‘Cultural events aren’t as common as you expect’

Parisian Laura Pertuy, 27, helped relaunch Stockholm's French Film Festival this month and is hoping to forge closer links between the two European countries closest to her heart as she embarks on a new life in Sweden.

'Cultural events aren't as common as you expect'
Laura Pertuy preparing leaflets for the French Film Festival. Photo: The Local
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 – 

p { margin-bottom: 0.25cm; line-height: 120%; }a:link { }
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.
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.
“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.


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.