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Gothenburg prepares to raise curtain

Fest has new artistic chief

More than 450 features, shorts and documentaries from 67 countries will screen at the 31st Gothenburg Film Festival, which kicks off Jan. 25 with Swede Jens Jonsson’s dark comedy “King of Ping Pong,” fresh from its world preem at Sundance earlier in the week.

Unspooling through Feb. 4, with new artistic director Marit Kapla at the helm, the event retains the mix of cutting edge world cinema and industry programming that made its reputation as Sweden’s leading — and largest —film event.

Beyond the 700 plus screenings are numerous seminars open to the public, including master classes with Taiwanese auteur Hou Hsiao-Hsien, British producer Nik Powell, American music theater director Julie Taymor, and Mexican actor/helmer Gael Garcia Bernal.

Meanwhile, international distribs and fest directors will meet during the 9th Nordic Film Market, which offers private screenings of 20 feature films and 12 works-in-progress.

Buzz titles in the fest’s Nordic competition section include innovative Norwegian romantic comedy “Gone With the Woman,” helmed by Petter Naess, and Danish youth pic “Fighter,” helmed by Natasha Arthy. “Fighter” also screens in Berlin’s Generation 14plus sidebar in February). Also attracting heat is black comedy “The Art of Negative Thinking” from Norway’s Bard Breien.

A number of Swedish world premieres play out of competition, including Maj Wechselmann’s “Bang and World History,” a docu on taboo-breaking war correspondent Barbro Alving (1909-1987) and Mark Hammarberg and Ester Martin Bergsmark’s immigrant drama “Maggie in Wonderland.”

Long a supporter of work from under-represented parts of the world through its Gothenburg Film Fund, the fest spotlights Ernest Abdyjaparov’s bride kidnapping drama “Pure Coolness” from Kirgizistan and Mohamed Al-Daradji’s (“Dreams”) Iraqi docu “War, Love, God & Madness.”

Another highlight is a 51-title retrospective tribute to Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007), who had served as the fest’s honorary president.

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