5 Things That Set Goteborg Apart

Swedish film writer Jon Asp explores the distinguishing characteristics of Goteborg Festival, as it celebrates its 40th anniversary

Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Sweden’s Goteborg Film Festival – though something really quite unusual happened to the 13th edition – Swedish film writer Jon Asp, a Variety collaborator, has authored a book, “Draken och demonerna” (The Dragon and the Demons), on Scandinavia’s most prominent festival. Variety asked him to drill down on five things which set Goteborg apart.


Goteborg turns 40. But in fact its 13th edition was skipped in 1991, due to superstition, the festival communicated at the time. There was, however, a more serious reason. I recently interviewed the former festival heads Gunnar Carlsson and Gunnar Bergdahl . They explained the real reason to advance as quickly as possible to the 15th edition in order to improve their chances of hosting the annual Swedish film gala, regularly taking place in Stockholm. But the operation failed. The 13th edition was finally held in January 2017 with previously never-made screenplays, including some of Ingmar Bergman’s, performed at public spaces in the city center.


Bergman agreed to be the honorary chairman of the festival in 1995 – on the premise that he would never have to visit the festival. This says less about Goteborg. more about Bergman himself, who seldom left his island of Fårö. In 2007, festival director Jannike Åhlund introduced the Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award, with Andrea Arnold’s Red Road proving the first winner. Bergman was supposed to form part of the jury, voting from afar, but  passed away later the same year on Fårö, where the annual Bergman Week, closely connected to Goteborg, has been arranged since 2004.


Down the years, the Goteborg Film Festival has become known as a steadfast promotor of Scandinavian cinema, irrespective of its quality. The Nordic Dragon Award, gathering eight contributions, was created in its first form in 1989, in order to encourage local films. In 2011, the festival raised the stakes considerably, offering the winner a prize sum of 1 million Swedish krona (). Lisa Aschan’s feature debut “She Monkeys” was its first laureate. In parallel, the Startsladden plaudit, awarded to one of eight Swedish shorts, has for a long time been one of the world’s most lucrative short film prizes.


In line with Berlin, Toronto and Rotterdam, Goteborg is known for its vast selection, in recent years surpassing 400 titles. A broad and democratic way of programming traditionally includes films from all continents. The parallel film mart, the Nordic Film Market, received a big boost after Tomas Alfredson’s “Let the Right One In” opened the festival in 2008. Since then, Goteborg has also attracted key players in the international film industry, by offering an early look at upcoming  Scandinavian title.


Although taking place in January-February  – a very cold and gray period of the year, with snow, in in a best scenario– Goteborg cuts a highly popular profile with a large, loyal audience, who very seldom walk out of screening and through thick and thin support the festival and its concept. That reflects in a way on Goteborg’s status as Sweden’s everlasting second city, the less formal alternative to its administrative and cultural center of Stockholm.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Fall Out Boy - Patrick StumpLeeds

    Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump to Release 'Spell' Soundtrack, Hear First Single Here

    Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump continues his extensive work in the film/TV soundtrack realm with the release of “Spell,” which comes on Nov. 1 on Milan Records through Sony Music Masterworks. The soundtrack features Stump’s music from Crush Pictures’ psych-thriller, including the ballad “Deep Blue Love.” a soulful, blues-tinged ballad performed by Stump and [...]

  • Tell Me Who I Am

    Film Review: 'Tell Me Who I Am'

    Amnesia has been so overused in movies — a convenient narrative device that effectively forces characters to become detectives into their own past — that it’s startling to encounter a film in which someone really does lose his memory. What’s doubly fascinating about the true-life case of Alex Lewis, in which the surprises just keep on coming, [...]

  • Cyrano, My Love

    Film Review: 'Cyrano, My Love' ('Edmond')

    As fizzy as a freshly poured glass of Perrier-Jouët, though considerably less complex, writer-director Alexis Michalik’s “Cyrano, My Love” . Part fancifully fictional account of the play’s conception, and part “Waiting for Guffman”-style depiction of the wild antics behind its first production, “Cyrano” was released in France earlier this year, and its undemanding immersion into [...]

  • Barney

    Barney the Dinosaur Movie in the Works From Mattel Films and Daniel Kaluuya

    Mattel Films, Daniel Kaluuya’s 59% banner and Valparaiso Pictures are partnering to develop a live-action motion picture based on Barney, Mattel’s iconic purple dinosaur. “Working with Daniel Kaluuya will enable us to take a completely new approach to ‘Barney’ that will surprise audiences and subvert expectations,” said Mattel Films’ Robbie Brenner. “The project will speak [...]

  • Film Republic Sells Svetla Tsotsorkova's 'Sister'

    Film Republic Sells Svetla Tsotsorkova's 'Sister' to China, France (EXCLUSIVE)

    Svetla Tsotsorkova’s second feature film “Sister,” which played at the San Sebastian and London film festivals, has been picked up by Hualu in China and Tamasa in France. World sales are handled by Xavier Henry-Rashid’s Film Republic. The film, set in a small town in present-day Bulgaria, centers on a mother and her two daughters, [...]

  • Santa Barbara

    Morelia Film Festival Readies 5th Impulso Pix-in-Post Sidebar

    Morelia Film Festival’s (FICM) Impulso sidebar for pix in progress will run Sunday through Tuesday this coming week, having become one of the territories most important launchpads for Latin American feature films in post-production. Many of the participating films in recent editions have gone on to find festival success the world around. Last year, Hari [...]

  • SUPER FAMILY -- In Disney Pixar’s

    Pixar's Ralph Eggleston to Receive 2019 View Conference's Visionary Award

    The 2019 View Conference will present its Visionary Award to Pixar’s Ralph Eggleston. Eggleston, who won an Oscar in 2002 for his animated short “For the Birds,” has worked on such Pixar hits as “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” “WALL-E,” and “Inside Out.” “I’ve long been a fan of the View Conference. It’s a great gathering [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content