of the Film Festival's jury last year even though he wasn’t allowed to leave China.

He sent a symbol of his absence in the form of an empty chair. This year he was tasked with making a contribution to represent Hope, a key theme for the festival.

Ai Weiwei is considered one of the most influential and subversive artists of his time, with art exhibitions all over the world, including at the Tate Modern in London, Jeu de Paume in Paris, and Martin Gropius in Berlin.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


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.

READ ALSO: Decision on stricter restrictions for foreign travellers to be made quickly

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.