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Sweden’s Göteborg Film Festival is set to carry out cinema’s ultimate social distancing experiment.
For its 2021 event, Göteborg is inviting a single film fan to spend seven days alone on an isolated island in the North Sea with only the festival’s films for company.
The successful applicant —interested fans can apply online at Göteborg’s website—will be sent to Pater Noster, a small, rocky island off Sweden’s west coast, to stay in a converted lighthouse (now a boutique luxury hotel). The festival will set up a screening room in the lighthouse where the visitor can screen up to 60 films, all from the official 2021 Göteborg line-up.
“You have everything you need — great food, great drink, a nice bed — this isn’t about survival. But you can’t bring anything with you: no phone, no computer, not even a book,” says Göteborg festival artistic director Jonas Holmberg. “You can watch the waves and you can watch the films.” Holmberg says the successful applicant will meet a few criteria: “They have to be a film enthusiast; they have to agree to record a daily video blog about the experiment; and they have to be emotionally and psychologically suited to spend a week in this kind of isolation.”
From the initial online applicants, the festival will select a handful of candidates and carry out one-on-one interviews before picking the “lucky” winner.
The lighthouse experiment came about in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shut cinemas and forced millions worldwide into isolation in their homes. Göteborg, Scandinavia’s largest film festival, wanted to examine the impact of this isolation on individuals, and the role of film in the post-pandemic world.
“We are all watching films in isolation now and that changes our relationship with movies,” Holmberg says, “we have seen new types of films resonate in this lockdown period, and films take on a different meaning. A scene where people hug a stranger feels very different in a moment when you can’t do that yourself.”
The lighthouse experiment will take isolated cinephilia to the extreme but the 2021 Göteborg festival, which will be held online between Jan. 29 – Feb. 8, will also offer isolated, one-person film screenings at the Draken cinema in Göteborg (capacity 707) and at the Scandinavium arena, the city’s 12,000-capacity ice hockey stadium. Several of the Draken screenings will include in-person introductions from the movies’ director and cast — the festival expects filmmakers from Sweden and, conditions permitting, from across Scandinavia — to attend.
“It will be a strange experience, having a gala screening for one person, but that’s also part of the new world we are in, that places famous for being crowded and full of life are now suddenly empty,” says Holmberg.
In another nod to the new normal under COVID-19, Göteborg will have a special festival focus on the theme of social distances, featuring films that examine the impact the pandemic has had on the world and our perspective of it. They include Molecules, Andrea Segre’s new documentary shot in Venice before and during the first lockdown period.
In addition to putting the bulk of the festival online, Göteborg has sharply reduced its line-up for 2021, to 60 films, compared to around 450 screenings in an average year.
But the festival will still be holding its industry events — virtually — including the TV Drama Vision section, which runs Feb. 3-4, the Nordic Film Market (Feb. 4-6), and the Nostradamus report (Feb. 4), a multi-year international initiative which documents and analyzes changes to the global film industry and makes predictions for its future. One safe prognosis this year: it will be all about COVID-19.
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