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'Cultural events aren't as common as you expect'

Maddy Savage · 20 Apr 2015, 08:42

Published: 20 Apr 2015 08:42 GMT+02:00

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After five long months of preparation, Laura Pertuy and project leader Maria Razakamboly, 28, watched the fruits of their labour unfold in one of Stockholm's hippest arthouse cinemas last week.
The pair relaunched the Swedish capital's five day French Film Festival (Franska filmfestivalen), which was absent in Stockholm last year after a 15 year run.
Featuring titles from both emerging and acclaimed French directors, the goal of the festival was to showcase Francophone movies that are not set for general release in Sweden, or are set to reach only a small audience. 
"It's a lot of work putting it together –  and it's all voluntary – so the previous organiser had stepped aside and there had been a one year break," says Pertuy, whose path crossed with former production assistant Rravakamboly in her home city earlier this year.
"Maria is the project leader and encouraged me to take on the festival with her. We worked very hard from France and then we moved here a few months ago."
The pair hand-picked powerful yet mostly accessible titles for the festival including Les Combattants – a Thomas Cailley movie about a new relationship – and 3 Coeurs, the story of two strangers who get talking after both missing a train. The latter is by Benoît Jacquot – one of the most prolific French filmmakers of the last decade. 
For the first time, the festival took Bio Rio in Södermalm, southern Stockholm as its base, instead of more centrally located cinemas, as the organisers sought to draw in the neighbourhood's "more hipster and alternative crowd". An international audience was also kept in mind, with subtitles in English.
The approach appears to have worked. Many of the screenings sold out and the duo are planning to stay in Sweden as they seek funding to grow the event even further in 2016.
"We have seen that there is an appetite for what we are doing. There has already been a lot of interest from journalists and cultural institutions," Pertuy says.
"Cultural events like this aren't as common as you might expect in Stockholm," she adds, while accepting that "apart from New York or maybe London" there are very few places in the world that come close to matching "Paris' amazing arthouse scene", one of the things she says she misses most about her home city.

Laura and her Swedish boyfriend Adam. Photo: Linnea James
Pertuy's interest in Sweden evolved after she "met a Swedish boy in Shanghai" while working as a freelance culture journalist, events organiser and translator.
"He's still there," she smiles, "but he is coming back to Sweden soon".
In the meantime Pertuy is getting to know her adopted capital and has already fallen in love with her new, greener surroundings.
"In Paris I lived 15 minutes from the very centre of the city and the area was full of buildings. Here, I live 15 minutes from the centre of Stockholm and I am basically in the woods," she laughs.
"Sweden is a bit strange. You feel like you're in Europe so in some ways it is like home...but then it is also this whole new world for me. Most people in France they just see Scandinavia as this bloc in the far north. Now I am learning lots about what it means to be Swedish."
Her only complaint about her new home is that the Swedes' love of speaking English has stalled her ability to improve her Swedish, having already taken lessons at the Swedish Institute in Paris.
Story continues below…
"It has been hard but I really love the language, it's so rhythmic," she says.
Her top French movie tip this spring?
"Far from men," she says, referring to a film set in 1950s Algeria, which is set to get a short release in some Swedish cinemas next month and was also shown at last week's festival.
The movie focuses on a French teacher living in northern Africa during the Algerian war, who gets to know a dissident in the villages.
"There's a real emphasis on the characters and I like the film because its one that leaves the audience to draw their own conclusions. Plus there is so much talent in those two actors."
"I really hope that I can get more people in Sweden interested in French films!" she laughs.

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Maddy Savage (maddy.savage@thelocal.com)

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