21st edition opens with Dolan's 'Heartbeats'

Coming of age is a modest affair in Sweden. When the Stockholm Film Festival raises the curtain Nov. 17 there will be no extra razzamatazz celebrating its 21st edition.

That number also figures into the opening night film, “Heartbeats.” Canadian-born helmer Xavier Dolan is 21, and his soph outing has been a hit on the fest circuit.

Fest director Git Scheynius — one of the event’s co-founders in 1990 and its topper since 1994 — says Stockholm’s focus remains on films by young directors with three or fewer films to their names.

“Our aim is to raise up young directors; we want to promote new talent,” she says.

With 175 films from 51 countries and 16 world preems, Stockholm is a key international showcase for a new generation of filmmakers.

Its budget unaffected by the world recession, and with loyal sponsors, including Swedish telecoms company Telia, L’Oreal and Jamesons on board, the festival is going strong.

“The budget is growing and we are receiving support in many different ways,” she says. “We are making the most of the support we have.”

A fast-growing element of the fest is the Industry Office, which takes place during the first three days when “all the key Scandinavian buyers and sellers are in attendance,” says Scheynius.

Other features in the 12-section program include an American Indie sidebar — a hit with auds since it was introduced in 1993. This year’s offerings include Casey Affleck’s “I’m Still Here,” while his brother Ben will close out the fest with “The Town.”

Other favorites include an Asian Film sidebar, sporting Takeshi Kitano’s “Outrage,” and Latin Vision, a taste of Latin-American cinema added in 2008 when the festival “noticed the talent in that part of the world was becoming more interesting,” says Scheynius.

Closer to home, the major documentary strand of the festival is devoted to the increasing politics of racism and fear-mongering in Europe and Scandinavia. Spotlight: Extreme Politics includes Swedish doc “Thank you, Goodbye, Go Home,” about the far-right Swedish Democrats, and Chris Morris’ political satire “Four Lions,” about a group of suicide bombers.

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