The Stockholm International Film Festival opens its doors November 8th to the year’s most colourful film marathon and presents 130 fantastic film premieres from 50 different countries.
With so many exciting films, embracing a variety of topics and styles, it is easy to feel a little lost when trying to maximise your festival experience and discover the festival’s most valuable pearls. And that is why we have dived into the festival’s program head first to bring you a selection containing all the unmissable films at this year’s festival. Films that will get you reflecting on important topics, films that will answer some of your questions or maybe bring you to new wonderings, films that will inspire you and move you. Enjoy the festival!
The old oak – by Ken Loach, France, Belgium, United Kingdom
Ken Loach’s socio-realist aesthetic has made him the foremost portrayer of class in British society on the silver screen. With unrivalled style, he manages to create stories that are truly moving with very little means.
The Old Oak is the name of a run-down pub in a Midlands community hit hard by recession and neoliberal policies. When a busload of refugees from Syria arrives, prejudice and hostility bubble to the surface. The pub becomes an epicentre of frustration, despite the bar owner’s attempts to befriend and help the new arrivals. Loach’s final film is emotionally magnificent, and he succeeds, extraordinarily well, in both sharply criticising the nation’s widespread racism and simultaneously championing its working class.
British festival favourite Ken Loach, who turned 87 this summer, is known for a series of films about people’s quest for a better life. During his long career as a director, he has received many accolades and awards and won two Palme d’Or awards. Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty are a close-knit team, making The Old Oak their fourteenth film together since their first project Carla’s Song in 1996.
Ken Loach will receive the Stockholm Lifetime Achievement Award this year, but unfortunately he can no longer attend due to health reasons. Instead, Loach’s long-time, multi-awarded screenwriter Paul Laverty will represent the director and receive the Bronze Horse on his behalf.
Screenings: Skandia 9/11 – Skandia 12/11 – Saga 16/11
Poor Things – by Yorgos Lanthimos, United Kingdom, United States, Ireland
In a monumental, feminist odyssey we follow Bella Baxter, magnificently interpreted by Emma Stone, an adult woman who is brought back from the dead by an unorthodox doctor, played by Willem Dafoe. In a grown woman’s body with the brain capacity of a newborn baby, Bella begins to discover the world and evolve through the stages of life with an almost furious speed.
Poor Things is Yorgos Lanthimos’ funniest film to date – a colourful trip filled with twisted details. Bella explores everything from sex to literature and pastries with an uninhibited lust and complete lack of shame. It is visually bombastic in everything from the costume, which is a lovely quirky dream in the spirit of Vivienne Westwood, to the magnificent photo by Robbie Ryan. Oscar winner Emma Stone pushes her talents as an actress to the limit in her strongest performance yet.
Lanthimos is today one of the most profile-creating and prominent European directors, known for his unique and often surreal style in which he explores human relationships and behaviours in a distinct, and sometimes frightening, way. He has been acclaimed for blending comedy and drama that challenges the audience and compels them to think and feel. As early as 2008, he received the Bronze Horse at the Stockholm Film Festival for “Dogtooth,” and in 2015, he was awarded the Stockholm Visionary Award for his artistic achievements when the festival also screened his film “The Lobster.” Lanthimos latest film, which marks the opening of this year’s festival, was awarded the prestigious golden lion for best film at Venice Film Festival.
Screenings: Skandia 10/11 – Klarabiografen 12/11 – Skandia 18/11
The movie teller – by Lone Scherfig, France, Chile, Spain
A charming coming-of-age drama and a joyful tribute to the magical power of film.
María Margarita grows up in a mining village on the edge of the Atacama Desert. Sundays are holidays, when everyone in the village goes to the cinema and disappears into other worlds together. When it is discovered that María Margarita has a knack for retelling and staging the films that are shown, it will shape her life. The barren landscape and poor material conditions of the village stand in stark contrast to the dreams of film stars and glamour. At the same time, Chile’s political history runs like an undercurrent through the story, which, despite the violence in society, is full of human warmth.
Meet the director Lone Scherfig 14th of November, 18.00 at Skandia.
Screenings: Victoria 8/11 – Skandia 14/11 – Saga 16/11
Aminalia – by Sofia Alaoui, France, Morocco, Qatar
When an alien invasion puts Morocco in a state of emergency, the pregnant young Berber woman Itto finds herself alone in her husband’s luxurious family home. To reunite with her husband, she sets out on a dream-like odyssey through the Atlas Mountains. Her almost psychedelic journey takes her through a harsh landscape filled with supernatural phenomena and fleeting characters. Sofia Alaoui’s first full length feature is poetic tale of class, patriarchal hierarchies and emancipation, beautifully wrapped in suggestive science fiction.
Screenings: Sture 8/11 – Sture 15/11 – Sture 17/11
How to have sex – by Molly Manning Walker, United Kingdom, Greece
With a sharp yet empathetic female gaze, Molly Manning Walker explores what happens when boundaries are crossed. Teenage dreams and desires are revealed as the film follows three young British girls on a wild week’s holiday in Crete. The goal of the trip is partying and sex, especially for the main character who plans to lose her virginity. The girls’ strong bond is threatened by an uncertain future, but for one week the trio finds freedom in the euphoria. With a hand-held camera and aesthetic influences from Andrea Arnold‘s »American Honey«, Manning Walker takes us on a neon-coloured journey filled with sugary alcohol and hormones.
Screenings: Sture 11/11 – Saga 15/11 – Sture 17/11
Wildcat – by Ethan Hawke, United States
Ethan Hawke’s daughter Maya Hawke, known for ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Little Women’, plays American author Flannery O’Connor, who is struggling to publish her first novel. Although directed by Ethan Hawke, it is thanks to his daughter’s fascination with the gothic writer that the film was made at all. The end result is an emotionally stirring drama that separates the author from her works and chooses to focus on the individual behind the successes, but more importantly the setbacks she faced along the way.
Meet the director Ethan Hawke 10th of November, 18.00 at Skandia.
Meet the actress Maya Hawke 10th of November, 20.30 at Sture 1.
Screenings: Skandia 10/11 – Sture 10/11 – Skandia 12/11 – Sture 17/11
Bad behaviour – by Alice Engler, New Zealand
Self-help becomes self-destruction in a sharp and cunning drama.
Former child actor Lucy goes to a trendy “semi-silent retreat” in the woods. Along with other women seeking some kind of spiritual awakening, she spends her days doing humiliating role playing led by a sanctimonious guru, played by Ben Wishaw. But the tranquility is not coming and Lucy is annoyed by the other participants. Jennifer Connelly is brilliant as the bitter child star who on top of it all is a terrible mother.
Alice Engler, Jane Campion‘s daughter, has delivered a promising debut with well-crafted set design, interesting themes and formidable acting.
Screenings: Sture 10/11 – Sture 12/11 – Skandia 14/11
Reality – by Tina Satter, United States
Reality is a nerve-wracking hybrid drama demonstrating how poetry sometimes surpasses reality.
The story is based on transcribed interviews with whistleblower Reality Winner – the air force veteran who leaked information about Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. Director Tina Satter has chosen to take a literal approach to the interrogations, which were held under less than legal circumstances in Winner’s home. This approach creates tension in a playful way and allows a constant shift between fiction and reality. Satter‘s feature film debut is a disturbing portrayal of a society where the boundaries of what is true or not are blurred.
Screenings: Sture 11/11 – Victoria 13/11 – Zita 18/11
Dream Scenario – by Kristoffer Borgli, United States
A nightmarish drama-comedy about cancel culture, viral phenomena, and human vulnerability.
Nicolas Cage plays a mediocre biology professor whose speciality is pack mentality in animals. He dreams of writing a book but instead teaches bored college students. When he suddenly, and without any logical explanation, starts appearing in thousands of people’s dreams, he quickly goes viral and enjoys all the attention, although he is a bit bothered by the fact that he is so passive in the dreams. He is the most interesting person in the world according to companies who immediately want to capitalise on the excitement. But when the dream version of him starts to become brutally violent, popularity shifts quickly.
Fans of Cage‘s distinctive acting technique will not be disappointed; he gives one of his best performances in a long time as the slightly pathetic academic who becomes a modern-day Freddy Krueger overnight.
Screenings: Sture 12/11 – Sture 15/11 – Skandia 17/11
Io Capitano – by Matteo Garrone, France, Belgium, Italy
Matteo Garrone delivers Italy’s Oscar entry, a devestating drama that leaves no one unmoved.
This year, Garrone is back at Stockholm International Film Festival after receiving the Visionary Award 2020. He won the Silver Lion for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival with ‘Io Capitano’, a film that portrays the reality of refugees in a brutal and honest way. Following cousins Seydou and Moussa on their journey from Dakar to Europe, the guys are convinced that all their dreams will come true as soon as they land on the continent. Masterful cinematography depicts the dangerous and hazardous journey where the scorching heat of the desert is almost palpable.
Screenings: Filmhuset Salong Mauritz 11/11 – Zita 16/11 – Sture 17/11
Shayda – by Noora Niasar, Australia, United Kingdom
A strong film about women’s fight, based on a real story from director Noora Nisari’s childhood.
Shayda, an Iranian woman living in Australia, seeks shelter with her six-year-old daughter in a women’s shelter for two weeks during the Iranian New Year. She tries to make a fresh start and get away from her manipulative and aggressive husband, but when a judge grants him visitation rights, he re-enters their lives, and Shayda is afraid that he will try to take her daughter back to Iran. A captivating story about finding strength in the most difficult moments and the way to find the spark in life again with brilliant acting by Zahra Amir Ebrahimi.
Screenings: Klarabiografen 10/11 – Skandia 15/11 – Sture 19/11
Monster – by Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan
A phenomenally construced drama, in the spirit of Kurosawa’s ‘Rashomon’, told from three different perspectives.
Multifaceted, thriller-like drama with a repetitive narrative that twists and turns perspectives, revealing blind spots along the way. When Saori’s son, Minato, starts behaving strangely, it is revealed that a teacher at school has beaten him. Saori is upset for obvious reasons and demands answers from the school. But as the story progresses, it turns out that everything may not be as Saori first thought. Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s strongest films to date and that’s saying a lot.
Screenings: Victoria 11/11 – Saga 16/11 – Sture 19/11
Saltburn – by Emerald Fennel, United Kingdom
A cocktail of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ and ‘Talented Mr. Ripley’ with hints of ‘Cruel Intentions’.
In an equal parts political satire and psychological thriller, we meet Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan), a down-on-his-luck young man who becomes obsessed with upper-class guy Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi). Felix takes Oliver under his wing and invites him to his family’s vast estate where cocktail hour begins at breakfast and lazy summer days are spent by the pool. ‘Saltburn’ is a swashbuckling film that pushes clichés to their limits and Rosamund Pike – who visited the festival in 2005 for the screening of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ – gives a brilliant performance as a truly unlikable upper-class hag with amusing quirks like being allergic to ugliness.
Screenings: Sture 9/11 – Saga 15/11 – Skandia 19/11
The arc of oblivion – by Ian Cheney, United States
A documentary about a grandiose project and one man’s obsession with documenting.
With the starting point in the director Ian Cheney’s magnificent project to build an enormous arc in his backyard in Maine, this quirky film explores archives and memories. Archives are everywhere, in drawers and cabinets, on hard drives and in files. But, also in architecture and the layers of earth in the ground. From the boat construction Cheney takes us on a journey through salt mines and caves, fjords in the Arctic and ancient libraries in the Sahara. In the sometimes literal digging through the archives, questions about what we leave behind arise. »The Arch of Oblivion« is a charming, thought provoking documentary produced by Werner Herzog.
Screenings: Sture 11/11 – Skandia 13/11 – Sture 17/11
Total trust – by Jialing Zhang, Germany, Netherlands
A depiction of resistance from inside the high-tech nation of China. Undoubtedly one of the most important documentaries of the year.
Chinese Jialing Zhang’s »One Child Nation« won the Bronze Horse during Stockholm Film Festival in 2019.
After making the documentary criticizing the regime, she lives in exile in the States where she keeps examining and questioning her former home country. Her latest film focuses on the Chinese surveillance of the population. A frightening vision of the future and a fascinating depiction of the relationship between totalitarianism and digital monitoring. A highly current topic and a problem that reaches far beyond the boarders of China.
Screenings: Skandia 10/11 – Sture 12/11 – Sture 16/11
Pictures of ghosts – by Kleber Mendoça Filho, Brazil
In an almost archeological dig through memories and neighborhoods, that which been lost through time and gentrification is examined.
A love letter to the art of film and the cinema as a place for interpersonal gathrerings.
After feature films such as Bacurau and Aquarius the Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho is back with a documentary. »Pictures of Ghosts« is a meditation in several dimensions over film making and the old movie theaters downtown in the Brazilian coastal town of Recife. Mendonça Filho takes us on a journey through layers of time, sound and architecture in a city where the magnificent movie theaters closed their doors long ago.
Screenings: Sture 10/11 – Sture 15/11 – Skandia 17/11
The enchanted – by Elena Trapé, Spain
A strikingly beautiful and multi-layered drama set in the depopulated Spanish countryside.
After a difficult separation from her husband, Irene, played by Laia Costa, takes refuge in her old family home in the Catalan Pyrenees. Once in the almost empty village, she is forced to face both memories and fears. Elena Trapé‘s eye for detail and Costa’s ability to convey emotions with minimal means give the film an understated intensity. Nature is present everywhere and it is through the lush greenery and the village’s ancient legends and stories that Irene can finally begin to heal.
Screenings: Sture 9/11 – Sture 11/11 – Saga 15/11
Strange way of life– by Pedro Almodóvar
Pedro Almodóvar excels with a short but intense drama for all western lovers.
25 years after the Sheriffs Silva and Jake worked together, Silva chooses to ride through the desert to visit Jake with the explanation of wanting to see his childhood friend again. During the night they celebrate the reunion but in the morning Silva confesses that he has completely different intentions with the visit. A beautifully and creatively shot film that reminds of Sergio Leone‘s Western classics but with an unexpected, fast-paced and modern twist where Almodóvar shows his skill in tackling controversial subjects and portraying them in a captivating way.
Here, Almodóvar offers 31 minutes of pure cinema, sharing his unique vision for Brokeback Mountain, had he taken on the role of director. This is an exclusive screening, and as an added spice, Stockholm Film Festival has arranged a special after-party for the audience after the film. It’s first come, first served, so we recommend that you arrive in good time for the screening and show your ticket to get a drink ticket to the party at Sturehof, which takes place at 22:30 after the film.
Screenings: Skandia 15/11
Toll – by Carolina Markowicz, Brazil, Portugal
A gripping drama about identity and the struggle to fit into society’s narrow templates.
In a loving but at the same time heartbreaking way, Carolina Marcowicz portrays society and its narrowness in this captivating and intimate story between mother and son. We get to follow Antonio, a teenage boy who is not ashamed to put on make-up and dress in stereotypically feminine clothes. His mother Suellen only wants him to be like the stereotypical heterosexual boys because she is afraid that the society will judge him. A colleague at the toll advises her to send her son to a gay conversion workshop, but the fee is expensive and Suellen is drawn into a criminal gang to afford it. Desperate to save her son’s future.
Screenings: Sture 8/11 – Sture 15/11 – Zita 17/11
The pod generation – by Sophie Barthes, France, Belgium, United Kingdom
Director Sophie Barthes explores issues of technological progress in relation to nature in a neatly packaged sci-fi satire.
In an imminent future where AI has taken over the Western world, there is the possibility of having children using an artificial womb. This is marketed as a quasi-feminist option for women to avoid all the worries of pregnancy and childbirth in favor of continuing to work. Emilia Clarke plays a career-minded businesswoman who wants to have a baby through this new technology. Her husband Alvy, charmingly played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, wants children naturally and the road to parenthood is not without obstacles.
Screenings: Sture 9/11 – Sture 13/11 – Sture 18/11