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Alice Bah Kuhnke is no longer a government minister, Minister for Culture and Democracy
Speech at the opening of Göteborg Film Festival
Biograf Draken, Gothenburg 23 januari 2015
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It feels good to be here and to have the opportunity to speak at the opening of the Göteborg Film Festival, which I have enjoyed in the past as a visitor - like many thousands of other people over the years.
Last summer I had reason to attend another film festival, in Croatia. After a generous reception from volunteer cinema enthusiasts and after checking in at a charming hotel, with drinks and food all around, we sat under the starry skies with bread and wine.
The whole thing was like a scene from a cliché romantic movie, like "Cinema paradiso". A warm summer night, bread, wine and colourful lights, laughter and intense discussions. One of the people who talked the most caught my attention. From a distance, he seemed interesting, inspiring, and yes, he sounded attractive. Close up, he turned out to be an extremely unpleasant person, a nationalist, male chauvinist, racist, homophobe, a self-satisfied damned fool with an ugly soul and - a film director.
Provoked and deeply disappointed, I spat out something about how far too many films lack perspective, about voices that remain unheard, people who remain unseen and who are not given any space. He gave a deep sigh, and with a stealthy look, asked whether what I was asking for was worth it - "at the expense of quality?"
I felt ashamed of myself and of the obvious fact that I had been living in the naïve belief that 'film people' were consciously out to make the world a better place and that mindless talk about meaningless things was only the province of - politicians& Well, of course this was a few weeks before the Prime Minister had the good taste to phone me.
Fortunately, the successful politician is not the one who has the job of developing Swedish film policy. And fortunately, I'm not just sitting in my office doing that. No, the future of Swedish film policy will be based on the work that you - or at least the many representatives of many parts of the film sector - have done. During autumn, the Ministry of Culture has initiated and facilitated dialogue between authors, producers, distributers, cinema owners, television companies, internet actors and financiers. Swedish film policy must foster an open climate in which the diversity of stories and talents is the greatest asset of films of every type. But how can we get systems that identify all these different 'best projects'?
How sure can we be about our assessments and predictions? How can we ensure that we have robust and well-established production companies that manage - in times of success and setbacks alike - to maintain continuity and quality, while encouraging smaller and perhaps untested actors to participate in development and innovation? Development - both artistic development and the development of business methods and models - is essential for the long-term survival of the Swedish film sector and to ensure that filmgoers can enjoy a broad and high-quality range of films.
We need to continue to work on more technology-neutral forms of support. Media habits have changed dramatically in the past five years and we know that streaming and home cinema systems are increasingly part of people's everyday lives.
As you can tell, this truly is a tapestry of many patterns and many threads, to be woven into something that works, that is sustainable. In this process we have moved into a more intensive phase. Before long, we need to have the new film policy ready.
In the coming days of this festival we will have a chance to sink into our cinema seats and experience films in the company of others - and all around, before and afterwards, the conversations and discussions will go on. Make sure you squeeze into the seminars - that might be where it suddenly happens. We live in a time of great need for something to happen, for lots to happen that will take us away from the darkness that is spreading across Europe and the world. A world with more conflicts and more refugees than ever, more hate crimes and more extreme right-wingers gaining seats in our parliaments, more of all those things that are the very opposite of what film can express - other perspectives, other customs, other people's lives, other situations.
As Jonas Holmberg earlier said during this festival, the documentary film "Vessel" by Diana Whitten will be screened. It's being screened because it's a good and important film. But it's also being screened as an act of solidarity with the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) and its magazine Ottar. The attack was an attack on the freedom of expression, an attack on the equal value of all people and an attack on our democracy.
It's far too easy to lose hope in life and the world. But that's not an option. We therefore need to seek strength and protect ourselves by laughing more, crying more, exploring ourselves more to challenges. We need to let our world be turned upside down more often. Quite simply, we need more of the Göteborg Film Festival.
Finally, I would like to emphasise that many of us need to use our various positions and platforms to work to enable film. Film criticism and lively public discussion of all forms of film have an important role to play. Healthy film criticism is one of the essential conditions for developing film as an art form and an understanding of film and the role it plays in society.
In conclusion, one important factor for film is the festivals - not least the Göteborg Film Festival.
I would like to thank all of you who have made it possible for us once again, for the 38th time, to gather here and kick off another festival days!
Now I look forward to enjoying both "Key Mirror House" and the opening short film "Audition"!