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International Film Festival

Krakow 21-26 XI 2023

100 years, 100 years, let Sweden have long life!


Feel invited to a two-piece show that includes almost one hundred years of Swedish animation. The program includes animations selected by Midhat Ajanovic “Ajan” from the University West Trollhattan .

aprikoserWe'll see the oldest productions, such as Th Magic Potion (1915) or  Captain Grogg is Being Portrayed (1917) and the latest including Las Palmas (2011) and Bath House (2014). The special guest of the show will be Teresa Glad - Swedish animator, screenwriter and cartoonist , the author of the film Gunnar Catches an Owl ( 2003).

Midhat Ajanovic “Ayan” about the history of Swedish animation:

Animated children’s films, commercials, animated documentaries, as well as films influenced by comics made by distinct individualists are the cornerstones this cinematic phenomenon is based on.

Victor Bergdahl was a sailor, a painter, a cartoonist, a reporter and also an author. But above all he deserves his place in history as an animator. His first encounter with animation was in 1912 when he, by coincidence, had seen Slumberland, an early animated film from 1911 by the American genius Winsor McCay. The film, in fact a staging of Mc- Cay’s cartoon drawings from the strip Little Nemo in Slumberland, gave Bergdahl the impulse to try animation himself.

The same year he finished drawing his first movie, but it wasn’t filmed until 1915 when the famous manager of Svenska Bio, Charles Magnusson, realized the potential of animated films. The film is The Magic Potion (Trolldrycken). The bizarre contents and abstract graphic elements place it at least fifty years ahead of its contemporary animations. The “leading character” of the film is alcohol, which continued to play an important role in the films of Bergdahl and probably in his life, too. Bergdahl was soon to create “the drawn pictorial joke” about his alter ego Captain Grogg, a discarded sailor with a pug nose, permanently armed with a pocket flask that often helps him out from difficult situations and dire straits. Captain Grogg was in fact the first true animation of the European continent with a recurring character. In all there were thirteen episodes with the liquor-loving Grogg. Rather frank erotic passages, jokes and innovative animation made Bergdahl famous even abroad.

The Magic PotionHowever, Bergdahl got an unusual successor in Arvid Olsson, who was the most prolific film animator in Sweden since the 1930’s until the 1950’s. As a young student in Paris in the 1930’s he became interested in animation. Back in Sweden he devoted his time to the commercial animation. Olsson created the first Swedish animated film with sound track, a humorous commercial about Swedish monetary value, The Lunar Eclipse of the Kruna (Kronans Manförmörkälse) in 1931. In 1934 he became the first Swede to work with colour film in professional way.

After the break caused by WW2 animations production restored since the mid-1950s. During the coming years, Nils Holgersson, Alfons Aberg, Peter-No-Tail, Laban, Pettson and Findus, Bamse and other popular characters from children’s literature became heroes of TV series and animated features. Alongside the former Czechoslovakia, Sweden was actually one of the European countries with, relatively speaking, most animated feature films, which were almost exclusively produced in the Disney inspired cell animation technology. Thanks to such a considerable production Gunnar Karlsson, Stig Lasseby, Olle Hallberg, Tor-Erik Flyght, Rune Andraasson, Jan Gissberg and Per Ahlin as a leading figure built the second-generation professional animators. Thanks to television, a new market for animated children film, several companies specializing in animated films started. As a typical product for television animation one can take Olof Landstrom’s and Peter Cohen’s classic children’s programme, Kalle’s Climbing Tree (Kalle klättertredd), with seven year Old Kalle laying in his apple tree thinking about life and love, with Grandpa sitting below, reading a magazine.

Despite the financial cuts that hit television in the 1970s became a period when children’s film bloomed so strong that even today in the country exists an idea of animation as “something for children.” Johan Hagelback, who is one of Swedish most influential animators, began his successful career at that time. His peculiar productions have amused children and grownups alike. He has created several shorter series for children and participated extensively in the SVT children’s program. Hagelback made a series of short and sometimes almost mid-length animated children’s films as Who will comfort Toffle? (Vem ska trösta knyttet?, 1980) based on Tove Jansson’s classic picture book. Besides this immense work with children’s film he created even some personal and some wayward short films intended for adult audiences. One of his most famous characters is Charles Nonsens who was first seen in the TV. Fish and Chips was one experimental film for adults and it has, among other things, been exhibited at MoMa in New York.

gomdAfter the 1980s many talented femalke animators have come forward fighting for gender equality in Swedish animation. Like in other animation cultures female animators in Sweden showed propensity to experiment and use other techniques than cell animation. A special place in that context belongs to Birgitta Jansson, one at the College trained artist, who began animating with Per Ahlin in the 1970s and then continued independently. Her biggest success was Sweden’s first clay animation, 13 minutes long award winning Holiday home (Semesterhemmet, 1981). Animations bring to life conversations recorded at a retirement home, where the tenants tell their life stories. The film’s documentary qualities laid the groundwork for a whole genre and is still a fascinating piece of work.

An important event for Swedish animation occurred in 1996, when Konstfack, University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm founded its department training in animation located in a small town Eksjö. Driving force behind the project was Stig Lasseby, and since 1999, also Witold Nowak. In addition to educational activities the Department also managed to conduct serious research, organize conferences and seminars, start an animation festival and a regional resource centre for film and animation, expose the students’ work at various places in the world as well as publish Animagi, a journal for animation studies. Most important of all was the fact that over 120 pupils and students have graduated there, which changed the Swedish animation for all times. Gunnar Catches an Owl (Gunnar fangar en uggla, 2002) by Teresa Glad is a typical student film of the Eksjö College. In a beautiful cut out animation the film tells a story about Gunnar who dreams of having an owl.

Las-PalmasDigitization from the mid 1990s ON increased possibilities for animated documentary which definitely became the most prominent genre in new millennium. As typical examples for documentary approach one can take Blu-Karma-Tiger (2006), subtitled “a documentary about graffiti”, by the filmmaker duo Mia Hulterstam and Cecilia Actis.

In this century’s first decade something that appears to be a small renaissance occurred in Swedish animation. One of younger animators that distinguished himself was Gothenburger Johannes Nyholm who, with his formidable energy appears as something of a one-man army who both directs and produces his films as well as a number of music videos. Already his very first professional movie, Puppet boy (Dockpojke, 2007), became Sweden’s probably most award-winning animated film of all time. With this work Nyholm managed to create a distinctive fantasy world characterized by a refreshing sense of humour. It is, however, a movie whose plot unfolds in real time, and the execution of the animation is anything but perfect. It is rather that clay figure representing the main character is the sloppy animation – you can almost see animator’s fingerprints on it – and the doll looks to melt under the headlights. The film’s nonchalant surface hides a serious message about modern human’s loneliness and her incredible difficulties in reaching other people. Another great success was Las Palmas (2011) in which Nyholm combined these live-recorded scenes with his two-yearold daughter, who plays the role of Marja, a spoiled, middle-aged Swedish tourist in Las Palmas whereas other characters are played by puppets on the same scale as she. Marja hasn’t grasped the social conventions that apply when vacationing in the sun, which provided foundation for a bizarre humour.

100 years of Swedish Animation (I)

25th November (Wednesday), 7 p.m.

100 years of Swedish Animation (II)

26th November (Thursday), 7 p.m.

Rotunda (large screening room)

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