When Quentin Tarantino brought “Reservoir Dogs” to the 1992 Stockholm Intl. Film Festival, it was a milestone both for him and the fest. He got his first-ever film award, and his raves for the event put the fest on the international map.
Now in its 19th year, the Stockholm Fest (Nov. 20-30) remains true to its roots of discovering new, exciting talent.
“Every year, 10 to 15 indie films find Scandi distribution thanks to our screening them,” says fest topper Git Scheynius.
She and her staff, which grows considerably during the autumn months, occupy three floors of an old building in central Stockholm, just a few blocks from the Nordic Light Hotel, which functions as ground zero during the fest itself. The org’s press office is located there, and most fest guests stay at the Nordic Light, making the hotel’s bar the major meeting place for film aficionados. The hotel is also walking distance to most of the cinemas, which is a distinct advantage considering the city’s sometimes harsh weather in late November.
“We are aware of (the weather) and try to give our visitors human warmth instead. We take care of them,” Scheynius jokes.
From its beginning, the Stockholm Film Fest has balanced a program of studio releases and indie products.
“You could say that we established the concept of American independents in Scandinavia. And with our section Asian Images, which started in 1996, we were the first to launch the new Asian cinema in Scandinavia,” she adds.
The program starts with Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler” and ends with the European premiere of Baz Luhrmann’s “Australia.” In between, more than 170 films from 40 countries will be screened.
This year’s Spotlight section centers on new Russian cinema and includes “Paper Soldier.” The film, which tells the story of a doctor who works in the early days of the USSR’s cosmonaut program, won the Silver Lion for director Aleksei German Jr. at the Venice Film Festival.
This year’s sked also features a plethora of French titles, many of which come courtesy of first-director helmers.
SIFF has been at the forefront of new media in getting out its message. On that score, Scheynius claims a few milestones:
“Back in 1993, we were the first with our own website. In 2006, we were the first in the world to offer legal downloading of a number of festival films, and this year we’re excited to introduce festival-on-demand, where you can order several of our films on VOD.”
During last year’s fest, the audience was invited to take part in the endeavor called “Let’s Make a Film,” in which audience members wrote scripts. In turn, four of these screenplays were turned into shorts by four established helmers.
“If you are interested in innovating cinema, you have to create new ways of expression,” Scheynius points out.
The Stockholm fest won’t close its doors on Nov. 30. In the spring, there’s the kids’ film fest, Junior, and during the summer, several films will be unspooled outdoors.
SIFF runs on a budget of SEK14 million ($1.8 million). One-third comes from ticket sales, one-third from sponsors and one-third from the Swedish Film Institute, the city of Stockholm and the country of Sweden.
“We get a lot out of a small amount. But we also collaborate with sponsors like L’Oreal Paris and Telia that realize the importance of Stockholm being the media capital of Scandinavia,” Scheynius says.
As for what will happen next year, when the fest celebrates its 20th year, Scheynius hasn’t had time to think about it. “But we’ll do something to mark the jubilee, that’s for sure,” she insists.
When: Nov. 20-30
Where: Stockholm, Sweden