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Some Talents to Watch

Sweden’s Short Film Festival aka Sveriges kortfilmfestival (SKFF) is one of the most spirited film festivals I’ve ever been to. The reason for this might be that only students and young film-makers can submit their films, or it is just how it is, even though it is the oldest film festival in Sweden. It is organised by Sveriges Film- och Videoförbund every year, and this year’s edition was its 61st. The films screened were pretty different in tone and content, but the main topic, identity, glued them together. What is certain is that some promising and aspiring Swedish talents are ready to demand a place in the film world in the coming years.

Daniel Hagberg’s Under klar himmel (Under Clear Sky) and Maria Eriksson-Hecht’s Jag tror att jag är lite kär i dig (I Think I’m a Bit in Love with You) were the absolute highlights of the motion pictures seen at the event. Hagberg’s film is a well-paced drama that showcases wonderful images and tells the story of a mum and her son hiding in a house located in the forest somewhere in Sweden. The story is unfolded through the eyes of the small boy who is haunted by the images of the past. He feels a storm is coming, and therefore, with the help of a local girl of his age, he furnishes an abandoned place, some sort of bunker, for him and his mum. So when the storm finally arrives, there is nothing to be afraid of… Hagberg’s piece manages to reflect on issues many individuals are facing nowadays, and he does it in an engaging way with great performances and without being didactic. Winston Van Ampt, playing the main character, totally deserved to be named best actor as well as the film to win Gold in its category. Eriksson-Hecht’s short, which is inspired by a true story, received Silver in the same category, unsurprisingly. The main character is Nadja who thinks she’s found her soul mate online, although the truth can’t be further from that. Eventually, she is forced to do things uncomfortable, and a tragedy is just around the corner. The merit of the film is its slow pace and the subtle, natural performance of Inez Dhal Torhaug playing Nadja. Jag tror att jag är lite kär i dig draws attention to a severe issue and is a great material to discuss online presence in schools. Young children or even teenagers are exposed to many dangers on the Internet, mainly owing to the fact that parents don’t necessarily check or ask what their offspring are doing while surfing on the World Wide Web.

Jag tror att jag är lite kär i dig

Keep Ashiq Alive by Jasmij Kooijman is a kind of film that doesn’t hide the subjectivity of its director. Why would she? It tells the story of Ashiq who needed to flee Afghanistan as he was receiving death threats because of his activism for women’s rights. Now the Swedish state wants to deport him, which is probably his death sentence as the Taliban offered 500,000 Afghani for him alive or dead. This extremely short piece, less than 4 minutes, was named best documentary – definitely for a reason. It is set mainly in nature showing Ashiq wandering and letting tell his story, which counterbalances his uncertain and prison-like situation. While nature is wide and full of possibilities, his opportunities are now limited and he is in limbo. It would have been nice, though, to hear the state’s takes on his case to get a better understanding of it.

Sosi Chamoun’s Rabbi (Dear God) and Swédi are completely different in terms of genre, tone and approach, but the message is the same: Our skin colour and background might be different, but we are all humans who want to live in peace. Rabbi, which won the award for best editing and the honorary award in its category, benefits from what makes a film a film that is editing. It plays with joyful and mesmerising images and keeps the sorrow for another day. The children in the film are refugees and showing them play on a sunny day goes against the stereotypes and reminds us they are just like every other kid after all. In contrast to Rabbi, Swédi depicts prejudice being manifested in a supermarket. A brown-skinned young woman arrives to buy some hygienic pads while being followed by one of the employees. She confronts her who can’t cope with the situation and storms away. It is a story that has been told many times before, so nothing surprises the audience in the plot that is built pretty well but the dialogues would have been improved quite a bit. Nonetheless, the relevance of the film can’t be underlined enough, unfortunately. Anneli Ström-Villaseca and Ismaila Jallo also decided to express their thoughts on racism, and their film God ton (Good Tone) could easily compete for best title ever: it refers to both the heated conversations among students and their guest lecturer and the ones heard in the documentary she’s made and brought to discuss. Despite being maybe a bit too short to be elaborate enough, it questions the modes of representations and their legitimization deeply rooted in culture. The entire film is about power struggles and illustrates that always the more powerful gets the opportunity to write stories and histories – of others as well. Luckily, these silenced voices are finally able to come to light, Gabriela Pichler’s Amatörer (Amateurs) also deals with the problems of representation in moving images, and possibly there are more to come. It cannot be emphasised enough that representation does matter.

Rabbi

Peppe Andersson’s Jag måste rädda världen lite (I Must Save the Word a Little) tries to capture how busy Yolanda Aurora Bohm Ramirez’s life is. She is a poet, an activist, a protester, an artist, a partner, a friend and many more at the same time. She is a known person in the Swedish queer movement, and her aim is to create better conditions for everyone in it. Her personality is intriguing and her can-do attitude perfectly suits the unbalanced pace of the film, yet something is missing. The documentary surely means a lot to the LGBTQ community, they are finally represented/presented on screen and could work at thematic film festivals, but it does not have the capacity to engage people with less interest in the issues the LGBTQ community is facing in Sweden or in the world. It is rather one-sided to do that. Jeroen Pool’s Min plats med egna ord, which won the award for best cinematography, is a short portraying three people. It explores the inner world of these individuals through the description of one particular place in Stockholm. The slow-paced documentary about everyday life and feelings aims at evoking feeling in the viewers. It manages to a certain degree but a short distance is kept between the (international) audiences and the individuals presented; the mundane is unable to enter the realm of extraordinary. This film is mainly for people living in Stockholm.

Cristine Berglund’s Att plocka en blomma (To Pop a Cherry) is a feel-good short film about a girl in a wheelchair who doesn’t need your or anyone’s sorry: she is a typical teenager with typical problems. While there are great moments in the film, it still feels a bit kitschy and sometimes the acting falls short. Despite this, it is indeed refreshing to see a young, confident woman on screen, and it does not matter what kind of challenges she faces according to others, she knows what she wants and she gets it. Tiden går för fort när jag har roligt (Time Goes Too Fast When I’m Having Fun) by Johan Tapper proves ate older characters are fun to watch regardless of what is the trend in Hollywood, for example. This four-minute-long film showcases a fascinating person but the technical aspects of it are only satisfactory, especially in terms of the rhythm of the film created by editing. In addition to that, the poignant side of the story doesn’t get any screen time. So the question remains: Should we always be alone to slow down time or should we enjoy our life, make the most of it and let it fly while spending times with loved ones? Ställ in (Cancelled) by Sebastian Johansson Micci is a 9-minute long mild craziness fueling a character-driven comedy and lets its viewers look behind the scene in a theatre. The viewers are familiar with the typical characters, probably with the situation as well, and therefore sometimes the extra adage of exaggeration feels superfluous and weakens the strength of the plot.

Alexander Kereklidis Turpin also went down on the road of hyperbole with his film Kill the Rich that won the award for best sound. Even though it stands out with its unusual approach to the medium of film, meaning the story is told by using still photos and voice over, the content is the results of black and white thinking and it lacks deeper knowledge of the topic it discusses. The main character wants to kill the richest because they own half the world’s wealth, which is true, but this is just a consequence of decisions made in a system we live in. The question how and why we got here stays unanswered and an easy solution is promised. That is not that simple. Fredrik Lund-Hansen’s Time Flies was one of a kind at the festival as it is a dance film set in a desert. It is full of colours and movement – a visual beauty that can easily end up on repeat mode. The use of bright colours and pulsating music creates atmospheric shots, and the technicality of the film reflects how time must feel like in a desert. The characters are floating from one pose to another, borders are diminished, and what is left is a pure and limitless manifestation of creativity.

This year’s programme of the Swedish short film festival encourages us to be excited about the future of Swedish film. There are plenty of talents out there who would like to show they are capable of mastering the visual language. What is a bit disappointed, though, is the dominance of the classical narrative style, hence the lack of experimentation. Of course, these young film-makers still have a great amount of time to find their own voice, explore the universe of motion pictures, carry out experiments and surprise viewers. Cinema Scandinavia is looking forward to seeing this, that is for sure.

Barbara Majsa

Barbara is a journalist, editor and film critic. She usually does interviews with film-makers, artists, designers, and writes about cinema, design and books.