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15th Stockholm International Film Festival Kicks Off

It is hard to believe that the Stockholm International Film Festival, November 18-28, is already at year 15, and to celebrate, the festival will be showing some of the favorite films from past years and former recipients of the "Stockholm Bronze Horse" award. The horse evolved from the handpainted replicas from Dalecarlia in the heart of Sweden, a suitable icon given a somber spin by the festival. Past Bronze Horse winners include Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino (parts of which were written in Stockholm), and Bully by Larry Clark. Add to the list of winners Boy's Don't Cry by Kimberly Peirce, the 1999 FIPRESCI award recipient and Lauren Bacall, the queen of noir, the 2000 "Lifetime Achievement Award" guest of honor. Their signature styles among others such as Roger Corman and Udo Kier have helped transform the festival through the years into a notorious event celebrating film á la noir - with hard-cooked dishes for the land of little sun--at least during the winter.

The screens of the festival could well be lighthouses, and the colors of the cinema are dazzling to behold inside with such outside contrasts. Indeed, the festival was devised to brighten the darker days of the north, and it has succeeded very well in maintaining its polished noir veneer. The festival also makes use of the darkness to bring late night horror films such as Tobe Hooper's Toolbox Murders , Manda Kunitoshi's The Tunnel, and Jeung Yong-Gi's Doll Master. In the entertainment section of the local paper this weekend are suggestions for 'dark books to read', 'dark food' and 'dark walking tours'. Halloween in Sweden seems to span througout the November darkness. Why not this festival!

This year Oliver Stone will receive the "Lifetime Achievement Award", and his new film Alexander, an historical epic about the Macedonian emperor starring Colin Farrell and Angelina Jolie, will enjoy its Scandinavian premiere. Several of Stone's films will be shown in a retrospective, including his political portraits: JFK , Nixon, and Fourth of July. A recent documentary will also be screened - Looking for Fidel, where Stone meets the Cuban leader as well as Persona non Grata (2002), a documentary on the Palestine conflict with interviews of Israeli and Palestinian civilians and the late Yasser Arafat. The choice of Stone is a good one for Stockholm, which recently awarded the Nobel prize in literature to Austrian Elfriede Jelinek, an author with a distinct political perspective. Stone does not have the artful acidity of Lynch, last year's Lifetime Achievement Award winner, nor the jovial violence of two time grand prix winner Tarantino, but his films are implicitly political and work through large junks of history with this awareness always intact.

Tod Solondz will be on hand to receive the first "Stockholm Visionary Award" and his latest film Palindromes will receive its Scandinavian debut. Solondz is credited with bringing dysfunction to the screen, and telling the stories that no one wants to know about their families and neighbors--the cinematic "elephants in the dining room". Some critics claim he goes too far, which is of course why Stockholm would want to bring him to this festival.

See Me from France, which won a screenplay award at Cannes, and Butterfly, by Yan Yan Mak from Hong Kong -direct from its Venice debut in the international critic's week selection. Mak's film treats the subject of lesbianism in China as a personal and societal issue, set in the aftermath of China's cultural revolution and persecution of students. Seven of the films in this year's competition are in fact made by women, the highest ever in gender equality, and a feather in Stockholm's cap.

Sections in the festival include "Twilight Zone" - new films from cinematic subcultures - including horror -with features such as The Raspberry Reich, a film on left wing extremists in London by Bruce LeBruce from Canada. "Open Zone" - showcases new work by cinema veterans such as Ken Loach (A Fond Kiss) , and Volker Schlöndorff (Der Neunte Tag) , "Northern Lights" is a panorama of new Scandinavian films. There is also the "Stockholm XV Short Film competition" and "American Independents"- a special section at the festival for which the festival in part derives its maverick profile. One of the favorites in this section this year is sure to be Jonathan Caouette's Tarnation , a film made on I-Movie for $218 - a testimony to his mother who was subjected to electroshock treatment, and which serves as a diary film of Caouette's survival techniques through the years. Caouette will meet the public in one of several "Face to Face" events with directors.

There are also two well-deserved sections: "Asian Images", including the powerful Izo by Takashi Miike from its Venice debut this summer and "Japanese Anime", with films such as Japan's contribution to the best foreign film category for the 2005 Academy Awards - Ghost in the Shell 2, the anime that inspired Matrix. Another favorite is Appleseed by Shinji Aramaki - a futuristic tale of the synergy of humans with cyborgs with a female heroine centerstage. Aramaki will guest a special exhibition on "manga" at the Asian Museum in Stockholm.

Several theme nights are also arranged including 'gay nights' for gay men and lesbians. The opening film scheduled for November 18 is Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda, a choice that is a bit perplexing but Allen for all his personal foils, still remains a veteran of international esteem. Sweden typically waits over a year for new Allen releases, and the Stockholm screening pushes up the theatrical release of this new film to December 17. Jean Pierre Jeunet's new artistic enterprise A Very Long Engagement will be the closing film, an entry in the Open Zone section. In a special tribute to Marlon Brando will be the screening of A Streetcar Named Desire . The Stockholm XV competition jury (which chooses best film, actor, actress, director, script, cinematography, directorial debut and short film) includes Canadian Cult Director Bruce La Bruce and Swedish actress Alexandra Dahlström, star of Lukas Moodysson's cult hit Fucking Åmål - and features a FIPRESCI jury.

Films in Stockholm XV Competition

Butterfly , Hong Kong, Yan Yan Mak (2004)
Chrystal , USA, Ray McKinnon (2004)
CQ2 , Canada/France, Carol Laure (2004)
Garden State, USA, Zach Braff (2003)
Hotel , Austria/Germany, Jessica Hausner (2004)
Innocence , France, Lucille Hadziahalilovic (2004)
L'Esquive , France, Abdel Kechiche (2003)
Love in Thoughts, Germany, Achim von Borries (2004)
Masjävlar , Sweden, Maria Blom (2004)
Mean Creek , USA, Jacob Aaron Estes, (2004)
Omagh , Ireland/Great Britain, Pete Travis (2004)
Primer, USA, Shane Carruth (2004)
See Me, France, Agnes Jaoui (2004)
Somersault , Australia, Cate Shortland (2004)
Stay Here, Italy, Sergio Castellitto (2003)
Steve + Sky , Belgium, Felix van Groeningen (2004) --Festival Icon
The Woodsman , USA, Nicole Kassell (2004)
Uno, Norway, Aksel Hennie (2004)

Moira Sullivan, Nordic Correspondent, FIPRESCI


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