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filmwaves.co.uk

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The art of Randy Thom

 Sound designer (FW35)

It’s not about prestige
The Gothenburg Film Festival, Sweden, as seen by John Digance
Saturday lunchtime January 31st Gothenburg. Outside, last night’s snow is turning into slush. Inside the packed auditorium with its massive screen and beautiful high polished wooden walls curving into the ceiling 700 people are watching a feature length animation.
With characters and sets made with great skill and imagination from discarded metal and plastic The Legend of the Sky Kingdom, a mixture of Ulysses, Pilgrim’s Progress and the Wizard of Oz was made in Zimbabwe by Roger Hawkins. “I knew we didn’t have the cast or studio in Zimbabwe to do a movie using actors so it had to be animation. That presented a problem because everybody wants computer generated animation and I knew there was no one in Zimbabwe who could do that sort of animation. The only option I could think of was model animation or Junkmation to be precise.”
The film exemplifies Festival director Jannike Ahlund’s comment, “Our standards are high but if the films are good, low budget or high budget we’ll show them.”
In its 27th year The Gothenburg Film Festival runs each year for nearly two weeks at the end of January. The city, with a population of just under half a million, comparable in size to Liverpool or Edinburgh, has a strong film culture with 4 Independent cinemas alongside the usual Hollywood dominated screens and high standard Film TV and Photography schools.
Half its running costs are covered by box office charges of about 4 (London Film Festival take note) the rest is met by local and regional government, the Swedish Film Institute, The Nordic Film and TV fund and sponsors Canal Plus.
It shows fiction and documentary, high profile films like Jane Campion’s In the Cut and Errol Morris’s powerful return to form, The Fog of War, along with films of all budgets and lengths from around the world.
What is special about this festival is that it doesn’t feel like a glitzy market aimed at industry insiders where the general public have to be tolerated. It is a celebration of cinema in all its varieties where the public, film makers and critics can mix, talk and enjoy cinema in 12 venues which vary from the cosy Hogabion which still has a strong healthy counter cultural feel and had a role in the inception of the festival years ago, to a beautiful 19th century theatre and the elegant Royal Cinema on the City’s main street next to the Art Museum and Concert hall. The whole city gets involved in the Festival with special cheap food in bars, massive local support and nightly reports on National TV. Festival goers I spoke to had taken holidays from work to see up to 5 films a day, meet old friends and find out what was happening in World Cinema. Many spoke about the idealism of the festival.
Its relaxed, friendly atmosphere is due in no small part to the 280 volunteers who work for minimal wages as ushers, drivers and so on to complement the 20 staff who run the festival. 
“A crowd of people work for nothing because they enjoy it so much. It generates a good atmosphere because they are enthusiastic.” Commented Ahlund who then explained the criteria for film selection and the ethos of the festival,
“Simple, good films. We want to dissolve the barrier between accessible and inaccessible films, I am against that categorisation, which is artificial and just exists in people’s minds. We consciously mix up the types of films.”