If Friday’s movies by and large dealt with those comfortably in the lap of Swedish society, the second day of screenings examined those falling off the edges. The two recent films screened were Burrowing, by Henrik Hellström and Fredrik Wenzel, and Sebbe, by Babak Najafi.
There was also a panel discussion “Swedish Cinema: then and now”. Which included several of the filmmakers present for the opening weekend. (Who, as it turns out, are stranded in New York indefinitely, due to the cloud of volcanic ashes that has grounded all trans-Atlantic flights.)
The panel discussed topics such as the impact of digital technology on young Swedish cinema, as well as the Swedish system of state funding for film and other arts. Around 300-400 project proposals are up for funding each year in Sweden. Out of that 25 or 30 become finished movies.
Producer Erika Wasserman commented, “In Sweden, if you want to make a film there are four people you have to convince, because those are the four people who decide if your film will get funding. One of them is the head of the Swedish television film division.” As the question of private funding was discussed, Wasserman added, “The kind of films we make will not interest private investors so public service TV plays a vital part.
One difference between the conditions in Sweden and in the US surfaced when the subject of film school came up. Like all education, it is free in Sweden. Director Babak Najafi, an alumnus of Swedish film school, was horrified when an audience member told him a year at a film school in New York City might set you back $50.000. Wasserman quipped, “That’s what our film cost to make.” As it turned out, few of the filmmakers present had attended film school—one of the paradoxes of the Swedish educational system is that while it is free, fewer people seem to pursue higher degrees than in the US.
Whatever the reason may be, Swedish cinema does seem to have undergone something of a renaissance in the last few years. In the early 2000s one would have been hard-pressed to come up with great contemporary examples of Swedish film. Directors like Lukas Moodyson and Josef Fares being exceptions. Today, the new innovative features seem to be flowing freely. Often from relative newcomers, as evidenced in the selection of recent features playing at Lincoln Center now.