(Agneta Morgen and Melissa Lindgren, two great ladies behind an amazing Festival)
by: Eroll Bilibani
I arrive for the very first time in my life to Stockholm for the Documentary Film Festival Tempo that ran from 4-9 March this year. The program and the activities look impressive: an interesting offer across various platforms and genres – film, radio, transmedia and other experimental forms of expression, all under the theme of UTOPIA.
I still need to discover the locations and festival venues, but the festival director of programming Melissa, over a glass of raki, guides me patiently through touristic map of Stockholm marking carefully the locations where all festival activities will take place. The next day I hit the road on my own! Meetings are prearranged and now I need to find various meeting locations.
The opening of the Festival is set in a beautiful Folkoperan, the opera house of Stockholm founded as a working class opera house. They tell me that this is one of the most successful opera houses in the region in terms of size of the audience. But, we are not watching opera tonight; this is not an opera house this evening. This is a Cinema!
As we wait for the official door-opening we get stuck in a narrow hallway between the street and the reception hall. At least its warm in here. The attendance is high, so we make sure to get nice seats up in the beautiful balcony of the hall, with an amazing view to stage and screen. There are speeches in Swedish, of few people I know and few others I don’t, but I’m lucky to be seating next to Lisa from Nordisk Panorama who kept me in loop and engaged instead of just staring on the stage
The opening film “A SEPARATION” (original name: At Skiljas) which I had the opportunity to read about before is one excellent example of personal storytelling. Brave self-disclosure of the topic while documenting the parent’s separation after 38 years of marriage without trivializing complicated emotions. Flat, honest and funny. The evening continues with an after party in the basement of Marie Laveau club and literally everybody’s there.
Over the course of the days I managed to indulge in several documentaries. The spread of street art as one of the most blissful expressions of change in Egypt was brought through the lens of the German filmmaker Marco Wilms. The “ART WAR” brings on screen the reaction of creative minds of Egypt to the revolution. Over past years I have seen a number of films dealing with the Egyptian uprising, but none as engaging as the Art War. The filmmaker brings stories of several young Egyptian artists who inspired by the Arab Spring, use their creativity to salvage the revolution over the period of three years.
I was also looking forward to see the latest documentary of the filmmakers Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez. The subject: the mountain temple of Manakamana! They focus on a cable car that takes pilgrims over the foothills on their way to pay tribute to the goddess Bhagwati. They filmed 11 trips in the cable car, giving you an impression from the beginning that the entire film is done by one shot, until the goats appear! – Manakamana grows more exciting by showcasing various occupants of the cable car, whose behavior is unrehearsed and it could become unpredictable. A ride with an American and Nepali woman for example, starts in silence, giving you an impression they are strangers, however once they start talking I came to realize they are really good friends. The film brings moments of fun and joy, in particular with the rides of two women trying to eat melting ice cream and two musicians playing together.
I had marked “THE MISSING PICTURE” Rithy Panh’s masterpiece documentary and Cambodia’s entry for best foreign film for the Academy Awards as next must see film. A beautiful memoir of the director’s childhood when his country had been taken over under the dictatorship of Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge. He lost his family members in labor camps that were invented to re-educate and purify the people of Cambodia. One of the most moving stories re-enacted here is the filmmaker’s memory of how his father chose, with great dignity, to die of starvation rather than to continue surviving on rations fit for animals.
What makes “The Missing Picture” uncommon is the extensive use of small clay figures, hand-carved, carefully painted and displayed in elaborate dioramas that represent all aspects of life before and after the takeover, accompanied with a poetic voice over.
I also had the opportunity to see Sini Anderson’s “THE PUNK SINGER” in the beautiful Bio Rio Theater. The filmmaker profiles the career and impact of Kathleen Hanna, a feminist rock icon, who suddenly announced she has nothing left to say. The film contextualizes Hanna’s role in the Riot Grrrl movement, using news reports of current events that fueled its participants, plus offering an explanation of first and second wave feminism. At one stage of the film she reveals to suffer from late stage Lyme disease. Health concerns, not spent songwriting, caused her to pause Le Tigre. “I lied when I said I was done,” Hanna says. “I just didn’t want to have to face the fact that I was really sick. I was told by my body that I had to stop.” An emotional story with energetic performance footage and input from a variety of friends, colleagues and fans.
(Friends from Nordisk Panorama announcing the upcoming projects, David Herdies, Lisa Nyed and Christina Gregersen)
Another impressive documentary, an untold story of a group of middle class kids who in the year 1900 revolted against their time and started the original alternative community in southern Switzerland. A community based on veganism, feminism, pacifism and free love. Through their eyes we unfold the uncanny similarities between our time and what they revolted against in the early 1900s. Carl Javer’s “FREAK OUT”, a beautiful and creative documentary mixing archive footage, animation and interviews that takes you all the way to 1900’s and unfold the similarities between our time and what they revolted against in the early 1900s.
A very special Tempo moment was the screening of “THE AGREEMENT” (original title Forhandleren) of the young Danish filmmaker Karen Stokkendal Poulsen. A supple documentary that outlines the technical talks between Kosovo and Serbia under the EU mediation, and it features moments from the negotiation process. I had the opportunity to see the film again accompanied by Kosovo’s Ambassador in Sweden and former representative of Sweden in Kosovo. Karen was not there, but the producer Vibeke Vogel travelled from Copenhagen for this occasion and together with Melissa we had the opportunity to talk about the film and the negotiations to almost full house of audience that came to see the film.
In between the tight schedule, I had a Prizrenali visitor who drove more than 400 km, all the way from Härnösand just to buy me a beer. It was a great moment meeting some old friends that I rarely see, and the most of the evening was spent in me sipping weird tasting India Pale Ale beer known to the locals as IPA, and the rest of the company non-alcoholic beverages. The reunion was short but still amazing, as one friend had to drive all the way back, while the other had to get ready for the nightshift.
(Friends from Prizren living in Sweden, Gezim Cela and Erkan Arapi)
Many films were missed, due to tight schedule and a rich program that Tempo had to offer. Overall, a unique experience of tasting Tempo in a very special way. Poetic films, creative ways of storytelling, productive meetings, amazing hospitality were only few of many offers that the festival provided. I closed my visit the very same way I started it – with a glass of Quince spirit I carried from Kosovo, for my special friend and an amazing professional who treated all guests with amazing selection of the films – Melissa Lindgren.
The last evening reminded me of our own festival, a crying night as they call it. Everyone was exhausted but sad that they have to say their goodbyes to Agneta and Melissa. Well, until next year!
And me? Well, I was fortunate to be a part of the 15th edition of Tempo, in hope to turn into a regular guest in many years to come.
Tusen tack för en bra tid i Stockholm!
(Gamla Stan, an old part of Stockholm that everyone should visit)