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Scandi docs make a comeback

Berlin Daily Spotlight 2013: Scandinavian Cinema

“TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard” kicked off the Panorama Documentary Section. Simon Klose’s inside story is a conversational debut about the notorious file-sharing platform, which caused the White House to threaten the Swedish government with trade sanctions. In accordance with the essential narrative displayed, the film was simultaneously launched online.

The Swedish pic, an Anagram production made together with companies from Denmark and Norway, shows how the three Pirate Bay founders — Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde and Fredrik Neij — continue to see themselves as technicians whose actions are about freedom, not money.

The protagonists of “TPB AFK” also reflect a political, if not ideological tendency that is growing stronger among documentary filmmakers worldwide. Especially in Sweden, where the genre had been relegated to TV, docs are slowly starting to win market share. More often, these small-scale projects — either a David-and-Goliath story or a more personal take on modern-day alienation — attract a larger audience, as happened last year.

Following a stellar 2012 for Swedish documentaries, with Sundance titles like Malik Bendjelloul’s “Searching for Sugar Man” and Fredrik Gertten’s “Big Boys Gone Bananas!*” gaining international attention and local hits like “Palme,” the Swedish Film Institute recently decided to make the environment a bit more lucrative.

Instead of $1.8 million, the Institute has upped its contribution to $3 million this year to help the underfunded genre. An additional $1.5 million will be earmarked for feature docs that secure theatrical distribution.

Anna Serner, CEO of the Swedish Film Institute, recently said, “Especially in times when media houses cut back on their coverage, alternately switches to do more fast news online, I believe that the documentary’s more profound stories get more and more important.”

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Scandi films unspool at Berlinale

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