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A Festival for Experimental & Animated Films: An Interview With Alexandra Brixel & Linnéa Roos, Stockholm Experimental & Animation Film Festival

The Stockholm Experimental & Animation Film Festival (SEAFF) is an upcoming festival that has gathered worldwide attention since it first began three years ago. The preparation for the next edition has already started – with films being submitted from all over the world. Attending the festival is a great opportunity for creatives, animators and film-makers to meet, share experiences and get inspired. To learn more about the festival, I met with festival producer Alexandra Brixel and festival co-ordinator Linnéa Roos for a coffee on one snowy afternoon in Stockholm.

Cinema Scandinavia: Alexandra, what is your background and how that led you to start the festival?

Alexandra Brixel: For starters, I studied at a number of art schools and I made my first animated film at an art school in Gerlesborg. After that, I started to study animation at Konstfack, where there was a division solely focusing on teaching classical animation. It was a wonderful course, but sadly it is no longer available. My chosen field was artistic animation, where I could learn several classical animation techniques – like 2D and stop-motion, so no 3D, for example. The teachers were very much rooted in the old-school method of animation. Among them, you could find artist, animator and professor Claes Jurander who has worked with traditional methods of animation and Caroline Leaf who has made really amazing animated films using sand, which is a very organic form of animation. So the techniques we were taught were somewhat unusual in that respect.

  I haven’t worked on my own films for a couple of years now, but I thought it was fun to organise events for animated films that other had made, so I launched the festival. It’s also fun to see the great number of films sent to us and build a bridge between different film-makers within the film industry as a result of their participation in the festival.

CS: Linnéa, please also tell us about your background and your work at the SEAFF.

Linnéa Roos: Long before I started working for SEAFF, I studied art and film at Stockholm University. After that, my interest in those subjects led me to take up evening courses in graphic design at Berghs and Forsberg’s schools. I also worked part-time for one of the bigger Swedish publishing companies, Bonnier, in their service and administration division. In addition to that, I have been the on-set assistant at a number of photo shoots, and now I am the coordinator at the festival, and I started working with Alexandra about two months ago.

CS: Is the SEAFF sponsored by any organisation to keep it running?

AB: We have had different sponsors, such as The City of Stockholm (Stockholms stad), the Swedish Arts Grants Committee (Konstnärsnämnden), and the Polish Institute in the past.

CS: Who is the festival meant for specifically?

AB: It’s for people with a special interest in animation and experimental films – not necessarily to children, but adults.

CS: Do you also want to create an opportunity for artists to meet and get inspired by each other?

LR: Absolutely! We definitely want to reach out to them by organising the festival.

CS: In recent years we’ve seen traditional animation less and less in cinemas. Why do you think the reason is?

LR: Well, there are more animated TV shows these days instead – like Rick and Morty (2013-), Adventure Time (2010-, Äventyrsdags in Swedish). 3D animated features are also easier to make, which might be an explanation.

AB: I think, we’ve had a few 3D experimental films at the previous SEAFF. Those can also be very artistic. There have been some films released recently in which 2D characters have been placed in 3D environments. This can be sort of playful and fun as a result as well.

CS: They say that animation, as a whole, should only be used when human beings can’t take the form of our own imaginations or can’t express extremes. What do you think of that?

LR: It’s very liberating when your film doesn’t have to be strictly based on reality. You become more open to other forms of expression than perhaps what you’ve seen before.

AB: And animated features don’t necessarily have to be narrative; those can just be about the concept of rhythm, sound, and pulse. There is room for those kinds of films as well in experimental animation.

CS: Do both of you have any standout favourite films to share with us?

LR: For me, it’s probably Mary and Max (2009). It’s been some time since I saw it the last time, but it was really moving. Then there’s another French sci-fi film from the 70s called Fantastic Planet (1973). It’s very wonderful and strange.

AB: I like the classic ones by Russian animator Yuriy Norshteyn, who made movies like Hedgehog in the Fog (1975). It is really beautifully made. Many animators like that film in particular.

CS: Russian animation is really unique, there’s this stop-motion version of Alice in Wonderland if I recall correctly…

LR: Oh yes, Alice in the Land in the Other Side of the Mirror (Alisa v Zazerkale, 1982) by Efrem Pruzhanskiy!

CS: Is there any Swedish animation that you are fond of?

AB: Absolutely, like films by Malin Erixon. But we’re not only focusing on animation at the festival actually but also on live-action experimental films that can be non-narrative. We’re also working with a festival hosted in Berlin called Berlin Liberi Film Festival, and we are collaborating with an Irish Experimental Film Company when selecting films for our programme.

CS: How did this collaboration between you and the companies start off?

AB: It depends. Sometimes you just meet them at different events, and sometimes interesting companies have simply contacted us. It’s come to the point now that we have to be a bit restrictive. There are a great number of people working within the experimental genre. You can be at any point in your career to make one since the genre doesn’t have many rules. As a result, we get many different films to choose from each year.

CS: I can imagine that it can be difficult to decide what can be defined as experimental?

AB: Yes, you have to rely on your own aesthetic judgement quite a lot.

Photo by Jørgen Pedersen

CS: When will the next edition of the festival officially take place?

AB: The previous editions of the SEAFF took place in the spring season, but now we’ve moved it up to autumn/winter since that’s when most of the film festivals here in Stockholm are organised. We will have a few events together with our film club as a sort of warm-up while preparing and gathering films for the festival.

LR: To be a bit more specific, there will be at least three of those film club events before summer starts. If those are successful, there probably will be more of them. We do hope we can get more people interested in the festival this way.

AB: These events are dedicated to showcasing “the best of the SEAFF”. We’re going to show films screened in the previous years, so you can get familiar with the sort of films we show – films that have been awarded by the jury. We’ll also show films from the Experimental Film Society.

CS: Can anyone from anywhere in the world submit a film?

AB: Alexandra: Yes, and we do get a large number of films from all over the world. Stockholm holds a bit of an attraction, I feel, which may be one of the reasons why we get so many films sent to us.

LR: Several films are sent us from Iran, for example. There is a big experimental film trend going on there.

AB: It is a little complicated for them to send their films to us due to restrictions and the lack of communication with the rest of the world, but we do get them.

LR: The SEAFF is a great opportunity for them to showcase their work and give them more artistic space. We need to see more of that.

CS: How do you programme the film festival?

AB: We have a team that focuses on programming throughout the year. We have a researcher and other film-makers who help out because we receive so many films.

LR: We also have a jury that also takes a look at the films and makes their selections for the festival.

CS: What are the plans for the festival?

LR: We’d like to move the festival to different cities and other smaller cinemas – to give them a little bit of recognition in the process. Unfortunately, this is currently not a possibility; still, it would be nice to give other Swedish cities an opportunity to host the SEAFF as well.