Photo (C) Matilda Rahm

British Film as part of European Film in Stockholm

"It’s more imperative than ever for film to be used as a tool to encourage new ways of looking at, understanding and seeing places and people that are unknown."

Johannes Mayer, Librarian, Kulturbiblioteket (Kulturhuset).

Johannes Mayer is responsible for the programming at Kulturbiblioteket at the Kulturhuset in Stockholm, where he works as a librarian for film and music. He also organises the New European Film Series, which will screen Pin Cusion in April 2019. We spoke to Johannes about the importance of film in 2019, and what British film means to Swedish audiences today.  

What is the New European Film Series for, and who is it aimed at?

It’s an opportunity for a Stockholm-based audience to see exciting and critically acclaimed European films which, to a large extent, aren’t always part of the regular cinema repertoire here in Sweden. I started the series in 2014 and wanted to show recent trends in European cinema. When Emelie Samuelsson, who’s in charge of Klarabiografen (Kulturhuset Stadsteatern’s own cinema), and I planned a new edition of the series, the aim was to give it a more concrete theme. Reading the recent European Women’s Audiovisual Network’s study on women in film encouraged us to focus this year’s edition on female directors. They are often underrepresented in the repertoire and receive little funding. But for us, the mission was not to demonstrate that women make good films too (of course they do) but to support the work of female directors. We also wanted to make a statement against inequality in the film industry, which occurs both in front of and behind the camera.

What's your role in the film series? 

My role is to pick the films and simply make everything work. To make such a series happen, however, required careful planning well in advance. This wouldn’t be possible without the input and regular support of partners such as cultural institutes and embassies. Because each organisation has their own system when it comes to planning projects, it can be confusing to pull everything together- albeit a fun and rewarding experience. 

Why did you think it was important to have a British film?

With Brexit being so imminent, one may say it’s rather odd to include a British film. But for me, Great Britain has and always will be a part of Europe, whether it is a member of the EU or not. When it comes to culture and history, there is no denying that UK is closely tied to continental Europe, and her film industry has a large impact on other European countries. The list of influential British directors is long. Having said that, it is also very male (as it is in other countries). But things are sharting to change: Andrea Arnold, Lynne Ramsay and Clio Barnard are all amazing female directors from the UK, and they’re paving a new, rich and exciting path. Nontheless, when it comes to British film-makes who are famous in Sweden, Ken Loach or Mike Leigh are probably the most highy regarded and widely known. Swedish audiences like them because of the way their movies handle class and social issues.

Was there a reason that Pin Cushion was chosen?

It was really important to choose each film with the whole series in mind, in order to avoid similar topics and styles. Pin Cushion is a film about a mother-daughter relationship, and so much more besides. Even though the french film Angel Face (directed by Vanessa Filho, shown in June) also has a mother-daughter relationship, there are important differences. Pin Cushion is mostly a story about mobbing and escaping the sorts of terrible social situations the two main characters get into (no spoilers there!). Of all the films that were proposed to us by the British Council, this was the strongest option and really 

Do international film festivals have an important role to play in Sweden?

Absolutely, and they should do so everywhere in the world. They open a window to points of view, and ways of life, that are otherwise unfamiliar or even forgotten. Stockholm has a range of smaller film festivals such as those which show films from Latin America or France. These, and bigger ones like the Stockholm International Film Festival and Tempo Documentary Festival, offer the audience insight to what life can be like far away from home. With nationalism and right wing-populism on the rise in Europe, I believe that it’s more imperative than ever for film to be used as a tool to encourage new ways of looking at, understanding and seeing places and people that are unknown. I’m hoping that when we screen Pin Cusion, and have the film’s director Deborah Haywood address the audience via video link, the audince will experience just that. We’re very happy to show this film and are thankful for all the support that we have received from the British Council and British Embassy!

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