19th Stockholm Film Festival
Sweden, November 20 - November 30 2008
Mixing the commercial with more quality has been the trademark of the Stockholm International Film Festival since its beginning in 1990. In 2008, the 19th edition of the second biggest film fest in Sweden repeated that same combination. Some 170 films, including shorts and documentaries, were screened during the festival, among them films such as The Brothers Bloom, Gomorrah (Gomorra), Hunger, Australia, Changeling, The Class (Entre les murs), Rachel Getting Married as well as the opening film, The Wrestler — films that have already gained attention on the international festival circuit and all of which will be released in Sweden shortly.
However, the fest’s competitive section Stockholm XIX Competition (with its sidebar Stockholm XIX Competition Shorts) is dedicated uniquely to directors showing their first, second or third feature film. Highlights of this year’s competitive program were Steve McQueen’s Camera d’Or-awarded Hunger, Sundance winner Frozen River by Courtney Hunt, Erick Zonca’s Julia, Jean-Stéphane Sauvaires war drama Johnny Mad Dog and Martin McDonagh’s entertaining gangster drama-comedy In Bruges.
The Swedish contribution was unusually strong and gained some attention in the Swedish media. Swedish filmmakers in competition included Ruben Östlund and his Involuntary (De ofrivilliga), Måns Månsson with the cinéma vérité-influenced documentary Mr. Governor (Hr Landshövding), Anna Novion with French-Swedish co-production Grown Ups (Les grandes personnes) and Johan Renck with the US produced, much talked-about Downloading Nancy.
The festival films are divided into several different regular sections. Outside of these, the festival focuses specifically on on-going trends in its Spotlight section. This year the Spotlight, named “Wild East”, was dedicated to Russian film, with titles such as Everybody Dies but Me (Vse umrut, a ya ostanus), Paper Soldier (Bumaznyj soldat), The Railway (Zheleznaya doroga) and Shultes. The fest also shows short films in competition as well as in the Festival section with digital shorts shown on the festival website, and offers a number of special screenings outside the main program.
Most of all, the attention of this edition was dominated not by the visiting recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Charlotte Rampling, and the Stockholm Visionary Award, Wong Kar-Wai, but by the last minute visit of Roberto Saviano, writer of multi-awarded novel Gomorrah. Saviano, originally invited to Sweden to take part of a seminar on freedom of speech arranged by the Swedish Academy, also took the time to introduce the festival premiere of Matteo Garrone’s adaptation of Gomorrah in front of some 570 people in the beautiful Gunnar Asplund-designed Skandia theatre.
Cold weather, snow and an intense schedule marked the FIPRESCI jury’s presence at the 2008 Stockholm Film Festival. However, a busy day and a late night screening didn’t prevent the jury from being deeply impressed by the poetic, multi-narrative Better Things by British director Duane Hopkins, the film that eventually was picked as the winner of the International Critics Prize. (Elin Larsson)