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Fest Traveler: Stockholm Film Festival 2012

It may be the Stockholm Film Festival, but Mikael Marcimain’s debut “Call Girl” is only the second Swedish film to kick off the sprocket opera.

Although Tomas Alfredson’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” opened Stockholm last year, local pics have been relatively rare at the fest, but its 23rd edition features four Scandinavian titles in competition: “Call Girl” from Marcimain, Mans Mansson’s “Hassel,” an experimental spoof on Swedish crime pics and first-timer Karzan Kader’s Iraq-shot “Bekas,” which sold to 13 territories at Cannes, all from Sweden; plus Norwegian helmer Eva Sorhaug’s “90 Minutes,” which played at Toronto.

Festival director Git Scheynius sees the higher numbers in competition as a reminder of Scandinavian film’s improvement. “Throughout the fest Swedish titles have been very few. But lately the quality has increased significantly, thus the films also make it to our competition,” she says. Last year Joachim Trier’s “Oslo, 31 August” won the Bronze Horse for best film; Ruben Ostlund’s “Play” nabbed the audience award.

While the Nordic presence is getting stronger at a fest by tradition is entrenched to young European cinema — although it has regular sections devoted to Asian, North American and also Latin American films — Stockholm is becoming more well-known for highlighting female filmmakers.

Last year the fest launched its own production fund exclusively for women helmers. Among five shortlisted in 2011, Sofia Norlin received $750,000 to shoot “Tenderness,” which will preem at next year’s fest. This year another female helmer will be granted $750,000 to shoot her pic.

“We are also launching a talent workshop where young female directors can meet with foreign colleagues, directors and actors, in an attempt to create meetings across borders, and to combine different national elements,” says Scheynius.

The third keystone of Stockholm’s strive for equality between genders is apparent in this year’s lineup, where one third of all helmers are female, whereas more than half of the total selection is produced by women.

Scheynius, also one of the founders of the fest in 1990, describes the program as the most daring to date. She mentions several debate-provoking pics, such as Marcimain’s “Call Girl,” about real-life politicians exploiting underage prostitutes, Lucy Mulloy’s Cuban-set “One Night Europe,” also based on true events, and Benh Zeitlin’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which explores life for residents in the bayous of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

With Hollywood dominating the local box office, Stockholm, like the Goteborg Film Fest in January, is more and more important to audiences seeking fresh films.

“Our aim is to showcase quality pics from all over the world to a wide audience. Many titles can reach more viewers at festivals than what they’ll get through commercial release,” says Scheynius. “Despite the soaring variety of new platforms, people still want to gather in a theater to watch movies. In this perspective it’s a great privilege to work at a festival, easier and more enjoyable than 20 years ago because the audiences are generally more attentive and better informed.”

HIGHLIGHTS

The 23rd SIFF will screen about 177 films from more than 50 countries, with 28% from debut directors, 33% by femme helmers and 51% with female producers.

AWARDS
Willem Dafoe will be the first recipient of the Stockholm Achievement Award. Swedish director Jan Troell will get the Lifetime Achievement Award, and French helmer Jacques Audiard receives the Visionary Award. All three will hold master classes at the fest.

HOT COMPETITION
This year’s lineup includes Miguel Gomes’ “Tabu,” Ursula Meier’s “Sister,” Andrew Dominik’s “Killing Them Softly” and several first-time works like Alice Winocour’s “Augustine” and David Lambert’s “Beyond the Walls.”

WORLD CINEMA
The fest’s most established section, Open Zone, includes Berlin preems like Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s “Caesar Must Die” and Benoit Jacquot’s “Farewell My Queen”; Cannes players “Amour,” from Michael Haneke, Leos Carax’s “Holy Motors” and Carlos Reygadas’ “Post Tenebras Lux”; as well as recent Venice frontrunners “Pieta” from Kim Ki-duk and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” which closes the fest.

ONES TO WATCH
The young leads of “Call Girl,” Sofia Karemyr and Josefin Asplund, as well as Nermina Lukac from Gabriella Pichler’s “Eat Sleep Die” are among the nominees for Viasat Film Rising Star, which showcases a promising Swedish actor. Other thesps inthe running are Fanny Ketter (“Bitch Hug”), Linda Molin (“She Monkeys”, “Bitch Hug”), Bjorn Gustafsson (“Cockpit”), Joel Spira and Madeleine Martin (“Easy Money II”).

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