‘The idea is to show Sweden there’s more to Portugal than food and the beach’

'The idea is to show Sweden there's more to Portugal than food and the beach'
Frames Film festival collaborator Joana Almeida. Photo: Private
Juggling working as a nurse with handling communications for a film festival, it's amazing Joana Almeida finds time to sleep. She tells The Local why you can't just live for your day job, and why Portuguese cinema deserves some recognition in Sweden.

“You can't just live for your day job. The thing about being a nurse is it's a job that consumes you, takes all of your energy. You can't just eat, sleep and go to work. My thinking is you need to do something else, compromise with something that takes you out of your work world.”

“Something completely different, where you can learn more, meet new people. It's really fun doing the festival for that reason. It can be a headache at times, but it's worth it,” Almeida explains.

Held in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Västerås every March, Frames Festival has been running since 2013 and seeks to promote the most creative of Portugal's cinema by introducing it to the Swedish public.

The Portugal native got involved soon after moving to Gothenburg in June 2017 to work as a nurse. Her profession is a challenging field in any country, but with Portugal still grappling with a lengthy economic crisis and its aftermath, it's particularly hard going there.

“A lot of young people in Portugal look for work elsewhere, it's not easy back home. There are people that are 30 and still living with their parents because they don't have a choice: it's so expensive to get a place of your own.”

“Almost every job is hard to find. I'd already worked in three or four places in Portugal as a nurse, but the pay isn't good, you have to do a lot of extra hours, and though life is great in theory – the food, the beach – you don't actually have time to enjoy it,” she adds.

Photo: Joana Almeida

Before moving to Gothenburg, Lisbon had always been home. At least as long as she can remember.

“I was born in California where my parents moved when they were young, but I moved to Portugal when I was two so I basically don't remember anything from there. I grew up in Lisbon, and I've always lived there until moving to Sweden.”

“I have two friends who moved to Gothenburg five years ago. One of them is also a nurse, and had been telling me for years that Sweden works so well, working here is great. They told me details about the culture, people, housing and quality of life. So I came to visit twice for vacations before I moved, to get a feel of what it's like being here,” Almeida recalls.

READ ALSO: From Portugal to Gothenburg via Joe Strummer, The Darkness and London

Not long after moving, at a meeting of the Portuguese Association in Gothenburg, the organization's need for Frames Festival volunteers was raised. It presented a unique chance to show another side of Portuguese life.

“When you talk about Portugal it doesn't matter who you speak to, they tend to think of the beach, sun and vacations – never cinema. Portugal isn't known for that, but we have really good movies. So the idea is to show Sweden that we have something else beside the beach, the water and the food.”

“I love the films we're showing: the three I like most are 'Cholo', 'Ama-San' and 'Who is Barbara Virginia?' (a documentary about the first woman to direct a film in Portugal). They're all really good,” she continues.

“The thing I like most about Portuguese cinema is the emotions – you can see a lot of that. Not emotions in the Hollywood style, where someone's crying and that makes it clear they're sad. In Portuguese films it's more about the emotional connection between a family or friends. More relation-based emotions than situational single emotions.”

A promotional still from Ama-San. Photo: Frames Festival

The theme of Frames Festival 2018 is women, tapping in to the momentum built by the #MeToo movement in Sweden.

“We decided women would be a great theme because we're talking a lot about the subject in Sweden: women's rights, equal opportunities. With cinema the same questions are being raised, because it's an industry where there's a clear difference between men and women, so we thought it would be good to bring those two things together. And we want to show that there are women doing great work in Portuguese cinema.”

“With the MeToo movement, in Portugal we're a bit slower to discuss those kind of things compared to Sweden. It's not happening to the same extent now, but maybe it will in the future,” she reflects.

Despite the importance of the theme, this year's edition of Frames almost didn't happen. Financing film festivals is no simple feat:

“It's very difficult to get funding for film festivals and this year we thought we may not be able to do it in Gothenburg. But we keep looking for sponsors, and we're also doing raffles at the screenings where we give away two or three things to try and help cover the costs of the movies. We have to pay each time we show them”.

READ ALSO: 'Sweden isn't a place to come and try your luck'

Along with showing movies, Frames will also showcase Portuguese music in the form of a performance by Luisa Sobral, who serves as a way of bridging the Iberian nation with Sweden through to their shared love of Eurovision.

“She composed the song that won Eurovision in 2017, performed by her brother Salvador. She's well known in Portugal, and we thought with the theme being women, and wanting to attract Swedish people to the concert and providing someone they could relate to not just a Portuguese person with no connection to Sweden, she'd be great. We talked to her and she was delighted with the idea.”

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Though 2,000 kilometers apart, Almeida does see some similarities between Sweden and Portugal. “Swedes love their fika and in Portugal we also love to grab a coffee, stop and talk. Though we don't call it by the same name,” she observes.

“We also love cooking like the Swedes – so those are easy ways to break into the culture.”

Joana and her sambo in Gothenburg. Photo: Private

In other areas there are some clear differences however.

“People here are really nice and if you ask for help they're always available. But it's not as easy a culture as I thought it would be to adapt to. Swedes really think their own way – they're good listeners, but rarely change their minds.”

“It can be difficult because in Portugal we're maybe a bit more adaptable. We also tend to say what we think without the other person taking offence. Here you have to be more careful about what you say, when you say it, and who you say it to. It's just a process of adjustment though,” she continues.

In general her experience of Sweden is a positive one, “an adventure that's going great and if it continues like this we'll stay here”. The nurse also hopes to continue participating in Frames festival after a positive first year.

“You have to communicate with a lot of different people across the country, you learn to work with people you don't know and have only just met. It's really interesting not just because of the films, but because you have to adapt and grow. That's great.”

Almeida would recommend Sweden to other Portuguese people considering moving there – just not in the winter. And she has one more important piece of advice.

“Drink as much coffee as you can in Portugal before you come! To us, coffee is a small shot of energy and really tasty, while here it's… different. I really miss Portuguese coffee. In Sweden I just drink tea, the coffee here is hard going.”

“And move in June. If you move in the winter, you won't survive!”