On Jan. 27, as Finnish director Dome Karukoski’s “Tom of Finland” opens the 40th Göteborg Intl. Film Festival at the Swedish city’s Draken cinema, the whole province will participate, not just the 700 filmgoers in the theater.
“To celebrate the anniversary the whole ceremony, including the film, will be shown in 40 cinemas around Göteborg,” says the festival’s artistic director Jonas Holmberg, who is responsible for the program of 450 films from 84 countries that will unspool before the fest’s Feb. 6 wrap.
“What I love about Göteborg is the combination of a large, devoted audience and a high-profile, artistically ambitious program,” Holmberg says. “We will also continue to develop our market platform, the Nordic Film Market.”
Among the world premieres are U.K. director Elizabeth E. Schuch’s “The Book of Birdie,” Swedish director Manuel Concha’s “Blind Alley,” Icelandic director Erlingur Ottar Thoroddsen’s “Rift,” and “Eternity,” the new film by Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung, who is also a jury member this year.
Belgian filmmaking brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne will receive the festival’s Honorary Dragon Award. Their latest film, “The Unknown Girl,” will unspool along with a retrospective of their work. Danish writer-director Lone Scherfig will be honored with the Nordic Honorary Dragon Award.
The festival’s three special focus sidebars this year are on religion and faith; films from the Lapland (or Sápmi) region; and virtual reality.
“I am particularly proud of the film selection about the role of religion and faith in society,” says Holmberg. “It is an incredible controversial topic, particularly in Europe and the Middle East, and here filmmakers from widely varying backgrounds offer new perspectives of both perennial religious issues and current political occurrences. We hope it will bring a lot of thought and debate, also at the seminars [that] are part of [the selection].”
Films dealing with religion and faith include Egyptian director Mohamed Diab’s “Clash,” Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov’s “The Student,” and U.S. director Ori Sivan’s “Harmonia,” which interprets the Book of Genesis in a concert-hall setting.
The festival has also organized guided tours to the Göteborg Cathedral, the city’s mosque and synagogue.
“Sámi films are currently hotter than ever,” says Holmberg, so new productions from the Arctic area of Lapland in northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia will unspool in the festival’s second Focus: Sápmi. Swedish-Sámi director Amanda Kernell’s “Sámi Blood” will have its Swedish premiere at the festival after its successful run in Venice and Thessaloniki.
“2016 was the first year when filmmakers started using virtual reality technology artistically,” Holmberg says. “We have collected some of the highlights to give the audiences a chance to see what is really going on inside those glasses.”
The festival will also debut the Nordisk Film & TV Fund Prize, worth $22,000, for the best Nordic script for a TV series.
“Göteborg introduced its TV Drama Vision platform before others, so it was obvious to choose the festival as a partner,” says the fund’s chief executive Petri Kemppinen.